4-H record books have a learning curve, there's no doubt about that. Even the name is a little weird and old fashioned. If you are brand new to the idea of record books, this post will start at the beginning and how to get started, and then continue with further posts as the year continues to see how one member enters everything he does in 4-H little by little. So be sure to return to see more posts on this very topic!
What is a 4-H Record Book?
a 4-H Record Book, in short, is just a method to write down and record what a member does in 4-H. The projects they take, the meetings and events they attend, and anything else, like community service, serving on committees, and communicating to the public, they might do in the course of their 4-H year (roughly from Sept through July).
Why do a Record Book?
4-H members need to complete a record book to receive 4-H strips and pins for their hats, and you can also submit them for judging (to earn honors to put in next year's record book). In June/July of the 4-H year (so toward the end), record books are collected by the club and judged. Books can then go to the Alameda County 4-H judging (1st week of September) and even onto the state level judging competition (October).
But record books are worth doing all on their own: it is a fantastic way to record your 4-H experience (makes college applications that much easier) and have a scrapbook for when your 4-H years are behind you. And for homeschoolers, it is writing practice!
Where do I find the forms?
Click here for the main page on the California 4-H site that lists ALL forms
Warning, the list is long and comprehensive, and thus, a bit overwhelming. To make it easier, I've uploaded the most important documents for record books on our general forms and manuals page.
Online versus Paper
California 4-H offers two ways to do record books: using an online-based record book or Microsfot Word/PDF forms. You still print both out to have a paper record book for posterity and for judging.
Why Online: if the member is good about entering meetings and activities on a weekly/monthly basis, the ORB can make doing a record book easier, as it generates a record book at the end of the year for you.
Why paper: some members like having complete control over their documents (hard to backup your ORB), don't like the formatting of the ORB generated record book, or even prefer to write out their 4-H activities by hand (perfectly acceptable). If you tend to keep notes through the year and then work on your record book at the end, the ORB won't make that easy, paper would be better.
How Does It Work?
4-H has specific forms for all of the different categories of 4-H activities mentioned above, and they are as follows:
PDR: Personal Development Report. This is the form where you record all non-project based activities done in 4-H. Attending club meetings, doing community service, communication done with the public/within 4-H, serving on a committee to make an event happen, and more.
Project Report Form: Members complete one of these for every project they do (it isn't actually required to do all of your projects, but you should do at least your top 2). Members list the meetings and what they did and learned in the meeting, plus individual work, community service or leadership that happened in relation to the project.
The above are the two main forms used to make a record book, but once you are at the end of the 4-H year and getting ready to submit your record book, members also need to write:
- 4-H story (an essay reflecting on your year)
- Expression Page (optional - just one page for each project with pictures or drawings showing what you did)
- Collection of Work (any certificates earned and pictures of 4-H activities)
- Leadership Reports (for members who are junior or teen leaders).
More on all of those later.
Advice for Anyone New to Record Books
If you don't have time to download and print out the forms right now, the best thing to do is to just start a Word document, or a notebook, or any other note-taking app and keep notes on everything your member does in 4-H. For instance, Luke's notes would look like this so far (in October 2019):
- Attended Sept. club meeting on Sept. 9th, acted as VP, gave reports on Cake Booth and NYSD coming up.
- 2Oct2019: Attended project meeting for Fix-It project (we worked on a broken toaster and learned about wiring). I'm the teen leader, so I prepared the meeting and ran it.
- 2Oct2019: also missed project meeting for Creative Math (will make it up per leader's instructions).
- 5Oct2019: attended project meeting Digital Makerspace, worked on 3D printer and calibrating it because members would like to use it this year.
- 5Oct2019: attended Chess/Go project meeting, played Chess and started to learn about Go.
- 6Oct2019: Attended committee meeting for NYSD (Science Night) where we worked out details of the event and assigned teams.
- 20Sept2019 - helped put up a display for East Hills 4-H at the Castro Valley Library. Displayed some Creative Math work (hexaflexagons, spirographs), Makerspace (3D printed objects) and Plastics.
Tune back in for the next episode of "How to do record books"!