Dr. Richard Clark
Research by Dr. Mary Arnold at Oregon State Universi- ty has found that 4-H Program Quality is critical to suc- cess. Dedicated volunteers and staff spend many hours working directly with youth in 4-H programs. From ex- ploring topics in a 4th grade program, to learning science skills by building a robot, to representing Tennessee at National 4-H Congress, 4-H provides many different types of programs to meet the needs of youth as they grow and develop. What happens in 4-H programs and how they are planned and led, makes a huge difference in the impact of the program on youth! In order to have the biggest impact, programs need to adhere to eight critical aspects of program quality:
- Physical and psychological safety– youth need to feel safe in 4-H programs and be able to interact positively with others.
- Appropriate structure – whether it is a club meeting or leadership camp, 4-H programs must have clear and consistent rules and expectations, with clear boundaries and age-appropriate monitoring.
- Supportive relationships– all youth need to feel warmth from and closeness to others in 4-H. Youth need to feel others care about and support them. They also need to receive clear guidance and communication from 4-H volunteers and staff.
- Opportunities to belong– all youth need to feel included in a meaningful way in 4-H, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientations, or ability. Youth should have opportunities to share their culture and heritage with others and to forge a positive identify.
- Positive social norms – Youth should experience clear rules and expectations for participating in 4-H, including the values, morals, and ethical expectations of being a 4-H member.
- Support for efficacy and mattering – Youth in 4-H should be taken seriously and respected for their ideas and contributions. Youth should be given opportunities to develop responsibility and be challenged to set and achieve goals.
- Opportunities for skill building – Youth need to develop physical, psychological, intellectual, emotional and social skills as they grow and develop. 4-H provides opportunities for youth to develop these skills, skills that support a young person into adulthood and the workplace.
- Integration of family, school and community – Youth in 4-H do best when there is a connection to their 4-H experience with their family, school, and community. This is why 4-H programs begin at the lo- cal level, in the community where youth can practice their emerging leadership skills as they grow and develop.