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Boys' And Girls' Clubs

( Originally Published 1915 )

The Older Boys and Girls.—Rural schools of to-day are very different institutions from those attended by our fathers and grandfathers. When father went to school, the country school was attended by from fifty to eighty pupils and it was taught by a strong intellectual leader. There were no town schools to speak of, and hence the rural schools could hire the best teachers there were to be hired. But now the rural schools are attended by a few small children and they are taught by a girl still in her teens. This gives us the problem of interesting the older boys and girls who should be, but who are not in school. This in turn gave rise to clubs and short courses which we hope will be followed by some kind of continuation schools.

This lack of ability on our part to interest the older boys and girls is a great national loss. We need the consolidated high school, we need good night schools and we need vocational courses for both boys and girls. But these are years off. What are we to do, in the meantime? The Boys' and Girls' Clubs seem just now to give us the answer. In 1914 there were over 200,000 of these older boys and girls doing some kind of club work under the direction of the National Department of Agriculture. One thousand boys and girls from the single State of Ohio did some-thing meritorious enough to win a trip to Washington. They were an inspiring group orderly, happy boys dressed in the khaki of the Boy Scouts and girls dressed plainly but becomingly.

The papers along the way gave accounts of them and for almost the first time in our history the boys in town said, " I wish that I lived in the country where one can do something worth while."

Benefits of Clubs.—In addition to furnishing a substitute for a continuation school for older boys and girls who cannot attend the rural schools, there are other benefits to be derived from the clubs. Boys have the instinctive desire to gang, to belong to something and to do something to attract attention.

These instincts are beneficial if properly guided. But the adolescent instinct, unguided, often leads to acts which would not have been committed had there been something else to do.

Girls like to belong to cliques and this, too, is a wholesome feeling if properly guided. Both of the instincts, to " gang" and to " clique," are social instincts which need to be exercised in order to develop social beings. The teacher needs to get the larger vision and think of the school campus as the whole district and the pupils as all of the people of the district. Her life will be happier if she is of real service to all.

The practical or economic value of the club is not to be over-looked. Mr. O. H. Benson, of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, has repeatedly taught 14-year-old girls to can 300 quarts of garden truck in a day. This is done with a little eight-dollar outfit (Fig. 38) which may be bought on the cooperative plan and used by three or more families. There is no good reason why the overburdened mother should stew and fret all summer in order to can 100 quarts for her winter use. Half of the garden truck in the country goes to waste, half of the girls wish they had some way to earn spending money, and half of the people of the nation go hungry for garden vegetables during the winter months. The clubs are the places where we may bring these forces together (Fig. 138).

The economic benefits of the boys' clubs are equal to those of the girls'. Little Leroy Nichols of Highland, 'Maryland, raised 150 bushels of corn on one acre at a cost of thirteen cents a bushel. He did that at a time when the average American farmer was growing about 29 bushels to an acre at a cost of something near forty-four cents per bushel. Earl Zeller of Iowa, the same year, grew 146 bushels on his acre and grew them at a cost of nine and a fraction cents per bushel. This was done at a time when Iowa farmers were growing 43 bushels on an acre at a cost of some forty or more cents per bushel. As stated in Chapter II, those who belong to the clubs are privileged to use a label for their produce which enables them to guarantee to the buyer that it is of first-class quality, and this in turn enables them to get a much better price for what they have to sell.

Those who love rites, mysteries and ceremonies may wear a badge which means fully as much as the boy scout badge. One boy said that he could not see that a club member was any better than any one else. " Well," said the member, " they try to be good."

Nor does the meaning of the badge stop there. Each badge has on it the word DEMONSTRATOR, which means that the club member is a demonstrator to the world as to what we can do in America with scientific agriculture. This demonstrating appeals to the adolescent. But added to these uses of the badge is the fact that it is a part of a trade mark which the members are permitted to use on their goods for the market.

In the national contests, the members are marked as follows :

Boys' Corn Club Age: 10 to 18 years, inclusive.

