2016 Washington County Fair powers contemporary version of 4-H
From Pokémon to Ghana, youth present more than animal know-how.
Thousands attended the Washington County Fair last weekend, taking in four days of rides, food and one of the fairs staple attractions: projects by local 4-H clubs.
For more than a century, projects by members of the youth organization have been a staple at county fairs, but while plenty of 4-Hers were on hand to showcase livestock at this years Washington County Fair, the organization is placing a greater interest in other scientific studies and its helping 4-H draw in new kids who might not otherwise have been exposed to the club before.
4-H is not exclusively a horse or pig program, 4-H Youth Development Agent Patrick Willis said Tuesday. Its a youth program designed to help kids grow and thrive.
In Washington County, 4-H clubs find themselves torn between two very different realities: The county boasts three of Oregons most populated cities and is the heart of Oregons Silicon Forest, home to Intel, SolarWorld, Genentech and other high-tech companies. It is also home to its share of farmers and ranchers, who have traditionally made up Washington Countys economy and its 4-H membership.
The trick, Willis explained, is getting people from all walks of life to take an interest in 4-H and the county fair.
In Banks, every other kid is involved in 4-H, he said. But in Beaverton and Tualatin, most kids dont even know what it is.
This requires outreach, Willis said, and an evolution in 4-H opportunities, which will translate to a greater diversity of kids and the types of projects they want to get involved in.
This year was the third year that 4-H members have taken part in Ignite, five-minute presentations on a topic of their choice.
Some presentations centered on sports such as the proper way to set a volleyball while others focused on Pokémon, the massively popular video game.
(Ignite talks) are the latest and greatest for presentations and workshops, said Willis. But theyre fast. You really have to know your stuff.
More than an exercise in public speaking, the presentations require speakers to research their topic and become experts. First held in Seattle in 2006, Willis said Ignite is like a faster, miniature versions of TED Talks, the popular presentations which cover a variety of subjects.
One kid gave a presentation on Ghana because, after having just learned about the country in school, felt it was worth sharing with more people, Willis said. It really is all about doing the right thing for kids.
Ignite has become a requirement for 4-H scholarship recipients, and, oddly enough, more kids are actually volunteering to present.
Many people confuse the 4-H mission as being devoted strictly to agriculture or fostering farm animals, Willis said, but the groups mission is about empowering youth.
The presentations are one of the tools we use for positive youth development, said Willis.
Basically, anything you can think of, you can do, said Meredith McMahon, a sophomore at Southridge High School in Beaverton, who has been a member of 4-H for five years.
The entire time Ive been in 4-H its been a good mix of stuff, said McMahon, who provided the Pokémon lecture. I can see that what I put in, and the more people enjoy it, the more I get out of it.
All told, McMahon submitted for 10 different presentations at the fair, including rabbit, goat and sheep shows, photography, drawn art and T-shirt printing.
Writing, public speaking, drawing Ive definitely learned a lot being in 4-H, she said.