4-H Lesson Plans

Make it Educational

Youth club meetings are an important time for members to not only interact socially with each other but they are also an important time to teach and reinforce valuable lessons  that youth may not be getting from their school or home environment.  These meetings provide a time to learn leadership and teamwork skills, as well as provide an opportunity to learn something new on a topic of interest.  But how do you convince volunteers and youth alike to have an educational meeting?

Not only is the idea of teaching during a meeting tedious to youth and adult volunteers, but it is also daunting.  Volunteers are not always trained educators and may find it difficult to approach a meeting with an educational goal in mind.  Without experience in teaching or presenting, volunteers will sometimes shy away from leading meetings.

So how can volunteers become educators?  There are a few easy ways to make educational topics fun, interactive, and easy to teach (even if you are not an expert), but the first rule is to ensure the youth are excited about what you have to teach.  Volunteers can poll youth to find out topics that interest them and use that as a template to get started on topics.

Now, how to teach?  See the suggestions below and hopefully find one or two or three that suit any environment.

  • The best way to learn is to teach!  Have youth prepare a demonstration, illustrated talk, or speech on a topic of their interest.  Have them present this to the club.  Set guidelines on the expected length of the presentation (have older and more experienced youth present longer demonstrations while younger youth may be encouraged to present with another person for a shorter amount of time).
  • Invite a guest speaker.  Nothing is more engaging than a professional from the field youth are interested in.  Having that person come in and talk to youth can be very exciting.  Many times the speaker doesn’t have to prepare anything and can lead a question and answer type session.  Oftentimes these will lead to engaging conversations amongst youth.
  • Find the best resources to utilize when educating youth.  Youth programs, such as 4-H, have excellent curriculum.  Volunteer coordinators, Agents, etc. can steer volunteers in the right direction for help in finding simple lesson plans that many times may have the resources to teach those lessons. 
  • Take a tour.  Tours of facilities lead to hands-on opportunities, as well as more time for youth to get their questions about particular topics answered.  Being at a new location can spur interest in new topics especially for visual learners.
  • Show a video.  With the growing amount of information being shared on sites such as YouTube, there are some excellent opportunities for professionals to do the teaching for you.  Make sure you watch a video in its entirety before ever sharing it with youth and make sure the presenter has a professional background or works for an organization with a good reputation.
  • Create a game of it.  It is easy to make learning fun by adding a little bit of competition to the lesson.   Create teams within the club and have question and answer type sessions.  Everybody likes a quiz bowl type of game and the presenter need only prepare with a list of questions and answers in advance.  Many times games like this lead to inquiry by youth and they will further investigate on their own on certain topics of interest.
  • Many websites allow users to create word puzzles, crosswords, fill in the blanks, etc. for free.  These are great tools to use with youth.
  • Make it artistic!  Everybody loves to color, work with dough and be creative.  When it comes to labeling and learning the parts of something (for example the parts of a chicken), giving youth a simple diagram and having them label and color in the parts is a great way to introduce and teach them about a new or even familiar topic.
  • Make it interactive.  Through guided discussion, youth will oftentimes come up with ideas and theories on their own.  These “aha” moments are essential for instilling independence in youth.  A volunteer teacher can provide the questions during discussion, but they can allow youth to come up with the answers, especially if it is a topic that has various theories, viewpoints, and issues tied into it.  By using tools, such as flipcharts and markers, that can engage youth even more by allowing them to write down their ideas so they are later able to share those ideas with others.

These are just a few examples of ways to introduce teaching and presenting to volunteers, but there are many others too.  Always remember that when introducing a topic, think about the best way for youth to retain that information: through guided instruction, hands-on participation, and teaching the material back to the audience.  By supplementing meetings with these tactics, filling in the educational portion of a meeting should be easy, simple, and fun.


"How to Make Class Active and Interactive." The University of Texas at Austin, Center for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved  04 Feb. 2014: http://ctl.utexas.edu/teaching/engagement/active_interactive_class.

Author: Vanessa Spero-Swingle


Equine Endocrinology Tag

Objective Teach youth about the endocrine system of the horse through hands-on activities.
Preps Assemble tags with cardstock by punching holes in the top and threading ribbon through the holes. Tags can be full size or cut to a smaller size. Create two sets of table tents using the Endocrine Tissues document. Make one set using the endocrine tissue column and a second set using the tissues influenced column. Set them out on opposite sides of the room before the class starts.
Teaching 1. Go over the equine endocrine system with youth. Hand out the clipart photo of the horse and labels. Have youth use labels or makers to draw where the glands of the horse are. Use the Endocrine System of the Horse document for reference.
2. Hand out the cardstock tags, markers, and Endocrine Tissues document to youth. Assign each youth member a hormone secreted and have them list the hormone on one side of their tag and the action of that hormone on the other.
3. Once youth have completed their tags have them stand at the endocrine tissue that they are secreted from. Have them announce what hormone they are and what their action is. Then have them travel to the other side of the room and find the tissue that is influenced by their hormone.

Author: Vanessa Spero-Swingle