The cookies they decorate and hamsters they raise will be at the fair along with the multi-tiered cakes and steers being exhibited by older students.
Multi-colored paintings and craft projects by youngsters will be one building away from full ball gowns stitched together by teens.
More than 100 youngsters in the Johnson County Purdue Extension Mini 4-H program will have projects at the Johnson County 4-H and Agricultural Fair this week.
The statewide Purdue Extension program is touted as a way to introduce 4-H to youngsters a few years early and to build stronger 4-H programs.
Most counties in the state have a mini program, but they are often called something different, said Ashley Schultz, Purdue Extension youth educator.
Johnson County’s program boasts of about 150 members, Schultz said.
The Mini 4-H program is a way for students in first and second grades to dabble in 4-H before they can join regular 4-H in third grade, Schultz said.
“It’s a very basic introduction into what 4-H is all about,” she said.
Their projects are based on the same concept as regular 4-H exhibits. For example, a mini 4-H’er can decorate a cookie but won’t attempt to decorate a big birthday cake or wedding cake like a seasoned 4-H’er. Youngsters can make a no-bake cookie or breakfast treat, but won’t be canning preserves or making a fruitcake.
Starting with mini 4-H can be invaluable to students and their families, Schultz said.
The amount of projects and the scope of what they can enter is limited. Plus, everyone gets a blue ribbon, she said.
Mini 4-H is a way for students to try projects when they are young without the pressure, said former Mini 4-Her, Lizzie Elliott, 9.
“It is so (students) will be more prepared for 4-H and won’t be worried about it,” she said. “Mostly it gave me ideas of what (4-H) would be like.”
And often, parents new to the program could use an introduction to 4-H along with their child, Schultz said.
Deadlines, judging and helping their kids pick projects from more than 100 4-H categories can be daunting for families who aren’t familiar with 4-H, she said.
“For a family new to 4-H, this makes it less intimidating,” Schultz said. “4-H can be overwhelming for families who haven’t been in the process.”
Plus, students are learning invaluable skills.
Youngsters can spend two years in mini 4-H, giving them more time to prepare and hone their skills. If they stick with 4-H and don’t change their projects around too much, they will be near pros by the time they become 10-year 4-H members, she said.
“They will just get a lot more out of the 4-H experience,” Schultz said. “You are perfecting those skills and each year you build upon them.”
Mini 4-H is the time to mess up and experiment with more projects, said Olivia Rostock, 9, a mini 4-H’er.
“(Mini 4-H) helps younger kids figure out what they want to do when they get older,” she said.