What are 4-H projects and are they only thing kids do in East Hills 4-H?
One of the core activities in 4-H are the 20+ plus projects we offer this year (2021-2022). 4-H projects are like classes that only meet once a month (this does vary depending on the project), and instead of textbooks and tests, project meetings are about hands-on activities, group collaboration, and learning while having fun. See this link for this years’ offerings (more under the “Projects tab on main page): 2021-2022 Projects
Projects are only one part of being in 4-H however: we have a monthly club meeting where our officers (members who run for officer positions, like president, vice-president, treasurer and more) run the meeting and conduct club business (reports on projects and events, planning new events, etc). We try to have fun at these meetings too, and even a community service activity if possible. 4-H also offers both club and county-side events where 4-H members can take part in Presentation Day, Field Days (like Small Animal Field Day or Gardening Field Day), Film Fest, and more social events like Skate Night. These are all county events, and East Hills has smaller club events like Trunk and Treat, Talent Night, game nights and whatever else the kids want to do. If you click on the “Meetup” tab at the top of the page, it will take you to our Meetup page (essentially our calendar app) where you can see the events and meetings we’ve done this year. We are a private group, so you won’t see details, locations, and time, but it gives a nice overview.
Aside from projects and events, we also take community service and leadership very seriously too. Running a club is one way for a 4-H member to learn leadership, but they can also run a project, take on the task of organizing a county event, or dream up a community service activity. Finding community service opportunities is an ongoing task (it is challenging to find opportunities for younger kids), but we try hard to provide that too.
Where do you meet? When?
We have general club meetings on the second Mondays of September – May from 4-5 pm. We meet at the Creekside Church (near 580 and Dutton Ave. in San Leandro) We follow county guidelines for masking, which as of August 2023 doesn’t require masks, although you are welcome to wear them! The Community Room at Creekside is large, and has doors we open for extra ventilation along with the air purifier.
Projects (our name for what is really a class, but more hands on) are much more variable in their meeting place and time, but very generally meet about once a month from Sept. – May. Some will meet at Creekside (1st, 2nd, or 3rd Mondays) and others will meet at leaders’ houses or backyards. There are also events and field days, social gatherings and more, but as with most things in 4-H, you are not required to attend a certain number of events or meetings, although we do encourage attending at least the club meetings as much as you can.
How much time is spent with 4-H per week?
This can really vary with the number of projects a member is taking, and the amount of meetings and events he or she attends. A very active member can spend 5-15 hours a month on 4-H, maybe more if she makes a presentation for Presentation Day, or a film for Film Fest. The more projects a member takes, the more time is involved.
How do I enroll my child?
It isn’t too hard and I’ve outlined it here: http://www.easthills4h.org/information/member-resources/enrollment-for-returning-members/ (this has been updated for the 2023-2024 4-H year
Cost of being in 4-H?
East Hills charges 65$ for each youth member (covers everything), but if the fees are a hardship, let Kris know and she’ll send you a fee waiver. Our club actually subsidizes 4-H fees so that each member only pays 65$. We will reimburse members the difference because the county 4-H office is requiring all members to pay the full 100$ online (see enrollment page for more information). Members have consistently voted down fee increases, so we do fund-raising to subsidize fees and pay for meeting room rental, social events and more.
What are the benefits of being in 4-H?
Here’s a nice page from the national 4-H organization: https://4-h.org/parents/benefits/
For me, I could write a long explanation of why my three boys did 4-H and how it enriched their lives immensely, but I think the above page covers a lot of it. 4-H is definitely proves the truism that what you get out of 4-H depends on what you put into it, but even a small investment can reap a lot in terms of working with other kids, learning about life skills and academic subjects in a hands-on way, and helping to make things happen (leadership).
One of my favorite things about 4-H, however? All three of my boys had/are having three different experiences, because they were able to follow their interests and create opportunities that matched their passions. You can make your own projects to teach other members about your passion, do community service in your field of interest, practice public speaking on subjects near and dear to your heart, and much more. 4-H provides a framework of making your own opportunities to learn how to be a leader, a better public speaker and a good citizen of your community.
Where do your projects meet?
Most of our projects meet in San Leandro, San Lorenzo, and Castro Valley. Archery (ages 9 and up for safety reasons) meets in Oakland, up by the Chabot Space and Science Center and a few projects will be virtual, like the Python coding project.
What are expectations for parents, during meetings and in general?
Projects are run by the project leaders and for the most part, parents don’t have to do anything during meetings except assist their child if needed (like an Arts and Crafts project, helping with sewing something). There’s no requirement to do the 4-H training to become a volunteer, but of course, if our parents don’t do that, we don’t have much of a club! We used to have two project leaders who weren’t parents of members but not this year – it can be difficult to find volunteers from outside the club. Anyway, all of that said, there really isn’t any unspoken pressure to become a leader in your 2nd or 3rd year in 4-H, we all recognize that people have different demands on their time and can or cannot do certain things. But we are also all volunteers making this club happen, so it is nice when everyone does what they can. We have a list of club tasks that don’t require becoming an adult volunteer, for example. Don’t get me wrong, there is work involved in running a club and we truly depend on the parents/leaders, but there’s a lot of flexibility within that framework.
Is there homework in projects?
For our younger members, there usually isn’t any work outside of project meetings. However, 4-H also has things like Presentation Day, Film Fest, the Alameda County Fair, and other events where 4-H members can make presentations or other exhibits to present or enter into competitions. None of these are required, but they offer a lot of value to the 4-H experience. And as members get older, there might be more individual work required in a project. Let me give an example. So, I am doing a Chemistry project for younger members this year, and for the most part, we are going to meet once a month in my backyard dissolving M&Ms and learning chemistry. There really isn’t any community service I can offer the kids, and there won’t be any homework, although I will share resources and sites for further learning if desired. One of my members might decide that he wants to do a presentation (Presentation Day is in Feb/March), and loves one of the experiments we did so much that he does a demonstration of it for his presentation. And then he decides to make an educational poster about Chemistry for the County Fair. Neither the presentation or poster are required to be in Chemistry, but it broadens his experience and learning to tell other people about what he learned, right?
Another project I have run (for 12 years now) is our Environmental Stewardship: Plastics Pollution project. Not only did we do shoreline cleanups for our meetings, we also did some citizen science and studied a square foot of shoreline to quanitate how much plastic we found. I had members do some research about plastics issues at home to present to the others at meeting, so older kids can get homework, although again, it just varies with the project and the leader. I also encouraged them to do presentations, maybe a movie for Film Fest, or some kind of entry for the County Fair in June. If they had wanted, they could have organized an Environmental Science Field Day for all of the clubs in Alameda County to reach even more people. They would have had 4-H insurance and institutional help to make this happen – honestly, there’s so much to take advantage of in 4-H.
How is 4-H different from the Boy and Girl Scouts?
One of the biggest differences is that each 4-H member has a different experience from other members, In Scouts, a den does everything together for the year. In that sense, it can be a little confusing to understand what the 4-H experience is. But we don’t expect first year members or parents to follow a strict set of requirements, all you have to do to be a member in good standing is to enroll (see http://www.easthills4h.org/information/member-resources/enrollment-for-returning-members/) and to take one project. That’s it. We do encourage attending club meetings, but it isn’t required. We encourage doing record books, but it isn’t required. And so on. Some of my members want to take a few projects, be a teen leader for a project their mom is leading, and that is it. I have other members who do as much as humanly possible with project and events. And that’s all great.