Hands-on 4-H History – The Birds of Spring

The following story is from the March 2016 issue of the 4-H History Preservation Newsletter

If your club has a woodworking leader or member, you can learn to make your own bird houses for our feathered friends. Invite a speaker from a local Audubon Society or bird watchers’ club to speak to your group about the birds in your area. Take a trip to a local park or wildlife refuge to observe the birds. Bring your mobile device and do citizens’ science with an app to identify and catalog the birds that you see.

Although you can no longer win the Farm Boys’ and Girls’ Club Leader Bird Club Contest, members can write stories and take photos of the birds that you see to share at your club meeting. You might even have your own contest and award small prizes, just like they did for the 4-H boys and girls back in 1921.



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Hands-on 4-H History – 4-H Mechanical Engineering

The following story is from the February 2016 issue of the 4-H History Preservation Newsletter

Engineering has been a 4-H program area since the early years of the program. Maintaining engines in farm machinery and equipment has been a valuable skill for youth to learn for many decades. In more recent years, projects like small engines and robotics have expanded engineering learning opportunities to more youth beyond the farm.

The February, 1920, issue of Farm Boys’ and Girls’ Leader had a detailed article about Junior Farm Mechanics. The illustrated article told how to scrape and tighten bearings, clean carbon from piston rings and grind valves to improve engine efficiency.


Several decades later, a 1945, issue of National 4-H News announced the Live Power Program competition that covered the care and operation of farm tractors. Members and volunteers enrolled in the 4-H farm tractor maintenance program from 14 central and western states were eligible. County winners received a sterling silver medal. The top county winner received a $15 scholarship to attend the state Tractor Maintenance Clinic. One representative from the top state group received an expense-paid trip to National 4-H Congress in Chicago.
Hands-on History

Today there are a variety of opportunities in engineering projects at the county, state, multi-state and national levels for 4-H members in tractor, small engines, robotics and more. If you have club members or volunteers who are involved in these programs, ask them to talk about their project work. If you don’t have any members in these programs, invite a local business person to talk to your club about safe operation and maintenance of engines that your members might work with. Talk to your 4-H educator about 4-H project opportunities in engineering at the county and state levels. It could start a new project interest in your group!


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Hands-on History. 4-H’ers Help Fight Hunger

The following story is from the National Compendium of 4-H Promotion and Visibility on the National 4-H History website at


At the start of 1919, much of the world was still recovering from World War I which had ended nearly fourteen months earlier. The January issue of Junior Soldiers of the Soil (predecessor to National 4-H News) had a number of articles about hunger in the aftermath of war.

One member wrote, “We are glad that the war is over but I am not going to stop raising food. It is just as patriotic to raise food now as ever, so let all Junior Soldiers raise more food and make ourselves known as loyal Junior Soldiers.” Later in the issue is a call to “Organize a Junior Soldier Squad.” President Hoover cautioned that, “We must export ten times as much food if we prevent Europe from starving during the coming year. Let every one of us raise food and feed” to help save Europe.

Since that time, programs have been created to help combat hunger in the US and countries around the world. Yet, USDA reports that in 2014 an estimated 14.0 percent of American households (over one in seven) were food insecure at least some time during the year and the prevalence of very low food security was at 5.6 percent.

Rhode Island Club girls show their patriotism with this 1918 exhibit of canned produce they have grown and preserved. Notice the flags among the canned goods.

Rhode Island Club girls show their patriotism with this 1918 exhibit of canned produce they have grown and preserved. Notice the flags among the canned goods.


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Hands-On History
Promoting the Health H

The following story is from the October 2015 issue of the 4-H History Preservation Newsletter

In the last issue we featured an article about O. H. Benson as one of the people selected by State and National 4-H Leaders as having “made 4-H great”. That article explained that he was instrumental in getting the clover adopted for our youth program. In 1911, O. H. Benson proposed four Hs that stood for Head, Heart, Hands, and Hustle. O. B. Martin suggested Health instead of Hustle. At a meeting in the spring of 1911, the 4-H leadership approved the 4-H emblem representing Head, Heart, Hands and Health.

An article by Gladys Scranage, a Girls’ Club Agent in WV, in the October 1938 issue of National 4-H Club News acclaimed that improving physical and mental health was vital to everyone. “[T]o create a desire for health, to aid in developing right attitudes, to encourage physical improvements, to help in establishing health consciousness in the community, to improve food habits, to aid in disease prevention, to study community health problems, and to continually set health standards are goals that seem to me to be entirely in the province of a 4-H club.”


