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Publication #4HCIL20

4-H Exploring Citizenship, Leader's Guide1

John Rutledge2


The 4-H Citizenship project offers you the opportunity to help 4-H'ers relate all of their 4-H projects and other experiences to the world around them. They will learn to "care" for and "share" with others through the skills and talents they've developed.

The 4-H Citizenship manuals will serve as a guide to their experiences in Citizenship. But to be truly meaningful to the real life needs and interests of your group, your contribution is essential. Each person, neighborhood and community has individual needs that your group can determine only with your guidance. Your challenge is to make Citizenship a real life experience for your group. There are really no limits or predetermined boundaries for what the Citizenship project could entail.



The committee that cooperated on the development of the 4-H Citizenship materials bases the need for a 4-H Citizenships education program on the following rationale:

1) The overall 4-H mission is to help young people become self directing, productive and contributing members of society.

2) The various 4-H projects and activities directed toward the development of life skills all contribute to this desired goal.

More specific training in the area of citizenship rights and responsibilities is sorely needed, as evidenced by:

Voter apathy

  • Lack of community concern and involvement

  • Lack of skill in group procedures

  • Central lack of understanding of government and how it functions

  • Deterioration of cohesive family units


Because good citizenship doesn't just happen, but must be learned and developed, the committee developed the following objectives for 4-H

Citizenship materials:

1) Develop the skills necessary for intelligent participation in group decision making.

2) Help members to understand the rights and responsibilities of membership within the family, neighborhood, community, state, nation and world, and develop a willingness to assume them.

3) Develop an understanding of and an appreciation for other cultures.

4) Develop an appreciation for one's family, community, state and national heritage.

5) Develop an insight into the principles, processes and structures of government.

6) Demonstrate respect for the rights of others through responsible action.


The 4-H Citizenship curriculum is composed of units presented in a series that will help 4-H'ers learn about themselves and develop better with their family, friends, neighbors, community, state, country and world. The curriculum emphasis helping 4-H'ers broaden their view of their place in the world around them, and recognize the responsibility they have to that world. The units are written for individual 4-H'ers as they work with others to become better citizens.

First Level - (AGES 9-11)

Unit 1 - "Me, My Family and My Friends"

This unit focuses on self identity, self-acceptance and relations with family and friends. It says, "Good citizenship is knowing who I am and being able to relate to others."

Unit 2 - "My Neighborhood"

Unit 2 takes the 4-H'ers beyond the family and close friends into the neighborhood and school. It says, "Good citizenship is knowing and sharing with neighbors."

Unit 3 - "My Clubs and Groups"

This unit helps a 4-H'er to learn to function in organized groups so they can be more effective participants. It says, "Good citizenship is participating in group decision making."

Intermediate Level - (AGES 12 AND OVER)

Unit 4 - "My Community"

Unit 4 opens the doors for community understanding and involvement. It is a multi-year unit and may be continued as long as a 4-H'er wishes.

The possibilities are limitless. In addition to this member manual there is a 4-H

Citizenship Program, "The 4-H Sunshine Brigade," which contains 12 sections or modules as guides for Citizenship groups. These are:

1) "What is Good Citizenship?"

2) "What is Community?"

3) Making and Carrying out Decisions (Government)

4) Living by the Rules (Our Legal System)

5) Producing and Consuming Product (our Economic System)

6) Sharing our Products and Ideas (Our Transportation/Communications System)

7) Sharing and Practicing our Faith (Our Religions and Churches)

8) Preserving our Values and Ideals (Our Cultural Heritage)

9) Taking Care Of the Earth (our Natural Resources and Environment)

10) Learning our Way through Life (Our Educational System)

11) Using Leisure Time Wisely (Our Recreation and Hobbies)

12) Taking Care of Ourselves and Others (Our Health, Safety, and Welfare).

Ask your County Extension Agent about the Sunshine Brigade available through the State 4-H Office, University of Georgia, Athens.


Unit 5 - "My Heritage"

In Unit 5 a 4-H'er learns about family heritage through developing a family tree. Also, they study their heritage from other selected areas of interest.

Unit 6 - "My Government"

Included in this unit are discussions on governmental systems, laws and voting.

Unit 7 - "My World"

This unit will help 4-H'ers who are interested in International Study and experiences to explore their areas of interest.


How can the citizenship program be tailored to the needs of members at different levels of maturity? We can learn from the growing and deepening interests of the different age groups of the citizens themselves.


Pre-Teens are interested in individual people and objects. Their minds are like sponges. They are mastering many activities, but do not yet organize their experiences very much. The general goals for this age group are to:

    • Develop respect for each individual

    • Develop familiarity and friendship with a wide variety of people

    • Learn simple "social responsibility" by seeing how different people help one another.

    • Building an understanding of what responsibilities go with certain roles in society.

Some citizenship activities for this group might be tours of places in the community that are of interest to them and visits with people in the community who have interesting jobs or who are different from the group, such as other races or nationalities.

