What is 4-H?

4-H is an informal, practical, learning-by-doing educational program for youth. The purpose of 4-H is to help youth acquire knowledge, develop life skills, and form attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive members of society.

Professional and volunteer staff provide educational projects and activities in animal science, home economics, natural resources, and handcrafts, as well as leadership and citizenship.

4-H is America's largest out-of-school educational program for youth. Nearly 4.5 million youth nation wide now participate in 4-H, under the guidance of 600,000 extension-trained adult volunteer leaders. An estimated 36 million American adults are former 4-H members.

How it Began

What is now 4-H began in the early 1900s, when youth agriculture clubs appeared in different parts of the country at the same time. These early efforts were organized in rural schools or through "Farmers' Institutes" organized by agriculture colleges to bring the latest scientific information to farmers and their families.

In 1914, the U.S. Congress the Smith-Lever Act, formally establishing Extension work on a cooperative basis among the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the state land grant colleges, and counties in each state. Funds were included for youth programs, which became known as 4-H in 1924.

How 4-H is Organized

National leadership for 4-H is in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. State headquarters are in the land-grant university of each state. Wyoming's land-grant university is the University of Wyoming.

Every state has a team of 4-H youth staff and subject matter specialists as part of the university's extension service. Work in counties is directed by county Extension agents. Volunteer leaders provide direct leadership and education support to youth in local communities.

4-H in Wyoming

4-H is the youth education program of the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service. 4-H membership is available to all Wyoming youth ages 9-19.

4-H members are in every county in Wyoming and number 15,500 statewide. Although 4-H is traditionally considered to be a rural youth organization, today's 4-H members live everywhere. In Wyoming, about 30 percent of the members live on farms and ranches, while 40 percent live in small towns (under 10,000) or rural non-farm areas. Another 30 percent live in towns and cities.

4-H Outreach

Local clubs are major 4-H delivery systems. Wyoming 4-H reaches young people in a variety of other ways. For example, "Blue Sky Below My Feet" is a video series on space available to school classrooms. 4-H is also a part of the youth phase of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). This program is designed to teach basic nutrition to members of families with limited incomes. 4-H materials are often used to enrich school curriculums in many areas. The classroom teacher may be the leader, or volunteer leaders may come into the schools.

Volunteer Leaders

Adult volunteer leaders are the mainstay of the 4-H program. Each year about 3,500 adults volunteer their time and talents to help Wyoming 4-H members. In addition, about 500 teens are volunteer leaders.

Leaders learn along with 4-H members, as Extension agents and university specialists keep them informed about new information. Not only do leaders learn more about the subject they are teaching, but they learn about teaching techniques and working with people. For this reason, 4-H is often referred to as an adult education program as well as a youth education program.

Although most volunteers lead clubs, there are other leadership roles in Wyoming 4-H. Some leaders serve as "Key Leaders" in the county and help others lead, or offer support to members on a countywide basis.

UW 4-H staff are responsible for all 4-H programming and provide training and support for volunteers which aid in delivering educational opportunities.  Volunteers are considered non-benefited employees of the University of Wyoming and are appointed at the discretion of the county 4-H Educator on a yearly basis. Volunteers are the key to program delivery as they transmit information and share their skills in direct with youth.  The power of the 4-H program depends on the dedication of time and teaching that volunteers provide.

4-H Clubs

4-H work is implemented mostly in project club. A project club is a group of youth working with an adult volunteer leader on a single project, such as clothing, horses, or gardening. Some clubs are organized to include more than one project, such as a 4-H livestock club that includes members with projects in beef, sheep, and swine.

There are also 4-H community clubs. Members are enrolled in a wide variety of projects. Community club leaders provide overall leadership, but other volunteers work with members and their projects.

Most clubs range from 5 to 25 members. Each club may meet regularly throughout the year or only part of the year, depending on the project and the interests of both leaders and members.

