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4-H Challenge Model

Program Contact: Program Contact: Family & Human Development Extension Educator
(509) 667-6540 •


The Challenge Model

The 4-H Challenge program is more than just a series of physical and mental activities out it the woods.  The 4-H Challenge Model is built on a few simple theories of education: Adventure-Based Learning, Experiential Education, Full Value Contract, Comfort & Growth Circles, Challenge by Choice.

Adventure-Based Learning
Although the term Adventure is likely to conjure up images of Indiana Jones or National Geographic, you don’t have to chase down lost treasures halfway around the globe in order to have an adventure.  The Adventure-base Learning Model is built on a few fundamental beliefs:

  • In order for learning to take place, it must be meaningful, stimulating and personally rewarding.
  • In order for growth to take place, participants must stretch their comfort zones through taking healthy risks.
  • In order to take healthy risks, participants must feel physically and emotionally safe and supported.

The reasons students lose their motivation for school and learning can often be traced to one of three issues.  They no longer find the subject material meaningful or stimulating.  They lack the support necessary to be successful.  They fear looking stupid in front of their peers and avoid taking healthy risks.   4-H Challenge helps recreate and foster a healthy educational environment through a variety of unique, exciting, meaningful, safe and challenging activities.

One way we create a unique experience or adventure is to take participants outdoors, away from their normal settings and allow them to connect with nature in the woods, on a rock cliff, on the river or in the snow.  However by creating an element of the unknown, an adventure can happen just about anywhere.  A classroom, retreat center, or even a parking lot can become the location of your next adventure if an element of surprise or uncertainty exists.

Through a variety of unique activities, participants will be challenged to do things they never thought possible.  At times, these challenges will leave participants on the brink of both success and failure, but will always provide significant opportunities to learn from the experience.  Of course any challenging activity will involve taking some kind of a risk.  Although all of our activities are designed to manage the actual physical risks, participants will be faced with both emotional and mental risks as well as perceived physical risks.  4-H Challenge activities will compel participants into doing things they never imagined possible.

Experiential Education
The novelty of the activities creates an atmosphere of stimulating excitement and often engages many of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences.  But we’re doing much more than just learning by doing. Based on David Kolb Experiential Education Model, our approach to all of our activities utilizes a Do, Reflect, Apply process.  Through this process we facilitate an experience and then ask participants to step back from that experience and reflect on what they did and what they can learn from their experience.  We then provide new opportunities for the group to apply what they have learned.  Ultimately, we help participants transfer their learning back into their daily lives by helping them draw parallels between their experiences with 4-H Challenge and the challenges they face in their everyday lives.

Full Value Contract (adapted from Project Adventure)
If Adventure-Based Learning creates the atmosphere and Experiential Education is the process, then the principles of the Full Value Contract represents the foundation of 4-H Challenge activities.  Developed by Project Adventure, a Full Value Contract is a basic set of ground rules or behavior guidelines that each group develops for themselves.  It is a shared creation, developed in words that are understandable to all group members.  It is a critical component in creating an emotionally and physically safe environment supported and agreed upon by all group members.

All versions of the Full Value Contract ask the group:

  • To create safe and respectful behavioral norms
  • For a commitment to those norms by everyone in the group
  • To accept a shared responsibility for the maintenance of those norms

Because each group will develop their own Full Value Contract, exact terminology and concepts will vary from group to group.  However, there are consistent similarities between all Full Value Contracts and typically include some combination of the following concepts:

To Work Together with my group in order to achieve both my own goals and the goals of the group.  I will support the group in achieving our goals.

To Be Safe, Emotionally and Physically.   To take care of myself and my group’s physical and emotional safety.  This includes having a positive attitude, respecting each other, avoiding put-downs, and following directions.

To Give & Receive Honest Feedback/ To Listen- To tell others what I am thinking and feeling and to listen to what others have to say to me.

To Grow- To try new things and to step out of my comfort circle and take appropriate risks which I can learn from.

TO Have FUN!  To play and have fun in a safe manner and with a positive attitude.

comfort_growthComfort & Growth Circles
The Comfort & Growth Circle concept is based on the idea that we are all individuals with unique strengths and weakness.  We each have things that are easy for us (things within our comfort circle) and we each have things that make us uncomfortable and challenge us (our growth circle).  If we wish to grow, we can not simply repeatedly do the things that are easy, we must confront the things that are difficult and uncomfortable.  However, if we go to far, if we find ourselves beyond our growth circle, in our fear circle where our natural physical, mental and emotional self-defenses kick in, we are no longer open to or capable of growth.

Challenge by Choice (adapted from Project Adventure)
Because all participants need to feel safe and supported before they can willing choose to step into their growth circle, in all of our activities we practice a concept call Challenge by Choice.  Challenge by Choice is the open door that invites participants to step out of their comfort circle and push their growing edges.  It helps create a caring atmosphere in which participants can stretch themselves.

Originally created by Project Adventure, Challenge By Choice asks participants to challenge themselves and participate fully in each experience.  Recognizing that any activity or goal may pose a different level and type of challenge for each group member and that authentic personal change comes from within.  Whereas one participant might be taking significant personal risk, facing fears and pushing their growing edges when they simply climb to the top of a 12 foot ladder and touch as tree, another participant might need to climb the tree and jump for the trapeze blindfolded.  In 4-H Challenge activities it is not about who goes further or does the most, what’s important is how much each person chooses to push himself or herself.

Challenge by Choice creates an environment where participants are given both the freedom and the responsibility to find opportunities to stretch and grow during the experience.  Although this may result in different participants playing different roles during an activity, all participants are still expected to contribute to the group’s process in some way.

When participants agree to practice Challenge by Choice they agree to respect and support each others thoughtful choices.  This means that the group will offer support and encouragement but will not push someone into their fear circle though peer pressure.  Each individual is responsible for setting their own goals and limits based on their own understanding of their comfort circle and growth circle.  No one can tell someone else what they need to accomplish to have a growing experience.