Last week, I shared with you four H’es of effective leadership from a little different perspective. Over the next several weeks, I’d like to explore with you what the four H’es in 4-H represent and how we utilize them in youth development.  

Ask a 4-H member what the four “H’es” are and they’ll probably begin to recite 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.” But, what do the four “H’es” mean? What does this pledge of the nation’s largest youth organization charged with the mission of “engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development” really mean?  

History tells us that the 4-H Pledge was originally penned by Otis Hall, state leader for Kansas 4-H in 1927 and adopted at the first National 4-H Camp held in Washington, D.C. 

Let’s begin by exploring the first “H”: Head. Because 4-H clubs were originally developed as a means to bring education from the states‘ land grant institutions to rural communities through youth, we know that the first “H” is related to learning. 

4-H programs teach our youth to think. Practical knowledge in project areas give kids new and reliable information. A member’s knowledge and skill in a particular subject area is sparked and cultivated. Through activities and leadership development, kids are taught valuable critical thinking skills. 4-H members learn to balance and manage many priorities utilizing skills learned in 4-H. These skills are knowledge they can use for life.

The Experiential Learning Model applied in 4-H programming follows the method of “do, apply, reflect” in which members learn through hands-on interaction. Youth of all ages are taught skills in a manner which is appropriate to their learning style and age. 4-H education is based on research in the field of youth development and tied to the land grant university of a particular state.

4-H professionals and volunteers are committed to equipping youth with the knowledge and skills they need for life. Through 4-H, youth are empowered to reach their full potential.     

Kelsey Nordyke is the 4-H youth development agent for K-State Research and Extension, Cowley County. She can be reached at (620) 221-5450 or (620) 441-4565.

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