4-H Projects

Wyoming 4-H members may choose from 40 different projects, or they may develop their own projects with the help of an adult volunteer leader. Projects are grouped into the areas of animal science, handicrafts, home economics, natural resources, and general, as well as technology.

4-H projects are built around three important principles: 1) Subject matter knowledge and skills, 2) Self-development , and 3) social interaction among people of different backgrounds, experiences, and ages.

Projects are real-life experiences that help members take responsibility for their own actions. Members develop good work habits and learn to work with others, sharing ideas and helping each other. Most project work is done in or near the home so the family can work and be together.

4-H Activities

4-H is fun! members not only belong to clubs, but may also participate in activities such as fairs, contests, camps, tours, participation days, exchanges, and statewide events. These activities are designed to supplement club and project experiences. They offer opportunities to learn and practice skills beyond the opportunities available in the local club. Activities also provide a means for members to meet 4-H'ers from other clubs, communities, counties, and states.

Ivan L. Hobson is credited with starting the first 4-H clubs in Wyoming in 1913. Four kinds of clubs were promoted- crop production, potato, poultry, and garden and canning. Sheridan County hired the first full-time Boys' and Girls' Club agent in 1917. By 1919, state enrollment in youth clubs had increased to 1,562 members in 96 clubs.

The Wyoming 4-H program now reaches one in four youth ages 9-19 in the state.

How 4-H is Financed

The 4-H program is supported by a unique blend of tax funds (county, state, and federal) and private donations. State and federal tax funds are used to help pay extension staff salaries and to provide educational materials. County money supports the operation of local extension offices. Private funds support 4-H activities including camps, awards, judging contests, leader training, and special program efforts.

Wyoming State 4-H Foundation

Because of the importance of private funds in supporting a well-rounded 4-H program, the Wyoming State 4-H Foundation was established in 1976 as a nonprofit vehicle to receive private donations in support of the Wyoming 4-H. The foundation has a board of directors and provides financial support for 4-H programs at both state and county levels.

About Extension

The Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service is an off campus educational arm of the University of Wyoming. Specifically, Extension provides research-based educational information to help Wyoming citizens solve problems and develop skills related to youth, family, community, and farm.

The Extension service has administrative specialists, housed on campus in Laramie, and county Extension agents in each county, information from the University of Wyoming is "extended" to people in Wyoming.

The Four H's

The four H's stand for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. "Head, heart, and hands" was a familiar phrase with public speakers in the early 1900s. Educators expresses the liberalizing of conventional education ("the three R's") to include practical arts ("the three H's").

The three H's were adopted by program organizers to reflect the educational theme of 4-H. A fourth "H" was added for health. Together the four H's symbolized the development of the head, to think, plan, and reason; the heart, to care for others, accept citizenship responsibilities and develop positive attitudes; the hands, to be useful, helpful, and skillful; and health, to practice healthful living, enjoy life, and use leisure time productively.

The 4-H Emblem, Colors, Motto

The national 4-H emblem is a green four-leaf clover with the letter "H" on each leaf. The design was adopted as the national emblem in 1911. Congress has twice passed legislation protecting the 4-H name and emblem. Similar to a copyright, this protection means that the 4-H name and emblem cannot be used without authorization by the national organization.

Green and white are the 4-H colors. Green symbolizes springtime, life, and youth, while white stands for high ideals.

The 4-H motto is "To make the best better." It was adopted in 1927 when the 4-H pledge was introduced.

The 4-H Pledge

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

When repeating the pledge, a member raises the right hand to the side of the head while speaking line one, lowers the hand to heart while speaking line two; extends the hand, palms upward, while speaking line three, and stands straight while speaking lines four and five.

The pledge was adopted in 1927 during the first National 4-H Club Camp in Washington D.C. Otis Hall, state 4-H leader in Kansas, was responsible for the original wording, which remained unchanged until 1973 when the words "and my world" were added.