Learn by doing
The 4-H slogan is “learn by doing.” Experiential learning is integral to 4-H project work and related educational programs (Diem and Levings, 2022). Not surprisingly, actively engaging youth participants in their own learning can make it more fun. What may surprise you, however, is that fun can also make learning more effective.
Merriam-Webster defines the word “fun” as amusement or enjoyment. From a cognitive perspective, science supports the idea that learning experiences that are amusing and enjoyable engage the brain in ways that are different from learning activities that are not. Improved mood results in increased hormones that can make the brain more capable of learning (Shukla, 2020). Conversely, these positive experiences reduce the impact of stress hormones, which can reduce the capacity for learning. In other words, learning that is fun increases the likelihood that the learner will retain the new knowledge or skill.
We had fun and learned a lot!
Going back to my earliest years in 4-H work, the most common report of 4-H’ers returning from a camp, leadership event, or workshop was “we had fun and learned a lot.” We used to laugh that this was the standard response from participants, but it really makes an important point. Fun and learning go together in 4-H. It is no coincidence that our day camps quickly fill each summer because campers have fun while learning about science. Reading our 4-H member project stories makes it clear that there is a great deal of fun, learning and life skill development happening over the course of the year. 4-H School Garden Clubs make learning about nutrition and gardening fun and engaging and result in changes in eating habits for many of the children. 4-H learning is both fun and effective by design.
If you would like to learn more about opportunities with Orange County 4-H, you can attend the free “4-H Kick-off” event on September 16th between 9:00 and 12:00 at the Extension Education Center or email us for a list of 4-H community clubs for 2023-24.