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4-H Teachers independence, and that’s a good thing

Independent projects at the heart of 4-H

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by Nate Schlief

Last fall, we decided to try something new: Get the kids involved with 4-H. We had tried Boy Scouts with our oldest son, but he wasn’t that interested in getting involved. I knew that with 4-H, it was more of an independent project for each child because I was pretty involved when I was young. My wife was not, so we had some discussions about it. For me it was about livestock projects, bicycle safety and community service projects, and of course, the grand-daddy of state fairs, the Minnesota State Fair. To this day, that first experience at the state fair showing my barrow is etched in my mind as though it was just yesterday.

It was the biggest event I had ever competed at.

My wife on the other hand, watched sisters go to the 4-H achievement days with projects, but it was pretty small in comparison to my experience.

When we discussed the concept of joining 4-H with our boys, our oldest, Nick, was in right away. Austin was still unsure, as he is with most new things. Austin has a condition called schizencephaly. This condition affects his muscle movement, speech and causes him angst in new situations. He doesn’t handle crowds, sudden loud noises, or chaos very well.

So as a dad my thought was have Austin try 4-H with his older brother, where independent projects are the goal, and see how it goes. Maybe meet some other students in a neighboring small town, while learning about agriculture and leadership.

Austin choose to do a BB gun project, where he learned the different parts of the gun and how to hold it steady. He also built and maintained a raised flowerbed. He did all of the work: planted, weeded, watered and picked the fruit. He got so excited every time a plant popped out of the ground or when a new pea pod formed.

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Nick did a project with a farm toy display and he also did a project on the soils of the 20 acres of corn he put in this year for his own first year of farming. Both boys enjoyed the fair and seeing how the judges interacted with Austin was really enjoyable. I believe they both learned something about themselves, their projects and made new friends along the way. As a parent I was proud to see the joy they had in accomplishing a task and getting a ribbon at the fair as a token of appreciation.

If you’re considering getting your kids involved, look at the NDSU extension website or call your Extension Office for more information. I’m so glad my kids decided to be 4-Hers!

Nate is the District 1 representative on the NDFB Promotion and Education Committee. He and his wife, Deb, and their sons live near Grand Forks.