Work ethic: 100 years and growing

One hundred-year old 4-H projects are still preparing children and youth for the future.

It is rare to find a practice over 100 years old that is not considered old-fashioned and outdated.  While it is easy to appreciate these other practices for their historic perspective, we seldom consider something so old to be relevant and useful today.  Yet, the thousands of 4-H youth that raise, care for and show their animals at county fairs across Michigan prove skills can transcend of 100 years.  Just as the generations before them, 4-H youth put months of time, care and learning into their animal projects coming to fairs to show their animals and test their knowledge and skills.  Through this 100 year old practice of raising and showing animals in 4-H, today’s youth are learning vital life skills that help them succeed in the 21st century. 

One of the life skills youth developed through 4-H animal science projects is work ethic. Work ethic can be defined as a set of values based on the moral virtues of hard work and diligence.  Anyone who has owned a pet can appreciate this at some level; every animal requires a great deal of responsibility and work.  If you are not willing to feed, water, groom or walk a dog, even if it means getting up early in the morning, then you are not ready to own a dog.  Owning and caring for an animal that depends on you, is a great deal of responsibility.  But work ethic goes beyond putting in time and some elbow grease.  Work ethic speaks to the positive values and attributes associated with believing in hard work.  It is about building strong moral fibers and character.  Youth working under the guidance of parents and 4-H volunteers cannot only understand what hard work is all about, but also appreciate the fruits of their labor; fruits from their animal project and fruits within themselves.  Yes, hard work takes getting sweaty, dirty and is tiring, but instilling this value in youth will not only make them better 4-Hers, but it will also make them better citizens in this new century. 

Today’s youth face a future that requires a different set of knowledge and skills than the youth 100 years before them.  However, work ethic remains just as important in youth development today as it did to our grandfather’s and grandmother’s generation. 4-H animal science projects provide great experiences and life skills that help young people thrive and shape a complex and changing world.

To learn more about 4-H animal projects or life skills, like work ethic, contact the 4-H staff person in your county.

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