For many, the words “Georgia 4-H” bring to mind club meetings and trips to Rock Eagle, the mountains or the beach for camp. But it’s much more, says a Georgia 4-H program expert.
While 4-H has many extracurricular programs, a significant amount is based in academics, because the program is operated by University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. 4-H lessons and in-school curriculum are designed to meet Georgia Performance Standards, said Mandy Marable, Georgia 4-H curriculum specialist.
“4-H brings quality educational experiences to the students in all of Georgia’s counties,” Marable said. “In-school 4-H experiences open the door for a myriad of out-of-school opportunities. 4-H strives to bring relevance to academic knowledge with practical applications.”
It’s all based on research conducted at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the state’s oldest land-grant university. CAES first offered Georgia’s 4-H program in 1904.
“The idea of bringing UGA research and resources to Georgia students through the use of county agents throughout the state was a cutting edge idea in 1904 and remains so even today,” said Arch Smith, Georgia 4-H interim state leader.
4-H is the largest youth development organization in the country. In Georgia, 4-H provides programs for more than 156,000 students ages 9 to 19. They learn about many topics, including community involvement, health, science, engineering, technology, leadership, agriculture and communication. Nationally, more than 7 million students are involved.
Back in 1904, students applied new techniques to increase corn yields. Today, fifth grade 4-H students learn about crop traits and genetics by using real-world examples and learning activities, Marable said.
“We pride ourselves on the fact that our 4-H youth development program was founded as a part of the school system in Georgia, and we remain a vital partner to schools throughout the state today,” she said.
Through 4-H Project Achievement, each year 10,000 Georgia youth learn public speaking skills, conduct research, prepare presentations, compile portfolios of their accomplishments and present their findings to a panel of experts.
Students can also learn responsibility through livestock projects, programs and judging. Georgia 4-H partners with Georgia FFA and the UGA Animal and Dairy Science Department to provide these programs. Every year, 2,400 4-H’ers complete a year-long process to prepare more than 4,500 animals for exhibition at the Georgia Junior National Livestock Show and other competitions.
Successful Georgia 4-H alumni include Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, singer Jennifer Nettles of the Grammy-winning group Sugarland, Georgia governors Roy Barnes and Sonny Perdue, and legal commentator and television host Nancy Grace.