With everything that needs doing, why would anyone think to spend time and money to create a 4-H home page on the worldwide web?
Because it’s fun, informative, and, it’s where the kids are! It’s also a way to reach volunteers, parents and donors. At least that’s the purpose behind the 4-H web page I’m creating for North Dakota.
Let’s start by thinking about how a web page can benefit young people. First, it’s fun. A web site that involves animated graphics, music, voice and video is a great place to visit on the web. A 4-H page should change frequently to attract people again and again.
Second, it’s a great place to find information. Check out the project guides, project materials, and links to project-related sites. Youth can connect with others who share their interests, either through email or through site list-serves. They can talk with each other about issues that concern them, discuss events, even solve problems.
Youth need to be directly involved, too. They can help design the web page, help us to know what appeals to them and to their friends. They can be part of email groups, and they can contribute stories, photos and videos. They can tell others how they made that rocket, or how they worked on their 4-H demonstration.
Younger 4-Her’s can check out the web to see how others have handled that first communication arts experience, maybe even send a message to those older and wiser members for advice! For youth in states like North Dakota, a 4-H web page can lessen that sense of isolation that comes when no one in a small town seems to share your interest.
Many young people are creating their own home pages: The 4-H page can provide links to their sites. A 4-H web page gives youth a chance to explore the world of the Internet, to find something worthwhile, and to share what they know with others. A 4-H web page will create a network of kids who think 4-H is fun or, dare I say, “cool”?
Another part of a great 4-H web page should be for volunteers. Besides our giving them one of those lengthy handbooks, how about creating a network for sharing tips and ideas with other leaders? Volunteers can check out the basics of a club meeting, events, exhibits or see what a demonstration should include. A calendar that lists state and county events gives the volunteers a place to check for information they need to share with members.
On our web page, we list the other resources that are available for club leaders: project manuals, officer books, videos, calenders and banners, for example. Volunteers can order anything they need by clicking on the button at the bottom of the page. It connects them directly with the right email address and their message is transmitted instantaneously.
I think one of the biggest advantages for volunteers is that they can help each other, by subscribing to a list-serve or email group. As professionals, we often use lists to answer questions for each other. A 4-H page is a place for volunteers to ask each other about their experiences, to share ideas, even to vent frustrations!
With the addition of staff directories and hypertext email (a click of the mouse brings up a message form with the right address already in place), a volunteer or youth can quickly and easily communicate with their extension office staff.
Many of the questions that volunteers have are shared by parents. So, the 4-H page becomes a source of information for them, too. Many of those who start with the 4-H page may find themselves linking to other sites that interest them, and then we have more people finding information on the worldwide web! Another example of hands-on, experiential learning through 4-H!
As the development director for the 4-H foundation, I’m interested in organizing information for donors, too. They may check out the 4-H page to see what’s happening — who’s participating in 4-H programs, what 4-H has to offer, who’s on the board of directors and financial status of the foundation. With hypertext email, people can reach the foundation’s board of directors staff with a quick click to request more information about 4-H. A 4-H web page is another place to recognize those donors whose support is so important to us. Donors, whether individuals, businesses or foundations, may have their own sites that they would like linked to the 4-H page.
The foundation portion of the web site is a place for the board members talk about how and why they support the 4-H program. It’s a way to contact many people that may not otherwise be reached.
A 4-H web site makes sense as we all try to reach more youth, more volunteers and more donors, usually with less time and resources. Using the Internet to connect people with each other, to provide them with information, and to teach them about computers and global networking is effective, exciting and innovative.
by: Arlene Bunt, 4-H Youth
Public Relations Coordinator, North Dakota 4-H Foundation Development Director