4-H: a positive educational experience

August already! And the 2014 Franklin County Fair is in full swing. This year, as always, there’s a midway full of rides and games. And, of course, there are all sorts of concessions, commercial exhibits, and scheduled events, including demolition derbies, truck and tractor pulls, harness racing, concerts and a stunt driver show.

It is the many 4-H exhibits, presentations, competitions and workshops throughout the week that interest me most, however. The Franklin County Fair has a long and rich tradition of supporting 4-H programs and 4-H youth. The Fair has long been a place where 4-H members have come together to showcase their skills, their craftsmanship, their showmanship and their animals.

The Fair is not actually a part of the 4-H program, and Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Fair Board are not directly related. Still, both organizations have been cooperating for generations to assure continued success.

I am proud to be facilitating and participating in hands-on activities that allow fairgoers to learn more about gardening and horticulture and to create and take home distinctively 4-H projects. I’m often truly inspired by the effort, the creativity, the teamwork put forward by 4-H leaders and volunteers, and the hard work of our 4-H club members as they readied their club exhibits – posters, crafts, woodworking, sewing and gardening projects – and then submitted them for judging. I get a lot of pleasure out of watching the 4-H families decorate and ready the stalls and pens that are temporarily home to their prized horses, cows, goats and sheep. Words cannot describe the love, pride and individual care given by these remarkable, exuberant boys and girls to their exceptionally well-cared-for animals. They won’t all go home with blue ribbons, but as far as I’m concerned, they are all winners.

Cornell Cooperative Extension promotes youth development through 4-H clubs and by offering opportunities to participate in county and New York state fairs, statewide 4-H Youth Gatherings, including events at Cornell University, national 4-H conferences and much more. There are also shows, field trips and other 4-H experiences and activities, such as those available at Camp Overlook, which is located south of Malone in the hamlet of Mountain View, in a peaceful Adirondack mountain setting of 25 acres with frontage on Indian Lake and the channel between Indian and Mountain View lakes. 4-H Camp Overlook has been providing wholesome, educational and recreational outdoor experiences for children and adolescents in local communities, as well as others from all over New York state and the nation, for more than 60 years.

4-H is the youth education branch of the Cooperative Extension Service, a program of the United States Department of Agriculture. The 4-H Youth Development Program is an informal program designed to provide opportunities for children and youth to cultivate, practice and apply life skills as they are learned, and to create supportive learning environments that will enable youth and adults to achieve and to reach their fullest potential.

The 4-H pledge: “I pledge my head to clear thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, my health to better living: for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”

It isn’t just words. It’s about decision making and knowledge, strong personal values, positive self-concept and concern for others. It’s about workforce preparedness and a healthy lifestyle. The 4-H pledge is a promise of friendship and of friendships that will span generations. It’s a pledge to learn new skills and to discover abilities and talents that you can take with you and use throughout your lifetime; abilities and talents you never even knew you had. It’s about shared experiences and about sharing your time and your talents with others. It’s about friends and fun, learning and doing really cool things. It’s about family and community responsibility, hard work and success, and developing attitudes and habits that will help us all meet the challenges of today and the future. The 4-H pledge is about building a world in which youth and adults learn, grow, and work together as catalysts for positive change.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County encourages you to learn more about the 4-H program, as well as all of the other programs and services that we offer. It’s easy to join 4-H. All you have to do is contact your local Cooperative Extension office.

Why not join us? Get involved. Become one of the many parents, volunteers, community leaders and Extension staff sharing their time and talents with 4-H youth in your county. You’ll be glad you did.