General Information

4-H is a global network of youth organizations whose mission is “engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development“. It’s formation goes all the way back to 1901. In the United States, the organization is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Throughout the world, 4-H organizations exist in over 50 countries; the organization and administration varies from country to country. Each of these programs operates independently, but cooperatively through international exchanges, global education programs, and communications.

The 4-H name represents four personal development areas of focus for the organization: head, heart, hands, and health. The organization has over 6.5 million members in the United States, from ages 5 to 21, in approximately 90,000 clubs.

The goal of 4-H is to develop citizenship, leadership, responsibility and life skills of youth through experiential learning programs and a positive youth development approach. Though typically thought of as an agriculturally focused organization as a result of its history, 4-H today focuses on citizenship, healthy living, science, engineering, and technology programs.

The 4-H motto is “To make the best better“, while its slogan is “Learn by doing” (sometimes written as “Learn to do by doing”).

School Programs and Community Clubs

4-H clubs and school programs provide youth development and youth mentoring programs to kids ages 8-18. 4-H programs are available in urban, suburban, and rural communities and membership in 4-H is free – it costs nothing to join. 4-H youth are not required to purchase uniforms and member expenses are kept to a minimum. 4-H programs and 4-H enrollment are managed by local 4-H offices, like your McCracken County 4-H office.

4-H School Programs

4-H in-school programs and clubs typically run in conjunction with the school year and meet during school hours. In-school 4-H programs directly support school curriculum and in-school 4-H clubs offer enrichment activities beyond the classroom. 4-H after-school programs and clubs meet after school hours (between the hours of 3:00 – 6:00 PM) in a school or other community center. 4-H after-school programs and clubs incorporate 4-H curriculum.

4-H Clubs

4-H clubs are available at the community, project, or special interest group level.

Community 4-H clubs have a planned program that runs throughout the year and focuses on a variety of self-chosen learning experiences and activities. Examples include photography, robotics, gardening, animal science, ecology, rocketry, textiles, and cooking. 4-H community clubs typically meet in the evenings or on the weekend.

Project 4-H clubs also provide planned programs that run throughout the year and focus on one project area. Project 4-H clubs typically meet in the evenings or on the weekend. 4-H special interest groups are short-term, focus on a specific learning experience and are not limited to members of 4-H clubs.

The 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.

The original pledge was written by Otis E. Hall of Kansas in 1918. Originally, the pledge ended in “and my country”. In 1973, “and my world” was added.

It is a common practice to involve hand motions to accompany these spoken words. While reciting the first line of the pledge, the speaker will point to their head with both of their hands. As the speaker recites the second line, they will place their right hand over their heart, much like during the Pledge of Allegiance. For the third line, the speaker will present their hands, palm side up, before them. For the fourth line, the speaker will motion to their body down their sides (health). And for the final line, the speaker will usually place their right hand out for club, left hand for community, bring them together for country, and then bring their hands upwards in a circle for world.

The 4-H Emblem

The official 4-H emblem is a green four-leaf clover with a white H on each leaf standing for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. White and green are the 4-H colors. The white symbolizes purity and the green represents growth.

The idea of using the four-leaf clover as an emblem for the 4-H program is credited to Oscar Herman Benson (1875–1951). When Wright County school superintendent Benson dropped by to visit a one-room schoolhouse near Clarion, Iowa, the students outside for recess presented him with a goodwill gift of seven just-picked four-leaf clovers.

This simple gesture inspired Benson to select the four-leaf clover for the 4-H emblem. He awarded three-leaf and four-leaf clover pennants and pins for students’ agricultural and domestic science exhibits at school fairs that Benson promoted.