Explore 4-H


“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.”

That’s the 4-H pledge written in 1927 and it still holds true today. Put your head, heart, hands, and health together and there’s no telling how far you can go! Learn more about this rockin’ organization.

4-H Service Project

What Is 4-H?

4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills as they work in partnership with caring adults.

What does that mean? In 4-H we are committed to helping young people develop skills that will help them succeed. We want to empower all youth to reach their full potential.

4-H Is Hands-on Learning

In 4-H youth learn by doing projects that are designed to fit their needs at different ages. Learn about the variety of projects from food to forestry, rockets and rabbits.

4-H gives kids and teens all kinds of opportunities to experience life skills, to practice them, and be able to use them throughout their lifetime.

4-H teaches young people how to meet their needs for belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity in positive ways.

In 4-H we work with young people in a variety of settings including schools, day camps, overnight camps, afterschool, clubs, and other learning environments.

4-H Is Based on Research

4-H Youth Development is part of Iowa State University Extension. ISU Extension research shows that Iowa youth credit their 4-H clubs with making them better citizens, leaders, and communicators.

Research from Tufts University shows that 4-H youth are competent, confident, caring, and connected, and that they exhibit strong character. The Tufts study shows that 4-H’ers contribute more to their families and communities, achieve higher grades in school and are more likely to go to college than youth who are not in 4-H, or even youth who participate in other out-of-school programs. In addition, youth involved in 4-H lead healthier, more productive lives, are less likely to suffer from depression and are less likely to participate in risky behaviors like drinking and smoking.

The Four H's explore 4-H Image

It wasn't until 1907 when Jessie Field Shambaugh, from Page County, and superintendent of Wright County Schools, O.H. Benson, started using a three leaf clover for the identity of boys and girls clubs. The three H's were for:

Head (was trained to think plan and reason);
Heart (to be kind true and sympathetic); and
Hands (to be useful, helpful, and skillful).
In 1911, when O.H. Benson worked in Washington D.C., the idea of the four-leaf clover came into play. He suggested the fourth "H" to stand for
Health (to resist disease, enjoy life, and make for efficiency).
Those are the four H's on the four-leaf clover.

The History of the 4-H Emblem

One sunny June morning in 1906 at a one-room country school near Clarion, Iowa, 11 pupils spent their recess outside searching for four-leaf clovers. They had plucked seven clovers when a visitor drove up, the Superintendent of schools. At the teacher's suggestion, the children surrendered their good luck charms and placed the seven clovers into the hands of the superintendent.

He said, "I've been looking for an emblem for the agricultural clubs and the schools of the county, and you have just given me that emblem, the four-leaf clover; it will help explain to young and old the message of a four square education." (In those early days, 4H was known as "four-square education," which was based upon educational, physical, moral, and fellowship development.)

The clover was officially adopted as the national emblem in 1911.

4-H at Iowa State University

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act. This provided "land grants" to enable states the establishment colleges of agriculture, mechanic arts, and homemaking with all phases of instruction. Many of the states acquired land form the government, and sold the land, investing the profits to pay for buildings, staff and associated expenses.

Iowa State University is a "Land Grant University" which was the product of Hatch Act of 1887. It established the foundation for experiment stations for discovering agricultural knowledge.

On May 8, 1914, President Wilson signed the Smith Lever Act, the federal bill that provided the mechanism of obtaining mutual support between the federal, state, and local, governments to provide an educational program that was to get its ideas and inspiration from people at all levels, from the farmers of the land to Washington D.C., thus creating extension, and the home of 4-H.

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