“Here’s two buckets of corn and two buckets of chicken pellets.” The 4-Her said as she handed us the buckets. She continued instructing, “You will see two large hanging troughs when we go into the coop; one’s for the corn and one’s for the pellets.”
We followed her into the chicken coop where there were not only chickens but roosters and a few turkeys as well.
“Thanks or the help, you guys. I really appreciate it.,” she said as we walked back to the feed room.
It is not drudgery – honestly. There is something therapeutic to all of the chores. You learn to love the work. As we finished feeding the horses and sweeping out the barn, my friend and I were discussing this idea of the loving of the work.
“I miss showing in 4-H” she said reflectively. “It was so much work, but I loved getting out of school early on a Friday to have to pack and load the horses to go to a show where you presented everything you’d work so hard for. Sometimes I even miss shining my boots!”
We both agreed. There was never anything quite as completely exhausting and utterly satisfying as our years being members of the 4-H Horse program.
4-H in the Beginning
4-H started as a way for universities to teach agriculture communities about new techniques and technologies developed through scientific research. Farmers weren’t as keen on adopting new practices, but the youth, who would ultimately take over the operations from their parents, were open to new ideas. The goal was to teach the future of agriculture (https://4-h.org/about/history/).
Today, there are less and less people in rural areas in the agricultural industries and although it is still a strong part of the organization, you don’t have to live on a farm or own animals to be involved in 4-H.
4-H is still a way to teach kids about agriculture, but other needs of youth today also exist. We have a need of youth development programs – programs that will make a positive impact on the lives of youth. We have a need for youth to learn life skills.
What is a life skill?
According to a 2006 UF/IFAS publication by Marilyn N. Norman and Joy C. Jordan, “Life skills are those competencies that assist people in functioning well in the environment in which they live.”
Life skills help us become well-functioning members of society. This is different from standard knowledge taught in schools, and a reason programs that teaching these skills are so important.
The 4-H Framework, “Targeting Life Skills Model” (Hendricks, 1998), breaks down life skills into competencies based on the four “H’s” of 4-H – Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.
Head – Knowledge, Reasoning, and Creativity Competencies
Heart – Personal/Social Competencies
Hand – Vocational/Citizenship Competencies
Health – Health/physical Competencies
“4-H’s goal is to address these skills through the structure and programs it offers (Norman & Jordan, 2006). The programs within 4-H, the activities accomplished, competitions competed in, workbooks completed, retreats attended, and meetings fulfilled, target each of these competencies. By the time a 4-Her as completed a program, they have at least been exposed to each competency. This is true whether the 4-Her is learning robotics, archery, or in the horse program. Whatever the interests or passion of the 4-Hers, they are all learning life skills by doing.
We loved the work as 4-Hers. We loved it because it was our passion. The 4-Her we helped at the barn recently maybe sees this program as a way to fuel her passions. For my friend and I, our interest in horses became the way we developed within the 4-H framework. Maybe what we didn’t know at the time we the subtle skills – even loving the work – were the most important.
If you are interested in learning more about the Flagler County 4-H program, please contact us at
UF/IFAS Flagler County Extension
Hendricks, P. (1998) “Developing Youth Curriculum Using the Targeting Life Skills Model” http://www.extension.iastate.edu/4H/skls.eval.htm
Norman, Marilyn N. and Jordan, Joy C. (2006). Targeting Life Skills in 4-H (4-H FS 101.9). Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science. Retrieved September 10, 2018, From edis.ifas,edu/4h242.