Acreage: One acre.

Basis of award :

1. Greatest yield per acre 30

2. Best showing of profit on investment 30

3. Best exhibit of ten ears at county, district, and State fairs 20

4. Best written history entitled " How I Made My Crop of Corn " 20

Total score 100

How may a teacher form a boys' or girls' club ? That is easy; no long catechism or constitution is required, though a short constitution is convenient. Write to your Farm Bureau agent, to your State College or to the United States Department of Agri-culture for instructions. Each teacher will receive enrolling cards or sheets for those who may wish to become members. These, when filled in and returned to headquarters, are followed by sheets giving instructions as to what to do, how to select and prepare the soil, about when to plant, how to get and test good seed, etc. This page when filled in and returned is followed by another and then another giving the things to do and the records to keep for the season's work.

The personal touch and association should not be underestimated and hence the teacher, when possible to do so, should have a club leader come to her school and talk to the children about the club work and its pleasures and benefits. Here again the teacher who is socializing her school recognizes the educational waste that comes when such a person talks to a few small children only. For that occasion the teacher should invite all interested parties, including the parents, but giving especially urgent invitations to the older boys and girls who are not in school.

The line of work to be undertaken must be considered care-fully. Then the question of how many clubs, whether one for both boys and girls or one for boys and one for girls, must be decided. As a rule it is better to let adolescent boys have a club of their own and adolescent girls have a club of their own. If they are to use the school-house they may meet on alternate weeks, or the girls on Wednesdays and the boys on Fridays. For young people about the age of twenty years or older, it is well to have one club and have two or three programmes. Let them meet, say, at eight o'clock. The boys are to discuss for three-quarters of an hour how to grow, judge, select breed or do some-thing with corn ; while the girls discuss how to grow, can or handle tomatoes (Fig. 138). Then a short joint meeting, a short social visit, and the meeting is over. The separate programmes are carried on as are our Sunday School classes. Leaders need to be cautioned about keeping late hours. There should be a definite time agreed upon to close and that time should be adhered to closely.

Then, too, the leader must see to it that there is the same enthusiasm put into the study programmes and lessons that there is into the social and literary exercises. If this is not attended to, the better members will begin to drop out. Farm folk are great folk to like to listen to people who have done things. It is wise to invite the successful in the given line to address the club. The best corn grower, the one who has won, is the logical leader. If you cannot have the successful ones actually present, get some good reader to read an ,account of what they did and then have that account discussed. The teacher needs to keep on file such accounts and have them ready to supply at times when other material for lessons and programmes is short.

Each member must have something to do. The bashful members are frequently helped by having a roll call of short accounts, items from the papers or quotations on the subject. This leads to reading on the part of every member. A good leader is one who does not do all of the talking. A good leader is one who has a good imagination and hence sees very clearly the meaning of all that is being done. There are many cultured men and women in the rural districts whose talent is not being used by the community. The situation needs a teacher who is an organizer and who can conserve this social heritage.

Perhaps a description of a corn club in Iowa will give the reader an idea of what one is. This club was formed by the young people of the neighborhood. They met at each other's houses, both boys and girls attending. The boys met in one room for their study and the girls in another. Then they had the literary meeting in a room where both met. They had singing, speaking, quotations and whatever seemed pleasing and helpful. The name of the club is the " Evergreen Club," but the members were not evergreen. The boys were principally interested in corn and grain breeding. The first time they took their corn to the State College show it was so poor that the boys decided not to open their boxes. That was a lesson for green country boys. An educated individual is one who, among other things, takes defeat helpfully and cheerfully. The boys made up their minds then and there that they would take home some good seed corn. They bought the best to be had and three years afterward it took a railroad car to carry home their prizes. One of them became the State champion corn judge, a number of them won State championships for their ears of corn during different years and at different shows. Among their prizes were three $150 manure spreaders. They became noted for their good' seed corn and that has brought hundreds of dollars to the community, for there were enough of them growing good corn so that a buyer is almost certain to have his orders filled. If the one to whom the order is sent does not have the seed, a fellow club member is sure to have it.

