4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills. 4-H is the youth development program of the Clemson University* Cooperative Extension Service. As an informal, practical educational program for youth, 4-H is where there's fun in learning and learning in fun! (*4-H programs in the state of South Carolina are also offered via South Carolina State University.)
The South Carolina 4-H Youth Development Program uses a learn-by-doing approach, the involvement of caring adults, and the knowledge and resources of Clemson University and the land grant university system to empower youth to become healthy, productive, and contributing members of society.
4-H is for all youth, wherever they live -on farms, in suburbs, in cities. 4-H serves youth form all backgrounds and interests. It reaches boys and girls through 4-H clubs, special interest groups, short term projects, school ages child care, school enrichment, and camping. Most 4-H members do not live on farms and the participate in contemporary projects such as robotics, rocketry, animals sciences, healthy lifestyles and nutrition, shooting sports, etc. 4-H offers membership on an age appropriate basis without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital or family status.
4-H clubs are the foundation of the 4-H program. A 4-H club is a group of five or more youth guided by one or more adult volunteer leaders. A club can be any size, from a small group of kids from one neighborhood to a larger group consisting of youth from all over the county.
A 4-H club usually concentrates on one or more projects such as gardening, woodworking, small animals, food and nutrition, photography, etc. 4-H members build leadership by electing officers and conducting their own business meetings; work together on community service activities; meet new friends; and most important, have lots of fun.
Youth, ages 5-19, can be club members and enroll in many different 4-H projects. Younger 4-H members (ages 5-8) are provided a non-competitive learning experience as "Cloverbuds". Sometimes Cloverbuds are in separate clubs where they sample a variety of 4-H projects. Older 4-H members also have special opportunities, such as serving on a county-wide 4-H teen council or participating in state programs and events.
There is a $10 annual membership fee to participate in any 4-H club or project. This fee is waived for any group already assembled that participate in enrichment type activities, such as a school class. Once the fee has been paid for the club year, which runs September through August, it will not need to be paid again and the 4-Her can participate in anything 4-H in any South Carolina county. Some clubs, projects, and camps may have separate fees in addition to the annual membership fee.
4-H clubs were preceded by corn clubs for boys and canning clubs for girls, organized in the early 1900s by public school educators who wanted to broaden the knowledge and experience of their students. 4-H became an official part of the Cooperative Extension Service, along with agriculture and home economics, at about the time Cooperative Extension was officially established by the US Congress in 1914. The term "4-H Club" first appeared in a federal document in 1918, and by the mid 1920s 4-H was well on its way to becoming a significant national program for youth. 4-H is an American idea that has spread around the world. Throughout its long history, 4-H has constantly adapted to the ever changing needs and interests of youth.
Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, of which 4-H is a part, receives funds from a cooperative partnerships of three levels of government: federal (via the Cooperative State Research, Education & Extension Service of the US Department of Agriculture), state (via Clemson University Public Service & Agriculture), and, in some cases, county funding. 4-H also receives support from private sources.
Volunteers are the key to providing 4-H programs for youth. Capable, interested adult volunteers are always needed to lead clubs and to assist with 4-H activities. Orientation and training is provided, so no previous experience is necessary. 4-H volunteers are supported by a professional staff, including a county 4-H agent who is a faculty member of Clemson University. The county 4-H agent is responsible for the county wide 4-H program and also has state and national responsibilities. There are various county 4-H support and advisory groups made up of interested adult volunteers. State and national 4-H personnel assist county 4-H professionals.
THe 4-H emblem is a green four leaf clover with a white H on each leaflet, symbolizing Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. The 4-H emblem was patented in 1924.
At 4-H club meetings and other events, 4-H members recite the Pledge of Allegiance and this 4-H pledge:
I pledge my Head to clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service, and my Health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.
"To Make the Best Better"
"Learn by Doing"
4-H programs are conducted in counties all across the United States, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. In addition, more than 80 countries around the world have youth programs similar to 4-H, with an overall enrollment of about 10 million youth.