New Hampshire’s 4-H Shooting Sports Project stresses intense certification procedures and safety as it trained 47 new 4-H Shooting Sports instructors at a weekend training held at Barry Conservation 4-H Camp in Berlin earlier this month.
UNH Cooperative Extension’s State 4-H Shooting Sports Specialist Larry Barker said the 4-H Shooting Sports project is a lot like any other with two major advantages. Each instructor must participate and pass an 18-hour long certification training. Most subject matter training is conducted by a dedicated core of Level 1 volunteer instructors. These are individuals who have completed extensive training in their discipline and are qualified to train and certify others.
The second advantage is the focus of this 4-H project. The 4-H Shooting Sports project is used as a vehicle to teach youth development. Volunteer trainers spend time focusing on the principles of positive youth development, a core value of 4-H, and how to work effectively with youth.
4-H makes safety a priority in other ways. One area recently targeted is firearms safety in the home. In Coös County, 4-H members distributed almost 10,000 gun safety kits (including 10,000 trigger locks) over the past few years. This program is designed to teach youth and their families about the responsibilities of firearms ownership and about the importance of properly storing firearms.
Because of this initiative, more New Hampshire households are conscious of firearms safety and better protected. During the recent leader training, additional resources on firearms safety in the home were shared and volunteers challenged to make this topic a priority.
Here are some impressive numbers from the training. Barker reports that he worked with nine Level 1 instructors to deliver 1,105 person/hours of training in both subject matter and positive youth development. The 47 volunteers who became certified indicate they anticipate working with 2,684 youth in the next 12 months.
Perhaps the best lens with which to examine this training weekend is through that of a new 4-H volunteer. This was Roland Pinette’s first exposure to 4-H. The Coös County volunteer has extensive experience as an educator and as a firearms instructor.
After the training, Pinette said he was “very, very impressed with the thoroughness and professionalism of the certification process.” He also highlighted the inspiration he gained from everyone attending as well as insights on how to understand and work effectively with kids.
Barker said it isn’t unusual for those with previous firearms safety or military or law enforcement training to reluctantly arrive for the weekend. They sometimes think they already know what they are doing and that they don’t need additional training. To an individual, they almost always react the way Pinette did when they begin to understand the 4-H philosophy and figure out that the youth audience requires a special approach. In the end, they are hungry for more training in youth development.
Rockingham County’s Mike King is typical of the dedication and enthusiasm of the 4-H Shooting Sports volunteers. King has been serving as the lead archery instructor for New Hampshire ever since attending a week-long training in Pennsylvania in 2004.
Barker said that “It’s hard to find words to adequately describe Mike’s passion and excellence as both a trainer and as a club leader.” King comes to the training early, brings all of his own equipment and supplies (Mike’s archery trailer), and goes above and beyond to make sure that his students gain the skills and knowledge they need to be successful.
King spends a lot of teaching time focusing on the principles of positive youth development and how to work effectively with youth. He also runs a successful 4-H club. Evidence of King’s commitment to youth development is the fact that two members of his 4-H club were recently awarded scholarships to attend the 2015 National 4-H Shooting Sports Teen Leadership Institute.
Teen 4-H members Devan Moretti and Yasmina Hinkle will be New Hampshire’s first representatives to this program that takes place in August at California State University in Fresno.
Barker says that many families are attracted to the 4-H Shooting Sports program because they understand that it is a UNH Cooperative Extension program and that means it is a quality educational program based on research-based principles focused on safety.
Photo: Instructor Mike Connors helps Cynthia Peedin of Strafford properly grip the bow.