Good safety habits contribute to good health. In the October, 1945 issue, safety cartoons by Utah 4-H member Ruth Louise Noall were featured. “Each pictured a warning, done in colored crayon and with its whimsical rhyme, occupied a full page in her [safety] book.” For example, a sketch of a child reaching for a pot on the stove warns, “Turn those handles toward the stove, If you will; And baby is not the only one Who might spill.”

Miss Scanage’s article lists some suggested activities for 4-H clubs that could be good hand-on projects for today’s 4-H clubs. She suggested that 4-H clubs should develop and promote a health program. This could include appointing a permanent health committee to direct health activities of the club. They would study local health problems, present health information as part of each 4-H club meeting, help in promotion of health in the community and encourage members to have regular checkups and make a personal health plan.

Hands-on History


How can your club benefit from Miss Scanage’s suggested activities? You could create a health officer or committee to suggest physical activities during your club meeting recreation time or recommend healthier refreshments. Your group can study local health issues and make plans to inform the community.


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Hands-On 4-H. 4-H Electrification Projects: Then and Now

The following story is from the February 2014 issue of the 4-H History Preservation Newsletter
Oregon 4-H'ers in the 1950s demonstrate how to re-wire lamps at a club meeting.

Oregon 4-H’ers in the 1950s demonstrate how to re-wire lamps at a club meeting.

Many of us take electricity for granted at home, at work, and at local stores and businesses. But that wasn’t the case seventy-five years ago, especially in rural areas. An article in the 1939 National 4-H News invited 4-H members to participate in the 4-H Rural Electrification Project. Members and clubs were “encouraged to study wiring plans, safety practices, and operation of electrical equipment.” Members were encouraged to complete activities to help them learn to make basic electrical repairs and additions at home and on the farm. Project records were submitted to compete for county medals, trips to National 4-H Congress, and $200 scholarships.

Early electrical club work even inspired a novel to be written. “Dynamo Farm” by Adam Allen, and published by J. B. Lippincott Company, NY in 1942 tells the story of a boy from the city who moves to a farm and learns to love being there because he gets involved in an electrification project in 4-H and saves the family poultry business.

Electricity is still an important 4-H project. Members learn the principles of electricity, circuits, magnetism and safety. These days, energy conservation is also emphasized.

You and your club members can learn about electricity like the 4-H members did in the 4-H Rural Electrification project many years ago. A club member or guest speaker can do a demonstration or lead a club activity to learn about electricity. Club members can do a home energy audit and share their results at a future club meeting. Or you could try to find a copy of the novel mentioned above and share a report about it or act out some of the scenes for the club.


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Photos Preserve 4-H History

The following story is from the July 2015 issue of the 4-H History Preservation Newsletter

In the digital age we can easily capture a special moment with a smart phone, tablet, camera or even a watch. At the turn of the 20th century when 4-H was starting, amateur photography was gaining  popularity thanks to recent innovations of smaller cameras and photographic film.

An article in the July/August, 1938, National 4-H News entitled “Thrills for Camera Fans” recounts the experiences of delegates to the recent National 4-H Club Camp in Washington, DC, taking pictures of famous buildings, historic sites and camp life.

1928 4-H National 4-H Club Conference delegates line up to photograph Mount Vernon.

1928 4-H National 4-H Club Conference delegates line up to photograph Mount Vernon.

The article notes that lots of photos – and even a few movies – were taken at Mt. Vernon. Delegates took a boat ride on the Potomac to George Washington’s home. The Capitol, Lincoln Memorial and other Washington, DC, monuments were also popular.

Before departing, delegates promised their new friends that they’d get prints made to send after returning home.

Over the years, photography became a popular 4-H project. Kodak was a partner in developing national 4-H project guides, and they sponsored the 4-H Photography National Awards program. National 4-H Council invited 4-H photographers to send their best photographs for the National 4-H Photography Contests; winners were featured in the National 4-H Calendars and displayed at events across the country. In recent years video has been included in the 4-H project portfolio.

We rely a lot on photos to help tell the stories of the people, places and events in our 4-H history. Does your club have someone like a 4-H Historian to take photographs of your club members, meetings and special events? Often these photos are compiled into a club scrapbook. National 4-H Week and 4-H Achievement Nights are great times to make displays of your 4-H club photos. Leaders and parents can bring their 4-H photos to tell the club about their special 4-H memories. Always be prepared to capture your 4-H history in photographs. If your club has scrapbooks from past years it might also be interesting to compare the photos from past years with those from this year. Or you could make an exhibit of your club’s history at the local library, county fair or achievement night.