Lay the groundwork for these activities by preparing the 4-H'ers ahead of time so their experiences will be fully appreciated. Help them to think through why they are doing the activity and what they should be learning from it.

Pre-teens can learn through community service activities to act with intelligent concern for themselves and others, especially if they can:

1) have personal contact with people they are helping.

2) see results from their efforts. For this age group community service might include making things for shut-ins, then visiting those people to present the gifts. Or they might plan a party for another group of young people different from themselves, such as handicapped youth.

Early Teens

Early Teens are interested in processes and patterns. They are more critically assessing how things fit together - the processes of manufacturing, for instance, or the patterns of role relationships in government. This helps them try out various roles - sometimes actively, sometimes through their imagination.

General goals for this group are to:

    • Learn some processes that are needed to have a workable community and world

    • Realize that people must depend on one another

    • Develop realistic expectations for their communities

    • Develop more skills for working cooperatively

    • Lay the groundwork for later learning about society's problems

Their emphasis here is on processes or how things are done and not so much on the personalities of the people they meet.

Some activities that should be of interest to this group are:

    • Learn how a town meeting is run

    • Attend a court session

    • Tour the courthouse or state capitol building

    • See the legislature in session

    • Visit a bank and learn how it works

    • Visit a supermarket and learn how it operates -manufacturer to consumer

    • Begin learning about various careers

    • Have an exchange visit with 4-H'ers of another country or another state

Community service activities should help early teens to (1) see how things are done so they can understand the planning and work that make a good community, (2) see how their efforts help the community, even if they do not directly benefit certain individuals, and (3) gain satisfaction in working together as a group. Activities might include: clothing drives, register-and-vote campaigns, or renovating a community building.

Late Teens

Late teens are interested in principles and problems. They look beyond the processes to the principles underlying them. They are concerned about the values operating through government, for instance. They can also see that we don't always live by our principles, and that there are conflicts between principles. They can face problems of society. As they test their new identity, they see their part in meeting social problems.

Goals of this group should be to:

    • Realize the complexity of most public decisions

    • Develop greater respect for differences of opinion

    • Accept responsibility to become informed and to inform others

    • Develop skills for getting and using information

    • Develop further their own personal values

    • Lay the groundwork for taking full adult responsibility

Emphasis with late teens is on issues and how they are resolved - or not resolved. The group should look at the different sides of an issue, and not try to agree on a solution. They should be able to meet with people whom they do not agree with and listen to their points of view. They should build and test their own values as they talk with people holding different values.

This group can develop their own program with adults as advisors. They should be allowed to assume all duties for arrangements.

Political issues:

    • Attend a town meeting when issues are debated with other groups, sponsor a meeting of opposing candidates

    • Follow through an issue by reading newspapers, then visit state capitol building, listen to debate, and talk with representatives

    • Before attending 4-H Citizenship Short Course, study questions facing Congress, and discuss with a Congressman

Economic issues:

    • Learn about consumer rights and responsibilities

    • Identify the state's outstanding problems of resource development

    • Invite representatives of labor and management to discuss areas of agreement and difference

    • Discuss problems of overseas economic development or international trade with people in these fields.

Citizenship aspects of social life:

    • Invite Extension family life specialist to discuss problems of young families today

    • Take part in Youth Exchange Programs

Other areas:

    • Meet school personnel to discuss dropout problems

    • Study the community's mental health needs and programs

To learn citizenship through community service, late teenagers should: a) receive firsthand contact with community problems, b) learn to identify themselves as responsible young adults by working with community leaders, c) gain practice in program development, d) realize that for some problems there are many possible solutions, and e) learn to accept that things don't always work out as planned.

For A "Mixed Ages" Group

You may be thinking, "This sounds fine, but my club has 9 to 19 year olds. Do you expect us to plan different programs for three age groups?" There are several ways to put together the jigsaw puzzle of different age interests into a single program.

Divide into subgroups. For a field trip or discussion, divide the participants by level of maturity, and have an adult or teen leader with each group. Each group will notice things that are interesting to them, and the leader can help them think through what they are seeing. For instance, after a film, discussion groups might be formed for these different maturity levels.

To take another example, on a field trip to a historic house, pre-teens may be most interested in the guides, their quaint period costumes, and old gadgets. Early teens may be piecing together in their minds the "pattern of life" in that historic time, and the way the frontier affected many phases of living. Late teens may look at the issues people faced and the problems they left to us. In each case, the 4-H leader, going through the house with a small group at their own pace, would help them see and understand what is there for them. This does not imply that it is always desirable to separate by maturity levels. Often there are good reasons to mix younger and older members together.

Have several mini-meetings. Ask a resource person to meet several small groups at different times. For instance, if a foreign student is visiting for a weekend, at the general club meeting she might show slides of her country (which would really mean different things to different members). In addition, a junior leader may arrange for her to make cookies with the youngest members so they will get personal contact with her while doing an interesting activity.

