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Service-Learning Works for California 4-H Youth

The Issue

California communities need active, involved citizens of all ages. Through service-learning projects, teens learn to appreciate the value of contributing to their communities, strengthen their skills, and see themselves as leaders.

What Has ANR Done?

The California 4-H Youth Development Program provides financial assistance to 4-H groups for service-learning projects. In 2007 Sacramento County’s On the Wild Side was awarded $2,000 through the Service-Learning RFP Program. On the Wild Side provides an opportunity for children to understand and appreciate conservation and environmental stewardship. The program provides two weekend environmental camps for elementary-age youth from five low-income, urban neighborhoods. The project begins with a teen and adult design team that secures funding, plans trainings and recruits teen teachers. Twenty-one teenagers delivered the program for 115 4th, 5th and 6th grade youth in 2007. Campers rotate through six educational, teen-led workshops during a weekend. Staff and campers share family-style meals, a campfire, group games and a night sleeping under the stars. Campers recorded in journals their reflections about their wilderness experiences.

The Payoff

The Rewards of Service-Learning

Teens involved in On the Wild Side reported significant personal growth, changes in their perceptions, a sense of efficacy, and skill development. Teens (94%) felt as though they had made an important contribution to their community by teaching environmental awareness and providing children a new experience. Through the service-learning experience, they said they gained valuable skills including teamwork, communication and planning. Teens who participate in service-learning projects come to see themselves, and are seen by the community, as resources. Studies show that students in service-learning programs exhibit more civic and social responsibility and academic achievement.

Pre- and post-test scores showed campers gained significant knowledge and understanding of environmental concepts presented by the teens. The data show that participants found the program fun and engaging, and it allowed them to explore nature and learn new things about ecosystems, migration and habitat.

Clientele Testimonial

The campers said: “I learned about the taproot and how it helps stabilize the tree. I like that leaves make food for the tree.” ...“I think it’s hard to be a salmon. If they’re extinct, that tells you it’s hard.” ...“When I was looking at the stars, I saw a shooting star. I was amazed. I didn’t make a wish, though.”


Supporting Unit: Sacramento County

4-H Youth Development State Office
Pat English, 4-H YD Program Representative, 530-754-8520 or pnenglish@ucdavis.edu
Marianne Bird, 4-H YD Advisor, Sacramento County, 916-875-6423 or mbird@ucdavis.edu