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Georgia 4-H rooted in academics By Sharon Dowdy

For many Georgians, the words “4-H” bring to mind club meetings and trips to Rock Eagle, the mountains or the beach for camp. But it’s about much more, says a Georgia 4-H program expert.

Operated by University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, 4-H lessons and in-school curricula are designed to meet Georgia Performance Standards, said Mandy Marable, Georgia 4-H curriculum specialist.

“4-H brings quality educational experiences to the students in all of Georgia’s counties,” Marable said. “In-school 4-H experiences open the door for myriad out-of-school opportunities. 4-H strives to bring relevance to academic knowledge with practical applications.”

Those programs and applications are all based on research conducted at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the state’s oldest land-grant university. CAES first offered Georgia’s 4-H program in 1904.

“The idea of bringing UGA research and resources to Georgia students through the use of county agents throughout the state was a cutting edge idea in 1904 and remains so even today,” said Arch Smith, Georgia 4-H state leader.

In Georgia, 4-H provides programs for more than 156,000 students ages 9 to 19. They learn about many topics, including community involvement, health, science, engineering, technology, leadership, agriculture and communication. Nationally, more than 7 million students are involved in 4-H, the largest youth development organization in the country.

Back in 1904, students applied new techniques to increase corn yields. Today, fifth-grade 4-H students learn about crop traits and genetics by using real-world examples and learning activities, Marable said.

“We pride ourselves on the fact that our 4-H youth development program was founded as a part of the school system in Georgia, and we remain a vital partner to schools throughout the state today,” she said.

Through 4-H Project Achievement, each year 10,000 Georgia youths learn public speaking skills, conduct research, prepare presentations, compile portfolios of their accomplishments and present their findings to a panel of experts.

Students can also learn responsibility through livestock projects, programs and judging. Georgia 4-H partners with Georgia FFA and the UGA Animal and Dairy Science Department to provide these programs. Every year, 2,400 4-H’ers complete a year-long process to prepare more than 4,500 animals for exhibition at the Georgia Junior National Livestock Show and other competitive events.

Successful Georgia 4-H alumni include Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, singer Jennifer Nettles of the Grammy-winning group Sugarland, Georgia governors Roy Barnes and Sonny Perdue, and legal commentator and television host Nancy Grace.

To learn more about Georgia 4-H, visit www.georgia4h.org.

(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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