Then, too, the very existence of the club enabled the members to lay hold of and use much talent that would otherwise be lost to them. If a young person is home for vacation from college, he is asked to give an account of what he has learned that is worth while for that neighborhood. If the district is visited by a writer, preacher or educator they manage to use him for an evening. It does not matter if few are present or that a speaker cannot be present at regular meetings. The neighborhood is hungry, as it were, for entertainment, and talent is going to waste. What is needed is an organization to conserve and disseminate the best that there is. This makes success surer and life mean more.

As was to be expected, the good influence of the " Evergreen Club " did not stop with the growing of better corn and the cooking of better things to eat. That neighborhood was noted for the number of young men and women who went from it to college. Some of them returned to be life-workers in the district. Others became noted rural social-service workers. Fred Hanson is widely known for the work he has done organizing rural Y. M. C. A.'s. His good influence is felt in rural districts all over the United States. Perhaps this is the place to say that we have no thought by introducing agriculture and domestic science in the schools, by having boys work in corn, poultry or potato clubs, to keep all boys on the farm. We do not wish all boys to stay on the farm, but we do wish first of all to have those stay who have strength and talent for farming, we wish to have others awakened to the need of social-service workers for the rural districts, and we wish to enable the country to furnish its fair share of leaders for the cities, but leaders who under-stand the double problem of cooperation between town and country. We want strong young people who go to the cities and there become leaders who understand that the cities dare not prosper at the expense of the country, materially or morally.

The County Fair.—Two institutions are frequently ignored by the schools, and yet each is capable of doing much more than it is now doing for both the school and the community. These are the County or District Fair and the Farmers' Institute. The schools should be in evidence at the fairs. Teachers should help to mould a healthy public opinion for a clean, educational fair. A teacher has not done all of his duty when he has given the children one day of vacation to visit the fair. There will be exhibits at the fair. The pupils should discuss the relative merits of what is to be exhibited there. The pupils should have enough drill in the use of the various score cards to enable them to go to the fair and to see critically while there. To-day the club members alone are getting this drill. The vaudeville features are to disappear when the schools have taught the people to demand something better. To-day the agricultural press is almost the only institution that stands for a clean fair. To be sure the minister preaches for a clean fair, but he does not preach to those who are demanding the gambling and other questionable entertainment. Our schools should have attractive exhibits of things that are interesting to those who wish to learn of agriculture, and our schools should help to create a demand in every department for a clean, helpful exhibit.

The Farmers' Institute.—Another great educational institution often ignored by the schools is the Farmers' Institute. Here is an institution costing about twice as much for running expenses as any American university, and attended by more than ten times as many people. Frequently there are exhibits of the highest value. There are programmes where pupils may help both to entertain and to instruct. If the teacher does his duty by his pupils, he will see that they have a part in the Farmers' Institute. In Delaware, for illustration, Dr. Wagner, Commissioner of Education, had the schools closed for one half-day and the older pupils taken to the Institute. The pupils knew that the next day they would be required to give written reports of what was said and hence they went with paper and pencils and were interested listeners. Of course, where such a thing is to be done, it is the duty of the teacher to ask the officers of the Institute to have at least one topic and one speaker to interest the pupils. An account of the boys' and girls' club work is always interesting to both pupils and older people. In many places where the clubs are strong, there is a separate programme for the club members and to this the pupils of the schools may go and while there get inspiration to do things. But the Farmers' Institutes are too generally held in town. We need first-class institutes in the country. The specialists should go to the farmer and not ask the farmer to come to town. Any wideawake teacher can have an institute for at least one day and one evening. She has talent enough in her district for that. But Farmers' Institute workers must remember that farm folk demand for speakers people who are known to have done things worth while. If you want to kill an institute, have men talk who have never done any-thing but talk.

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