4-H supports youth development

Posted 11/29/23


When you think of 4-H, what comes to mind? You might think 4H is only for kids lucky enough to be raising animals on a family farm. That is no longer the case.

The 121-year-old …

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4-H supports youth development



When you think of 4-H, what comes to mind? You might think 4H is only for kids lucky enough to be raising animals on a family farm. That is no longer the case.

The 121-year-old non-profit youth development organization has adopted the motto, “From the Farms to the Cities,” to describe the reach of its experiential learning programs that support young people’s growth in  “head, heart, hands and health” — the four H’s.

“Kids from all over the county get involved,” according to Anji Scalf, who coordinates Youth & Families of 4-H Jefferson County through Washington State University (WSU) Extension in Port Hadlock. Last year, 86 youths, ages 5-19 years, participated in local 4-H groups, learning about everything from horses, rabbits and reptiles, to jewelry-making and robotics.

Each 4-H club is self-governing, led by an adult volunteer who receives training and support. Families enroll yearly online. Children and teens choose club membership based on their interests, whether in animals, the arts or STEM.

According to Scalf, what is important is having an interest. “In fact,” Scalf said, “our longest-running club is Paws & Claws for cat lovers. You don’t even have to have a cat. You just have to be interested in cats.”

Civic skills are fostered through participation in monthly group meetings. Members decide among themselves how to explore and develop their interests. Many club activities involve exploration of topics through expressive arts.

This opportunity for developing one’s interests while participating in a group is important, because, according to Scalf, “4-H is an equal-opportunity program that provides spaces for people to learn differently.”

The organization invites all interested youth to participate. 4-H disability policy provides for reasonable accommodations, leading to participation from a wide group of interested children and teens.

Land-grant universities, including Washington State, have developed curricula under the national 4-H umbrella, administered by the Department of Agriculture (USDA). According to Scalf, 4-H can provide home-schooled students academic resources, as well as the opportunity to be part of a group that works together in person. Online materials through the 4-H platform, CLOVER, promote additional growth and offer flexibility.

CLOVER was an important source of support to local students during the pandemic, according to Scalf. In Brinnon, 4-H runs an after-school program, and a similar school-based program is planned for Quilcene.

According to Scalf, a perennial challenge facing the program is attracting adult volunteers as club leaders. In addition to an area of interest, volunteers need what Scalf called “youth management skills.” A background in teaching is helpful, but not required. To find out more about how to start a club, visit extension.wsu.edu/jefferson/youth/4-hclubs_projects/.

The 4-H year culminates in September at the Jefferson County Fair. “If we were a sport program the fair would be our regional championship,” Scalf explained. The opportunity for kids to gain recognition for their hard work does not stop there. “If you win a blue ribbon,” Scalf said, “you are eligible to compete at the State Fair in Puyallup, and the carnival is lots of fun.”

Enrollment is online for a yearly fee of $25. Visit extension.wsu.edu/jefferson/4-h-youth-development-2022/ for information. Families may request fee assistance. For questions, or for help completing forms, contact Program Coordinator Anji Scalf at 360-379-5610 extension 208 or at anji.scalf@wsu.edu.