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Posted: October 5, 2013 7:30 p.m.

Students need character education

During a 4-H meeting, one student shares a thought of the day.

While I love to hear some of my favorite quotes, I’m never sure if the students really take it in.

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind," a quote from Dr. Seuss, was read in a club meeting Friday.

But then, the student asked fellow class members if they had any other thoughts, and I was amazed at how many related to the quote presented.

"Be brave," said one student.

Another said, "Don’t let people ruin your dreams."

I was caught off-guard and couldn’t grab my pen quickly enough to jot down at least a half-dozen others.

They talked about bravery and confidence, things that aren’t usually listed on the board with the week’s curriculum standards.

1Requirements and standards in schools are all there for very good reasons, but as the school days become so crowded with curriculum standards, I am left wondering how it is I learned much of the same, yet still had time for activi- ties like 4-H and field trips.

Today’s classes seem to have less and less time for co-curricular activities that reinforce the lessons taught and add other elements, like leadership and citizenship.

This year, with yet another requirement added into fifth grade, we lost three schools --17 classes of children.

Sure, those kids could attend a 4-H program after school hours, but most will not, and I’m afraid that many who need 4-H the most wouldn’t be able to arrange transportation even if they wanted to attend.

They will probably still do presentations in class, since that’s a fifth-grade curriculum standard, but I guess I’ve always been partial to 4-H founder G.C. Adams’ idea that friendly competitions make learning just a little more fun.

The Newton County superintendent of schools in 1904 started the Covington Boys’ Corn Club to teach something useful, but in a way that kids wanted to learn. The way that model spread like wildfire across the state and country, we know it was a great idea.

Today, more than 6 million youths around the world learn in hands-on activities with 4-H, often not even realizing it’s educational because it’s so much fun.

The teacher in Friday’s class added her own thought of the day:

"There are certain things that a textbook or a test is not going to give you," she said.

She pointed to her wall display of "character traits" and reminded the students that these are things that will matter many years from now.

She talked about the "Character Counts" curriculum that just a handful of years ago was taught in schools, but now has fallen by the wayside, since things like respect, responsibility and trustworthiness don’t show up on standardized tests.

This particular school doesn’t just squeeze an hour for 4-H into the monthly schedule; this school makes it a part of the learning experience.

It uses 4-H projects to meet curriculum standards, challenges the whole school to participate in service projects, and reinforces the leadership of officers even when we’re not there.

We all need a strong educational base, but the community service, leadership and citizenship taught through participation in 4-H are also incredibly important.

I loved to volunteer in the community, serve as an officer in my clubs and to write for the student newspaper.

None of those things counted toward the GPA colleges would look at one day, though, so I can see how some people would count them as less important.

However, when I look across our community at the number of 4-H alumni just from my generation who are running youth arts programs and schools, serving on the Board of Education, teaching, working in economic development, and volunteering, I know that those things do matter. That’s not even counting those 4-H’ers who came before and after me, now serving in elected leadership positions, running local businesses and shaping our community in so many other ways.

If you know a youth who could use 4-H, our next community meetings are Oct. 14 for middle and high school students and Oct. 11 for youths ages 9 and up.

Call 770-784-2010 for details.

Terri Kimble Fullerton is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at tkimble@uga.edu.

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