Local 4-H clubs take a winning approach to life skills

Clubs teach more than how to raise animals to over 500 members in Kitsap County.

For over a hundred years, America’s 4-H clubs have promoted self-confidence, responsibility and lifelong friendships in 5- to 19-year-olds through projects from art to animals. Here in the Kingston area, a number of 4-H clubs teach young people lessons in responsibility, community service and leadership. Throughout Kitsap County there are more than 500 4-H Club members and 200 adult leaders.

“4-H isn’t just about animals,” said Llamas 4 Love leader, Pam Flaman. “The kids can learn about all kinds of things including government and computer science.”

This year, a new leadership opportunity for 4-H youth, the Teen Action Group, or TAG, will focus on the role of county government. Six high school-aged club members will study local government before traveling to Olympia to present their own platforms and campaign for their chosen candidates.

All 4-H members practice public speaking skills with a yearly presentation. The topic is often related – but not limited to – their club project. Other requirements for members include keeping a record book and attending at least six events or meetings per year on their chosen project. Individual clubs may offer several projects such as poultry, computers or sewing. Or a club may concentrate on only one project, as do many of the horse groups. Most clubs meet once a week throughout the school year. There are four age levels: primary, Kindergarten through second grade; junior, third through fifth grades; intermediate, sixth through eighth grades; and senior, ninth through 12th grades.

Twin Lakes Camp in the Tahuya Forest is a vacation favorite of 4-H members. Another summer adventure is the Kitsap County Fair, which, though not required, is a much-anticipated event for many 4-H members. The fair is the culmination of the 4-H year in the county, and many children prepare and practice all year to show off their skills and/or animals at this local competition. For clubs showing animals, the fair is also a big commitment that requires participating members to work shifts throughout all five days. 4-H’ers winning blue ribbons at the Kitsap fair are invited to compete at the state fair in Puyallup.

“We’ve had kids in our group who can’t to attend (the) fair, but the joy and pride on their faces when they can show off what they have taught their dog to do is just as valuable as any ribbon they may have earned,” said Peggy VanDeen, leader of Kingston K-9s, a 4-H Club for kids and their dogs. “With the hands-on learning we do, the kids can really see their efforts pay off. They learn how much their animal depends on them; it’s not just a toy to play with and put away.”

Adults are encouraged to sign up as club or project leaders. It’s not necessary to be an expert in the project subject; the organization will provide assistance. In addition, the leaders are often helped by the older children who act as mentors to the younger members. Adult leaders undergo on-line training, a background check and provide references.

“The real focus of 4-H is to create caring, competent citizens,” said Kelly Fisk, 4-H Development Educator for WSU Kitsap County Extension. “For teens, it provides leadership opportunities and gives them ways to give back to their community. That’s huge.”

4-H opportunities

in the North End

Kingston K-9s, Kingston

Project: dog care and training

Club leader: Peggy VanDeen

The Right Lead, Kingston

Project: horses

Club leader: Kathy Watson

Renaissance Roosters, Hansville

Projects: poultry and art

Club leader: Rosanne Carlson

Llamas 4 Love, Hansville

Project: llamas

Club leader: Pam Flaman

Creative Creatures, Poulsbo

Projects: rabbits and photography

Club leader: Jill Schwartz

Explorers, Poulsbo

Projects: a club for homeschoolers that includes a wide variety of science and art projects

Club leader: Kadi McLearnsberry

Horseketeers, Poulsbo

Project: horses

Club leader: Leslie Brown

Happy Trails, Poulsbo

Project: horses

Club leader: Bobbie Battaglia

Note: this club is full, but should have openings in September.

For more information or to contact clubs call Kelly Fisk, 4-H Development Educator for WSU Kitsap County Extension, at (360) 337-7162.