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4-H Essential Elements

Essential Elements for Positive Youth Development

Eight elements have been identified as critical to the well-being and positive development of youth. They are known as the 4-H Essential Elements. Each of the eight essential elements is critical to the growth and development of youth. It is a combination of these elements that creates a positive environment for youth development. Intentional focus on these elements allows youth to benefit from participating in hands-on, experiential activities and events, feeling nurtured in a safe environment, mastering new skills and abilities, and knowing that they are contributing to their communities in a positive way. 

The eight 4-H Essential Elements are:

  1. Positive relationship with a caring adult
  2. A safe emotional and physical environment
  3. An inclusive environment
  4. Engagement in learning
  5. Opportunity for mastery
  6. Opportunity to see oneself as an active participant in the future
  7. Opportunity for self-determination
  8. Opportunity to value and practice service to others

The elements are organized under four main groups:

  • Belonging
  • Mastery
  • Independence
  • Generosity

Adapted from 4-H Essential Elements of 4-H Youth Development, Cathann Kress (2004).