Livestock, Programming, Youth

Sportsmanship & Youth Development

My youngest daughter, Meredith has been learning responsibility with her first bucket calf.

Webster’s Third International Dictionary defines sportsmanship as “conduct becoming an individual involving fair and honest competition, courteous relations and graceful acceptance of results”.  Sportsmanship starts with parents teaching their youth how to accept a win or a loss, although in the 4-H youth development program, even if the youth receives a red ribbon, nothing is lost as long as some basic knowledge and skills were gained. Too often in our society we focus on the tangible results of a ribbon or trophy and don’t think about the process that youth went through to achieve the end results and what was learned from that process.

I often use the example that as a youth, I’ll never forget receiving a red ribbon for a market heifer; I was disappointed, but will never forget my dad asking me, what the judge said in the comments.  After we talked it over, I realized his reasoning and was able to understand the type of animal I should select the following year. That was a lesson I’ll never forget.  My parents instilled the value of hard work into my sister and I and any animal we showed we bought with our own money to build a small cow/calf herd or they came from our own herd. We rarely had the award-winning animal and were extremely excited to even receive a purple ribbon. The learning that occurred, memories and fun we had were just as valuable then if we would have received a trophy or plaque.

For these reasons, it is really rewarding to work with youth who are happy with any ribbon placing- white, red, blue or purple. It really is just one person’s opinion on one particular day!

The 4-H Program focuses on providing positive youth development and developing young people as future leaders. A ribbon or plaque placing does not achieve this; rather it is the process, skills and effort that went into the project.  It is also important to mention that the entire 4-H program extends beyond the county fair and is done through educational workshops, career portfolios, leadership experiences and much more and is a year-round program.

My oldest daughter, McKenzie added pigs to her 4-H project this year and has been having to learn lots more responsibility and patience.

Positive Youth Development

National 4-H reminds us that there are four critical components of a successful learning experience which include a sense of belonging, independence, mastery and generosity. During county fair and all 4-H programming, it is important that youth experience these.


Youth need to know they are cared about by others and feel a sense of connection to others in the group. As the facilitator, it is important to provide youth the opportunity to feel physically and emotionally safe while actively participating in a group. Create a safe and inclusive environment and foster a positive relationship with youth learners. Use discussion questions that encourage youth to learn from each other, synthesize and use ideas collaboratively.


Youth need to know that they are able to influence people and events through decision-making and action. They learn to better understand themselves and become independent thinkers. Throughout each curriculum, youth are given opportunities to develop and reflect upon thoughts and responses to the challenges, explorations, and investigations. Youth begin to understand that they are able to act as change agents with confidence and competence as a result of their learning.


In order to develop self-confidence youth need to feel and believe they are capable and they must experience success at solving problems and meeting challenges. Youth need a breadth and depth of topics that allow them to pursue their own interests. Introduce youth to expert knowledge and guide them toward their own sense of mastery and accomplishment.


Youth need to feel their lives have meaning and purpose. Throughout each curriculum, youth are encouraged to broaden their perspectives, find relevance in the topic area and bring ideas back to their community.

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

Programming, Youth

Recognizing Youth’s Efforts

One of the great things I have the opportunity to observe in my role as a youth development educator is how youth grow and develop from year to year. Youth, just like other living things such as plants need a nourishing, supportive, and protective environment. The 4-H youth development program utilizes the “essential elements” research to ensure that a youth development program is met. This means that each young person needs to:


  • Know they are cared about by others: that they belong
  • Feel and believe they are capable and successful: that they have mastery
  • Know they are able to influence people and events: that they have independence
  • Practice helping others: that they can demonstrate generosity.

From research, it was concluded that there are eight critical elements that must be present for positive and effective experiences and opportunities benefiting youth. These eight elements are known as the eight essential elements and are summarized below:

  1. A 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 for others
Fair may be over, but chores still need to be done. Here, my daughter McKenzie does chores after school.

