Developing Leadership Skills

4-H Leadership Curriculum

Youth develop a wide variety of skills through hands-on learning and leadership experiences in 4-H. They also build life skills, such as understanding self and others, communicating and getting along with people, making decisions and working with groups.

Further research is needed to determine the most desirable delivery method of leadership education for 4-H volunteer leaders.

Project Areas

4-H project areas give youth the opportunity to explore their interests and make a difference in their community. They are a collection of learning experiences that may be taught through scripted classes, individual research or group activities. 4-H national curricula is available for many project areas, including animals, communications and technology, clothing and textiles, horticulture, natural science and plant science, consumer and family sciences, health and wellness and personal development and leadership.

Many county and state 4-H programs offer achievement nights to award certificates, year pins, medallions and scholarships to teen members for their accomplishments in their projects and service to the club, community and program. Recognition enables youth to develop self-esteem and confidence, test ideas without fear of criticism and develop teamwork and decision-making skills. It also encourages them to participate in county, district and state 4-H activities, councils, committees, educational trips and leadership opportunities. The more participation a youth has in the program, the better the chance of developing lifelong skills.

Community Service Projects

4-H offers youth the opportunity to develop leadership and community engagement life skills through more than 1,000 research-tested projects on a variety of topics such as rocketry, GPS mapping or DNA analysis. Community service projects are also available to help youth learn about their communities by giving back to them.

Unit 2 teaches youth to function in organized groups and demonstrates how good citizenship involves knowing the members of one’s club, neighborhood and school and interacting with them. It also helps them understand their family heritage by developing a family tree or studying other selected areas of interest.

In order to maximize volunteer leaders’ potential, it is essential that 4-H programs invest in leadership training. More research using randomized samples should be conducted to better understand the effectiveness of leadership development training for 4-H volunteer leaders (Morrison et al, 2019). The results of such studies can help guide the design of future leadership programs for volunteers.

National Youth Science Day

Since 2008, 4-H has encouraged youth to explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topics by hosting National Youth Science Day. The event is celebrated in classrooms, clubs, homes, and afterschool settings across the country. Each year, National 4-H Council selects a STEM topic and corresponding challenge kit for youth to explore through fun hands-on projects.

For example, last year’s NYSD experiment – 4-H Maps & Apps – turned kids into geospatial thinkers as they designed their ideal park and used GIS mapping to solve community problems. The 2014 challenge, Rockets to the Rescue, allowed them to design aerodynamic transportation devices that deliver food to natural disaster victims.

4-H also provides opportunities for youth to learn and practice leadership skills, such as understanding themselves, learning how to get along with others, communicating effectively, managing and working in groups, and making decisions. These life skills help them develop into leaders who are prepared for the future.

Leadership Skills Development

4-H community clubs offer opportunities for youth to develop key leadership and life skills. They may participate in county, district or state 4-H committees and councils, become involved as a youth leader for a project area they are interested in, or join the Leaders 4 Life program.

Whether as presidents, vice presidents, secretaries, treasurers, historians or reporters, all members work together as a team to keep the club running. Youth learn to communicate effectively, both in written and oral presentations, in their roles as members of a team.

Other activities help youth build their civic engagement and communication skills, such as participating in the Citizenship Washington Focus trip, or presenting at a State 4-H Presentation Expo. Research on leadership development for volunteer leaders suggests that more needs to be done to help them grow in their role, such as training, chances to apply their corporate skills in a volunteer setting and mentorship (Morrison et al., 2019).

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