Tips for Writing 4-H Exhibit Goals

We are within days of County Fair season in Iowa.  For some families, that means crunch time to get 4-H projects ready for exhibit.  Besides the project, members must also complete a 4-H Exhibit Goal Sheet for each of their static projects.  When the goal sheet is hastily written or not well thought out, the goal sheet can become a detriment rather than a support to the project.  The goal sheet is usually in written form, but may be submitted as a video or a voice recording.  4-H members can use a standard form or create their own.  Regardless of presentation, the three parts (questions) must be answered.

The three parts to the exhibit goal sheet include:

  • exhibit goal – first and perhaps the most important,
  • explanation of steps taken to reach the goal,
  • learning experiences acquired while doing the project as stated in the goal.

This blog will be about the goal or the “What was your exhibit goal?” question.  Another blog will address the steps and learning experiences questions.

The goal is the road map helping one plan how to get where they want to go or the “googled” directions for arriving at a destination. As one usually ‘googles” directions before starting to drive, the goal should lead to the finished project.  Therefore, it is important that the goal be known at the start of the project so that the steps and learning experiences result in the project to be evaluated.

So what makes a strong goal?

  • Goals have three parts—ACTION (what one wants to do)—RESULT (what one is going to do)—TIMETABLE (when one plans to do it or have it done).
  • Goals should pass the “control test.”  Does the 4-H member have control over the outcome of the goal or does someone else have that control?
  • Goals should be appropriate for the age and experience level  of the 4-H member.
  • Goals should be S.M.A.R.T.  or SENSIBLE – MEASURABLE – ATTAINABLE – REALISTIC – TIMELY.  Of the five  S. M.A.R.T. parts, MEASURABLE jumps out as the part that allows a 4-H member to evaluate their own project and see growth.  Measurable is also important to the 4-H judge in evaluating the project.

Here’s some examples of goals and their strength.

Action Result Timetable Pass Control Test S.M.A. R. T. Strong Goal
I want to make a poster. None Yes Not Measurable No
I want to learn how to tie 5 knots and display them at the county fair. Yes Yes Yes
I want to earn a blue ribbon on my photo at the fair. No Not Measurable



I want to sew a pillow for my room before my birthday. Yes Yes Yes
I want to make a favorite family treat. None Maybe Not Measurable No
I want to learn how to make strawberry jam when the strawberries are in season. Yes Yes Yes

Learning to set goals is an essential life skill to develop.  Goals should change and become more challenging each year to show growth in a project.  For more information on strong goals for the 4-H Exhibit Sheet, check out a worksheet and a great video on setting goals.  And after a great goal is in place, check out Tips for Completing the 4-H Exhibit Goal Sheet.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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