4-H Community Clubs

What is 4-H

What is 4-H?
4‐H is the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization. In Wisconsin, more than 150,000 young people in urban, suburban and rural settings are involved with 4‐H programs. Youth ages 5‐19 can learn important life skills like leadership, teamwork, critical thinking and communication to help prepare them for successful futures – and they do it while engaging in fun, hands‐on 4‐H activities!

What is the mission of 4-H Youth Development?
The mission of the 4‐H Youth Development program is to engage youth, in partnership with adults, in quality learning opportunities that enable them to shape and reach their full potential as active citizens in a global community.

What makes 4-H different?
4‐H is unique because it is the only youth organization tied to the research base of our nation’s land‐grant university system. This connection allows the University of Wisconsin‐Madison, Division of Extension staff, and the volunteers they work with, to receive training based on the most up‐to‐date research on youth development theory and practice.

Community Club Meetings & Activities

What is a 4-H Club?
A 4-H club is an organized group of at least five youth from three different families with at least two 4-H approved adult volunteers. Members and leaders meet regularly and have a planned program that is carried out through all or most of the year. The purpose of a 4-H club is to provide positive youth development opportunities that enable youth to reach their full potential as competent, confident, leaders of character who contribute and are connected to their communities.

4‐H Clubs strive to create, within their group, a quality learning environment that gives members a chance to be an active part of the decision making process; values and respects the voices of all; provides members an opportunity to reflect on and demonstrate their learning; connects members to their community through service; encourages the development of positive relationships with peers and adults; is welcoming and accessible to all; celebrates individual and group achievements; challenges youth to establish and meet individual goals; and provides for the physical and emotional safety of all.

4-H club meetings and activities, like community service projects, project meetings, and recreation events, are run by youth leaders or youth officers with guidance from adult volunteers. The 4-H Club and Project Area meetings usually include three types of activities:

  • Leading (Business/Group Decisions): This is where youth get to practice democracy in action. Members learn how to express themselves in a group, listen to the views of others, come to a decision either through consensus or parliamentary procedure, and abide by majority rule.
  • Laughing (Group Building/Recreation): A variety of activities add enjoyment to the meeting. This could include icebreakers, organized games, refreshments, and celebrations.
  • Learning (Education): “Learning by doing” is one of the key elements of 4-H. Youth can do demonstrations at club meetings to teach skills to others. Clubs may also bring in guest speakers or do service learning activities.

All 4-H clubs must be chartered, which includes having an approved constitution and bylaws. The 4-H charter allows clubs to use the 4-H name and emblem, raise funds in the name of 4-H, and carry out the 4-H educational program.

Youth Roles in 4-H Clubs

Who can join a 4-H Club?
4‐H is open to all youth in 5K through one year after high school regardless of race, color, sex, creed, disability, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital or parental status.

Cloverbud – Any youth in 5K – 2nd grade who enrolls in 4-H is in the Cloverbud project. Explores 4-H through fun, non-competitive, activity-centered learning experiences.

Club Member – Youth in Grades 3-13. Participate in club meetings, events, and service projects. Set and strive to complete 4‐H goals. Share your knowledge with other club members.

Youth Leader – Shares experience or knowledge in a project to help younger members learn and grow. Takes an active role in teaching younger members or serving as a club officer or committee chairperson.

4-H Project Areas

A project may be a topic like geology, photography, poultry, food and nutrition, horses, or bicycling. It can be almost any subject that young people are interested in. Each club offers different projects depending on the needs and interests of youth and availability of project leaders to lead the project. Projects are experiences that help 4‐H’ers learn to make decisions. Projects are the “foundation tool” for helping young people develop life skills.

“Learning by doing” is a basic philosophy of 4-H. The 4-H project is an area where learning by doing takes place. Each project has things for members to do, make, and explore. As members gain experience, they may choose to take on more projects.

A 4-H Project:

  • Involves something that interests the 4-H member
  • Is guided by a volunteer project leader or navigated independently
  • Helps the youth reach their learning goals
  • Includes some form of record keeping
  • Takes place over a period of several weeks or months during a year

Check out the 4-H Project Areas available:

4-H Calendar

What does a typical 4-H year look like?
While members may join 4-H at anytime throughout the year and experience different activities and events depending on their club and project involvement, some events typically happen around the same time each year.

A typical 4-H year includes:
Year round – Project learning & Record keeping
Fall – Membership enrollment and Project selection, Fall Forum (link), County fundraiser
Winter – New Member and Officer Orientations, Awards ceremonies
Spring – Project confirmation in database
Summer – County Fair participation, Camp, Educational Experiences, Record keeping wrap-up

4-H Dues and Fees

The annual dues for Dane County 4-H Members are members are $20/youth member, $3/Cloverbud, $5 Volunteer, $1 additional for Horse Project members.