Later she can meet with early teens to chat about her country and some of its customs (the "patterning of culture," in simple terms). She and the older members could meet for a session on America's image abroad.

Get several resource people. On a trip to a supermarket, for instance, the manager, a checkout clerk and someone in the vegetable department might talk with three small groups in rotation.

Give different program development responsibilities. Late teens can satisfy some of their need for digging into principles and problems as they:

Take initiative in checking the situation, highlighting learning needs, and developing evaluation techniques

Consider the problem of helping younger members learn citizenship through experiences at their level

Discuss issues with a resource person while planning for him to meet the whole club

Early teens can also have some definite responsibilities in program development, along with older teenagers. They can satisfy some of their needs for seeing processes and patterns as they:

    • Help check the situation, and look up resources

    • Help decide on program methods

    • Plan a single meeting or field trip

    • Visit with a resource person for background information to introduce him

Pre-teens can grow by taking limited responsibilities in program development. They can satisfy some of their interest in people and things as they:

    • Work closely with teen leaders in planning and carrying out the program

    • Learn to appreciate the many behind-the-scene activities that make a successful meeting or field trip

    • Make specific choices between clearly defined alternatives

Dovetail county and local programs. The puzzle of different age interests is sometimes solved through a county-wide older youth group, such as a Junior Leader Club or County 4-H Council. This offers a natural avenue for late teens to give them basic leadership to a county-wide effort and to look maturely at problems and principles of citizenship learning. Then local 4-H groups can make specific plans, involving all ages.


The stage of citizenship can be a useful tool in planning programs for each age group. The stage is not designed for pre-teens themselves to use. It is too abstract for most of them. But adult and teen leaders will want to consider it as they plan programs for the youngest members. For example: "The children have met somebody who represents community political life. They need to visit with a person representing our community's economic life. And they should meet somebody from a larger horizon - the nation or the world." Early teens can use the stage themselves. For them it can be a "map"- a way of exploring a situation. Studying it, they themselves will think of experiences they need in order to round out their program. Late teens and adults can use the stage in a deeper way. It helps them pin-point problems of citizenship and see the ties between different areas of life.


As a 4-H Citizenship leader you will help to coordinate citizenship project activities for a small group of 4-H'ers. The first and most important step is to get your group together so that they can plan what they would like to do for the year. You can help them to do this by calling the meeting and providing a 4-H'ers more guidance for their planning, but for any age group, it is very important to remember that the plans should be made by the 4-H'ers themselves. After a general plan or calendar for the project year is developed, you and the group should decide what committees will be needed and what other leaders will be needed to help you and your group. Don't try to do it all yourself. 4-H parents and other adults will be willing to help if you can identify specific help they could give. Some forms of assistance you may need are refreshments, meeting places, transportation, speakers and tours. Although planning takes a little time, it will make the rest of the project year much easier and more productive.

Involvement is the key to happy 4-H'ers. Let them divide up into committees to organize the activities planned. Let the 4-H'ers themselves do everything they possibly can to develop their plans. Remember that they'll learn much more if they do it 4-H'ers more guidance for their planning, but for any themselves. Every meeting should be fun in addition to being educational. Parties, picnics, refreshments and other similar activities keep 4-H'ers enthusiastic and active.

These often can be combined with the educational activities with just a little creative planning. The 4-H Citizenship project offers limitless possibilities because it relates to every other 4-H project.

Citizenship is often an area that is taken for granted and as a result, many people are not very good citizens. It's exciting to think of the important effect you can have on 4-H boys and girls by helping them to develop good citizenship habits.


An effective 4-H leader is an adult or teen leader who makes it possible for 4-H'ers to get together as a group to learn to do things they would not do alone. The good leader offers security suggestions and support. A good leader doesn't dictate, determine and direct all activities of the group. The group is only meaningful when the individual members are the doers and the learners. 4-H teaches "learning by doing." 4-H leaders should remember their members' mistakes can actually be helpful learning experiences. The "leader" is really a "helper" and "leadership" is "helpership." As your 4-H'ers grow and develop in their Citizenship program they too can become helpers of others. The time that you give to your Citizenship members can make the world a better, place to live and will be multiplied many times over through each 4-H'er that you help.


The 4-H Pledge is an outline for the 4-H Citizenship Project. Citizenship education through 4-H should provide three-fold learning - knowing, feeling, acting.

I Pledge

My Head to clearer thinking

Understanding - using our heads for clearer thinking, getting information and understanding issues.

My Heart to greater loyalty

Attitudes - using our hearts to appreciate our rights and feel our responsibilities.

My Hands to larger service, and

My Health to better living for my Club, my Community, my Country, and my World.

Skills - using our hands and healthy bodies and minds to put into practice what we understand and feel we should do.



This document is 4HCIL20, one of a series of the 4-H Youth Development Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date May 01, 1988. Revised January 2009. Reviewed January 2012. Visit the EDIS website at


John Rutledge, professor, Youth Development Specialist, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.