Across Kansas, 4-H members are gearing up to do something good for their communities.
And while such service projects as cleaning yards, mowing lawns at the cemetery or helping at the senior citizen’s center are noble things to do for others, there’s also a part of these projects that come back to help the youth.
“In addition to the community service aspect, we have a real opportunity in 4-H to move toward service learning,” said Beth Hinshaw, a 4-H youth development specialist located in southeast Kansas.
“What that means is that in addition to the service, we can help youth understand what’s happened in the community to make that service needed. So it becomes a learning experience for the youth at the same time.”
As spring weather arrives, many Kansas 4-H clubs are planning ways to get out and help their community, Hinshaw said. It is common for clubs to plan 2-4 community service projects a year.
“Part of our 4-H pledge is that we pledge our hands to larger service in our community,” Hinshaw said. “This is a great way to not just say the pledge but for people to see how that is happening.”
Club members often decide what projects their group will take on, but Hinshaw said there is a planning process they typically follow:
- Pick a project by determining the needs in your community. “I think it’s important to let young people brainstorm about what it is that they’re seeing is an issue or needs to be done,” she said. “It might be things they’re seeing in their community or something in the news.”
- Plan your project. This includes determining if there are partners, such as local organizations and businesses, or neighboring 4-H clubs.
- Get as many club members as possible to participate.
- Take time to reflect on the difference made in the community by doing the service project. What was learned and what could be done differently the next time?
- Take time to enjoy what you accomplished.
Among other benefits, Hinshaw said youth often learn new things about their community while doing service projects, such as what it means to be a city or county commissioner, or what it means to work in a given profession. And older youth often build their leadership skills by leading a group of younger youth through some part of the activity.
“We know that there are a lot of people that would like to be involved in their community and this is a wonderful way for people in our community to see what 4-H is all about and want their children to be involved in this type of activity as well,” Hinshaw said.