Farm Horizons, Feb. 2002

4H: 'Learning by doing' for more than a century

By Julie Yurek

A century ago, 4-H was organized to focus on educating children in a fun environment. The club is part of the University of Minnesota Extension Service, so it is based on University research about kids and learning, according to the club's web site, www.fourh.umn.edu.

Bergen Busy Bees

Lester Prairie's 4-H club is known as the Bergen Busy Bees. It's local leaders are Sonja Johnson, Donna Anderson, and Patty Kuhlmann.

Children ages five to 19 can be members, the ladies said.

"There are about 20 children in the club right now," Anderson said.

4-H stands for head, heart, hand, and health. The club motto is, "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 home, my club, my community, my country, my world."

The four Hs represent the club's objective, Johnson said.

"Children learn the four Hs through the projects each choose to do," Kuhlmann said.

"They learn by doing," Johnson said.

Members choose one or more projects to take part in. There are about 60 categories, including animal science in beef and horses, aerospace, computers, photography, flower gardening, and food and nutrition, Johnson said.

A self-determined category is available for project ideas not on the list, Kuhlmann said.

A member can do a project on beef, dairy or horses without having a live animal. The member can study and report about the animal even if they live in town, Kuhlmann said.

"Members can also lease an animal from somebody out on the farm and go out and work with it periodically, take care of it, and show the animal at the fair," Anderson said.

Members in grade three and above focus on specific projects to work on. Members who are kindergarten to second grade are in Cloverbuds, otherwise known as discovery. Children in discovery choose activities they are interested in and record what they have learned from them, Johnson said.

"Kids in discovery can pick any topic or activity they want," Johnson said.

"Discovery kids are able to submit their records and photos of their activity into the county fair," she said.

"They all get the same ribbon," Anderson said.

"It's about participation at that level," Johnson said.

The club focuses on community service too. It is the welcome wagon for Lester Prairie, Johnson said.

"Members go and talk with businesses about getting their information for the packet the club puts together," she said.

Last Christmas the club went caroling, Johnson said.

Meetings are once a month the third Saturday at Bergen Township Hall, at 9 a.m.

"Families are encouraged to attend the meetings too," Kuhlmann said.

The children are the ones who conduct the meeting, Johnson said.

Two to three children give a demonstration per meeting to get them used to public speaking, Anderson said.

"Speaking to judges and the club has helped me to speak at school. Public speaking really helped at the science fair," Jonathan Kuhlmann said, son of Patty Kuhlmann.

To join, contact Donna Anderson at (320) 395-2023.

Jolly Juniors

Winsted's 4-H Jolly Juniors reinforce leadership skills. Some of its 17 members are McLeod County 4-H Ambassadors, local leader Sue DeMars said. Kathy Schoenfelder is also a 4-H leader.

Ambassadors take part in county level activities, like new member day, DeMars said. They give new members information about the club and welcome them into the club.

Ambassadors assist younger members at area day camps during the summer. They have also taken up collections at the McLeod County Fair. They collected personal items for people in need, DeMars said.

Seventh grade members and above can go to a statewide youth leadership conference, she said.

The conference is at the state fairgrounds for leadership training, according to an information pamphlet from the McLeod County Extension office in Hutchinson.

Youth attend leadership workshops with hands-on training, have a "night on the town," and have a chance to socialize and make new friends, the pamphlet said.

In the Jolly Juniors, a discovery member usually has to be a sibling of a third to 12th grader. It's a Jolly Juniors club policy, not a 4-H policy, DeMars said.

The club has taken part in the Pennsylvania exchange. Two summers ago, 17 members went to stay with a 4-H family in Pennsylvania for a week. Last summer the Pennsylvania kids came to Winsted, DeMars said.

"Until one gets involved, he or she doesn't realize the opportunities available," she said.

DeMars likes how 4-H does not separate the sexes. Boys can do a clothing project and girls can do a beef or dairy project, she said.

The competition is at the age level, not boys versus girls, DeMars said.

"The kids learn that boys can cook just as good, and girls can show pigs just as good," she said.

The Jolly Juniors usually meet the second Monday of the month at members' homes, she said.

To join the Jolly Juniors, call Kathy Schoenfelder at (320) 485-4448.

For more information about joining 4-H, call the extension office in your county:

McLeod, 800-587-0770

Wright, 800-362-3667

Carver, 952-361-1500

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