4-H Youth Development -
Essential Elements of Positive Youth Development
Positive youth development occurs from an intentional process that promotes positive outcomes for young people by providing opportunities, choices, relationships, and the support necessary for youth to fully participate in families and society. Youth development occurs in families, peer groups, schools, neighborhoods and communities1.
The four essential elements are based on work conducted in 1999 by a group of evaluators from the National 4-H Impact Design Implementation Team. They identified eight elements that are critical to positive youth development. The eight critical elements help establish the base for the four essential elements.
Gambone, Klem and Connell2 report that youth who are exposed to these elements tend to do well in school, establish healthy outside interests, and develop basic life skills. These youth take responsibility and avoid risky behaviors. They are also more likely to be productive adults in their communities.
4-H is designed to support the positive and successful development of all youth. 4-H leaders are essential partners in creating a positive environment by focusing on the strengths of youth and providing positive ways for youth to meet the four critical elements.
Belonging - Caring Relationships
All youth need a caring, supportive relationship in their lives. Volunteer leaders and club members provide this fellowship by showing interest in, actively listening to, and fostering the experiences of 4-H youth. 4-H clubs provide an opportunity for long-term youth development seldom found in other educational delivery modes.
Mastery - Constructive Learning Experiences
Youth rely on the joy they receive from interests, hobbies and group participation to balance disappointments in other parts of their lives (Werner and Smith, 1992). 4-H offers opportunities to take on new challenges and learn new skills. Youth complete the Experiential Learning Process by experiencing, sharing what happened, processing what was important, generalizing the experience to the real world and applying what was learned to another situation.
Independence - Leadership Opportunities
Creating opportunities for youth to develop skills and confidence for leadership and self-discipline is a cornerstone of 4-H. Independence does mean greater power and influence but it is linked with responsibility for decisions made and actions taken. Being involved in a successful 4-H club means that members learn how to set priorities in developing their club program and manage the time they have available for their club wisely.
Generosity - Service to Communities
The 4-H Pledge focuses on the importance of larger service and recognizing a responsibility for the welfare of others. Help young people focus on developing concern for others and taking action to demonstrate that concern. Service forges bonds between youth and the community, and doing something valued by others raises feelings of self-worth and competence.
- 1 Smith, Allan T., (2002). 4-H Youth Development Facts in Brief Washington: USDA
- 2 Gambone, M., Klem, A., & Connell, J. (2002). Finding out what matters for youth: Testing key links in a community action framework for youth development. Philadelphia: Youth Development Strategies, Inc. Downloaded March 25, 2005 from http://www.ydsi.org/ydsi/pdf/WhatMatters.pdf