Wisconsin 4-H hopes to spark learning with new educational program

Amber Burke
Wisconsin State Farmer

With the Wisconsin 4-H Youth Conference having been canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic for the past two years, 4-H programming officials were looking at ideas to provide a fun and educational in-person event.

Wisconsin 4-H members participate in an arts and crafts activity

"4-H Spark Days" is a new program hosted by the Institute of Positive Youth Development, UW Extension and the Wisconsin 4-H program, intended to provide an opportunity to experience UW campuses and explore new interests through hands-on learning activities, according to Jessica Jens, Wisconsin 4-H Associate Director.

"We are excited to provide programming for youth to explore new areas of interest and see if it could spark a passion in a new hobby or future career," says Jens. 

In it's pilot year, Spark Days will be held in June at UW-River Falls and UW-Milwaukee campuses for Wisconsin 4-H members that have completed grades 7-12. The programming was designed with experiential activities for 4-H'ers to participate in and reflect on what they're learning and possibly ignite a spark of interest of what they might want to do after they graduate high school.

UW-River Falls Event

At UW-River Falls on June 20, youth are invited to explore and discover career options that they may not have considered before, especially focusing on Agriculture and Animal Sciences. University faculty and students will be on site to educate participants about programs and majors in the Colleges of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science and more. They will also travel to the campus lab farms, learn about the UWRF college experience, and participate in hands-on sessions featuring animal science, horticulture, leadership, business and more.

Wisconsin 4-H members participate in hands-on learning and leadership activities at Fall Forum.

UW-Milwaukee Event

On Tuesday, July 21, 4-H'ers will spend the day in Milwaukee visiting sites around the city. At the UW-Milwaukee campus they can explore unique programs and majors, including Urban Agriculture, Film, Architecture, Freshwater Sciences, Library Sciences and more. Participants will have the opportunity to meet people from local community organizations, professionals in different career fields, college students from UWM and MATC, and youth from across the state.

"We hope to learn from these events and see where we could expand upon them in the future" Jens says. "It would be wonderful to host events on college campuses all across the state in order to decrease regional barriers some of our 4-H members experience." 

More information on each day is located on the website at

Jens also says that the Wisconsin 4-H & Youth Conference, a 3 ½ day statewide educational experience on the UW-Madison campus, will be back in 2023. In addition to Spark Days, she adds, "Wisconsin 4-H is gearing up for a busy summer with camps, county fairs and other various events across the state. We have had a huge influx of first-year members join 4-H and we are excited to get them involved with in-person activities again."

"We're excited to continue to grow into the fall, and our membership will see programming come back after the Covid-19 hiatus," Jens adds. "I see only hope and optimism and an incredibly strong and thriving 4-H program in the years to come."