Washington County Clubs have something for everyone
by Suzanne Rhodes
Special to Official Kids Mag
Kids in Northwest Arkansas are getting smarter all the time. But they’re not doing it by just sitting behind a desk. Kids from 5 to 19 are doing really cool hands-on stuff through 4-H and learning to become great leaders.
So, what’s 4-H? It’s over 100 years old and is the largest youth-serving organization in the nation. Washington County has 23 clubs, with 9 of them in Fayetteville alone.
It’s free to join a 4-H club. There are community and specialty clubs where you get to do things like build submersibles and robots, raise and show livestock, make clothes, learn photography, compete in dance contests – the sky’s the limit – oh, yes, there’s an aerospace program too!
4-H divides children by age. Clover Buds are 5 to 8 years old. Juniors are kids 9 to 13, and Seniors, 14 to 19.
Valerie Seefeld is a former 4-Her who’s now the county extension agent for the group. “You’re not just learning and sitting in a class and being told what to learn. You’re doing hands-on activities, and you’re being taught how to think. We don’t want to tell our kids what to think, we want to teach them how to think. How to work through problems, how to make decisions, how to work as teams.
“First, we want them doing it – what we’re trying to teach them – then have them talking about it, explaining it to one another and providing their own reasons. And then have them reflect on it.”
As an example, members of the team builders club had to answer questions about what a leader is, what a leader does and who the leaders are in their lives.
Whether you already have a special interest or passion, like photography or shooting, or whether you want to learn new things and find out what you love, “4-H is ideal,” Valerie said.
Recently, kids participated in Talks and Demonstrations. As Valerie explained, “The kids write a speech, write a presentation or demonstration, present it and get it judged. So they’re building up the courage to speak in front of a group.”
Madeleine L, a 15-year-old 4-Her, did a talk on sugar as part of the H for healthy living. “She had lots of drinks – many we think are healthier, like Gatorade or cranberry juice. She also had sodas, milk and water, and others.”
Madeleine showed the audience the amount of sugar in each bottle, then stacked sugar cubes so everyone could visualize that eye-opening amount. She then showed the recommended daily amount of sugar and compared it to “a little bottle of grape juice that you give to a kid. It’s so much more than what’s recommended.” She ended by talking about the benefits of decreasing sugar intake.
Another popular, competitive project is called the National SeaPerch Challenge. It’s an aquatic engineering program that’s part of the STEM club. The young people build submersibles — remotely-operated vehicles, or ROVs – and program them to travel through underwater obstacle courses, collect objects and do other things. Last year teams from Benton and Grant Counties competed nationally.
The most recent excitement was 4-H Day at the Capitol on February 12, where hundreds of youth made a “Sea of Green.” Thirteen 4-Hers from Washington County attended and got to meet lawmakers personally. Governor Asa Hutchinson addressed the group, saying, “What a great group of young leaders … To see all of you in the Capitol today is very exciting to me and encourages all of us about the future of this state. Thank you for what you do to support Arkansas agriculture and leadership.”