The Herald Bulletin

July 19, 2012

More to 4-H than livestock

‘Building projects’ build character, knowledge

By Abbey Doyle
The Herald Bulletin

ALEXANDRIA, Ind. — Don’t go into Exhibit Hall just to escape the sweltering heat at the Madison County 4-H Fair.

4-Hers like Tressia Phipps, 17, and Jackie Lieurance, 14, want you to go there to appreciate the hundreds of projects on display inside that air-conditioned building.

“A lot of times people don’t think about them,” Jackie said, showing off her grand champion cream cheese and cinnamon tea ring. “I think sometimes people come in just for the AC. They should think about all these projects and come see them.”

Tressia, who earned several awards for her photography, pointed out that there are more participants in the “building projects” than there are the livestock, although the spotlight and attention usually goes out to the barns.

The term “building projects” is common amongst participants and is used to describe “non-livestock” projects that fall under dozens of different categories with projects displayed inside the building.

Some of those categories are pretty common — food, sewing, rocketry, geology, cake decorating, ceramics, photography and collections. But the list of possible building projects — more than 55 — include things like shooting sports, recycling, gift-wrapping, weeds, entomology and self-determination.

Former 4-H leader and parent Leanne Porch said so often “city kids” think 4-H isn’t for them.

“There are so many things to try,” she said. “Think of something you are interested in, interested in trying, I’m sure there’s a project for that. And my kids, they tried so many different things through 4-H. Learn by doing, that’s the motto.”

Porch said many of the projects are a good supplement to what the children are learning in school.

“There’s tons people can learn without growing anything — plant or animal,” she said. “This isn’t just for farm kids.”

The lessons those 4-Hers raising livestock learn — hard work, determination, responsibility and more — are just as easily learned in the other projects as well, Porch said. One of her children even credited a 4-H project on geology with helping her organize herself for a college research project.

Tressia said the building projects often times expose the 4-Hers to hobbies or skills they may have never known about before like photography did for her.

She said she began 4-H seven years ago by raising rabbits but got involved in the building projects at her parents’ encouragement.

“They said the projects would teach me life skills,” Tressia said. “In every single project I’ve learned something new. It’s possible for everyone to get involved in 4-H, either with small animals or building projects. It is definitely worth it.”

Brian and Jennifer Volbrecht were walking around the exhibit hall Thursday afternoon with their six kid — aged 8-weeks to 10 — in tow. They’ve lived in Anderson for the last two years and have come to the fair each of them.

“The kids really want to get involved, and we live in the city so these are the kinds of things they’d be doing,” Jennifer Volbrecht said. “We came last year, and they were really excited. We want them the get some inspiration.”

In addition to inspiration, the group was getting a little hungry eyeing the brightly decorated cakes and pastries packaged tightly and lined on the table.

Hannah Volbrecht, 9, liked the tasty treats but was partial to the clothing and sewing across the way.

“I saw some really cool clothing,” she said. “I want to make some. I also like the drawings. I want to do 4-H.”

Jennifer Volbrecht said they intend to sign some of the children up and that she even plans to incorporate some of the projects into this year’s home-schooling lessons.

Find Abbey Doyle on Facebook and @heraldbulletin on Twitter, or call 640-4805.