Setting Goals with BHC 4-H, Why and How?

What is the last goal you set while trying something new? I do not mean the kind of goal some set like, “I’m going to wake up 30 minutes early to work out for the next month”. The kind of goal I am talking about are specific and lesson oriented…more like, “I want to learn how to grow tomatoes by the end of the summer so I can make homemade salsa.”

In 4-H, we treat goal setting as a learned skill that is important for everyday and long-term success at any age. In relation to the Black Hawk County 4-H and FFA Fair, goal setting is a required stepping-stone to overall project success. This year, similar to past fairs, a “Goals Folder” must accompany each 4-H Static (non-livestock) project. Goals Folders include the member’s goal for the project, explain how the goal was achieved, and share the lessons the member learned while creating or exploring the project.

But what makes a well thought out goal? How does a 4-H member get started with creating a goal folder? More importantly, how do the project judges distinguish between a “good” goals statement and one that needs improvement?

Setting a Goal

Strong goals are specific and emphasize that them member wanted to learn or accomplish. Generally, 4-H teaches that a 4-H Goal has three parts including the action (how you are going to do it), result (what you will do), and timetable (when it will be done by).

An example of a well-thought out goal is: I want to learn how to teach my dog to “stay” before dog obedience in July. “I want to learn how to teach,” serves as the action with “my dog to “stay”” following as the result. The time table of this goal is clear as the word “before” is key and a month (July) is provided.

4-H Goals

In our fair book, we list the following as sentence starters for members:

  1. Member’s goal(s) for the project
  2. How the goal was achieved
  3. Lessons learned while working towards the goal

Additionally, we provide a minimum goals form and tips for writing goals hot sheet for members to take advantage of.

We also encourage members to include pictures, additional information about the origin of the project idea, plans for their project after fair, and a material list with cost for creation of the project. Certain project areas require information on Design Elements and Art Principles to be included in the Goals Folder.

The “Good” and the “Needing Improvement”

With over 20 project judges over more than 50 project areas, it can be challenging to make sure things are being judged fairly and everyone is using the same criteria to judge projects.

At the Black Hawk County Fair, we conference judge projects. This means the member brings their project to the judge and has a conversation about their goal and creation process. At this point, having a well-written Goal Folder is to the 4-H’ers advantage because it gives the judge a starting point for the conversation.

We hold a judge and superintendent’s orientation at the beginning of the judging day and monitor judging conversations throughout the event. The biggest goal for the program during static judging is to provide a platform for 4-H’ers to share what they learned, gain interpersonal skills, and expand their experiences and interests through connection with another person interested in the project area.


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