What is 4-H
4-H empowers youth to reach their full potential through youth-adult partnerships and research-based experiences.
We, the youth and adults of the 4-H movement, value:
- Youth as powerful members of society
- Youth and adults as caring partners
- Learning as a lifelong commitment
- Diversity and social conscience
- Doing our best and making it better
4-H youth programs provide opportunities for youth to develop skills they can use now and throughout their life. Iowa 4-H builds upon a century of experience as it fosters positive youth development that is based on the needs and strengths of youth, their families, and communities.
Iowa 4-H follows the principles of experiential learning, and draws on the knowledge base of Iowa State University and other institutions of higher education in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. The Iowa 4-H Program’s vision and mission statements clearly view youth as partners working with staff and volunteers, and as full participants in planning and working for individual and community change.
Youth development research emphasizes the importance of meeting the four basic human needs of belonging, generosity, independence, and mastery. Studies indicate that youth whose needs are met in positive ways are likely to develop into active citizens and contributing members of their families and communities. The Iowa 4-H program ensures that every youth will have the opportunity to participate in 4-H experiences that strengthen a young person’s sense of belonging, generosity, independence, and mastery.
- Belonging – Youth need to know they are cared about by others and feel a sense of connection to others in group settings. 4-H gives youth the opportunity to feel physically and emotionally safe while actively participating in a group.
- Generosity – Youth need to feel their lives have meaning and purpose. By exploring 4-H community service and citizenship activities, youth can connect to communities and learn to give back to others.
- Independence – Youth need to know that they are able to influence people and events through decision-making and action. By exercising independence through 4-H leadership opportunities, youth mature in self-discipline and responsibility and learn to better understand themselves.
- Mastery – Youth need to feel and believe they are capable, and experience success at solving problems and meeting challenges to develop their self-confidence. Through the exploration of ideas and activities related to their interests, youth learn skills and participate in experiences that help them make positive life choices for their future.
Iowa 4-H youth programs address the needs of young people by focusing on their strengths and capacities and the essential elements of positive youth development programming. The essential elements of a 4-H experience are the “best practices” that help staff and volunteers address the four basic developmental needs of youth. The 4-H program’s vision, mission, and values emphasize the importance of youth and adults working as partners to improve the group experience as well. A positive youth-adult partnership ensures that the essential elements are being practiced in 4-H programming.
Did you know that national research shows that 4-H youth are competent, confident, connected, character-driven, caring, and contributors to their communities? Learn more in the Tufts' Research 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development Reports Waves 1–5; Waves 1–4
Did you know that Iowa research shows that 4-H youth credit their 4-H club experiences as making them stronger citizens, leaders, and communicators? 2008 Iowa 4-H Research Study Fact Sheet