What is 4-H?

4-H youth at fair

Leadership Grows Here

4-H is the youth educational program of UNH Cooperative Extension. 4-H provides a supportive setting for all youth to pursue the projects and interests they love, all while serving the community and gaining valuable life skills.

The mission of 4-H is to help youth acquire knowledge, develop life skills, and form attitudes to enable them to become self-directing, productive, and contributing members of society.

The 4 H’s stand for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. The name is directly connected to the 4-H pledge:

"I pledge ... 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."

4-H emphasizes the importance of involving youth in the learning process. It is offered free of charge to youth ages 5-18. Youth from all cultural and economic backgrounds get involved in 4-H fun and learning. Members and volunteers live in towns, cities, farms, and suburbs.

As part of a national organization, NH 4-H is focused on three priority areas.


Since its inception, 4-H has placed emphasis on the importance of young people being engaged, well-informed citizens. By connecting to their communities and community leaders, youth understand their role in civic affairs and expand their role in decision making processes. It is clear that civic engagement provides the foundation that helps youth understand the "big picture" of life and find purpose and meaning.

Healthy Living

Healthy food and nutrition have been addressed by the program since its inception in 1902. Having a long history of promoting healthy living among youth and their families, 4-H has become a national leader in health-related education. The 4-H Healthy Living Mission Mandate engages youth and families through access and opportunities to achieve optimal physical, social, and emotional well-being.


The need for science, engineering, and technology education is essential for today’s young people. 4-H programs prepare youth for the challenges of the 21st century by engaging them in a process of discovery and exploration.

While 4-H aligns its project areas with its Mission Mandates of Citizenship, Healthy Living, and Science, the opportunities expand far and wide! All 4-H project areas are supported by research-based curriculum that is grounded in experiential, hands-on learning. From the community club setting to the school enrichment classroom to SPIN workshops to the individual member experience, there is something for everyone.

Educators - Are you looking for a way to enhance your classroom lessons? Much of our curriculum has been aligned with the Standard Course of Study based on National standards.

Many of our county 4-H offices have copies of curriculum that can be borrowed from the local Extension office or you can purchase your own copy from the National 4-H Mall. 

NH 4-H Project Areas

Each of the following project areas have a variety of opportunities associated with them. Explore below to see what types of experiences await you with NH 4-H!


  • Community Service Learning
  • Civic Engagement
  • Leadership
  • Safety
  • Career Exploration
  • Workforce Preparation

Healthy Living

  • Foods & Nutrition
  • Cooking
  • Food Safety
  • Food Preservation
  • Health & Fitness
  • Physical Activity
  • Socio-Emotional Development

Creative Arts

  • Photography
  • Visual Arts
  • Theater & Performing Arts


  • Plant & Soil Sciences
  • Ornamental Horticulture
  • Flowers
  • Vegetable Gardening
  • Fruit/Food Production

Science & Technology

  • Aerospace & Rocketry
  • Bicycle Safety
  • Computers
  • Electricity/Energy
  • GPS
  • Small Engines
  • Small Tractors
  • Wind Power
  • Woodworking

Environmental Education & Natural Resources

  • Camp
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Entomology
  • Forestry
  • Fishing
  • Marine Science
  • Shooting Sports
  • Wildlife

Family & Consumer Sciences 

  • Child Care/Babysitting
  • Clothing & Textiles
  • Consumer Ed/Clothing Decisions
  • Cultural Awareness
  • Heritage Arts
  • Money Management
  • Personal Development

4-H clubs provide positive youth development opportunities to meet the needs of young people. Through hands-on learning, 4-H’ers experience belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity in their communities. 4-H clubs contain 5 or more youth of 2 or more families that meet regularly with adult volunteers for a long-term progressive series of educational experiences. Clubs are open to all youth regardless of race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, marital status, disability, or public assistance.

Join New Hampshire 4-H

4-H enriches learning inside the walls of the classroom while connecting the learning experience to the outside community. County 4-H programs can support educators enrich their lessons, whether it is through our evidence-based, hands-on curricula that is aligned with standard courses of study or simply connecting with resources of the University of New Hampshire and Cooperative Extension. Let us help you Grow True Leaders! 

