The 4-H "Learn By Doing" philosophy is one of the main reasons the 4-H program has been so widely recognized and respected in the field of informal education.  It is through hands-on involvement in projects of their choice that 4-H members learn patience, personal initiative, and hard work.  The best part of the program is that 4-Hers do not have to own an animal in order to participate in the animal projects and that not only are "farm animals" represented in 4-H, but also cats, dogs, rabbits, and small pets of all kinds.

Youth who participate in one of the 12 animal science projects offered in the Montgomery County 4-H program develop important life skills as they learn to care for their animals and work on project related activities.

A life skills approach to learning offers five basic areas of development.  These areas include:  recognize and respond to significant life events; participate in an interdependent society; be self-directing and productive; lead a satisfying life and contribute to society; and, function effectively in a changing world.

Enrolled in 4-H animal science projects, youth practice the following three life skills:  1.  Learning to learn.  Youth with this skill have inquiring minds, they are curious about many things, they ask questions, and locate resources.  Youth may become familiar with the terminology of a specific animal industry by using the words as they deal with veterinarians, feed salesmen, and buyers/sellers of livestock.  A dog owner can train his pet by trying out different methods:  reward and discipline, repetition, or breaking down a skill into smaller training chunks.  2.  Relating to others.  Youth learn to understand their own likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses.  They accept responsibility, respect diversity, and resolve conflict.  They learn that they can always learn from other people and that they can share their own knowledge with others, as well.  3.  Leading self and others.  Youth are able to be part of a team, to plan and organize, to set goals, work independently, keep records, work efficiently, and meet time lines.  They find that the things they are learning within their project area also relate to many everyday tasks.   

Animal project members have several choices when it comes to their fair exhibit.  Members who own animals may show the animal at the fair.  Members may also exhibit a poster which relates to something they've learned in the project or do an action demonstration at the fair.  Members may lease horses, dairy females and llamas to show in the 4-H program.

Sherry Legg Young is the Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development at Purdue Extension Montgomery County