The 4-H program uses recognition as one strategy to help youth become more capable and competent, thus creating an opportunity for mastery. In fact, recognition is a huge incentive to promote further learning and can inspire young people to continue participating and learning. 4-H has several ways we recognize youth. One of the most visible is during the county fair, which young receive ribbons and perhaps even trophies. This provides immediate feedback for youth based on the quality of their end product. There is so much more to the 4-H program than the county fair which youth benefit. Youth complete essentially a “record book” which documents the progression of skills and activities youth have learned from completing not only their fair projects, but participation in other 4-H activities throughout the year. Youth also have the opportunity to self-reflect on a variety of accomplishments throughout their 4-H year. The Diamond Clover program’s goal is to provide 4-H members a rich and diverse learning experience and is designed for members of all ages.

It is that time of year, that both the Clay and Fillmore County 4-H programs will be highlighting those 4-H youth who have earned various 4-H awards. If you are in Fillmore County, I encourage you to attend the Amazing Race/4-H Recognition event which will start at 2:00 p.m. on October 28th at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds. Any youth, whether in 4-H or not, will compete in teams of four or less to complete some fun and unique tasks. Following the Amazing Race activity, 4-H’ers will be recognized for their achievements around 3:00 p.m. with an ice cream social. More information can be found at

If you are in Clay County, the annual 4-H Achievement Program will be held Friday, November 2, at 7:00pm at the Fairgrounds.  4-Her’s should bring a dessert to share.

For more information on how to get youth involved in America’s largest youth development organization that empowers nearly six million young people across the U.S., you can check out Nebraska 4-H’s website or contact me at

Programming, Youth

Celebrate National 4-H Week

1.pngFor the 76th consecutive year, millions of youth, parents, volunteers and alumni across the country will be celebrating National 4-H Week during the first full week of October. This week celebrates the doers of the community who will become the leaders of our nation. 4-H was founded on the belief that when kids are empowered to pursue their passions and chart their own course, their unique skills grow and take shape, helping them to become true leaders in their lives, careers and communities.1.jpg

4-H alumni around the country are always the first to acknowledge the significant positive impact 4-H had on them as young people; the opportunities and experiences that 4-H provides youth empowers them to become true leaders. In fact, research has shown that young people in 4-H are almost four times as likely to contribute to their communities, and are twice as likely to engage in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs in their free time.

In Nebraska, more than 25,000 youth are enrolled in 4-H and 12,000 volunteers are involved in 4-H. In addition, approximately 56,000 youth participate in Nebraska 4-H school enrichment experiences. One of the most anticipated events of National 4-H Week every year is 4-H National Youth Science Day, which sees hundreds of thousands of youth across the nation taking part in the world’s largest youth-led science challenge.


This October, 4‑H and Google will launch an exciting National Youth Science Day challenge, Code Your World, inviting kids to get involved in computer science (CS) through hands-on doing. The national NYSD celebration kicks off October 1, and coding events will take place during October. Easier than ever to facilitate, Code Your World is a four-part challenge that teaches kids ages 8-14 to apply CS to the world around them through hands-on activities. Developed by Google and West Virginia University Extension Service, it includes a computer-based activity on Google’s CS First platform and three unplugged activities that bring coding to life through games and interaction. To learn more about National Youth Science Day, please visit

About 4-H: 4-H, the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization, cultivates confident kids who tackle the issues that matter most in their communities right now. In the United States, 4-H programs empower six million young people through the 110 land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension in more than 3,000 local offices serving every county and parish in the country. Outside the United States, independent, country-led 4-H organizations empower one million young people in more than 50 countries. National 4-H Council is the private sector, non-profit partner of the Cooperative Extension System and 4-H National Headquarters located at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Learn more about 4-H at, find us on Facebook at and on Twitter at For Nebraska 4-H, go to

Crops, Programming, Youth

4-H offers numerous opportunities

Any youth ages 5-18 (as of January 1st) is eligible to participate in the 4-H youth development program. Youth in Clay and Fillmore Counties  need to enroll by April 1st to take advantage of this excellent opportunity. This year, all youth will register online at  We also need caring adults to help volunteer with the program and volunteers also need to enroll online. If you have any further questions, please contact Holly at the Fillmore County Extension office at 402-759-3712 or Deanna in Clay County at 402-762-3644.cropped-n_4h-ext-3c.png

All across Nebraska 4-H youth are beginning to select their 4-H projects for 2018! Let the Nebraska 4-H Pick Your Project help connect you with projects that fit your interests and skill levels!