From Aerospace to Financial Management to Socio-Emotional Learning, our 4-H curriculum library has something for a variety of area of interests. Become familiar with our many areas by reviewing the National 4-H Curriculum Catalog  or feel free to contact your County 4-H Program team to see what materials are available for use at your local 4-H office. 

In addition to supporting in-class experiences, 4-H partners with other Extension colleagues to build the capacity of our educators, especially in the area of STEM Literacy. Contact your local team to hear more about our educator professional development opportunities. 

The 4-H Basics

What is 4-H?

4-H is America’s largest youth development organization. The purpose of 4-H is to provide a supportive setting for all youth to pursue the projects and interests they love, all while serving the community and gaining valuable life skills.

What do the 4 H’s in 4-H mean?

The 4 H’s stand for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. Our organization’s title is directly connected to our pledge:

"I pledge ... 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."

How old do you have to be to join 4-H?

Our programs are primarily geared towards youth ages 8-18. However, we have ways for your 5-7-year-olds to participate as a “Cloverbud.” If you are older than 18 and still want to express the 4-H spirit, you can take advantage of our many volunteer opportunities.

How do I find my local county 4-H program?

New Hampshire 4-H is the youth development program of UNH Cooperative Extension, and our 10 County 4-H Programs in New Hampshire serving youth from all over the state. 4-H operates on many levels of the community. There are events, programs, workshops, and opportunities on both the County level and the State level (even the National level). Get started by finding your County 4-H Program here. Your county program is usually the county where you live, but if you are planning to join a 4-H club in a different county, that county program will be your home base.

How do I find a local 4-H Club?

The list of Clubs and Afterschool Programs on your County 4-H Program page is a great place to start. To get connected with a club, complete our 4-H interest form, and a 4-H staff member will be in touch to find out more about your interests and put you in touch with a Club Leader that fits your interests and location.

Who leads 4-H Clubs?

The best people in the world lead 4-H Clubs. No joke! 4-H Volunteers lead Clubs, and you can be sure they are truly invested in giving their attention and skills to your children because they do it for free. 4-H nationally gets over a billion dollars of time and expertise from our Volunteers every year. Why on earth would they do that? Because giving your children skills and opportunities is incredibly rewarding for them, and 4-H supports and empowers them to make the maximum impact possible. All 4-H Volunteers are supported by a professional staff, including your County 4-H Program Manager and Field Specialists who are University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension staff members.

What are 4-H Club meetings like?

4-H youth work on projects of all kinds within four general program pathways: Agricultural Science, Civic Engagement, Healthy Living, and STEM. Some Clubs specifically focus on one of these pathways. Other Clubs generally dabble in all four. Youth have opportunities to present and showcase their projects at the county fairs and other county, state, and regional events – but most of the learning and skill development happens in the Clubs. 4-H Club members build leadership by electing officers and conducting their own business meetings, work together on community service activities, meet new friends, and of course, have lots of fun.

What if I don’t necessarily want to join a club?

There are still many ways to be involved! 4-H is committed to bringing you programs wherever you are, and maybe joining a Club is not for you at this time. Youth and families who want to attend county-wide events and SPINs or work on 4-H projects independently are recognized as “independent members” or “participants”. Find a 4-H event near you or contact us to get started as a 4-H independent member.

How do I officially enroll in 4-H?

4-H Online is our official enrollment database. Registering in 4-H Online allows you to manage your 4-H clubs and projects, register your 4-H animals, and sign up for events. Enrollment as a club member or participant is required to register for your county events and SPINs. If you need help enrolling, check out our Enrollment Guide for NH Families.

How do I get involved as a 4-H volunteer?

There are many different kinds of opportunities to support 4-H through volunteering – see all of them here. To volunteer as a Club leader, project leader, or SPIN facilitator, there is a volunteer application and onboarding process. We are here to get you started and guide you through it – start by completing the 4-H Volunteer Application online.

Can parents be involved in 4-H Clubs?

Parents can and should be involved in 4-H Clubs. Speak to the Club Leader to define the best role for you!

How do I start a local 4-H group?

Screened 4-H Volunteers can start a 4-H group aka “Club.” There is a more involved orientation process for Club Organizational Leaders that is designed to bring their vision into reality and highlight the extra responsibilities. We are here to get you started and guide you through it – start by completing the 4-H Volunteer Application online.