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.
Thousands of youth repeat this pledge, stating the guiding principles and outcomes for 4-H. These principles not only continue to be relevant, but represent thinking ahead of its time. Next week is National 4-H Week, a great time to celebrate our 4-H youth development program and Iowa’s youth.
From its inception, 4-H Youth Development has been creating opportunities for young people to learn about the natural world, technology, themselves, and their communities. Emphasizing learning by doing, 4-H began to impress upon schoolchildren the importance of becoming lifelong learners. But it was bigger than that. When early land-grant researchers took their latest innovations out to citizens, they found many adults unwilling or reluctant to adopt new practices. So early pioneers like Jessie Field Shambaugh took innovations to young people. They became the early adopters and not only learned by doing, but also led by example. 4-H’ers changed their communities as adults saw their seed corn or food preservation projects and began adopting the technologies themselves. In other words, 4-H played a large part in the remarkable technology transfer so important to our country’s success.
Today, taking the resources of our university to our youngest citizens — both rural and urban — is critically important. We are poised to strengthen our program through leveraging partnerships and priorities within our state. Consider these opportunities:
- The Governor’s STEM Hub initiative demonstrates Iowa’s commitment to K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. We are the North Central Hub and have ISU Extension and Outreach staff on the advisory boards of each regional hub.
- The College of Human Sciences’ new School of Education has identified key priorities in STEM, literacy, social responsibility, and education policy. Outreach projects will focus on Iowa communities and will be coordinated with our K-12 youth outreach and 4-H youth development staff.
- We have convened a campus-wide K-12 youth outreach group that has identified several activities we can work on jointly. We also have enhanced partnerships with the College of Engineering and the College of Design to coordinate K-12 youth outreach and share resources.
- I serve on a national 4-H working group that will begin developing a framework from which to review roles, responsibilities, and relationships across all levels of the 4-H program.
Our future includes challenges. We must clearly articulate our priorities within the 4-H program, and rethink our curriculum and materials to ensure our offerings are up-to-date, interesting, and challenging. We also must manage priorities to offer youth many opportunities without overwhelming our staff. Finally, we must focus on efficient and accountable management of resources and operations.
Please celebrate National 4-H Week and recognize our many partners — including the youth and volunteers who are essential to our efforts. We do really good programs for young people, but we can evolve. My goal is for our K-12 Youth Outreach and 4-H Youth Development programs to continue their legacy to be outstanding. See you there.