PANHANDLE PERSPECTIVES: 4-H reaches youth through clubs and other learning experiences

By Kelley Rice, Extension Educator and 4-H Coordinator for Panhandle Extension District

4-H is the largest youth organization in the nation. 4-H serves more than 7 million youth, working in partnership with national, state, and local partners to provide meaningful experiences where youth learn by doing.

As we celebrate Nebraska 4-H Month, I would like shed some light on how Nebraska 4-H is dedicated to teaching life skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, social skills, communication, responsibility, citizenship, and leadership in order to prepare our youth for a successful future.

Currently, one in three Nebraska youth ages 5-18 participate in 4-H through clubs, school enrichment, after-school programs, and camps. And because we know the positive impact 4-H has on our youth, our professionals and volunteers are striving to increase our reach so that one in two youth benefit and learn about Healthy Living, Career and College Readiness, Ag Literacy, Entrepreneurship, and more.

Even though 4-H is reaching youth in many new ways, the 4-H club is still at the heart of what we do. Under the guidance of an adult volunteer, clubs offer a variety of learning experiences that meet the needs of the club members. Clubs meet regularly throughout the year and youth are encouraged to grow their leadership skills by serving as an officer, participating in service learning projects, or giving a club presentation.

Besides traditional 4-H clubs, there are also special-interest clubs known as SpIn clubs.  As the name suggests, SpIn clubs focus on a single topic of interest to a group of young people, but disperse after 6 to 10 weeks. These types of clubs are popular with many adults and youth because they provide the 4-H experience while meeting the needs of busy schedules.

Across the state, 4-H Youth Development professionals have built partnerships with public and private schools, as well as with Home School organizations to provide in-school enrichment experiences aimed at enhancing the curriculum and providing hands-on learning opportunities in a formal education setting. Some of the resources provided to schools include robotics, Wear-Tec, embryology, entomology, agricultural literacy, and career and college readiness.

The after-school hours from 3-6 p.m. provide expanded learning opportunities for many youth across the state. Nebraska 4-H Youth Development professionals are committed to providing high-quality after- school care as well as programming. Partnering with schools and community centers, our 4-H professionals provide training for after-school staff as well as programming for youth from kindergarten through 12th grade.

And camps, both one-day or overnight, offer youth the opportunity to discover, learn and grow. 4-H state camps are located in Halsey and near Gretna. They are accredited through the State Camp Association and employ high-quality directors and staff. For more information or to register, please visit

In addition to local opportunities, youth can take advantage of state and national programs, such as the Speech or Presentation Contest, Citizen Washington Focus, PASE/Life Challenge, and many others.

If any of these opportunities sound interesting, enrollment for the 2018 year is now open and can be completed by logging onto

For more information, please contact your local Extension office to find out about the programming available in your county.