A 4-H Head Start with Clover Buds

If you have young kids who are anxious to join in on the 4-H fun, they you may have heard about the Clover Bud program. This program is still in the pilot stage and is being tested in certain locations before it is offered as an option across Ontario. I was given the chance to chat with April Sloan and Dawn Dolson, Clover Bud Leaders, about the program, their experiences, why they think the program is a great idea and expectations for the future. Read all about it below!
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The Clover Bud program is a pilot 4-H program for children ages six to eight years old who think that they may join 4-H one day. This pilot program is run in a similar fashion to actual 4-H Clubs, complete with weekly 4-H meetings, tours and activities. The main difference is that in this program, each meeting is based on a different 4-H Club. “It is done this way so that the kids have an understanding of how 4-H operates and what each of the Clubs is like,” Dawn explains. The program offers youngsters a chance to get their toes wet with 4-H and decide which Clubs they might like to join in the future.

Clover Bud Photo
Clover Bud “All About Me” meeting

Each meeting begins with saying the 4-H Pledge and roll call. Then the group does activities based on the unit they are covering.  One of the units April’s Clover Bud group did was on dairy. “The kids got to tour a dairy farm, see a milking machine and how it works, feel the suction power, and even feed a calf. It is all very hands-on learning,” she explains. After the unit-related activities, the group may do a craft followed by a snack. The group then recites the 4-H motto and the meeting concludes. “A lot of the materials and activities used in the Clover Bud meetings are based on what is actually done in 4-H Clubs, so we know it has worked before and that the kids are going to learn something useful,” explains April. “Occasionally we’ll come across something that isn’t challenging enough or is too challenging for this age group, so we alter it a bit to make it more appropriate. Everything has worked well so far.” The children involved also seem to be enjoying the meetings. “We can tell when a unit we cover during the meetings is a success because the kids leave happy and have learned something,” Dawn explains.

 It really lays the groundwork so they go into 4-H understanding what it is about and what to expect.

You might think that holding the attention of a group of six to eight year olds for two hours each week would be a challenge, but April claims otherwise. “It is actually less challenging than running a normal 4-H Club, the kids are just so excited to be doing something new and to learn about the topics and participate. It makes planning the meetings really easy a fun,” she explains. The biggest challenge Clover Bud Leaders face is actually finding more Volunteers to help out at the meetings. April was lucky to have one of the mothers of a Clover Bud stay and help out at meetings. However, Dawn and April have both found themselves challenged to meet each child’s needs during the meetings.  It’s not hard to imagine that with a large group of excited six to eight years old, you might want an extra helping hand or two.

Clover Buds Baking
Clover Buds do some baking

Dawn, from Wellington 4-H Association, has been a 4-H Volunteer for 22 years while April, from Grenville, has been a Volunteer for 11 years. They both heard about the program through 4-H publications and volunteered to run the pilot programs in their areas.  Dawn and April are both mothers of young children and, after having led Clover Bud programs, they are both excited for the day when their young ones are old enough to become Clover Buds. “It just offers the children the opportunity to get involved and make friends and learn about all the Clubs,” explains Dawn. April adds, “It really lays the groundwork so that when they are old enough to become Members they go into 4-H understanding what it is about and what to expect, and so far the kids really seem to love it.”

Clover Bud feeds a calf
Clover Buds got to feed some dairy calves

The Clover Bud program is still in the pilot stage, meaning that it is only being run in certain locations. It is being tested and evaluated with the hopes of launching the full program as an option for Volunteers in 2013.

Clover Buds doing a workbook activity
Clover Buds doing a bookwork activity

To view the full Clover Buds album please click here >

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