The interactive, web-based Nebraska 4-H Pick Your Project is found online at Use this as a guide when completing your enrollment form. Check out the curriculum and spark an interest in a new project for this year!

Locally, some programs coming up include Youth Animal Science Day and the kick-off of a Plant Science Investigation series which I’ll describe.


4-H Animal Science Day

Coming to Geneva on Sunday, March 18th is a short animal science program (FREE) which will offer a livestock judging contest, a face to face Youth for the Quality Care of Animals (YQCA) program, tips for your livestock projects and other fun hands-on animal science activities. This requires a lot of planning and assistance so if you are interested in participating, sign up by March 14th.  There must be a minimum of 25 youth in order for this program to occur; invite your friends from neighboring counties too! RSVP to the Fillmore County Extension office at 402-759-3712 or by email Rachel at

PSI - Fillmore (3)
For more info, go to Fillmore County 4-H Facebook page.

Plant Science Investigation (PSI) & Community Garden

Have a green thumb?  Interested in gardening?  If you answered yes to any of those questions, join the PSI and/or Community Garden teams this year. Here’s what you can learn about in PSI:

  • Learn about the importance of agriculture and how crops are used.
  • Conduct cool, hands-on science experiments.
  • Listen to speakers and learn about careers.
  • Help conduct field plot research.
  • Become a PSI investigator and detect plant problems.

The program will kick-off in Fillmore County at the Extension office on March 9th from 2pm – 4pm. Youth in Clay County can attend the program at the Clay County Fairgrounds on March 9th from 10-Noon.  We will learn about plant propagation methods and more!

PSI Clay

If you are unable to participate in this program, there will be more opportunities through the growing season.  For youth in Fillmore County, we will continue the Community Garden  and be partnering with the Geneva Library as well. If you are interested, please let the Extension office know by April 1st.

Programming, Youth

Fair Season

For many 4-H and FFA youth, projects have been well underway since the first of the year and beyond. 4-H and FFA youth enroll in projects, utilize curriculum and resources designed to help youth grow essential skills needed to enter exhibits at the fair which showcase their knowledge and skills gained. Extension staff and 4-H volunteers have offered numerous educational workshops for youth in a wide variety of topics from computer coding, cupcake decorating, plant science investigation, sewing, fishing and others. Youth have also participated in public speaking, a culinary food challenge and soon the clothing and fashion day.

Probably the most visible part of the 4-H youth development program is the county fair. The fair provides youth the opportunity to showcase their exhibits with community members. In our area, fairs are rapidly approaching.

The 2017 Clay County Fair will be July 6-9, 2017 in Clay Center, NE and the 2017 Fillmore County Fair will be July 9-15, 2017 in Geneva, NE.

Uncategorized, Youth

4-H Teaches Life Skills

The 4-H youth development program uses resources of the land-grant university and the time, talent, and dedication of Extension staff, screened and hardworking leaders and volunteers to teach youth life skills. Nebraska 4-H engages youth through 4-H programs and activities by building positive youth relationships between youth and adults and providing needed support for youth to develop their strengths. Through development of positive partnerships and development of strengths, 4-H programs in Nebraska are developing life skills that help youth become competent when they transition from child to adulthood. A skill is a learned ability and life skills are competencies that assist people in functioning well in the environments in which they life.Kick off graphic 2017.jpg

The life skills model for 4-H as developed by Hendricks (1998) is used in Nebraska. This 4-H framework incorporates the four “H’s” of the clover, head, heart, hands and health. The skills are grouped as they follow below:

HEAD. Thinking skills are as broken down as follows: Learning to learn, decision-making, problem solving, critical thinking, and service learning.
Managing skills are as follows: Goal setting, planning/organizing, wise use of resources, keeping records, and resiliency.

HEART. Relating skills are as follows: Communications, cooperation, social skills, conflict resolution, and accepting differences.
Skills that promote caring include: concern for others, empathy, sharing, nurturing, and relationships.

HANDS. Skills that enhance giving are community service/volunteering, leadership, responsibility, and contribution to a group.
Skills that promote working are: marketable/useable skills, teamwork and being self-motivated.

HEALTH. Living skills youth learn include: healthy life-style choices, stress management, disease prevention and personal safety.
Skills that teach youth a sense of being are: self-esteem, self-responsibility, character, managing feelings and self-discipline.