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4-H makes changes

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@h-ponline.com

Now that 4-H sign-ups are underway, 4-Hers can expect a shift of mindset in Huntington County, as Purdue Extension has listened to requests from prior years.

Rae Ann O’Neill, Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development in Huntington County explained that the 4-H motto has been “learn by doing.” However over the years for varying reasons, there has been a push to focus more on the bookwork side of the projects.

Surveys distributed about every other year to 4-Hers and their families have shown the Extension Office a trending concern among participants: that 4-H was requiring too much bookwork and paperwork for students, making it feel more like school.

“That is one of the concerns that has been expressed, is that ‘4-H has gotten to be too much like schoolwork,’ ‘4-H is too much paperwork,’ ‘isn’t doing the project enough?’ type of comments. And we’re listening,” O’Neill explained.

This year, though manuals and workbooks will still be provided, the work will not be required for submission. Instead, Huntington County 4-H will be implementing record sheets for students to fill out, which provide students with a condensed resource for reflection purposes.

O’Neill explained that regardless of how many projects a student does, the maximum amount of record sheets they will have to complete would be three.

There will be one to fill out for livestock projects, one for animal projects for pets such as cats, dogs etc. and one general record sheet for the rest of the projects -- no matter how many entries of each category a student has.

The record sheets will be based on age as well, so record sheets for third graders will look different than those for high schoolers. They will be comprised of reflection questions as well as a section where a student must circle skills they used to complete the projects. Skills will also vary depending on age.

O’Neill said there will be around 40 different skills students can choose from. Those who are third through fifth graders will be required to circle four, those who are sixth through eighth grade will circle six and those who are ninth through twelfth will circle eight. Skills listed will vary from gluing to time management.

The entire record sheet will be one piece of paper, front and back, which will be submitted in June.

“We’re really excited about it,” O’Neill said. “And we are hoping that maybe some of the families that felt perhaps a little overwhelmed by all the paperwork, we hope that they will take a look at what we’ve done. We’ve listened to people, and we hope that they will possibly think again about 4-H as we’ve tried to make it easier.”

O’Neill added that though it’s no longer required to turn back in, students will still be encouraged to take part in the activities that the manuals and workbooks provide, as that is how they will learn.

O’Neill said when she sat down with 4-H leaders to make the record sheets, they did gather initial ideas from other counties, but now the other counties – and even the state – are looking to the record sheets Huntington County has created. She said the county is piloting the sheets with this year’s initial implementation.

The 4-H enrollment online deadline is January 15. After the deadline, individuals can enroll in the extension office. Those that have any questions can contact O’Neill at the extension office at (260)-358-4826 or by email at oneillra@purdue.edu.