Happy Birthday to the Pennsylvania 4-H program – You don’t look a day over 100 years old!!

Posted: December 17, 2012

Pennsylvania 4-H, the youth-development program administered by Penn State Extension, has been cultivating versatile children for a century. During the last 100 years, it has evolved from its agricultural roots into a globally competitive program offering educational opportunities on everything from government to robotics.
A family receiving a citation at the Crawford County 4-H Centennial Family Celebration event.

A family receiving a citation at the Crawford County 4-H Centennial Family Celebration event.

The 4-H slogan is “learn by doing,” and that is exactly what participating children are doing to prepare for their futures. To watch a video on 4-H today, go to

With 2012 marking the 100-year signpost of 4-H youth programming in the state of Pennsylvania, awareness and preparation for the centennial have engendered an array of events, campaigns, and other organizing activity drawing attention not only to the organization’s past, but also to current efforts to improve prospects for the organization’s future.

Efforts to celebrate the Centennial include the following:

  • A collection of stories: 4-H members, volunteer leaders, 4-H alumni, former 4-H leaders, current and former extension educators, and others impacted by the 4-H program have been invited to share their stories about PA 4-H. A compilation of collected stories, organized along a historical timeline, will soon be published, put on exhibit around the state, and offered for sale.
  • Historical Exhibits: Collections of historical photos, pictures, awards, quilts, and reports are being put on display at various fairs and gatherings at which 4-H has a major presence. 
  • Centennial mementos: Commemorative items such as Centennial T-shirts, pens, and magnets have been created to reinforce a sense of organizational pride and identity while raising some funds for the organization.
  • Merging youth- and adult-oriented conferences and events: 
    • For the Centennial year (2012), the State 4-H Leadership Conference (for 4-H youth) and the 4-H Leaders Forum (for adult volunteers) were merged into a single event. The 4-H through the Generations session served as a mechanism to facilitate intergenerational dialogue about 4-H from different perspectives and at different periods in time. Session organizers wrote an article, soon to appear in the Journal of Extension, which highlights lessons learned from this session and describes how this intergenerational strategy could be utilized by other organizations soon to reach the centennial mark.
      [Full reference: Kaplan, M., Wikert, B., Scholl, J., and Rushton, M. (In press). Intergenerational panels at centennial events: Stimulating discussion about continuity and change in the 4-H program. Journal of Extension. Expected date of publication: Feb. 2013.]
    • The Crawford County Extension office held a 4-H Centennial Family Celebration on Saturday, September 29, 2012. Approximately 70 individuals gathered at Wheelock’s Picnic Pavilion in Townville, PA to celebrate Pennsylvania’s Centennial year of 4-H. The day’s events began with Crawford County 4-H receiving citations from Senator Bob Robbins’ Assistant Pam Green as well as State Representatives Michele Brooks and Brad Roae. Following a tureen lunch, 4-H Educator Paula Lucas and 4-H Program Assistant, Heather Perry shared the History of 4-H and presented 19 families with a Centennial 4-H Families’ certificate. This award was created to recognize families who have two or more generations of 4-H participants in their family history. The program also included an opportunity for individuals to share their 4-H stories and the impact 4-H has had on their lives. The Crawford County Council members had planned activities such as a hay bale throwing contest, tug-of –war, and sack races that were enjoyed by all ages. On display were past and present club scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, photographs and several other pieces of 4-H history.  

For more information about the Crawford County event, see the Meadville Tribune article ( or contact Paula J. Lucas, Youth Development/4-H Extension Educator at Penn State Extension’s Crawford County at