Positive Youth Development Through 4-H Community Clubs
4-H Critical Elements – An Appropriately Structured Environment
Youth need established rules and norms regarding appropriate and non-appropriate behavior. They also need opportunities to discuss and modify boundaries when appropriate. Rules and guidelines make it easier for youth to understand what’s expected of them as well as how to conduct themselves appropriately and successfully.
The next 4-H critical element is that of - an appropriately structured environment. The premise here is that youth need to be provided with consistent messages about how to participate in programs and activities.
4-H volunteers might consider the following questions: In our 4-H club…
- Do we have a set agenda for each meeting that is followed?
- Do we include the appropriate elements of a meeting: group building, group decisions and program or activity?
- Do we use parliamentary procedure during the business meeting?
- Does our club have a balance of adult supervision with youth autonomy?
- Are rules and expectations clearly communicated to youth and adults?
- Do we deal fairly and consistently with misbehavior?
- Do we maintain regular, ongoing communication with parents and families?
Some practices the 4-H club may want to implement if they have not already done so include:
- The Executive Committee of the 4-H club meets prior to the business meeting with the organizational leader to determine the agenda for the meeting. The adults can share information and help to answer questions during this planning time so that the officers can provide direct leadership during the club business meeting. Helping You Help Officers and Committees (HYHOC) includes a Worksheet for Planning a 4-H Club Meeting. Volunteers are responsible for guiding and supporting the 4-H club, but the youth members are encouraged to develop and practice leadership skills through decision-making. The older the membership in the group, the more autonomy the youth should have.
- The 4-H club meeting includes time for group building (15 minutes), group decisions (15 minutes) and program or activity (60 minutes). In order to make 4-H fun and educational, meetings should include a balance between business meetings, social time and presentations. More information on how to create a balanced 4-H club meeting is included in the publication HYHOC.
- 4-H members, officers, and volunteers follow parliamentary procedures during the 4-H club business meetings. Many counties offer officer training and teach parliamentary procedure as part that session. HYHOC includes several worksheets: “Do You Know Parliamentary Procedure?” and “The President Conducts a Meeting,” which would help to teach the concepts of parliamentary procedure. Many counties have a new educational tool called “Who Wants to Be a Parliamentarian?” that can assist with this concept as well.
- 4-H clubs should develop a club code of conduct based on the Illinois State 4-H Member Behavior Guidelines. Members, parents and volunteers need to be involved in the discussion, adoption, and implementation of the club rules. Rules need to be voted upon, posted at club meetings, and printed and distributed to 4-H families. Earlier articles in this series have provided additional information on this topic. Members and volunteers can help to enforce the rules in a fair and consistent manner. These rules help to provide structure and boundaries for the group. It’s important for youth to understand the reason for rules – as well as the consequences for breaking them. Youth deserve a chance to be heard and to negotiate rules that may need to be modified. When youth have a voice in these discussions, they will be more likely to take them seriously.
- 4-H clubs maintain regular and ongoing communication with families. A variety of methods might be used to accomplish this goal: telephone tree, club newsletter, club web site, family nights or activities, club tours to visit member homes and projects, pairing of new and tenured families. Families that feel welcome and knowledgeable about 4-H will help sustain the 4-H club and participate more fully in the club programs.