4-H : focus on photography

Today, Alexei and Ibis put the finishing touches on their 4-H project books in preparation for handing in at Thursday’s County Council meeting. Once again, I was completely impressed by their efforts and the broad range of activities in which they participated this year. I can’t say it enough: if you homeschool, 4-H is a gold mine. This year, Alexei continued his work in the photography book, took on the second book in the rabbit series, and completed his first year in the shooting sports air rifle project. Ibis finished her first year in the rabbit book and her first year in an online art project. Hands-on curriculum, opportunities for leadership and citizenship, and healthy competition were highlights of their 4-H year.

If you’ve never seen a 4-H project book in-depth, it may all sound foreign. Most of us can’t get past the idea that 4-H is “only for farm kids,” but if you are willing to look further, I can guarantee you will be amazed. The following are some details from Alexei’s year studying 4-H photography, and I’ll have future blog posts on the remaining projects (no really, I promise!). See for yourself what 4-H has to offer!

Within the photography project book, Alexei completed six activities. He learned focal composition, point of view, photo storytelling, tips for great photos, judging photographs, and using a flash. The book is set up journal-style with the opportunity to add photos, make notes, and answer follow-up questions for each activity. This was his second year using the same book; it contains 15 activities and he had to complete six or more per year.

Being in a leadership role is always one of Alexei’s goals, and as a junior member, he had to show leadership in photography one time during the year. In September, he was elected to the position of chairman of the club historian committee, which basically means he coordinated the photographing of all of the club meetings, demonstrations, many of the workshops and activities, and the fair. We bought him a scrapbook in which to place all the photos taken by the historians and write down descriptions, and he brought the book to each meeting for club members to see and add photos to if they so chose. At the end of the year, he presented the scrapbook to the club leader.

4-H encourages citizenship and community service, both within the project area and outside of it. Alexei attended our local city council meeting during 4-H week, where the city made a 4-H proclamation. He represented the club and also took photos of the event for the club’s scrapbook. Raiding our pantry every month to bring food for our club’s food drive became a ritual. Never again will we have the opportunity to eat canned foods.

As part of each project, the kids must put together a demonstration and do a show-and-tell in front of others, typically at the club meetings. Alexei chose to bring in a poster of photographs he had taken, showing how the effects of camera speed and aperture let light into the lens. He explained how slowing the speed and/or opening the aperture by lowering the f-stop let in more light for brighter photos. He encouraged everyone to try it at home to take better photos of their Christmas trees. Anyone not involved with cameras probably fell asleep during this speech, but I paid rapt attention 😀

Another aspect of 4-H, and typically the most exciting for the kids (and adults!), is entering a project-themed item into the fair. Since there are photography classes, this was an easy one for Alexei. He entered a photo story and four individual photos in the categories of people, plants, still life, and architecture. He won a Best in Class medal, two blue ribbons, two red ribbons, and $26 for his photography. Did I mention this was the most exciting part for the kids?

As the year winds down, each project book is combined with paperwork filled out by the kids citing all of the above activities, goals, project highlights and challenges, future plans, a financial list, photos from the year, and a short story summarizing the year. Then they’re turned in and graded over the summer by club leaders, and in August all completed books by active 4-H members receive certificates with member and project area pins, and the high scores for each project earn medals. Alexei is hoping for a second photography medal this year!

Since he’s gained so much confidence through his project activities, leadership roles, and competitive wins, he’s planning on running for the County Council’s club historian this coming year. Only time will tell!

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