4-H: A Tradition of Innovation: By Meredith Pinckney, NCSU Summer Intern

— Written By Margaret Green

resolver-1 Corn-Club-2-1 IMG_0561-1Orville Redenbacher, Johnny Cash, and Jackie Kennedy Onassis are just a few of the many who have been involved with 4-H. With a history spanning over 100 years, 4-H is rich with tradition, but also an amazing ability to adapt. Through the years many staples of 4-H have stayed, for example our emblem, the four-leaf clover, and our pledge. However, since the early 1900’s a lot has changed all over the country. 4-H has continued to thrive, thanks to the ability to adapt, innovate, and cater to its audience. We see this particularly with the shift of focus. Originally 4-H came from corn clubs and tomato clubs, which encouraged youth to grow these crops competitively and innovatively. These clubs were formed due to a need for change in growing these crops and youth being more willing to try new techniques. After trying these new techniques and being successful, their parents would tend to adopt these practices. Though not every 4-H’er today is growing corn or tomatoes, innovation is still the focus. 4-H has been able to hold onto its roots in agriculture while broadening across an array of subjects, with everything from biotechnology to public speaking. In addition to the array of extracurricular activities 4-H hosts, 4-H is also in the trenches at schools working hand in hand with teachers and students. 4-H has an array of programs for school enrichment where the 4-H agent goes into a classroom and conducts programs which go hand in hand with the school curriculum; providing hands-on, experiential learning. In addition to having the 4-H agent come into a classroom, there are also 4-H curriculum supplements that teachers can be trained to use in their classrooms themselves. Today, the goal of 4-H is to develop the citizenship, leadership, responsibility and life skills of youth through experiential learning. Because of this, there are opportunities with 4-H for youth of all ages and with all different interests. The 4-H motto is “To make the best better”. If that sounds like something you would like to do, contact Meg Wyatt at the Franklin County Cooperative Extension Office (919) 496-3344 or meg_wyatt@ncsu.edu