SUSSEX COUNTY-Just about everyone is familiar with the 4-H logo, a green clover with the bold white letter "H" on each leaf. But not everyone knows that the four Hs stand for head, heart, hands and health. The words are included in the organization's pledge: "I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world." "We're often asked this question," said Kevin J. Mitchell, Sussex County 4-H agent. "Everyone has heard of 4-H, but not many people know what the organization really does, or even the meaning of the four H's." The 4-H youth development program celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2002. Originally 4-H began as clubs to teach boys and girls skills related to agriculture and farm life. Today 4-H reaches more than 6.8 million young people across the country, and not just in rural areas. The first 4-H Club in New Jersey was organized in Sussex County in March, 1913. In 2004 Sussex County has 58 4-H Clubs, 682 4-H members, and 126 4-H volunteer adults. 4-H clubs are open to children in grades 4 through one-year out of high school and 4-H Prep programs are available to children in grades 1-3. "There's still a misconception out there that you have to live on a farm or own a farm animal to participate in 4-H," explained Mitchell. "That just isn't the case. 4-H offers dozens of different project areas of interest to young people from all walks of life. And if you have an interest in an animal, but can't own one yourself, there is still a place for you in 4-H." Each 4-H club centers on a particular subject area, so the club members share a common interest. 4-H Clubs in Sussex County include the following subject areas: beef, cooking, crafts, dogs, dairy, horses, gardening, goats, guinea pigs, hiking, rabbits, pigs, Seeing Eye, sewing, science, sheep, shooting sports, leadership development for teens, water ecology, wildlife, woodcraft, and K'nexters. Regardless of the project area, the one theme consistent throughout 4-H is a learn-by-doing approach. 4-H encourages young people to learn new skills and take on new responsibilities. The goal is to teach children important life skills that will allow them to become productive members of society. Through the 4-H Public Presentation program, members present a program once a year in front of their fellow 4-H'ers about their club's project area. In this way, the members not only learn more about a subject in which they already have an interest, but they each learn how to organize a presentation and gain public speaking skills. 4-H also offers science enrichment programs to the general public throughout the year at libraries, schools, parks, and other venues. These programs include: Spiders Are Spiderrific, Trees Are Tree-mendous, I Spy
Science, and Fossils Are Fantastic. The 4-H Youth Development Program is part of Rutgers Cooperative Extension. For more information, call 973-948-3040 or visit nj4h.rutgers.edu.