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 1-3 pm. Before COVID, we met at the Creekside Church (near 580 and Dutton Ave. in San Leandro) but will be meeting at local parks this 2021-2022 4-H year for fully masked, social distanced, and outside meetings until we can safely resume inside meetings again. 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 (many leaders are again, meeting in their backyards and parks). 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 a few times a year.
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 2021-2022 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, since we get charged 100$ per youth member by the county and state 4-H organization. Members have consistently voted down fee increases, so we do fund-raising to pay the extra charges 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. 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 Animatics and some of the Digital Makerspace meetings. Due to COVID, we don’t have the meeting rooms at the San Leandro Library this year, so we are making do with leaders’ backyards and parks, plus 2 projects will meet at Creekside Church in San Leandro, our usual club meeting location (not this year). All club and project meetings will require masks (even outside), social distancing, and limited member numbers if meeting inside as required by State 4-H guidelines and public health regulations.
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! I have two project leaders who aren’t parents, but 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 run (and have run for 12 years now) is our Environmental Stewardship: Plastics Pollution project. Not only are we going to be doing shoreline cleanups for our meetings, we are also going to do some citizen science and will study a square foot of shoreline and quanitate how much plastic we find. We’ll sieve it, clean it, look at it under a microscope, and write up our findings. I already know of three teens taking this project, so I am planning on having them do small research projects about different plastics issues and educating the rest of us at the next meeting. Older kids can get homework, although again, it just varies with the project and the leader. I will also encourage them to do presentations, maybe a movie for Film Fest (although movie-making is time consuming, they will probably decide on other avenues), or some kind of entry for the fair. If my teens get motivated, they could organize an Environmental Science Field Day for all of the clubs in Alameda County, and reach even more people. They will have 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 okay.