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About Volunteers

As a SPIN volunteer you play an important role in the lives of the young people in your club. The youth see you as a:

  • Caring adult
  • Subject matter expert
  • Teacher
  • Role model

Positive Youth Development

4-H SPIN clubs are built on the positive youth development elements of Belonging, Independence, Generosity, and Mastery, referred to as BIG-M. Research tells us that when these elements are present in youth programs, they will have lasting impact on the lives of the young people.

SPIN volunteers make significant contributions to positive youth development in their clubs. Let’s find out how.

Belonging

Young people want to belong and be members of a group. As a SPIN volunteer, you can help members feel accepted, connected, and included in the club.

To feel a sense of belonging, young people need a :

  • Positive relationship with a caring adult who provides guidance, coaching, and positive feedback.
  • Welcoming and inclusive environment that allows them to feel connected to others and valued.
  • Feeling of safety at all times - physically and emotionally.

Because SPIN clubs only meet for a short time, volunteers have to be intentional about creating a place of belonging.

Volunteers should:

  • Include ice-breakers and get acquainted activities in meetings.
  • Use cooperative games where there are no losers.
  • Provide opportunities for members to share, work together, and help others.
  • Consider possible risks and eliminate or manage the risks.
  • Not tolerate bullying, cliques, or put-downs.
  • Redirect misbehavior when it starts.

Independence

A major goal of 4-H is to help young people become competent, capable, and contributing members of their communities. For youth to achieve independence, they must learn to set attainable goals, identify realistic strategies for reaching those goals, and make informed decisions.

Volunteers can:

  • Assist members in setting goals.
  • Allow members to select learning activities.
  • Help youth apply what they are learning in other areas of their lives.
  • Help young people assess what they did well and what they could do differently.
  • Encourage members to help others in the club.
  • Provide leadership roles for members, such as planning a community service project or culminating event.

Generosity

Generosity grows when young people share their skills, ideas, talents, and time with others. 4-H community service projects allow youth to help others, contribute to their community, and develop pride for the community they live in. Community service is part of the SPIN club experience.

SPIN volunteers can:

  • Brainstorm with members to identify needs in the community.
  • Ask members how they can use what they are learning to help others or the community.
  • Support club members in planning a service project.
  • Encourage youth to serve as mentors to younger children.

To practice Generosity, members can

  • Assist others who need help with their projects.
  • Donate to others the things they have made.
  • Plan and conduct service projects to improve their community.
  • Teach others what they have learned.

Mastery

Mastery is at the heart of SPIN clubs. Through SPIN clubs, young people learn knowledge and skills and demonstrate that they are able to use the knowledge and skills. They develop mastery through hands-on learning. When young people successfully solve problems and meet challenges, they develop confidence in themselves.

Volunteers can promote mastery when they:

  • Meet with club members to plan and set goals.
  • Help youth apply what they learned to other areas of their lives.
  • Provide opportunities for members to demonstrate their skills and knowledge to others.
  • Celebrate success with a culminating event and invite family and friends.

Managing Behavior

By incorporating positive youth development in your SPIN club, you will have a lasting impact on the lives of youth. When youth are actively engaged in learning they are less likely to have behavior problems. Following are some best practices for managing behavior.

  • Provide individual attention when needed.
  • Give members responsibility for preparing learning activities, cleaning up afterwards, or assisting you. They feel valued and it helps them develop leadership skills.
  • Start on time. Down-time allows youth to get off task and cause disruptions.
  • Praise is a powerful motivator! Use it liberally.
  • You are a role model. Set a positive example.
  • Find something to appreciate about each child. Make sure they know what that is.
  • Share rules or safety practices before you begin so members know the expectations. Gently remind them when they forget.
  • Redirect disruptive behavior when it begins. It’s contagious if allowed to continue.
  • Always practice two-deep leadership. Never be alone with a child.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign