The Military 4-H Club Grant Program provides opportunities to more than 24,000 military youth in 44 states and territories. State and county staff also have provided training for more than 1,300 military youth program staff.
4-H Helps Military Youth and Families Worldwide
Moving is part of military life, yet packing up the family, saying “goodbye,” and moving to a new place adds challenges and opportunities. Children can be particularly vulnerable during relocation, especially if one or both parents are being deployed.
Thanks to the 4-H and Army, Air Force, and Navy Partnership Projects, children (ages 5–18) of U.S. military families can join a 4-H club, afterschool program, or project group at one installation and continue in the project or a similar program at a new location in a different state or country.
“The goal,” said Marlene Glasscock, 4-H Military Partnerships director, “is to provide a consistent environment for positive youth development, wherever the family is located.”
At McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, 4-H afterschool programs are serving children ages 5 to 12. Enrollment in the McConnell program varies, with as many as 75 children in the summer and 40 to 50 during the school year, said Melodie Skillman, McConnell School-Age Program director, who’s been using the 4-H curriculum for five years.
“The curriculum is research based and proven to meet children’s needs,” Skillman said. “With the different curriculum available, we can expose children to a wide variety of learning experiences.”
Military parents -- such as Gregory and Denise Beamon who came to Wichita in 2006 from Guam -- are enthusiastic about the educational opportunities. Their daughter, Daja, is a third-grader who enjoys field trips and learning opportunities offered through the 4-H programs.
Denise, an afterschool program assistant, explains: “It’s exciting to watch the kids grow. They’ve been learning cooking skills and another mom came in and said: ‘I had no idea my daughter learned there’s a right way to crack an egg.’”
The military partnership concept was introduced in 1995 with the 4-H/Army Youth Development Project. Specialists and youth development professionals from land-grant universities in Kansas, Alabama, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington shared responsibilities for developing the educational programs.
“Much of what we do is ‘4-H 101’ training for military youth development personnel who will be leading and delivering the programs,” said Carol Fink, state 4-H Youth Development specialist, who recently accepted an assignment as the 4-H Navy Youth Development specialist.
Regional training sessions sponsored by National 4-H Headquarters and the Air Force Airman and Family Services provide instruction, resources, and materials to more than 200 participants representing 56 Air Force bases and 4-H professionals from 34 states. The Navy effort is similar to Army programs, in that it will offer 4-H clubs, afterschool programs, and project clubs.
The curriculum has components that nurture mental and physical health and include learn-by-doing activities in food, nutrition, physical activity, and personal growth and development, Fink said. Science, engineering, and technology also are integral to the 4-H curriculum, which includes GPS (global positioning system), computer and aerospace technologies, and environmental education.
“The military recognizes that if military families do well, service men and women also will do well,” Fink said.