While our 4-H families have had to adapt to not being able to participate at in-person fairs and shows this summer, a virtual show experience still has real benefits for youth.
4-H shows, often held during local county fairs, have typically been a way for youth to showcase their project work and what they have learned. During the 4-H year, members select projects that interest them from a list of more than 80 across the broader areas of animal science; civic engagement; creative arts; environment; healthy living; science, technology, engineering and math; and career and leadership development. There is truly something for everyone. Once youth choose projects, they dive into learning on their own, through local workshops or clubs, or with the help of caring adults in their lives.
One goal youth might set with their project is to produce a 4-H exhibit that showcases their learning. Typically, these exhibits are displayed at the county fair. Youth might enter cookies they baked, a woodworking project they constructed, vegetables they grew, an animal they raised, or a poster display about a topic they studied. With our virtual show, youth still have the opportunity to show off this hard work by visually documenting their project exhibits with photos or video. Their work will not only be shared with judges and staff, but also will be on virtual display for a week so that the general public can check it out!
As part of their virtual entry, youth also write a short report about each project. This report is an opportunity for members to outline the skills they built working on the project, and to reflect on what they learned. Youth can learn all sorts of practical skills through their projects, like how to sew, cook, code, weld, build, or garden. They can also develop vital life skills. For example, projects where youth raise animals are great at teaching things like responsibility, perseverance, goal setting, and record keeping. Other projects encourage leadership, financial management, communication and cultural awareness. These are all skills that youth can then apply in school and the workplace.
Just like with in-person competitions, our virtual shows offer youth an opportunity to get feedback on their work through judging. Our judges look at the photos, videos and reports that members submit and then award ribbons to recognize youth’s efforts. All projects are judged on their own merit against a set of standards, then awarded a blue, red or white ribbon. A blue ribbon signifies that a project meets or exceeds the standards. Judges provide constructive comments along with their ratings so youth know what they did well and in what areas they can improve and grow.
Once a project gets a blue ribbon it is compared against other projects to be considered for special awards. Judges give champion awards to recognize the top projects in various areas. They also select a number of outstanding local exhibits to represent Kendall County at the state 4-H virtual exhibition. There, they will compete again for awards and recognition, this time against other projects from around the state.
So overall, though our 4-H project shows look different this year with our virtual system, youth can expect real benefits from participating. We know it’s been a tough spring and summer for many youth and families juggling uncertainty. Adapting to this new virtual exhibition experience has shown the resilience of our 4-H families and will be a lifelong reference point for these youth.
We’re impressed by the amazing variety of work on display in our Kendall County 4-H virtual show, and proud of all the youth who decided to participate. We know Kendall County 4-H’ers will represent us well at the state competition. We hope youth have a positive experience with this virtual format and find value from participating. Be sure to keep an eye on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/extensiondkk) and virtual show page (go.illinois.edu/Kendall4HVirtualShow2020) in August for highlights and results from our virtual shows.