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More readers weigh in on Indiana 4-H discussion

farm diorama
DETAILS MATTER: Dioramas of farm scenes are still popular at some county 4-H fairs. Some people find that getting projects entered and judged correctly can be a difficult task.
Reader Report: Another reader expresses her views about 4-H as it was when she was a member and as it is today for her kids.

Dear editor,

I will start by saying 4-H is near and dear to my heart. I participated fully through the ’90s. I was a fair princess. I judge vet science projects now and appreciate all the dedication and hard work that goes into 4-H projects. I wish my two kids, ages 12 and 15, were having as good of an experience as I did. Unfortunately, they’re not. Here are a few things we’ve run into.

County project judges missing things or judging incorrectly: A farm scene was judged at the incorrect level and received a green. The 4-H entry card had the correct age/level of the project. … I get it, mistakes happen.

The rocket judge failed to comment that the Grand Champion rocket didn’t have the proper recovery system. … It went to the state fair and received a red. The recovery system was the only thing commented on.  

A consumer clothing project was reserve grand at the county, with no feedback, only to receive a red at the state level because there were no page numbers or table of contents. Nowhere does it state that as a requirement. Another mother said her daughter encountered the same thing years ago at the state level and dropped the project.

A child development project with the activity card and references attached, [was] reserve grand at county but red at state because “there is no activity card and no references.” It was taped to the lid of the project and was still there on display at the state fair.

Yes, online enrollment is a pain, but not enough to keep us from doing it. Yes, our club meetings were an absolute waste of time until another parent took over. … This new parent does a good job and I commend her efforts. Her attendance for younger kids is doing pretty well. Hopefully it will help. I know our county had a ton of mini 4-H projects. I’m just not sure that they translate into actual enrolled participants.

Our shooting sports club has well over 100 kids participating. Many volunteers are dedicated to its success. My son and his friends love it and have learned a great deal. However, 75% of those kids chose not to exhibit a shooting sports project. I guess they’re still learning, which is the point of 4-H, but it’s still sad that they choose not to complete.  

We’ve gone to one record sheet for all projects … I admit those manuals and activities were a bit of a pain, but we dutifully did them. They were a learning experience. … I still have my “Green folder.” My son turned it in one time, his very first year, before they did away with it. I have no idea where his records are now.

My kids … beg me to quit because “It doesn’t matter how well we do, they won’t be judged correctly anyway.” What am I supposed to say to that, when we have clear examples of that happening repeatedly? As a judge, I always leave comments on the projects I judge.

I share these [comments] with you … to illustrate why my own kids are so frustrated with 4-H. … My son only has a couple of years left and will complete his 10 years, God willing, but I don’t know that he will come away with the same fond memories that I have and that makes me sad.

— Erin Tower, Dubois, Ind.

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