How to 4-H: The Great 8 Pathways to Participation
4-H Empowers Kids with the Skills to Lead for a Lifetime
What is 4-H?
In 4‑H, we believe in the power of young people. We see that every child has valuable strengths and real influence to improve the world around us. We are America’s largest youth development organization— igniting a youths spark into a thriving trajectory for nearly six million young people across the U.S. with the skills to lead for a lifetime. Over 200,000 youth annually experience educational and personal growth experiences through University of Arizona Cooperative Extension employees and volunteers in all counties and tribal communities.
Arizona 4-H supports eight 4-H Participation Pathways for youth engagement. Over a 4-H career, a 4-H youth should turn their spark into mastery in at least one of these eight pathways. A spark is an innate interest that drives a youths engagement on a specific topic. A youth should have a well rounded 4-H experience across multiple engagement pathways. We also hope a youth will grow in their mastery by achieving deep engagement within at least one pathway.
4‑H is a Community
Arizona 4‑H is delivered by University of Arizona Cooperative Extension—that provides experiences where young people learn by doing. Kids complete hands-on projects in areas like healthy living, STEM, agriculture and citizenship, in a positive environment where they receive guidance from adult mentors and are encouraged to take on proactive leadership roles. Kids experience 4‑H in every county and parish in the country—through in-school and after-school programs, school and community clubs and 4‑H camps.
Visit National 4-H Website
A Commitment to Arizona Youth and Families: 20,000 True Leaders by 2025
The National Strategic plan “4-H Grows: A Promise to America’s Kids” lays out a commitment for each state to ensure programs reflect the population demographics, vulnerable populations, diverse needs, and social conditions of our state. Our promise is to serve 1 in 5 youth with high-quality positive youth development experiences. The Arizona 4-H program is committed to ensuring high-quality positive youth development experience for all youth in Arizona. The Arizona 4-H programs commitment is made in the "20,000 True Leaders by 2025" strategic plan.
4-H Agriculture programs encourage youth to develop their passion for the diverse aspects of the agriculture industry. Through hands-on projects and activities, 4-H youth learn life skills while pursuing an area that sparks their interest. Youth develop an innovative entrepreneurial spirit while developing projects in areas of environmental, plant and animal science. All 4-H animal projects are included in the agriculture pathway, including Beef, Cat, Cavy, Dairy Cattle, Dairy Goat, Dog, Horse, Meat Goat, Pigeon, Poultry, Pygmy Goat, Rabbit, Sheep, Small Pets, and Swine. Additional agricultural projects include Entomology, Gardening, Livestock Judging, and Veterinary Sciences. To explore 4-H Agriculture activities go here.
4-H Camp is an important positive youth development experience. Camp is a unique safe environment that allows youth to grow in their understanding of their self, personal responsibility, and how to interact with their peers. In addition, the Harold and Mitzie James 4-H Camp & Outdoor Learning Center is set in the middle of National Forest where youth are able to learn about the natural world and be in nature, perhaps for the very first time. Many participation pathways and projects can be explored during a high-quality camp experience.
The 4-H Civic Engagement pathway encourages youth to learn how to make change in their communities. Youth learn about public service and the legislative process at the local, state, and federal levels. Youth also engage in civic activities by conducting community needs assessments, youth participatory research and advocating for change in their communities based on their findings. Civic Engagement is a project, yet, a 4-H member has many educational opportunities to explore Civic Engagement through experiences and actions, including Leadership Washington Focus, Citizenship Washington Focus, True Leaders in Equity Institute, and Engaged Citizens Event.
4-H Community Service programming is successful when 4-H youth are helping their communities by using skills they learned through their project work (aka service learning). Building a strong culture of community service is important for a strong working society, and 4-H youth should experience authentic community service annually. Community service is not just a project, but activities a club or youth choose to do to give back to their clubs, communities, country, and world. A successful 4-H member should complete a community service project at least annually. Arizona 4-H Cares service ideas.
4-H members pledge give their "head..., heart..., hands..., and health..." to their "world" at every club meeting. The 4-H Cultural Understanding pathway encompasses several aspects of how a youth can fulfill the pledge to "and my world." Arizona 4-H offers opportunities for international exchanges for youth to host young people from across the globe for a month long hosting experience, or to travel outbound for similar exchanges. Arizona 4-H serves indigenous and latinx communities across Arizona, and we are committed to building culturally responsive programming that values indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing at all levels of programming (.e.g. club, project, educational events), and strives to create greater cultural respect and understanding between peer-to-peers, and youth-to-adults.
4-H healthy living programs engage youth in positive development in areas of mental, emotional, and physical well-being to ensure healthy minds, bodies, and communities. Whether youth are working with substance abuse prevention or educating peers about healthy eating habits. 4-H healthy living programming helps youth to put their health related passion into action. Projects in the Healthy Living pathway include all Family, Consumer, and Health Sciences (FCHS) projects including Arts and Crafts, Cake Decorating, Entrepreneurship, Foods Nutrition, Foods Preservation, Health and Fitness, Sewing and Textiles, Photography, and Personal Finance. Projects also include the Healthy Living Ambassador club program, and education programs like Tucson Village Farm.
The 4-H Leadership pathway is about youth self-determination. Youth leadership is not about title or role, but rather is about accomplishing change and providing service to their projects, clubs, community, state, country, and world. Youth should be experiencing opportunities to give age appropriate input and make decisions throughout their 4-H career. Leadership is a project, and it should be experienced across all of their projects. There are many opportunities to demonstrate and learn about leadership through Arizona 4-H. Some of events for youth to participate, are: State Ambassador program, Arizona 4-H Summit, J.O.L.T. (Journey: Opportunities for Leaders of Tomorrow), National 4-H Congress, and National 4-H Conference.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
4-H STEM programs encourage youth to develop their passion for the diverse aspects of agriculture, science, technology, engineering, and math. Through hands-on projects and activities, 4-H youth learn life skills while pursuing an area that sparks their interest. Youth develop an innovative entrepreneurial spirit while developing projects in areas of augmented reality, rocketry, greenhouse management, robotics, and environmental stewardship, including water conservation. Projects in the STEM pathway include Aerospace, Augmented Reality, Agricultural STEM, Electricity, Geospatial, Shooting Sports, Robotics, Rocketry, and Woodworking. To explore 4-H STEM activities go here.