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Making The Best Better: Kids Learning Life Skills

by Stephanie Baker

Sisters Sondy Sanders and Sandy Allen have spent 25 years together as 4-H leaders.

The organization champions learning in the context of real-world applications. 4-H offers a variety of educational extracurricular activities for kids five years through 12th grade. The animals gain the children’s interest, but the organization also offers environmental science, STEM, and speech in addition to hands-on agricultural learning.

“We are giving every child a chance to learn about what they are interested in. The group will divide into interest groups to learn about topics the students choose. Each interest group will use the same topic and break it down for children of different ages. An example we just did was learning how popcorn pops. The smaller kids had fun learning the simple science while high schoolers tackled the topic on a higher-level, learning about the chemistry involved,” said Sanders.

“The older children and younger children learn beside each other, increasing the bonds between children, and teaching the older children leadership skills. It helps grow kids who are service minded,” added Allen.

Sanders and Allen, who are twins, both teachers at Oark Schools, are dedicated to making sure their students are receiving an education both inside and outside the classroom. Other than sports, Oark doesn’t have many offerings of extracurriculars for students. 4-H is the only year-round activity for elementary age children at Oark.

“The organization is whatever you want it to be. You can participate as much or as little as you like,” said Sanders.

“You absolutely get out what you put in,” added Allen.

In Johnson County, more than 160 4-H youth and 20 volunteers from the community are involved in 4‑H.

“It’s a great opportunity for youth to acquire knowledge and skills and develop healthy lifestyles they can use for the rest of their lives. 4-H project work promotes lifelong skills in leadership, citizenship, and decision-making, helping youth achieve their fullest potential,” said Jeanie Rowbotham, county extension agent of 4-H.

The organizations 4 H’s stand for: head, heart, hands, and health. All four play a role in the education the children gain through service projects, competitions, and independent study.

For the full story see the Oct. 11 issue of The Graphic.

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