When I tell people that I am the 4-H Educator in Lackawanna County, I get various reactions.

Some people ask, “what is 4-H?” while some are surprised that 4-H is still around. Often, the response is, “that’s for farms and animals.” Since there seems to be some confusion, I thought I would take some time to clear up just precisely, “What is 4-H?”

First and foremost, 4-H is an organization that promotes positive youth development. We do that through experiential learning experiences. Youth decide which projects are interesting to them, and we provide research-based learning activities to help them learn about their area of choice. Our project choices do include animal science, but that is only one project area. We also have:

  • Healthy Living: Cooking, independent living, money management, first aid and health.
  • Expressive Arts: Public speaking, sewing, textiles, art, crafts, photography and cake decorating.
  • Camping: Residential and day camps and camp counselor training.
  • Environmental: entomology, forestry, wildlife, water projects and outdoor adventures.
  • STEM: Rocketry, engineering, computer programming and aerospace projects.
  • Shooting Sports: Archery and air rifle.
  • Leadership and Civic Engagement: State leadership conference and National 4-H Congress.

We serve youth ages 8 to 18 in all project areas, and for ages 5-8, we have an exploratory curriculum.

4-H was organized in 1902, and its original intention was to instruct rural youth in improved farming and farm-homemaking skills, essential skills at that time. As time progressed and additional skills were needed for youth development, different project areas have were developed. 4-H is part of the United States Department of Agriculture, and it is administered through the land grant university in each state, Penn State University.

Our programming is distributed in a club format. A club is defined as at least five youth and two leaders. Our leaders go through an application and screening process that includes criminal and child abuse clearances. Other options for programming include school programs and partnerships with other nonprofit agencies. All our clubs and project areas include activities for leadership, civic engagement and public speaking.

With the program delivery challenges due to COVID-19, Lackawanna County 4-H has expanded our programming and how our clubs are offered. Our 2021-22 program year will begin in October with lots of flexibility. The leaders can determine in-person club meetings

for what works best for their members. Virtual club meetings are also a possibility.

Our virtual meetings include lots of activities. Crafting and cooking work fabulously as online clubs. Virtual clubs also are helpful to parents; you do not have to transport any children to meeting locations. Another benefit to virtual clubs is that you can take part in a virtual program offered in another county.

Members can participate beyond their county in a district or regional events. Participating in a regional fashion and textile revue, a district horse show, an overnight camp or a leader retreat is an excellent way to build leadership skills and mastery in a project area.

Events are also offered on a state-wide level, both virtually and in person. Members can learn about additional project areas, develop leadership skills or deepen their understanding of a skill they like. Two events are starting in October: Stir-It-Up Saturdays and State Leadership Conference Jr.

Stir-It-Up Saturdays meet virtually on the first Saturday of the month from 9 to 11 a.m. Each month, there will be instruction and practice on a food and nutrition theme. Members will have the recipe for the month so they can have the ingredients ready. After the lesson and the cooking demonstration, the members will cook the recipe in their own homes. It’s a great way to have the family involved in the cooking.

State Leadership Conference Jr is an event designed for members ages 10 to 13 (as of Jan. 1, 2021) to learn leadership skills. This conference will help build confidence in our junior members. The meeting takes place Oct. 9-10 in State College.

Other state-wide events that take place annually are the Engineering Design Challenge, Animal Science Camp, Cooking Challenge, Science of Agriculture Challenge, Capitol Days and Food Challenge.

Interested in 4-H and want to find out more? Contact Sandi Graham, Lackawanna County 4-H Educator, at saa224@psu.edu or call 570-963-6842. You can also visit our Facebook page, Lackawanna County, Pa 4-H.