Some clubs may cover the cost of these enrollment fees through fundraising efforts. Clubs may also charge additional fees to cover local activities. Please check with the club leader to learn more about what each club charges for participation. Additional fees may apply for 4‐H workshops, camps, or programs that youth can choose to participate in. In the event that a member or volunteer is unable to pay the club enrollment fee or a specific program fee, please contact the Dane County 4‐H Office. The Dane County 4‐H Youth Development Program is open to all regardless of the ability to pay.

Record Keeping

Records are a way of recording a 4‐H member’s growth through learning and experience. Reflection is a very important part of the Experiential Learning Model used in 4‐H. Reflection allows you to think about the how’s and why’s of an experience or activity to identify what you learned through the experience, enabling you to then apply that learning in other situations.

4‐H record keeping is helpful in teaching important life skills, such as self‐discipline, decision making, goal setting, wise use of resources, communication, sharing, etc. Accurate and up‐to‐date records and portfolio not only provide a history of your 4‐H experience, they are also helpful in successfully completing applications to colleges and universities, scholarships, awards, and employment.

Opportunities outside the Club

Fairs – Fairs provide many opportunities for youth involved in 4‐H to learn and grow. Exhibiting 4‐H projects at the fair is optional and a wonderful way for young people to showcase their work and receive feedback and recognition. Visit with your club leader or project leader to learn more about 4‐H opportunities at the fairs in Dane County. The county fairs are not run by Dane County 4‐H. Be sure to visit the website of the fair you want to exhibit or get the necessary forms. Members are responsible for turning in their entries on time. It is the member’s responsibility to find out the rules of a fair and follow them, while representing Dane County 4‐H and following the Wisconsin 4‐H Code of Conduct. Learn more about Fair opportunities in Dane County.

Camp – Dane County 4‐H offers outdoor experiences including day camp in Dane County and overnight camp opportunities at the Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center which is a model residential outdoor learning center, managed by the University of Wisconsin – Madison Division of Extension. For decades, parents have trusted 4‐H camps to help young people build resilience by engaging in positive risks. Having
experiences outside their comfort zones, like camp, helps young people become more independent and better able to plan and reach their long‐term goals. Learn more about Dane County 4-H Camp.

Educational Travel Experiences – Throughout the year, 4‐H members (6th grade and older) have the opportunity to participate in educational travel experiences. These opportunities encourage youth to learn about and appreciate different ideas and perspectives while forming lasting friendships. Learn more about Educational Experiences.

Adult Roles in 4-H Clubs

Adult Volunteers, Club Leaders and parents are a valued and essential part of the 4-H program and have a profound impact on the life trajectory of 4-H members.   They help provide a safe, engaging place for youth to take risks, practice their independence and master new skills.

Volunteers help make 4-H possible. Extension volunteers work with staff to deliver educational programs using University and other high-quality educational resources. Adults can serve in a variety of volunteer roles in a 4-H club including Club Leader, Enrollment Coordinator, Activity Volunteer, Project Leader, Committee Volunteer, and Adult Chaperone. Share your interest by filling out our Dane County 4-H Interest Form, a staff member will connect with you soon.

Learn more about the different 4-H Volunteer roles and training programs available.

The Role of Parents: Advise your child in the selection of projects. Show your interest and enthusiasm for the projects they selected. Help guide your child with their projects, but do not do it for them. Assist your child in getting to meetings or other events. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to attend local club meetings and county‐wide events with their children. Be informed by reading the 4‐H information sent to your family and asking questions when unclear. Ask for a copy of your club’s bylaws and constitution or operating guidelines and yearly calendar of events. Be a role model of a good sport so that children will learn to celebrate and appreciate the successes of others. Check the Dane County Extension 4‐H Youth Development website for the latest updates on 4‐H programs and opportunities. Volunteer to assist with club events and activities when possible.

Enroll in 4-H

Interested in Joining 4-H, but need more information?

If you’re looking for a club experience, your first step is to talk with a 4-H educator to share your interests and learn which club or program fits best fits. Start that conversation by filling out our Dane County 4-H Interest Form

Know your preferred club and ready to sign up?

4-H Online is our easy tool for getting registered as a member and becoming affiliated with a club.

Contact Us

If you’re looking for a club experience, your first step is to talk with a 4-H educator to share your interests and learn which club or program fits best fits. Start that conversation by filling out our Dane County 4-H Interest Form

For more information on 4-H Community Clubs – 4Hinfo@countyofdane.com or 608-224-3702

Check out the 4-H Family Handbook for even more information. Click on the links in the handbook to explore new family newsletters created for youth and adults.

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