Iowa 4-H Serves Changing Needs of Iowa Youth

Partnerships bring Iowa State cardinal and gold to the green 4-H clover.

April 12, 2017, 12:34 pm | Bonnie Dalager

4H BuildsAMES, Iowa – Iowa 4-H is committed to serving all Iowa youth.

That’s a tall claim, but one Iowa 4-H has been fulfilling for nearly 120 years as the youth development program of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

As a university program, 4-H continues to respond to the needs of young people through hands-on experiences that maintain a focus on community needs. 4-H programs adjust as the interests of young people evolve, and university research and education advances.

“In fact, 4-H was doing STEM and STEAM plus, long before they were popular – because kids were excited about these experiences,” said John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas, ISU Extension and Outreach 4-H program leader.

Chaisson-Cardenas is proud of the progress 4-H is having in Iowa. “In the last year, Iowa 4-H has increased reach to youth populations including students in grades K-3, youth of color, and youth who live in both rural and urban communities, thanks to dedication of over 10,000 volunteers,” he said.  

Iowa 4-H'ers participate in club programs in their communities, as a part of in-school or after-school programs, regional events and showcase opportunities and in statewide and national events.

The State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa brings junior and senior high school students to campus for a two-day competition with over $60,000 worth of awards and scholarships. All Iowa youth are welcome to participate in the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference each summer, where nearly 1,000 youth explore Iowa State and launch college and professional careers.  

Iowa 4-H is reaching underrepresented and underserved youth and encouraging participation in local 4-H learning communities through Culturally-based Youth Leadership Accelerator events. Events such as the Maize retreat strengthen the relationship between youth of color and local 4-H programs, and introduce underrepresented youth to post-secondary education resources.  

Through dynamic partnerships that reach across the Iowa State University campus and throughout each of the counties in Iowa, 4-H is reaching one in five Iowa youth with educational programming that has high content and quality.  

In collaboration with the College of Design and Engineering, the FLEx (Forward Learning Experience) program allows students and teachers to expand their knowledge of design thinking and receive hands-on experiences with virtual reality, immersive visualization, interactive circuit building and 3D printing.  

The Iowa State University Animal Science Department has partnered with 4-H to develop Animal U, an educational curriculum with creative, interactive video modules to educate young people on livestock project topics including daily care, health, recordkeeping, handling, nutrition, biosecurity and industry advocacy and careers.   

Iowa 4-H is also collaborating with the ISU Switch team through a new USDA funded project, enrolling schools and counties in an evaluation of school-based modules designed to enhance integration with school wellness programming. Switch is an evidence-based obesity prevention program designed for use in schools.  

In 4-H, youth are empowered to reach their full potential in partnership with caring adult volunteers, and prepare to be successful, contributing members of society.  

Families interested in locating a local 4-H club can go to the 4-H section of their county website, found at By clicking on “join 4-H,” you can see an interactive map that will show all of the 4-H clubs in your county. 

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