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Johnson County

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Johnson County
11811 S. Sunset Drive
Suite 1500
Olathe, KS 66061

Office Hours:

Monday - Friday,
8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

(913) 715-7000
(913) 715-7005 fax

Map to our office

K-State Research and Extension is committed to making its services, activities and programs accessible to all participants. Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities may be requested by contacting Johnson County Extension at (913)715-7000. Notify staff of accommodation needs as early as possible.

Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service

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4-H Project Exploration

Taking photographs, building rockets, designing a cabinet, collecting insects, caring for livestock...those are all part of the fun of the 4-H program. But those activities are part of a much bigger, project-based learning process to prepare kids for the future.

If you are familiar at all with 4-H, you hear the word “project” used a lot. What exactly are 4-H projects? Why are they such an integral component of the the 4-H program and why are they so important for youth development?

The 4-H program is rooted in the belief that youth learn best by “doing.” Projects provide hands-on opportunities in areas like STEM, agriculture, leadership, communications, health, expressive arts, natural resources, and family and consumer sciences. Project learning and experiences occur in a positive environment where they receive guidance from adult mentors and are encouraged to take on leadership roles. Youth can focus on one area or they can try a variety of projects throughout their 4-H career.

There are five stages through 4-H projects in regard to youth development progression. First is Explore; “I might like to do this.” Youth who explore a variety of interests before high school, through experiences like 4-H camps and educational events, can develop early interest in a career path and improve their academic performance. Second is Learn; “I can do this.” 4-H project-based learning, guided by adult volunteers, improves youth understanding of skills and concepts, as well as their ability to problem solve and collaborate. Third is Practice: “I’m interested in this.” Youth who have participated in hands-on learning activities and are engaged with professional mentors and volunteers before entering high school are more likely to explore studies and potential career paths. Fourth is Experience: “I will be this.” Real-world application is extremely valuable! 91% of Kansas 4-H members have a plan for reaching their goals. Youth that have been active participants in hands-on learning, combined with strong decision-making skills, are more able to effectively navigate life. Last is Career Development: all of the project areas have career opportunities and possibilities and 4-H’ers understand how to successfully apply the new skills they have learned into future careers.

The goal of a 4-H project is to find a youth’s “spark.” A spark is an important piece to a youth’s growing and thriving. It gives youth a sense of purpose and direction. It’s the “thing” that gets them really excited. Sparks encourage youth to set goals and achieve things. Sparks inspire kids to take action. Youth with an interest in something will go to great lengths to follow their passion, including starting their own projects at home or learning new skills on their own. Sparks provide that basic instinct to grow and learn. Youth will often seek out knowledge for something they are passionate about. Sparks help build a child’s social network and develops social skills with the community that surrounds them and nurtures their spark.

For more information on 4-H projects, please visit https://www.kansas4-h.org/projects/. If you or someone you know would be interested in becoming an adult mentor in a project area for Johnson County 4-H, please reach out to our office. Our volunteers’ experience, knowledge and commitment spans a wide array of areas and we are always looking for more talent to share with our 4-H members.