This week, 4-H in the Classroom programs will start at local schools. We get asked often about 4-H in the Classroom and what it looks like, so we thought we would use this week’s column to share just that. 4-H in the Classroom is a school-based version of traditional 4-H that can help enrich curriculums and replace or supplement traditional lesson plans. Many of the activities we offer fulfill National Education Standard requirements and target specific Performance and Instructional Objectives identified by Ohio’s Model Competency-Based Programs and the Ohio Department of Education. Ultimately, 4-H in the Classroom offers teachers an opportunity to break away from workbooks and lectures to incorporate “learning lab” activities during class that reinforce learning.
4-H in the Classroom is available to all Shelby County teachers in grades K-12 on a first-come, first-serve basis. We have found that the program is a valuable resource for hands-on exploration and discovery, especially for youth who have barriers to joining traditional 4-H. Such barriers might include financial and transportation limitations.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” curriculum for 4-H in the Classroom. The program is implemented in a variety of ways and is determined by the school’s wants and needs. Methods of engagement include in-school 4-H clubs, afterschool 4-H clubs, short-term activities during open houses or family nights and the most popular, experimental learning in the classroom. We have several curriculum kits that include lesson plans and materials to get kids shaking and moving. Curriculum kits can be adapted for any age, stage and level of ability upon request. Take our Breads of the Harvest curriculum, for example. We have done this homemade bread-making activity with youth ages 6 to 16. For younger audiences, we focus on pilgrims, Native Americans and colonial times while making the bread. For older audiences, we delve into the chemical reactions that must happen in order for their bread to rise correctly. Since every student gets to go home with a loaf of homemade bread, this activity is a local favorite!
One of the fundamental goals of 4-H in the Classroom is to break down the common myth that youth have to live on a farm or raise livestock to be involved in 4-H. In reality, 4-H includes everything from A to Z. The project areas are as endless as the possibilities and they all have one common goal: youth development. In today’s ever-changing, technological world, we in 4-H still believe that sometimes digging in and getting intimately involved with an activity by using your hands and letting your imagination takeover is the most impactful way to learn. We have a strong desire for kids to feel a sense of mastery and independence. As noted in the National 4-H Curriculum standards, youth need to know that they are able to influence people and events through decision-making and action. They need to learn to better understand themselves and become independent thinkers, so that they can act as future change agents within their community and workplace.
A second fundamental goal of the program is career exploration and workforce development. For example, the 4-H Manufacturing FUNdamentals curriculum, which is a spin-off of 4-H in the Classroom, focuses specifically on careers in the manufacturing industry. Students explore hydraulics, electrical circuits, pneumatics, robotics, plastic technologies, material sciences and more. The objective is for students to learn where and how the products they use every day, such as their soda pop can or their laundry detergent bottle, came to be. Youth involved in 4-H are 1.9 times more likely to get better grades in school, 4 times more likely to give back to their community and 2 times more likely to make healthy choices. Therefore, we want to keep them local. Encouraging them to think about a career in Shelby County is one way to do that.
This school year, 4-H in the Classroom has arranged programming with the following schools: Anna, Jackson Center, Fort Loramie and Sidney. Houston, Fairlawn, Russia and Holy Angels have also participated in 4-H in the Classroom in the past. In the 2018 calendar year, more than 3,000 youth were exposed to 4-H at least one time via 4-H in the Classroom programming. This number has continued to climb in 2019.
While the 4-H in the Classroom program has been hugely successful, one of the challenges is the amount of time and resources it requires from the Extension Office. Currently, we are able to offer the program at no costs to the schools thanks to local generosity. Because we believe in the value of the program, we hope to continue the local partnerships that currently sustain it. We are also looking at the possibility of hiring additional staff in the future so that there is more of us to go around. If a teacher or school is interested in getting on the list for 4-H in the Classroom programming, they can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The writer can be reached at the OSU Extension office (937-498-7239) or by email at email@example.com.