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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

July 5, 2017

Don't Miss the Opportunity! Explain KSRE and 4-H Value!

Submitted by Wade Weber

“Stop! Why are you doing that? That is not how that works!”

“Well how am I supposed to know that? I thought it was your job to teach me?”

Maybe learning to drive was a little less dramatic than the following exchange between my oldest son and I, but his point was valid. How was he to learn if I did not lead him? It is true that people are always learning. Compounded by the fact that we can learn things today without having to invest in constructive interpersonal human relationships (i.e. Google it), it might be easy to abdicate leadership in youth development because the facts are easier to find online. I find myself as a professional and as a parent assuming too much in life that others are actively teaching what is valuable and what has meaning. I continue to be reminded that life events and things are not self-defining. Meaning the purpose does not leap off the page, exhibit, event, calendar, etc. and impact youth. It requires discovery, explanation, and choice. Last year, I had the good fortune to lead a reporter though a local county fair and explained to her the meaning behind 4-H project based learning, the involvement of volunteers, and the developmental significance that the county fair can bring to helping youth grow up. She was amazed at the work that 4-H Youth Development does and the importance it brings to the lives of youth and communities. Yet, she had never experienced it or knew someone to take the time to explain it to her.

How much of 4-H Youth Development activities fall victim to this same challenge?

4-H is prominently displayed in public settings yet often times lacks an advocate to explain to the public the value 4-H brings to youth and communities.

Yet I know we have great advocates locally and youth learning to be ambassadors for 4-H Youth Development. May and June have been full of 4-H activities from Discovery Days, day camps locally, Overnight camps at Rock Springs and other locations across the state, Geology and Entomology field trips, the Kansas 4-H Shooting Sports team placed 2nd at the National Meet, Campference, Educational Opportunities Camp on the K-State Campus, and on and on! We have so much to be proud of as a Kansas 4-H system! Each of these events involves youth that have individual stories of growth and accomplishment!

So below I have used some childhood phrases I heard growing up to illustrate the impact we are hoping to have in the lives of 4-H Youth and all Research and Extension programming as a whole!

“How does this work?”
Engaged learning unlocks the core human characteristic of insatiable curiosity. Whether with adult or youth learners, we know in KSRE that engagement is critical to educational and developmental success.

“Look what I did!”
As a parent, I cherish the moments my children show off their accomplishments to me. We have a diverse range of showcase opportunities for youth in modern society – from concerts to tournaments to county fairs to YouTube uploads. Adults and peers play a valuable role in recognizing the growth and achievements of youth. Assisting youth in refining their verbal and nonverbal communication skills in sharing those accomplishments and skill development are many of the hallmarks of 4-H Youth Development.

“So, now what?”
“Well, what do you think we could do?”
Be a problem solver and a contributor towards a workable solution. Contributors are producers who add value to the context or the situation. Early 4-H Youth Development taglines stated proudly that 4-H youth were becoming “Contributing Citizens of Character!” Engaged learning coupled with effective communication is essential to reliable problem solving. From research and best practices, growing youth and adults who relentlessly pursue solutions is a staple of Research and Extension work across disciplines.

“You all better get along!”
From my earliest remembered days in my family, I was told to get along and be nice to my siblings. Some days were easier than others, but that principle is foundational to understanding how to pursue workable solutions together. Collaborating with others involves more than just being nice. It involves learning, communicating, and contributing with one another towards workable solutions. Together can be better.

So as I reflect upon what I see as valuable to the 4-H Youth Development program and how it fits within Kansas State University Research and Extension, I see the human development impacts are very similar. We all desire to see adult and youth participants to be learners, communicators, contributors, and collaborators that will enhance the quality of life for Kansans and Kansas Communities!

So with that charge – go out and encourage a young person this summer. Ask them what they are learning and what excites them! And then along the way, keep modeling for youth what it means to be a lifelong learner. Invite them in to discover the things of value that you hold dear and pass it to the next generation of Kansas leaders.