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Every child can excel in 4H

In May during their monthly meeting, members of the Dynamite Kids 4-H Club brought their cell phones and digital cameras, and listened to a presentation on how to take better pictures. Lynn Moser, a Capital Electric Cooperative member and one of the founding leaders of the club, asked the kids to think about the subject of interest and depth of field, light and shadows, perspective high and low — and fill the frame before capturing a moment in time. She also advised them to shoot and shoot and shoot. Out of 10 photos taken, one might stand out based on the light, focus, composition and perspective.

How might this presentation help these 4-H members in the future? Maybe they’ll take an award-worthy photo and enter it in Achievement Days later this month. Or maybe they’ll make a scrapbook of photos taken during a special family vacation. Or maybe some of them will be photographers for their hometown newspaper or the North Dakota Living magazine.

“4-H gives the kids an opportunity to learn life skills,” says Julie Fornshell, one of the current leaders of the Dynamite Kids 4-H Club. “Whether it’s photography or baking or gardening, the kids are learning skills they can use down the road.”

Develop life skills

4-H is a fun, learn-by-doing educational program for young people. Cultivated by the North Dakota State University Extension Service, 4-H helps students develop citizenship, leadership, responsibility and life skills through experiential learning programs and a positive youth development approach.

The Dynamite Kids 4-H Club is one of 22 county clubs and 3 afterschool clubs in Burleigh County. Capital Electric Cooperative members Julie and Paul Fornshell became involved in the club years ago to involve their daughters, Carly and Nicole, with learning projects and community service. Julie and Doreen Swenson are the current leaders of the club, which has 13 members and many very involved parents.

“The parents of our club members are very valuable to our club,” says Fornshell. “They assist with teaching and providing lessons, and assisting in many, many ways.”

The club chooses projects based on the interest of its members that might result in something the kids can take to Achievement Days. Some past presentations have included cooking and baking, making crafts and homemade ropes. Last year, members planted flowers in old cowboy boots, rain boots and tennis shoes, and showed them as horticulture projects at Achievement Days.

Fornshell says not all meetings and presentations are project-related. A couple months ago, one member’s father gave a demonstration on prosthetics. “Whatever the kids learn, it is always related to life knowledge and skills,” she says.

It is also often related to community service. In the past, the Dynamite Kids 4-H Club has assisted with preparing food baskets for the American Legion Open Your Heart campaign, and helped put together birthday party items for kids whose parents cannot afford to give them a special day.

Fornshell participated in 4-H as a child, and says she wanted her daughters to have similar experiences and opportunities. From donating to food pantries and giving speeches, to making projects like tie blankets to decorate bedrooms and give as homemade gifts, the value of the 4-H program has been endless.

“Our kids have had to be secretary and treasurer for the club, so they learned how to balance a checkbook, write checks and take meeting minutes,” she says. “4-H always goes back to the development of life skills.”

Fornshell notes that not all students excel in athletics or music, or other areas associated with school. Because of the diversity of programs available through 4-H and the hands-on learning among students, leaders and parents, all children can learn and grow in 4-H.

“When the parents are involved, the kids get more out of it,” Fornshell notes. “Sometimes I’m helping a kid with a project and wonder if I’m helping too much. That’s okay! I’m

spending time with my daughters, and they are learning.”

Get involved

Families can join a local 4-H club at any time. The official start of the year is Sept. 1; planning is held every autumn featuring many kick-off activities. Achievement Days (exhibition of small and large animals, and static projects) and the North Dakota State Fair are held in July.

To learn more about 4-H or to find a club in the Capital Electric Cooperative service area close to you, contact Amelia Doll, the 4-H youth development extension agent in Burleigh County, at 701-221-6865 or Amelia.Doll@ndsu.edu.

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