When 4-H leaders walk into a fifth grade classroom, the students smile and start sneaking notebooks back into their desks. They seem to think they get a break from learning for the next hour.
And that’s the beauty of 4-H.
Aside from a few handouts and Friends workbooks, there is no textbook.
There are no grades, unless your teacher gives points for completing 4-H work.
It seems like fun free time.
But that’s where the kids are wrong — we just like to sneak learning and state standards in disguised as “fun.”
Like in any other activity, though, you get out of it what you put into it.
And for 10 years, Oak Hill Elementary has been putting a lot into 4-H.
In recognition for earning the most 4-H points of any Newton County school each of those 10 years, they’ve earned a trophy for the lobby case. The biggest points are awarded for educational activities, followed by service and citizenship activities. Fun events like the skate party round out the bottom of the points list.
This year, we’re proud to note — they’re still trying to figure out how to fit the new trophy in the case!
Three of our top-five clubs were also from Oak Hill, with Ms. Dowdy in first, Mr. Harper in second, and Ms. Benton in third.
So what’s the secret at Oak Hill, we’re often asked.
First and foremost, 4-H is a part of Oak Hill Elementary. It’s not “extracurricular” or “just another requirement.”
The entire school is invited to help collect pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House, books for local literacy projects, and anything else for a 4-H service project.
By third or fourth grade, most students have been invited to watch 4-H meetings in action.
I can spot 4-H photos on the television announcements as I walk into Oak Hill, highlighting 4-H Week spirit activities or other events.
I’ve even seen the sign out front celebrating National 4-H Week.
Before they ever reach fifth grade, Oak Hill students know all about pledging their hands to greater service and heads to clearer thinking. They know what a good 4-H demonstration looks like, and they know what is expected of 4-H officers.
When they enter fifth grade, they find out that everyone including the teacher is a part of 4-H.
Everyone is wearing green or a clover when I walk into a classroom on 4-H day.
Officers are elected and prepared by the teachers before we even arrive to introduce 4-H for the first time.
An entire week is dedicated to projects, and teachers across the school help with posters, speeches and ideas.
This year one of the students proudly told me how one of his other teachers helped him glue red clay all over his title poster for a demonstration on dirt biking. Sometimes I hear about an art teacher who helped draw an illustration or parent volunteers who assisted in cutting out letters.
Clearly, 4-H demonstrations are a priority here — and with good reason.
Rather than ask the students to complete a 4-H project just for 4-H, the teachers work this into their regular lesson plans, as it meets so many requirements for fifth grade students.
This year, we even added a component asking students to relate their chosen topic to a potential career for the latest fifth grade standards. I heard all about careers like real estate agents, soldiers, athletic coaches, mechanics, doctors, scientists and horse trainers, from students interested in projects in those fields.
The end result is two entire club meetings overflowing with well-researched, organized and informative speeches.
Keep in mind those younger visitors, too — these 10 and 11 year olds usually give their speeches in front of 40 to 60 people.
By January, there’s no doubt they’re ready for competition.
Twenty-seven Oak Hill 4-H’ers competed at County Project Achievement last year. Fifteen moved on to represent our county at District Project Achievement.
Three of our 21 competitors at Junior-Senior DPA this year were Oak Hill alumni; another alumna went all the way to State 4-H Congress the previous three years.
So what is different about Oak Hill Elementary?
Oak Hill is making the best better every day, and not just in 4-H meetings.
Oak Hill Elementary is Georgia 4-H.
Terri Kimble Fullerton is a Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.