Academic journal article School Community Journal

4-H School Enrichment: A School and Community Partnership

Academic journal article School Community Journal

4-H School Enrichment: A School and Community Partnership

Article excerpt


The 4-H Youth Development School Enrichment Program is a collaborative effort between Cooperative Extension and local schools. The focus of the school enrichment program is to provide formal educators with experiential-based curricula on a wide variety of topics such as embryology, rocketry, theatre arts, nutrition, and electricity. Results from a recent statewide survey identified how collaborative relationships were formed, barriers to effective collaboration, and availability of resources and training for teachers to support 4-H school enrichment programs.


Cooperative Extension has been described as the world's largest non-formal educational organization and is recognized for its ability to rapidly meet the needs of a changing society (Seevers, Graham, Gamon, & Conklin, 1997). The Cooperative Extension system was established by an act of Congress in 1914 through the Smith-Lever Act. A partnership among federal, state, and local governments, Cooperative Extension programs extend research and new knowledge from landgrant universities to solve problems and enrich lives (Snider & Miller, 1993). The Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (1995) defines the mission of Cooperative Extension as enabling people to improve their lives and communities through learning partnerships that put knowledge to work. Nationally, there are over 3,000 county extension offices with cooperative extension educators who serve as the conduit for disseminating research-based information from the landgrant universities to the people in their communities.

The youth development program of Cooperative Extension is 4-H. Researchbased information is disseminated to youth through several types of 4-H programs and clubs. Youth learn by doing when enrolled as 4-H members in community clubs, project clubs, school enrichment experiences, after-school clubs, or as individual members with adult helpers. Through school enrichment programs and clubs 4-H reaches 6.6 million youth each year, including youth from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds who reside in urban, suburban, and rural communities (USDA, 2000). The focus of the school enrichment program is to make the experiential content-based materials available to formal educators. For example, more than 54,000 youth were enrolled in the 4-H embryology program in 2000. This program is delivered almost exclusively in cooperation with local schools. Teachers receive project manuals and resource materials related to chick embryology. The experiential component of the program is the actual hatching of chicks in an incubator in the classroom. The 4-H program provides equipment and resources needed for a successful classroom experience.

In Pennsylvania, the 4-H Youth Development Program serves over 112,000 youth ages 8-19. Curricula (projects) and supporting resource materials are available from Pennsylvania's 67 county Cooperative Extension offices. 4-H youth development educators employed by Penn State University, the state's land grant university, are located in every county extension office. Responsibilities for 4-H youth educators related to school enrichment programs include training teachers to use 4-H youth curriculum, direct teaching of the curriculum, recruiting volunteers to teach 4-H projects, or supervising 4-H program assistants who are hired to support the 4-H school enrichment program.

4-H projects are the most common venue for information dissemination. Each project consists of a sequential, developmentally appropriate, experiential set of learning activities usually in the form of manuals or project books. A helper's guide accompanies each project to assist the leader or teacher in working with and understanding youth, to familiarize them with the project topic, and to provide instructions for project implementation. In addition to providing good content information on such things as rocketry, pet care, electricity, theatre arts, workforce preparation, and communication and leadership, 4-H curricula are designed to experientially teach life skills to enable youth to become productive, caring, and contributing members of their communities. …

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