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Posted: September 10, 2010 12:00 a.m.

4-H 4-Ever: The magic element of 4-H: fun

We’re teaching new 4-H’ers this month all about the organization and what they can look forward to.

My first props are an ear of corn and little model of "Uga," the University of Georgia mascot.

In 1904, Newton County Superintendent G.C. Adams brought the research-based methods of the University of Georgia College of Agriculture to our community. He didn’t do it through lectures to youth or adults, but with a corn-growing competition among his male students.

By 1908, girls joined the action with tomato canning clubs.

Using a tin can of tomatoes as my prop, I ask the students what the girls would have actually used for canning. Most are not familiar with Mason jars, much less the canning process.

The students usually jump on my bag of pop tabs next, because teachers have already started them on pop tab collections.

We have service projects going on all year, starting with our pop tab recycling project for the Ronald McDonald House. We hope to collect more than 600 pounds of tabs by Oct. 31.

Next I have a Wahsega nametag, because next summer that’s where Cloverleaf 4-H’ers from Newton and Rockdale are headed for camp.

We’ll spend five days and four nights in the north Georgia mountains, zooming down the zip line, playing in the waterfall and pond, studying snakes, making friends and telling ghost stories by the campfire.

Some new 4-H’ers already know that we actually have five centers across the state, including two on the beach.

Next is my "Operation Military Kids" dog tag with a 4-H logo on it, because here in Newton County we have many youth with a parent or sibling in the National Guard, Reserves, or on active duty who can take advantage of the nation’s largest military 4-H program.

Then there is a plaque I won as a 4-H’er, so we can talk about all the prizes awarded in 4-H.

There are club awards based on points for presenting 4-H demonstrations, completing 4-H Friends books, inviting visitors to 4-H meetings and participating in outside-of-school 4-H activities.

4-H’ers can also earn individual awards at our annual banquet and tickets to an end-of-the-year celebration for their own personal achievements.

As they move up, they can also work toward exciting trips and college scholarships.

A lot of the things I teach throughout the year are about as boring as growing corn in my opinion, but the way we teach it through competitions and hands-on lessons make it fun.

And that’s why I save my favorite prop for last: a little bear wearing an "I love 4-H" shirt and a beaded necklace.

My bear represents the reason why 21 years after my first 4-H club meeting at Palmer-Stone Elementary, I’m still a proud 4-H’er.

Sure, I gained public speaking skills. I learned leadership. I developed a passion for serving my community.

I won college scholarships, practiced packing for events and managed my own money on 4-H trips.

But the magic element in all of that was simple: It’s fun.

My helper in one class holding the bear moved him around as if the bear were dancing — and that’s exactly what I mean.

Some of my favorite 4-H events are with the Master 4-H Club, alumni who continue to gather at Wahsega each July and Jekyll Island each Labor Day to tell stories, make new friends, square dance, eat low country boil and remind ourselves the fun never has to end.

Terri Kimble is the 4-H Educator for Newton County 4-H. She can be reached at (770) 784-2010 or tkimble@uga.edu.

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