4-H: Head, Heart, Hands, Health.
BY Anna Robertson Ham
Many hear about the 4-H program but may not know what it truly is. 4‑H began more than 100 years ago in 1902 and has become the nation’s largest youth development organization. The programs are delivered by Cooperative Extension, a community of more than 100 public universities across the nation that provides experiences where young people learn by doing. The 4‑H idea is simple: Help young people and their families gain the skills needed to be proactive forces in their communities and develop ideas for a more innovative economy.
The Williamson County branch of 4-H began in 1916, with programs for students from second to twelve grade to learn with hands-on experiences. “We have a variety of projects for youth to explore areas like coding with micro:bit and Lego Robotics, design with 3D Printing and Junior Solar Sprint, Creating with Culinary, Engineering, Sewing, Electric and Photography. We also have Horse, Animal Science, Shooting Sports, Leadership, Citizenship, Poultry, STEM, Communications, and CSI,” says Mary Beth Antunes, Extension Agent for Williamson County 4-H Youth Development. “We have annual contests open to youth in the community to give them opportunities to practice communications skills. Each January, we have a County Public Speaking Contest, and in March, we have a County Demonstration Project Contest. In addition, we host an International Event in February. 4-H offers several overnight summer camps also.”
There is a common misconception that 4-H is only about animals and farming. “4-H began in 1902, teaching youth to use the latest farming techniques, but we have evolved just as society and youth have changed. 4-H continues to grow and change to meet the needs of the workforce and the interests of youth. We still offer animal science projects, but we have expanded to many other projects like coding with micro:bit, culinary, CSI, Lego sports, Robotics and more,” explains Mary Beth. “4-H has a history of being a partner in local schools to teach communications with contests in elementary schools and is also very involved in the Williamson County Fair since its beginning in 2005. “4-H staff and volunteers work to take in and display youth entries, work with the livestock shows, assist in the barns and much more. We love the Williamson County Fair and enjoy partnering with the Fair each year.”
Mary Beth says that Williamson County 4-H Instructors are people who work full-time in the field. “We have a Federal District Attorney teaching CSI and STEM, a Vehicle Electrical Systems Engineer teaching Electricity, a Retired CIO and Mechanical Engineer teaching Junior Solar Sprint and Drone classes, a CEO of an aerospace company teaching Lego Engineering and much more! These instructors are highly qualified, passionate and excellent teachers. They all have an energy about them and are excited to share their knowledge and experience with our 4-H members.”
Learn more and explore the 4-H website at williamson.tennessee.edu to find out what opportunities are available now for your child’s grade level. Once you find the right place to begin, you can pay and register online. Some of the programs are free, while others have a fee to cover the materials used for hands-on projects. You can also learn more about 4-H at their Open House, held on August 29th from 5:30pm–7pm at the Ag Expo Park. The event is free and open to the public. All 4-H clubs will be represented for guests to meet 4-H leaders, ask questions and learn more.