organization for boys and girls, generally from 8 to 18 years of age; some states offer programs for younger children, and there are also collegiate programs. 4-H teaches young people leadership, citizenship, and life skills through practical educational programs in animal and plant sciences, family and consumer sciences, computers and technology, environment and earth sciences, communications, community service, and other areas. 4-H programs are offered through clubs, camps, afterschool groups, and other venues. Local groups are guided by Extension agents and volunteer leaders. Each club elects its officers and plans its activities and programs. The 4-H motto is "To make the best better"; its pledge is "My Head to clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service, and my Health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world." A national 4-H congress is held annually, and other national and state conferences and events are also held.
Developed between 1902 and 1919 to enable rural youth to "learn by doing," the American 4-H program is run by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, with the aid of state land-grant colleges and universities and the nonprofit National 4-H Council. Since World War II, 4-H has expanded its programs to include young people living in the nation's cities and suburbs, as well as military bases worldwide, and a third of all members now in live cities and suburbs with populations greater than 50,000. The 4-H movement also has grown to include cross-cultural exchange and training programs with similar groups in more than 80 countries. There are more than 6.5 million members in the United States.
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