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I pledge my head to clearer thinking

I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living for my family, my club, my community, my country, and my world
 –The 4-H Pledge

Dr. Freeman
It was well over 100 years ago when the founders of 4-H conceived of our pledge. I believe it is just as foundational for youth development today as it was those many years ago.

Head. Heart. Hands. Health.

In 4-H, youth build skills they need to lead for a lifetime. And as we support and encourage their development, it’s critical that we consider all aspects of their selves. Because true leaders lead with every part of who they are.

Over the coming months, I’d like to share with you some of my own reflections on the pledge as well as reflections from youth, volunteers, and alumni in our community.

I pledge my head to clearer thinking.

This part of our pledge is about cognitive development, building strong processing skills that empower youth to grow knowledge and apply it. Youth have many ways to develop their cognitive skills. What’s particularly special about cognitive development in 4-H is that we don’t tell our youth what to believe, think, or learn. Instead, we show them how to think, how to use processing skills to develop their own knowledge and understanding.

Julianna is a 4-H alum from South St. Louis County attending the University of Minnesota –Crookston. She recently described how she uses the cognitive skills she grew during her years in 4-H. "I’m always using my head for clearer thinking. Whether it be about my future plans, my classes, or my friends, I try to wisely resolve any issues that come up.” As she pursues college and career in the equine industry, Julianna continues to build those cognitive skills she learned to use in 4-H.

Volunteer Patty with McLeod County 4-H
project bowl team
Patty, a volunteer in McLeod County 4-H, has spent nearly 20 years helping youth prepare for 4-H Project Bowls. She loves this work because she gets to see the learning process firsthand and celebrate when hard work pays off. “My favorite is when a really shy member of our team has the courage to buzz in and give a right answer. It might be the one and only time they buzz in during an entire competition, but the look on their face when they get it right, when they can show what they’ve learned, I just love it.”

How have you seen cognitive development, thinking skills, growing in the 4-H youth around you? Are they learning to process, evaluate, and imagine through their 4-H project learning and other experiences? I’d love to hear what you’re seeing. As our youth learn to think, they are growing skills to be true leaders!

Pledging my head to clearer thinking,

Dorothy M. Freeman
State 4-H director
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