CHARLOTTESVILLE — Eastern Hancock Elementary School is offering fifth graders a few 4-H opportunities in the classroom this week as part of a test pilot to see how the students like it.

Officials plan to implement a 4-H class into the middle school curriculum next year as an elective. This week, fifth graders had the chance to take part in the dissection of cattle and pig hearts, one of several different 4-H science projects the students are working on this week.

The classwork is just the beginning of bringing real, 4-H-style projects into the classroom and letting students earn credit.

Superintendent George Philhower said he’s wanted to capture the essence of the 4-H program for years and get it into the classroom where kids can tinker, explore, create and get real hands-on, work-based learning.

“When you look at the projects the kids do for the fair, you realize these kids are doing incredible work and there are some really good learning experiences, so I’ve been thinking for years about a 4-H integration,” Philhower said.

Libby Manship, who works with the district as a community liaison, told Philhower of a Lilly grant through Purdue Extension that helped the district expand their pilot 4-H program into the school year for more students next year.

“We’re targeting the middle school grades first and letting them work on projects that they might enter into the fair and compete,” Philhower said. “But, eventually, that’s the whole idea — make 4-H available to all our kids.”

Eastern Hancock teacher Erin Harmon, who was recently promoted to assistant principal for Eastern Hancock High School and Middle Schools effective next school year, has been working with the students and getting the project ready for the middle school classes next year.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for our students to engage in all kinds of 4-H activities and get class credit for it,” Harmon said. “The class will meet district and state standards, so it will check off a lot of boxes and is going to be a good program for us.”

Harmon said they’ll be dedicate an entire rotation class for the 4-H work where students can find an area of interest and be able to create a project at school. District officials say they will also look into setting state standards for their younger third and fourth grade students to eventually get them fully involved.

“That one will be a little more tricky, and we’re not sure what that is going to look like as we coordinate with state standards,” Harmon said.

Vickie Ramsey, Hancock County 4-H Coordinator, said she’s ecstatic about having 4-H work introduced inside the classroom at Eastern Hancock due to the fact many Eastern Hancock students already participate in the local 4-H Fair.

“I think it’s going to be a great thing not only for the school, but the 4-H fair and Hancock County,” Ramsey said. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Ramsey noted 4-H is more than animals and offers opportunities in pretty much everything from Legos and crafts to woodworking and art work.

“We even offer a project called ‘Do Your Own Thing,’” Ramsey said.

Bill Decker, 4-H Regional Educator—Project Achievement with Purdue Extension, has been working with Eastern Hancock as they have been taking on a number of 4-H initiatives this year and the next.

He told the Daily Reporter he’ll be working with them piloting “4-H Project Achievement” with their 3rd through 5th grades during the 2024-25 school year.

“Eventually, this program will go all the way through high school,” Decker said.

Decker said Project Achievement is an important component of the Indiana 4-H Youth Development Program and that it provides structure and assistance to children in grades 3 through 5 as they research and present a topic of interest to their teachers and classmates.

This type of project, Harmon noted, will help students work on their English skills as well as public speaking skills.

“We’re looking at connecting with science and English Language Art standards as we start this,” Harmon said. “Then we’ll look into what other types of curriculum connections we can make as well.”

The primary goal of Project Achievement is to introduce children to various subjects in a fun and engaging manner while promoting personal growth and life skills development in the areas of research and presentation.

Through age-appropriate activities, children can choose from topics in areas of science, social studies, arts and crafts, healthy living, environmental stewardship, and leadership.

Sarah Williams will teach the middle school classes next year, and Ramsey, a 4-H leader, will run many parts of the classroom work portion.