4-H in Lawrence County
The first 4-H meeting in Lawrence County was held around 1915. The club was a potato and corn club started by the superintendent of schools. By 1926 there were four 4-H clubs with 39 members.
Since then the 4-H program has grown and changed. It offers youth ages 8-18 over 150 projects to choose from. Lawrence County, currently, has clubs involved in 70 projects ranging from animals and agriculture to computers and roller skating. Lawrence County 4-H offers 63 clubs that serve over 1,300 youth in our county. The adults in our community also are active in 4-H with over 165 adult volunteers working with the youth.
Every 4-H project teaches the members life skills. These life skills include: personal development, value development, social and interpersonal relationships, leadership, citizenship, communications, and career education. 4-H is a "hands on" educational process that allows our young people to learn through practical experience. Members have the opportunity to be a leader, speak before groups, travel, meet new people, explore career possibilities, and experience different ways of life.
A wide array of county, regional, state, and national activities are available for 4-H member to participate in.
At these events members interact with 4-H members from across Pennsylvania and the United States. There are also opportunities to meet county, state, and federal officials.
History of 4-H in Pennsylvania
Early records show that 4-H originated in Pennsylvania in Mercer County. Charles G. McBride, Extension Agent for six western Pennsylvania Counties, had his office in Mercer. He held meetings in the fall of 1912 with the cooperation of the Grange to organize a corn growing contest in 1913. Fourteen boys and one girl entered that contest , which was won by the girl. The first Pennsylvania 4-H club met in the courthouse at Mercer under the guidance of County Agent McBride. The first club held a camp for a week at Hamburg, PA, had several picnics, and finished the year with a trip to State College by train from Pittsburgh to visit The Pennsylvania State College.
The first definite projects for boys and girls in Pennsylvania were outlined in 1916. There was some loosely organized work through the schools in counties where County Extension Associations, as we now know them, were not organized.
4-H has evolved from teaching exclusively agriculture and home economics in clubs to much more today. It has added emphasis on personal growth and leadership skills. Projects now include hobbies, community development, citizenship, nutrition, health, consumer education, and sports in addition to the traditional agriculture and home economics related projects.
National 4-H History
The foundation for present day 4-H club work was laid in the rural schools about 1900. County school superintendent O. H. Benson of Wright County, Iowa, sought ways to revitalize the rural school program after he surveyed the students and learned 90 percent intended to leave the farm. He felt that the old regime embodying reading, writing, and arithmetic was not enough. He wanted a school program more directly related to the everyday lives of the pupils and emphasizing the many splendid advantages of rural life.
Accordingly, in several places across the county, school men began to distribute garden seeds, seed corn, and flower seeds to school pupils. Following instruction, the pupils were to plant the seeds and tend their crops and gardens. In the fall, the schools held rural life day programs at which the products of field and garden grown by the pupils were exhibited and prizes for the best specimens were awarded.
Reports of success with these activities were given at educational meetings, and the practice spread across the land.
As these school clubs progressed it was helpful to call upon the various state agricultural colleges and experiment stations for subject-matter assistance. Gradually this led to the association of agricultural colleges. When the Smith-Lever Act was passed by congress in 1914, it provided for federal and state funds to be used for work with boys and girls in rural areas. Thus, national 4-H club work became an activity of the land grant colleges and less an activity of the rural schools. In some special situations, however, 4-H club work is still carried on locally through schools.