April 2008
4-H Extension Corner

4-H Extension Corner

By James Shropshire

There’s a popular television show that asks the question: "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?" A recent research survey suggests that while many American young people may be pretty smart, their knowledge of basic history and literature demonstrates "stunning ignorance." The survey found fewer than half of American teens knew the Civil War was fought some time between 1850 and 1900. One in four said Columbus sailed to the New World some time after 1750, not in 1492. A quarter of them were unable to correctly identify Hitler as Germany’s chancellor in World War II.

Our focus in 4-H is on building youth leadership through belonging, independence, generosity and mastery – what we call the "BIG M." Nonetheless, our commitment to young people leads us to be concerned for the future. Just as 4-H teaches young people we should learn from our mistakes, we should all be concerned since "those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

We may each interpret events differently, but there are important lessons in the histories of Richard Nixon, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident or the Cuban Missile Crisis. To wander a little further afield, current world events cannot be fully interpreted without some awareness of the history of Islam or the post-war creation of the country of Israel.

There’s an old joke that we want smart kids because they will be selecting our nursing homes for us. But we should also be concerned about a person who thinks the Civil War was fought in the 1920s has a vote just like you and me.

So, what can we do? There are political considerations; of course, we can gnash our teeth over a culture where more attention is paid to Brittany Spears than to economic issues. But I think we can have our greatest impact in our homes. I have suggested before parents and grandparents who demonstrate a love of learning will have children who follow that model. Those parents who mock education or make fun of those who are educated will have children who do the same.

There are many very simple things parents and families can do: turn off the television, review your child’s homework and grades with them, have books and magazines in your home and read to your child from an early age. If you want to really challenge your child to learn, make sure they are exposed to an array of experiences through travel and through meeting people who see the world differently from them. Dare your child to dream great dreams, and give them the tools to achieve those dreams.

Take a look at some of the things going on with 4-H and horses. The Alabama 4-H Horse Program has continued to grow the last few years. Today, there are more opportunities for 4-H horse enthusiasts to participate in across the state. The goal of the 4-H horse program is make resources available for both youth and adults by utilizing equines and the equine industry. This program is designed to provide youth with hands-on learning experiences to promote a sense of belonging and mastery. 4-H volunteers are in high demand to serve as mentors in supporting youth and adult partnerships. This is a chance for individuals of different ages and experiences to come together to learn from one another. Over the last 3 years, three events have been added to the Alabama 4-H Horse program: Alabama 4-H Master Horseman’s Clinic, 4-H Horse-N-Around Show & Educational Clinic and the Alabama 4-H Horse Judging Camp.

The Alabama 4-H Master Horseman’s Clinic is important in promoting equine education and safety. On December 8, 2007, 49 youth and adults attended a variety of workshops to further their equine knowledge. Workshop topics included nutrition, reproduction, analyzing equine gaits (biomechanics) and preventative horse care. A tour of the Auburn University (AU) College of Veterinary Medicine was the" kick off" to the day and all the educational workshops were conducted at the Veterinary College.

In conjunction with the workshops, riding lessons for 4-H youth were conducted at the Auburn University Horse Unit with the Equestrian Team coaching staff. Riders from beginner to advanced levels were able to further their horsemanship skills working with horses hands-on. The AU Horseman’s Club hosted an Equine Jeopardy game as a fun way to wrap up the day to focus on what took place in the educational workshops.

The 2008 4-H Horse-N-Around Show & Educational Clinic introduces young equestrians and horse lovers to the 4-H Horse Project and allows them to prepare for participation in the "4-H State Horse Show" while having fun in the process. This event takes place in Fayette at the new Fayette County Multi-Purpose Complex. Planned events will cover a wide range from educational events (non-riding) to Western and English riding and includes clinics for horse judging, horse quiz bowl and natural horsemanship techniques. A very unique feature of this show will be the format of the judging. The judge offers critique and coaching as in a clinic format in order to enhance the learning experience of both the riders and the spectators.

The Alabama 4-H Horse Judging Camp will be held on June 12th-14th at the AU College of Veterinary Medicine and AU Horse Unit. The focus of this camp will be to educate youth and adults on how to evaluate horses in a variety of performance disciplines. Youth and adults will be divided into beginner and intermediate/advanced levels. This is a neat way to teach youth about decision making, organization, public speaking and other life-building skills by using the horse as the educational tool.

For more information please contact Kirsten Holt, 4-H Regional Extension Agent, at the Lee County Extension Office 334-749-3353.

James Shropshire is the Alabama 4-H Regional Extension Agent for the Central Alabama Region. E-mail him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.?subject=From%20alafarmnews.com">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..