4-H members spend Saturday in an ‘Amazing Race’ toward civic learning
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MOUNT IDA, Ark. -- Part competition, part mystery and all fun. That’s how 15 youths aged 9-13 spent a Saturday learning citizenship and leadership during the Montgomery County 4-H Amazing Race.
“After each presentation, the 4-Hers had to complete a challenge activity testing their knowledge before being given a clue to the next destination,” she said. “This was a quintessential 4-H event modeling our slogan, ‘Learn by doing’!’”“Our 4-H members spent a Saturday traveling to different locations in Mount Ida, where they were met by presenters who explained various functions of government and how to be a good citizen,” said Amy Monk, county extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Making the rounds
Mayor Jo Childress was among the 11 city and county officials who helped explain various levels of government and what it means for citizens.
Programs like these are “very important. There’s so much to learn. If you don’t start early, they’ll never get it all,” she said. Childress said she enjoyed watching the 4-Her’s work together through the activity. “It wasn’t a matter of, ‘I’ll do it.’ They had to work together to get the program to work.”
A couple of moments stood out, one was the little girl who told her, “I didn’t know our mayor was a woman,” or the boy who wanted to have his picture made with her. Childress had been mayor for a decade and the boy, 10, was amazed that she had held the office as long as he’d been alive.
Mount Ida 80 years ago
Emilie Kinney, executive director of the Heritage House Museum of Montgomery County spoke about women in government in the 1930s.
In the early 1930s, the men of Montgomery County “were tired of holding office,” Kinney said. “One of them thought it would be funny to put women on the ballot.”
The women “took it very seriously and accomplished a lot,” she said. “They proved themselves and, well, it kind of backfired on the guys.”
The 4-Hers later explored the museum by completing a scavenger hunt.
The youths were intrigued by what they heard.
“I think the main thing they left with would be more awareness of the activities of our present day government,” Kinney said. “They left with a different take on what’s going on around them.”
Another of their stops was with Robert Cavanaugh, who discussed how civic engagement can make a difference in public policy after which the kids put seven steps for community action in order.
"Cool! We can do these steps!" one of the youths said.
"This day made me wish even more young people would get involved. It seemed to be an excellent experience and a great opportunity to learn about leadership,” Cavanaugh said.
Others who took part in the Amazing Race were:
- County Treasurer Betty Boling and County Assessor Tammy McCarter showed the kids how taxes are calculated and explained what tax dollars are spent on. The teams were given a property card and had to calculate where the tax dollars would be spent.
- Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputy Bernie Soliz taught four steps to helping in an emergency situation. Groups enacted a silent drama demonstrating the steps.
- Montgomery County Judge Alvin Black explained the role of the quorum court in county government. Teams completed a team-building activity on the courthouse lawn to emphasize working together.
- Chamber President Sherry Ellison explained why buying local goods and services helps the economy. The kids then played a game matching products or services to their local business.
- Election coordinator, Penny Black, taught kids why it is important to vote and conducted a mock election.
- The American Legion showed 4-Hers how to fold a flag and explained ways to show respect for the flag.
- Montgomery County Food Pantry Director, Brenda Forga, explained how to make a difference in the community. Afterwards, kids bagged beans and rice to be given away in the pantry.
The youths celebrated with awards and a hot dog roast when they reached the finish line at Twin Creeks.
The R.A.G.E. (Ready, Able, Giving, Everything) Teen Leader Club supplied leadership for the event. The teens were team captains and provided guidance and encouragement to younger 4-H members. One 4-H leader said, “My teen leaders were very good about giving each person a task in the challenges. The leaders encouraged the quieter members of the group to contribute.”
“These are truly qualities important in leadership and ones that Montgomery County 4-H is passionate about promoting,” Monk said.
This event was funded with a grant provided by the Arkansas State Legislature; the goal of which was to engage youth in becoming active, informed and productive citizens.
The Montgomery County 4-H secured a total of $6,601 for three projects. The Amazing Race was the second project completed.
The first was an “Expedition to Leadership” trip to Little Rock for tours of the State Capitol, the State House, Heifer International, and the Clinton Library with an overnight stay at the Arkansas 4-H Center. The final event is a Citizenship Quiz Bowl with three other counties coming to compete on Nov. 22 at First Baptist Church in Mount Ida.
“This will be a great way to cap off our emphasis on citizenship and a chance for our youth to showcase what they have learned through the 4-H program,” Monk said.
Volunteers are needed for this event! Contact the Extension Office at 870-867-2311 if you are interested.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.
El Servicio de Extensión Cooperativa de Arkansas es una institución de acción afirmativa/ igualdad de oportunidades/igualdad de acceso.
By Amy Monk
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture