Published on 09/29/11

Georgia 4-H: More than club meetings and camp

By Sharon Dowdy

For many Georgians, 4-H brings to mind club meetings, public speaking and trips to Rock Eagle, the mountains or the beach for camp. But the nation's leading youth organization is much more, says a Georgia 4-H program expert.

Operated by University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, 4-H lessons and in-school curricula are designed to meet Georgia Performance Standards, said Mandy Marable, Georgia 4-H curriculum specialist.

In school and out

“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 myriad out-of-school opportunities. 4-H strives to bring relevance to academic knowledge with practical applications.”

Georgia 4-H programs are all based on research from 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 state leader.

Reaching students across the state

In Georgia, 4-H provides programs for more than 156,000 students ages 9 to 19. Through 4-H, students learn about community involvement, health, science, engineering, technology, leadership, agriculture, communication and much more. Nationally, more than 7 million students are involved in 4-H.

In the early days of 4-H, 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.

Teaching public speaking and organization skills

Through 4-H Project Achievement, each year 10,000 Georgia youths learn public speaking skills, conduct research, prepare presentations, compile portfolios of their accomplishments and present their findings to a panel of adult experts.

And, 4-H is still about animals. Students can 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 competitive events.

4-H alums become successful adults

Georgia 4-H aims to help students become successful adults. 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.

To learn more about Georgia 4-H, visit

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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