Sunday, August 9, 2009

Head, Heart, Hands & Health

I love 4-H. Most people mistakenly assume that the organization is only about animals and farming and can only be found in rural areas. Historically, it's been true that the vast majority of clubs were organized in small towns around themes that were agricultural in nature, but the 4-H umbrella is MUCH larger than that. At its heart, 4-H is really about giving young people the chance to learn through hands-on experience about topics that are practical and engaging.

Many clubs around the world (yes, 4-H is a HUGE organization with clubs in over 80 countries) give young people the opportunity to learn how to raise animals, grow food, sew, cook, do mechanics, work with electricity, protect the environment, and build name just a few. The 4-H Pledge which is spoken at the beginning of each meeting goes like this: "I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world." Service and stewardship are important components of 4-H. Through the structure of the organization, kids hone their public speaking skills, learn how to organize information and make connections with others around the world.

My father participated in 4-H throughout his school years, traveling to state and national fairs to show projects that he'd done on electricity and forestry. I have another friend who participated in 4-H all the way through college and actually did an exchange to South America when she was just out of high school.

We started a new 4-H club three years ago when my kids entered elementary school. We call our club 4-H F.A.S.T. (Frontier Arts, Skills & Technologies). We don't specialize in any one topic, we sample. So far we've tried gardening, woodworking, sewing, baking, the science of sound and hearing; and small business. We also take a camping trip to Idaho each summer. This year we built a survival shelter, learned how to make butter, planted 150 willow trees to help reclaim a creek bed from overgrazing and erosion, fished, swam, cooked and learned how to build a proper campfire. It was great!

Having grown up on a ranch in a family that knew how to 'do stuff', I think that it's terribly important for my kids...all kids, city kids in particular, to be more in touch with the land and have the knowledge and the confidence to do things for themselves. They should know how to grow food, how to care for animals, how to fix machines, how to cook, sew and most importantly... how to ask questions, learn through trial and error and go through the critical thinking process it takes to master a new skill.

Support 4-H... join a club, be an "expert" who teaches a lesson, give money, give time, or start your own club. You won't regret it.


Crunchy Chicken said...

Is the 4H club through North Beach? My daughter is starting K this year and would probably be more interested in it than Henry and I would love to help and participate as well.