Learning By Doing

A couple of months ago, the little neighbor girl I mentor in 4-H stopped over at my house to tell me she’d recruited two other girls to join our club.

First, though, Alyssa asked me if I could tell them about 4-H.

Hmmm, that’s easy enough. I told the girls they get to attend monthly meetings, gain public speaking and leadership skills, give a demonstration, complete records and “learn by doing.”

Jennifer gets wet!

I talked about the fair and how they could make projects and earn ribbons, and I could tell they were thinking it all sounded kind of fun.

And then I told them about our Community Pride projects in the Ocheda Beavers … how we have a prairie garden and they get to visit my parents’ farm a few times during the summer to pull weeds. I also mentioned that we get to pick up garbage around the Lake Bella dam area; and finally, I told them we’ll take a boat ride and collect water samples on Lake Ocheda this summer.

Alyssa collecting a water sample.

I think they may have joined 4-H for the chance to win a purple ribbon, but to be completely honest, I’m pretty sure the weed pulling, garbage collecting and water sampling cinched the deal.

On Monday afternoon, four kids strapped themselves into my car and we headed for Pickeral Park on Lake Ocheda to meet Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator Dan Livdahl.

Dan has been wonderfully patient with the kids in our 4-H club, teaching them over the course of the past four years how to collect water samples, measure water clarity and plant a prairie garden. In essence, he has planted the seed in the minds of our Ocheda Beavers to take pride in their environment.

I get to see that pride show through often with neighbors Andy and Alyssa who, while they think it’s fun to pick up garbage left by fishermen at the Bella Dam, can’t understand why people would take such disregard for their environment and leave things like fishing line, bait bowls, beer cans and water bottles on the shoreline.

Maria watches water clarity test.

They want clean shorelines, they want clean lakes, and they are willing to do what they can to help … it’s what the 4-H Community Pride project is all about. Alyssa’s two new recruits, Jennifer and Maria, had their first taste of it on Monday.

Not only did they get to go for a boat ride and collect water samples, they helped plant the seeds harvested from our club’s prairie garden at a site in the Lake Bella Park. Then, they helped pick up the garbage around the Bella Dam.

Some might look at the projects as a lot of work, but to my four neighbor kids it was a day I think they’ll remember for a long time because of the laughter, the silliness and the fun.

While I will certainly remember the afternoon for all of those things, I think what is most important to me is knowing these kids truly were “Learning by Doing.” That’s what 4-H is all about.

2 Responses

  1. suzanne silva

    Hi Julie! Got post, you hit the nail on the head. Our daughter, Saydi, was in Girl Scouts and I even took classes to assist with being a Troup Leader. We had great experiences. I especially liked the camping and cooking in a solar oven the girls made as one of their projects.

    1. Julie Buntjer

      Thanks for reading, Suzanne. I often think we as adult volunteers in clubs – whether 4-H or Scouts – learn just as much as the kids do. It’s great fun!

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