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Posted: October 6, 2012 7:01 p.m.

Oak Hill sets the standard

Elementary school's Cloverleaf 4-H clubs excel

In the lobby of Oak Hill Elementary, the trophy case is packed full of recognition.

In barely more than 10 years since opening, the students, faculty and staff have earned a variety of trophies, but eight bear the 4-H logo.
Since 2004-2005, Oak Hill Elementary has been named 4-H School of the Year eight times.

"Points are awarded to clubs when students present demonstrations, complete service projects, participate in outside of school 4-H events, serve as leaders, or do other activities," said Kim Lawrence, Newton County 4-H program assistant.

"Every Oak Hill class is in the top 10 clubs each month, so 4-H'ers at other schools often ask how Oak Hill earns so many points," she said.

A glance through club activities shows that 4-H'ers from across the county earn points at each event, but Oak Hill's students appear most frequently.

Educational events awarding the most points include District Project Achievement, where nearly half the fifth graders competing from Newton County were from Oak Hill Elementary.

Fifty-four of the 103 fourth and fifth graders who competed at County Project Achievement last year were from Oak Hill, and several of the teachers volunteered at the event.

"I feel that Oak Hill is different because we do not just fit 4-H in when we can," said fifth-grade teacher Andrea Dowdy. "We, at Oak Hill, make it a priority.

"The benefits of 4-H are so incredible that we have to prioritize it within our curriculum. The public speaking requirements help the students with projects that are to come later on in middle and high school."

Every fifth grade 4-H'er is asked to complete a four to six minute public speaking demonstration with posters and props.

Oak Hill has 100 percent participation because teachers Nicole Benton, Lisa Bond, Andrea Dowdy, and Colt Harper spend an entire week on 4-H projects, requiring every student to complete the assignment during October of each year.

The school provides posters as well as personal support for each student through the process.

"This morning, a student told me what a great job Ms. Dowdy did helping him with his project,so even the students understand the importance of teacher support," said Lawrence.

Each month, a portion of the class takes a turn presenting at the 4-H meeting.

In addition to projects, Cloverleaf 4-H'ers are encouraged to participate in service projects throughout the year, such as recycling pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House charities and collecting new and used books for local literacy programs.

"The public service helps the students to become better people within the community, to take care of the environment for years to come, and most importantly, to have compassion for others," said Dowdy.

Newton County 4-H serves Cloverleaf 4-H'ers in every fifth-grade class at 10 elementary schools, as well as through home school and other countywide clubs.

"For most classes, 4-H is something they see an hour a month. Other than a project and maybe a few workbooks, or bringing in pop tabs for a service project, many won't become more active," said Lawrence.

"But some teachers really go the extra mile, and the entire team at Oak Hill is a perfect example. They realize that 4-H work ties to the curriculum, and what student doesn't want some fun to go along with the school work?"

4-H lessons and projects meet Georgia Performance Standards, reinforcing the lessons students learn in the classroom with hands-on activities.
Additionally, Oak Hill clubs invite third and fourth grade classes to take part in 4-H meetings.

The older students lead the meeting and present demonstrations, teaching the younger students what to expect from 4-H.

"Our goal as teachers is to mold each child to become the best that they can be in life. With 4-H on our team, Oak Hill students are destined for greatness." said Dowdy.

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