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4-H Bloco Drum and Dance: An after-school program for teens

The Issue

California studies show that many teens are overweight due to poor eating habits and too little exercise. California also faces the additional challenge of having a very high number of juveniles in custody, constituting 25 percent of the national total. Building a program that enables teens to interact in a positive environment can make a difference in their health and lives.

What Has ANR Done?

The 4-H Youth Development staff in Sonoma County and key community leaders met with representatives of the Windsor School District to discuss much-needed after-school programs for teens, especially Hispanic teens. The group decided to create a program based on Brazilian drumming and dance as a way to increase exercise and to embrace the diversity in the Windsor community. The program engages middle and high school students from diverse backgrounds to share their love of music and dance in a safe after-school environment in the Brazilian Carnivál tradition.

The 4-H Bloco Drum and Dance program serves between 70 and 80 youth each year. In terms of ethnicity, 73 percent were Latino, Hispanic or Chicano; 12 percent were of mixed ethnicity; 8 percent were Caucasian; 4 percent were Native American, and 4 percent were African American. Sixty percent of the 4-H Bloco Drum and Dance youth come from single parent homes and many from immigrant families. Some of the participants are from low-income families, and many are academically challenged.

Drum students learn basic music concepts and techniques of playing various instruments, while dance students learn basic dance steps and develop their own dance routines. Older high school students serve as mentors to the younger students. The program also has a nutrition component which includes healthy snacks and regular food demonstrations.

Participants share their talent by performing at local, state and national events. The participants fill the air with cutting-edge booming beats and funky horn lines. High energy dancers, in multi-colored costumes, move to the beat of the drums telling a story as they perform. These original performances are inspiring and entertaining for audiences of all ages.

The Payoff

Teens increase their exercise through music and dance

As a result of the Bloco program, the teens are not only more aware of their health, but they are taking better care of themselves as evidenced by their eating choices and physical activity rates. For four years, the UC 4-H Youth Development program surveyed the students before and after participating in the Bloco after-school program. At the end, significantly more teens were being physically active and practicing better nutrition habits. Teens participating in the Bloco program expressed appreciation of other cultural groups. They reported it was important for kids of their age to spend time with kids from other cultures within California to build better understanding and acceptance. Another of the intended outcomes of the program is gang prevention. The fact that so many teens saw Bloco as a gang alternative in the beginning (before participating) is powerful. The message is clear: young people see this after-school program as something that will help them resist gangs.

Clientele Testimonial

“It rocks.” - youth member
“It makes me feel part of the school.” - youth member
“It is great to see how the youth involved have grown and become positive leaders in their community.” - school counselor


Evelyn Conklin-Ginop, (707) 565-2681, elconklinginop@ucdavis.edu