Conservation Minnesota

4-H Connecting Kids to the Outdoors and Their Community

Even when the state budget is passed, many state funded services will endure budget cuts. One program that I value and would hate to see cut is 4-H. Part of the University of Minnesota’s Extension Service, 4-H is more popular in Greater Minnesota, but also exists in the metro area and is as relevant there as it is in rural Minnesota.

I’m committed to exposing our kids to the outdoors and 4-H has played a key role in helping with this goal. Kids in 4-H clubs learn about a variety of topics together and volunteer on community service projects with a focus on learning by doing and leadership. Our county fair just wrapped up and I was reminded how much I value 4-H.

When you say 4-H most think livestock, but that is only a small portion of what 4-H is about. I grew up in a small Midwest town and participated in 4-H so I was already aware of the program. I never raised any livestock or brought any animals to the county fair. Crafts, art projects or baking were more to my interest. Now, our family takes advantage of 4-H. We also live in town so livestock isn’t a part of our 4-H experience either.

One of the main activities in 4-H is the creation of projects for the county fair. These projects are in areas like exploring the environment, plant and soil science, food preservation, forest resources, geology, entomology, gardening, wildlife biology, water/wetlands, food and nutrition, and fishing sports to name a few. 4-H members develop and create projects of their choice. Then, they bring said projects to the county fair to show and present before judges who ask questions about what they learned and how they completed the project. The judge gives each project a ribbon. The best two projects in each division get a purple ribbon meaning grand champion or grand champion reserve. These projects advance to the state fair where the 4-Her goes through the same process. Besides learning from the project and presenting it, the kids often receive helpful advice from the judges. Every year when I’m watching my sons present their projects before the judges my views on how worthwhile the whole process is are reaffirmed.

Besides fair activities, 4-H in Kittson County includes summer day camps that focus on the outdoors and a shooting sports and wildlife camp. Camp participants canoe, swim, experience campfires, receive training in archery and rifle shooting, identify animal tracks and dissect owl pellets. This summer, in addition to the camps, our county 4-H office is sponsoring one hour classes at our local library on topics like astronomy, geocaching, gardening, plant and soil science and animal tracks — more ways to connect kids to the outdoors. To be honest, I’d like to sit in and learn about these topics, too.

These are only some of the programs and activities that 4-H offers. I could go on and on, but I won’t.

4-H is but one example of a worthwhile government funded program that helps connect kids to the natural world. It would be a shame if it was cut.

Kristin Eggerling is a board member for Conservation Minnesota Voter Center, the mother of two, and a freelance writer in northwestern Minnesota. 

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