Essential Elements of Positive Youth Development

colorful hands raised with white backgroundAs a nationally recognized youth development program, 4-H has a one hundred year history assisting youth to develop into competent, contributing members of society! Through participation in a variety of activities, educational opportunities and club meetings, youth are developing the ability to make good decisions, improve their communications skills and learn to lead!

Over the years, the “magic” that is 4-H has been summarized into “essential elements” or building blocks of healthy development.

The safety of all 4-H members is a priority. Every club leader receives training to ensure that the leader is capable of providing an appropriate 4-H program. Extension staff work alongside the club leader to provide guidance and suggestions for club development. The need for “belonging” is strong and with this in mind, the club setting meets the need for belonging.

Another essential element is the need to experience “mastery.” As we age, we all desire mastery, whether in our work life or family life. The way we experience mastery in 4-H is through our 4-H project work. The 4-H club experience will give youth the chance to develop a set of skills with many opportunities to master the learning environment!

Gaining a sense of “independence” is the goal we each strive for every day! Parents provide the love, boundaries and environment necessary for youth to gain independence. With the support of friends, family and the community, youth can learn to be self-directing, making choices based on their own skill and ability. 4-H project selection supports youth and their ability to choose the activities that meet their needs. While members of the 4-H club make decisions about subjects to study, they may also choose to complete group community service projects.

Community service allows 4-H members to learn to give back and to practice “generosity”! Many 4-H clubs participate in community service projects that provide youth the experience of helping others while learning valuable decision making, communication and service skills.

4-H continues to meet the needs of youth, why not explore how 4-H can benefit your family! Learn more about Iowa 4-H! Reach out to your County Extension Office.

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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