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The Benefits of 4-H Youth Development Participation. Karen Nelson Columbia County 4-H Youth Development Educator. Audience: Stakeholders User Groups Purpose: Explains the background of 4-H Youth Development programming. Discusses the value of non-formal educational programs.

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the benefits of 4 h youth development participation

The Benefits of 4-H Youth Development Participation

Karen Nelson

Columbia County

4-H Youth Development Educator

  • Audience:
  • Stakeholders
  • User Groups
  • Purpose:
  • Explains the background of 4-H Youth Development programming.
  • Discusses the value of non-formal educational programs.
  • Shares research results that document the developmental benefits of 4-H Youth Development
Wisconsin 4-H Youth Development - Making a Difference Through Positive Youth Development
  • “4-H empowers youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults.”
number of youth participating in 4 h in the united states in 2003

Number of youth participating in 4-H in the United States in 2003.

A. 2 million

B. 4 million

C. 6 million

D. 7 million

4 h youth development facts in brief 2003

Answer: Over 7 million young people in 3,051 counties. Over 1.5 million were members of 4-H clubs. Over 4 million participated in school-enrichment groups.

4-H youth development facts in brief.” (2003)

number of 4 h club members in wisconsin in 2003

Number of 4-H Club members in Wisconsin in 2003.

A. 10,000B. 20,000C. 33,000D. 50,000

answer 50 000 members and 14 500 adult and youth volunteer leaders

Answer: 50,000 members and 14,500 adult and youth volunteer leaders.

Source: Wisconsin ES-237 Report (2003)


Amount of money county government in Wisconsin invested in 4-H Youth Development staff and support in 2001?A. $2 millionB. $3.5 millionC. $4.5 millionD. $5 million


Answer: In 2001, County government in Wisconsin invested about $3.5 million in 4-H Youth Development staff and support, including both fully funded county 4-H staff and county-university cost-shared faculty and staff.

“Investing in Wisconsin’s youth – 4-H youth development.” (2001)


What did Wisconsin counties get for that investment?A. Participation of 245,000 young people in 4-H programs.B. Between $19.05 and $40.35 million return on investment.C. 10,000 community service projects by 4-H members and their families.D. All of the above.


Answer: D. All of the above.Nearly 245,000 youth were reached through 4-H in 2003.$3.7 million – $25 million for delinquency prevention$1.25 million for volunteer work on behalf of communities$4.6 million in state and federal funds.$9.5 million for volunteer work for Extension programsMore than 10,000 local service projects are conducted annually.

“Investing in Wisconsin’s youth – 4-H youth development.” (2001) and WI ES237 Report


University of Wisconsin-Extension Summary Organizational ChartThrough UW-Extension, all Wisconsin people can access university resources and engage in lifelong learning, wherever they live and work.

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*Administered jointly with the Educational Communications Board

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Continuing education, credit and noncredit outreach at 26 UW campuses.

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Faculty and staff in 72 county offices and on 6 UW campuses.


Community, Natural Resources and Economic Development

Family Living

4-H Youth Development

WI Geological and Natural History Survey

WI Rural Leadership Program

4 h emphasis development of life skills career preparation and leadership development

4-H Emphasis: Development of life skills, career preparation and leadership development.

  • Provide young people a chance to learn new skills
  • Programs are delivered in multiple ways

4-H Youth Development moves individuals, communities and programs toward positive youth development.


Positive Youth Development:… occurs from an intentional process that promotes positive outcomes for young people by providing opportunities, choices, relationships, and the support necessary for youth to fully participate.

Smith (2004)


How do we know that a positive youth development program like 4-H makes a difference in the lives of youth, families and communities?

