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4-H no longer only about agriculture

Local club offers crafts, cooking, scrapbooking, organic gardening projects
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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About six years ago, the Eureka/Granite Bay 4-H Club was on the verge of extinction.

But a small group of parents, including moms Linda Downs and Darlene Miller, stepped up to salvage the club, which had dropped significantly in membership with the lack of leadership.

Downs and Miller had seen their own kids grow in self-confidence and develop practical skills through their participation in the club.

“We didn’t want to see such a tradition die,” Downs said. “We wanted it to continue.”

With their help, the club is once again flourishing with about 50 members and evolving with new projects. Its organizers are eager to spread the word that the national 4-H Youth Development Project — with 6.5 million members in 90,000 clubs across the United States — is no longer just about animals and agriculture.

These clubs are also about sewing, cooking, organic gardening, arts and crafts, scrapbooking, creating PowerPoint presentations and more — all in an effort to build leadership, collaboration and hands-on learning in youth ages 5 to 19 years old.

But the misperception that 4-H is for aspiring farmers or veterinarians remains.

“(Parents) are always very surprised, happily so, with the kind of projects we offer,” Downs said.

Eureka/Granite Bay 4-H will offer 18 projects this year, with most beginning in late September. The local club, chartered under the auspices of the University of California Cooperative Extension, is currently accepting new members.

“4-H projects fill the void of what schools no longer teach,” Miller said. “We’re giving them more practical skills they carry on through their lives.”

Her 16-year-old daughter, Amber Miller, has been in 4-H for nine years and typically participates in six or seven projects at a time. Most kids choose only two or three.

“It’s very exciting all the different projects there are,” Amber said. “My favorite is the baking group. We are a sweet-tooth family, so we make desserts.”

The Granite Bay High School junior says projects include kids of all ages who work and socialize together, which has improved her interpersonal skills.

“I can always get along with people, especially younger kids,” she said. “And I’m learning skills I’ll use later in life.”

Brian Ellis, 11, is in the club’s poultry group, and has done papermaking and meal preparation.

“I joined so I could raise animals and compete in the fair,” he said. “I like to go to the projects and learn new things.”

The sixth grader at Ridgeview Elementary School raises 30 chickens. He feeds them, gives them water, cleans their coops and keeps a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet tracking their weight and how much he spends on food and shavings.

Scott Downs, 16, is also in the poultry group. He has 24 chickens. Through his nine-year involvement in 4-H, he’s also been in the baking, dog agility, chinchilla and other animal groups.

“I like how I get to know people in the area and learn more about the projects I’m involved with and make friends and have experiences I would not normally have,” Scott said. “You can learn so much that you won’t learn in school.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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To find out more about the Eureka/Granite Bay 4-H Club, visit www.ucanr.org/jointhefun4h. To enroll, visit http://california.4honline.com. Fees are $25 for members, $6 for adult volunteers.

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Eureka/Granite Bay 4-H projects for 2011
Meal preparation
Poultry
Primary arts and crafts
Scrapbooking
PowerPoint
Baking
Fashion revue
Presentations
Sewing
Fiber arts
Bees
Hula hoops
Origami
Organic gardening
Cupcake/cookie decorating
No sew ballet tutus
Embroidery
Crafts from around the world