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How to Win 4-H Miscellaneous Contests
Do You Want to Win Your 4-H Competition?
4-H is a U.S. based youth organization for children aged 9-19 and, in certain cases, a bit younger. When a child reaches the age of 9, he or she is eligible to participate in projects and programs that foster learning, not only in the areas of raising livestock, but in a multitude of interest areas that include "self determined" projects that can be chosen and completely designed by the child.
For 4-H members, non-livestock projects (which can include some non-show animal projects) fall under the heading of "Miscellaneous Projects" but, don't let the title fool you. Miscellaneous projects are serious endeavors for the kids who undertake them. They choose projects in their areas of interest and, in between the time they get their project book and their local county fair, they can learn and accomplish quite a bit. In most U.S. states, kids who present projects well at the county level get invited to present them at the state fair where they can come away with prizes, prestige and a sense of pride in accomplishment that money just can't buy.
A 4-H Project Awakening
My son, AKA "The Boy", joined 4-H when I remarried into a 4-H family. Because he already had plans to spend a large chunk of summer with my folks that year, he decided not to do a livestock project. Instead, he focused on two miscellaneous projects in areas of interest to him. He took on a basic archery project and a gun safety project.
Most 4-H projects start with a book the member must work through and fill out as he or she goes. The project book lays out basic guidelines and rules for the project and suggests areas of focus. A 4-Her following all the rules and meeting the basic requirements can get an "A" grade on their project. A percentage of projects are judged "Superior" as well. Often, from these superior projects, selections are made to represent the county at the State Fair level if the competitive category exists at that level. My son's first year archery project was judged superior and chosen for the Ohio State Fair.
Boy did we/he have a lot to learn! Though it was a phenomenal learning experience his first time out, he was soundly trounced in his age bracket (there are Jr. and Sr. brackets) at the Ohio State Fair. Yes, trounced! I like to tell him that a bunch of little girls ran rings around him!
What Does It Take to Win the County and The State?
Most 4-H projects require you to complete the official project book, have it signed off by a county 4-H official authorized to do so in your project area (in many cases, that can be your 4-H adviser) and to create some sort of visual presentation about your project which you then present to a county level judge at a one on one interview.
For most kids, a poster is the obvious choice for a visual presentation and, in fact, in our area, it's often the suggested visual aide. Now, a great poster - like The Boy's mini me here and the archery project poster above - and the ability to present yourself well can sometimes win you your county competition, especially at the Jr. level. At the Sr. level and at the State Fair, a poster, the neatest book and the most polished presentation in the world probably isn't going to do it for you. You really need these two things above and beyond a well done project book and a polished presentation:
** A WOW Factor **
** A Scrapbook **
In this case, "mini-me" was the wow factor but, as I said, the best poster in the world, isn't always enough and mini-me is, after all, a poster. You must have a scrapbook that lays out a timeline of your project in words and photos.
You must have a scrapbook that lays out a timeline of your project in words and photos.
Scrapbooks That Get You the Coveted Win:
No, you don't have to go all "Creative Memories" to have a scrapbook that will help your project shine in the eyes of your 4-H judges. Believe me, "The Boy" doesn't do anything anywhere near that elaborate but he's going to state with a shooting sports project for the 3rd time. Another member of our club is going with a veterinary project and our very small club has had other members selected for state in the past couple of years, after my son reported on his experience and what it would take to win.
Your scrapbook must:
- Follow the timeline of your project book.
- Show you doing the activities you said you've done in your project book. This can be done best with pictures.
- Have captions and text or appropriate instructor notations to explain and verify your work. For example, for his rifle shooting sports project, "The Boy" included targets signed and dated by certified instructors at 4-H sponsored shoots. For her veterinary book, a fellow club member had pictures taken of her interviewing a licensed vet.
A Nice, Basic Scrapbook For Your 4-H Project
All you really need is a standard 3 ring binder style scrapbook with 10 or so top loading pages. Pioneer products work great because you can glue or tape your pictures to a page that slides right into a sleeve. It's easy to find sleeves and refill pages for Pioneer products if the book you buy doesn't have all of the pages that you need.
A scrapbook with a window opening on the front is best. You can put a photo of you in "project mode" there or, as "The Boy" does, a slip with your project name and your name.
Great 4-H Resources Books - Available from Amazon.com
My niece loves this book. She's done a digital photography project for 4-H for the past four years and now she's even entering some of her photos in the open classes at the county fair.
"The Boy" raised chickens in 2012 for his livestock project. This book was a valuable resources as we don't actually live near the family farm. We raised them in our suburban garage. It's been fun!