  • Provides opportunities to master competencies that prepare them for adulthood
  • Creates environments that meet their needs
  • Typically take place during non-school hours in a non-formal educational setting
out of school non formal educational opportunities like 4 h are important because they involve

Out-of-school, non-formal educational opportunities like 4-H are important because they involve:

  • Personal choice
  • Multiple leadership roles
  • Hands-on learning
  • Peer relationships outside of the classroom
  • Access to multiple caring adults
  • Access to multiple adult role models
  • Sense of community through youth/adult partnerships
  • Developing initiative
  • Participation in diverse activities

Russell (2001)


A major strength of 4-H is the variety of activities in which youth can choose to be involved. Another strength is the emphasis in 4-H of providing family-based activities.

family involvement is crucial to the development of healthy youth

Family involvement is crucial to the development of healthy youth.

  • Family access to community resources increases competence.
  • Higher perception of academic ability and positive relationship with peers.
  • Less time spent with peers.
  • Stronger relationships within the family.
  • Parental community ties predict academic success.

Russell (2001)


Having considered the benefits of extracurricular activities for children, particularly those that involved parents, let’s consider some evidence about the benefits of 4-H in particular.

  • Prevention
  • Positive Youth Development
  • Life Skill Development
4 h youth reported that they are less likely than other youth to

4-H youth reported that they are less likely than other youth to:

  • Shoplift or steal.
  • Use illegal drugs of any kind to get high.
  • Ride in a car with someone who has been drinking.
  • Smoke cigarettes.
  • Damage property for the fun of it.
  • Skip school or cut class without permission.

Youth involved in positive out-of-school alternatives develop critical skills: leadership, self-confidence, caring.

Astroth (2001) - Montana

a lower percentage of 4 hers than non 4 h members

A lower percentage of 4-Hers than non-4-H members:

  • Spend 6 or more hours/week playing computer/video games.
  • Spend 8 hours or more hours/week watching television.
  • Steal something (past year).
  • Damage property (past year).
  • Smoke cigarettes (past year).
  • Drink alcohol (past year).
  • Ride in a car whose driver was drinking (past year).

Minnesota 4-H Youth Survey (2002)


4-H youth have higher scores for community contribution than do youth involved in other youth development programs.

  • Community contributions of youth involved in 4-H programs increases in relation how long they participate.
  • Frequency of community participation is significantly predicted by 4-H program participation.

Lerner (2003) – National 4-H Impact Study


4-H Alumni remain more active in their communities throughout their lives than youth participants in other non-formal, structured youth organizations.

Ladewig (1987) - Texas


Comparing 4-H’ers with all other youth in Minnesota a higher percentage of 4-Hers than non-4-H members

  • Volunteer in the community.
  • Are involved in other activities – sports.
  • Are involved in other activities – arts.

Minnesota 4-H Youth Survey (2002)


4-H club members scored higher than youth (with or without other club participation) who completed a Search Institute Survey on all developmental assets including:


  • Educational aspiration
  • Achievement motivation
  • Desire to help others
  • School grades
  • Self-esteem
  • Decision Making
  • Having a value system
  • Interaction with adults
  • Ability to make friends

Mead (1999) – New York


A study of Wisconsin youth involved in animal science projects found that 4-H members compared to non-4-H members:

  • Were more likely to set goals for themselves and achieve them.
  • Understood and practiced ethical decision making.
  • Were more likely to serve in a leadership position on a club, group or program.
  • Take responsibility for the decisions they make.

Lackey (2004) - Wisconsin

wisconsin 4 h camp counselors develop life skills including

Wisconsin 4-H Camp Counselors develop life skills including:

  • Leadership
  • People skills
  • Communication
  • Tolerance
  • Responsibility
  • Teamwork
  • Problem solving
  • Planning and organizing

Forsythe (2004) - Wisconsin


Wisconsin 4-H Camp Counselors identified the counselor experience as a unique opportunity. It helps young people:

  • Understand and work with children.
  • Develop responsibility.
  • Be a role model.
  • In addition
  • 93% identified at least one skill they will use in their community.
  • 96% identified at least one skill that will help them in a future job.