Traveling with 4-H – Hands-on 4-H History

In 1959, Iowa 4-H'ers travelled by bus for an exchange program with Kentucky 4-H. Since the National 4-H Center had just been opened they decided to keep going to see what was there and asked 4-H Center staff to plan a program for them. And the rest, as they say, is history. That trip resulted in the development of Citizenship Short Course (CSC) as it was called until the early 1970s when it was renamed Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF).

In 1959, Iowa 4-H’ers travelled by bus for an exchange program with Kentucky 4-H. Since the National 4-H Center had just been opened they decided to keep going to see what was there and asked 4-H Center staff to plan a program for them. And the rest, as they say, is history. That trip resulted in the development of Citizenship Short Course (CSC) as it was called until the early 1970s when it was renamed Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF).

Going to new places through 4-H was a highlight 70 years ago just as it is today. Through 4-H trips, members visit new places and meet other 4-H members who may be from a different county or state. The June 1945 issue of National 4-H Club News mentions a number of 4-H travel opportunities.

Camp is one of the first trips that young 4-H members take. In that year, Vermont was raising funds to establish two or three regional 4-H camps. The 4-H clubs in each of the 11 counties were asked to contribute $20 toward this effort. Louisiana had scheduled 10 camps during their 23 years of camping, and Montana planned 15 camps to serve their 21 counties.

An article by Dr. Clarence Smith, early Chief of Cooperative Extension at USDA, extolled the importance of trips to state and national events like 4-H Club Congress and National 4-H Club Camp (now National 4-H Conference). However, he noted that trips and scholarships are subordinate to doing your best in project work. He said, “The better you do your project work, the more you give of yourself to your club and the more you bring back from adventures which come to enterprising club members.”

Some states offer 4-H international travel experiences. “The thrill of a lifetime” was had by 24 Texas 4-H club boys who drove into Mexico for a 10-day tour of “Old Mexico.” They were to meet with youth their age, visit demonstrations of agriculture, tour the world’s richest silver mine and visit remnants of the country’s ancient past.

Hands-On 4-H History

There are many travel experiences that you can have in 4-H at the county, state, national or international level. Your club may not know about all of them. Have any 4-H members, leaders or parents taken a 4-H trip? Ask them to share their experiences with the club. Perhaps you can mark these on a map (see related story in this issue on the National 4-H Mapping Project). What trips are offered in your state? Ask several members to research what they are to report to the club. As Dr. Smith advised, trips are the result of good 4-H work, and the benefits to those experiences can enrich both those who travel and their fellow club members.

Having started a 4-H camping program in 1915, West Virginia is celebrating its camping centennial this year with year-long commemorative events and special camp activities. (Editor’s note: An article on their activities is in the works for a coming issue of this Newsletter.)

From 1948 until recently, the National 4-H Foundation (now National 4-H Council) and USDA jointly administered the International Farm Youth Exchange – IFYE (later the International 4-H Youth Exchange). 4-H international exchanges with 19 participating states are now administered by States’ 4-H International Exchange Programs, 1601 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2230, Seattle, WA 98101, 800-407-3314, www.States4HExchange.org

4-H Hands-on History: 4-H Entrepeneurship

Peter Drucker, author and management consultant, once said, “Entrepreneurship is neither a science nor an art. It is a practice.” The Uncle Sam’s Helping Nieces 4-H Club in Philadelphia, NY, started practicing at a young age by opening a store in their local Grange Hall. The enterprising group of girls was featured in the August, 1944, issue of National 4-H Club News.


To raise money for the club and help their community during

WWII, the members held a weekly rummage sale from their store. The girls collected clothes that had been outgrown or were otherwise unwanted. Sometimes they used their sewing skills to make minor repairs to holes or buttons or to give a garment a fresh look by adding lace or colorful touches of fabric from their scrap bag. They collected old jewelry to send to soldiers overseas to use as barter.

The girls were responsible for selling the items and keeping proper financial records. A member who was leaving the club donated an old wagon. The club painted it green and white and used it to make collections of items to sell.

The money earned in their store was used for 4-H camp scholarships and other club purposes.

Do you have any entrepreneurs in your club? Give it a try and find out! There are 4-H entrepreneurship 4-H activity and helper’s guides available from National 4-H Supply (4-H Mall) and some state 4-H programs.

Discuss in your club ideas for starting an entrepreneurship project. What items or services might you provide? How would you manage your business and the funds earned? The 4-H entrepreneurship materials will guide you through the process of planning, preparing, implementing and finishing a 4-H business.

You can have a successful 4-H business like the Uncle Sam’s Helping Nieces4-H club did over 70 years ago.