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New Dir Youth Dev. 2006 Summer;(110):133-40, 19-20.

Twenty-first century learning after school: the case of 4-H.

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National 4-H Headquarters, Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, USA.


Founded in the early 1900s, the 4-H Youth Development program can serve as a model for out-of-school programs of the twenty-first century. The 4-H pledge, repeated by its members--over 7 million, ranging in age from five to twenty--articulates its core values: "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 club, my community, my country, and my world." The 4-H Development movement was created to provide opportunities for rural children, to help them become constructive adults. Through an emphasis on "learning by doing," 4-H teaches children the habits of lifelong learning. Historically, 4-H has tapped into university-level advancements, extending such knowledge to youth and thereby giving them early access to scientific discoveries and technological progress. Members apply this learning in their communities through hands-on projects crossing a wide-range of pertinent topics. Research shows that 4-H members are more successful in school than other children and develop a wide range of skills essential in the twenty-first century. Thus, the author makes the case that the foundation of 4-H is exceptionally relevant in today's complex world, perhaps even more so than a century ago. 4-H is a leader in youth development, making it a natural model for twenty-first century after-school programs. Expanding on the 4-H pledge, the author outlines the principles a successful youth development program would have: an emphasis on leadership skills, a feeling of connection and belonging, a forum for exploring career opportunities, and a component of meaningful community service.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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