Forsythe, Matysik & Nelson (2004) - Wisconsin

4 h community club members indicate that

4-H Community Club Members indicate that:

  • 4-H teaches them to work out differences peacefully. (88%)
  • 4-H has taught them problem solving skills. (86%)
  • 4-H has taught them decision making skills. (89%)
  • 4-H has helped teach them how to develop a plan to reach their goals. (91%)
  • 4-H has helped them accept difference in others. (94%)
  • 4-H helped teach them skills to be a leader. (91%)

Texas 4-H impact assessment (2000)


Through 4-H, club members gain skills:69 – 86% gained leadership skills.45 – 49% improved their leadership skills in getting along with others, having a friendly personality, respecting other and setting goals.45 – 61% improved in determining needs, using information to solve problems, showing responsible attitudes, and being tactful.40 – 44% improved their skills in trusting other people and using logical thinking.40 – 44% improved their skills in considering alternatives, solving problems, considering input from all group members, being flexible, selecting alternatives, handling mistakes, listening effectively, having positive self-concept, clarifying values, and having good manners.

Clark (1998) – Illinois


4-H teaches lessons, habits, attitudes and skills that last a lifetime and continue to benefit local communities throughout Wisconsin.

Kress (2004)


References:“4-H youth development facts in brief.” (2003) Retrieved on December 23, 2004 from, Kirk. (2001). “Research findings show the impact of 4-H” Montana 4-H Research Summary, Montana State University., Kirk, and George Haynes. (2002). “More than cows and cooking: Newest research shows the impact of 4-H.” Journal of Extension. 40(4)., Barry L., Don R. Herring, and Gary E. Briers. (1992). “Developing life skills in youth.” Journal of Extension. 30 (4)., Joy, Anne L. Heinsohn, and Melanie K Doebler. (1989). “Is it worth the costs?” Journal of Extension. 27(1)., Charlie, Carol Wilcoxen, Cheryl Geitner, Dianne White, Sarah Anderson, and Diane Baker. (1998). “Assessing leadership life skills gained through 4-H.” Illinois Extension Service.Forsythe, Katie, Robert Matysik, and Karen Nelson. (2004) “Impact of the 4-H camp counselor experience.” Department of Youth Development, University of Wisconsin – Extension.Gamon, Julia, and Ond Pedro Dehegedus-Hetzel. (1994). “Swine project skill development.” Journal of Extension. 32(1).


References (cont):Investing in Wisconsin’s youth – 4-H youth development.” (2001) Retrieved December 23, 2004 from UW-Extension Web site:, Cathann A.. (2004.) “What does America need from 4-H?” Prepared for Connecticut 4-H Newsletter. Retrieved December 23, 2004 from National 4-H Headquarters Web site:, Jill Florence & Associates. “Evaluation of the Wisconsin 4-H animal science projects.” (2004.) A Youth Development Program of the University of Wisconsin-Extension.Ladewig, Howard and John Thomas. (1987). “Does 4-H make a difference?” The Texas A & M University System.Lerner, Jacqueline. “4-H study on positive youth development.” Tufts University. Retrieved December 23, 2004, from the California 4-H Youth Development Program Web site:, M.W. (2000). “Community Counts: How youth organizations matter for youth development”, Executive Summary Abstract. Retrieved January 11, 2005 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children & Families Web site:


References (cont):Mead, June, Eunice Rodriquez, Thomas Hirschl and Stephen Goggin. (1999). Understanding the difference 4-H clubs make in the lives of New York youth: How 4-H contributes to positive youth development., Jeffrey P. and Blannie E. Bowen. (1993). “Competency, coping, and contributory life skills development of early adolescents.” Journal of Agricultural Education. Spring: 68-76., Stephen T. (2001). “The developmental benefits of nonformal education and youth development.” 4-H Center for Youth Development Focus. The University of California, Davis.Smith, Allan T., (2002). “4-H youth development facts in brief.” Retrieved December 23, 2004 from National 4-H Headquarters Web site:“Texas 4-H impact assessment.” (2000) Retrieved June 30, 2004, from University of Florida Extension Service Web site:, Carol Knowlton. (1996). “Life skill development related to participation in 4-H animal science projects.” Journal of Extension. 34(2).