The 4-H Know Your Government program empowers youth and adults to engage in leadership, citizenship, and life-skill development and application.
Civics in America is in decline – and it’s an alarming trend among American youth. A lack of civic engagement and civic literacy among youth is widespread. They often do not have the knowledge or experience necessary to connect civics facts and concepts to the responsibilities of citizenship. The National Constitution Center 2010 Annual Report on civic competencies indicates that, despite growing consensus on the importance of civic learning, the U.S. Department of Education 2010 benchmark assessment of students’ progress in civics found only 22% of eighth graders to be at or above proficiency. Civic education plays an essential role in strengthening our democratic society, informing citizens, and cultivating a habit and culture of civic participation. Youth need civic learning experience to enable them to become informed, active, and participatory citizens in their communities.
Know Your Government (KYG) is an experiential civic education program developed and produced by Washington State University Extension 4-H to increase youth understanding and practice of positive citizenship. The KYG program strengthens the connection between youth and our political and social networks through education, experience, application, and inspiration. This hands-on program plays a critical role in providing civic education to high school youth. It enhances student understanding of citizenship by teaching civic knowledge and links that knowledge to practical experiences. Focus is directed toward building life skills that promote the development of positive, contributing citizens.
Each year, more than 220 high school students (grades 9-12) and 50 adult mentors participate in the KYG program. Participants are introduced to the democratic process in an interactive and informal way through a four-year program of rotating civic topics covering the legislative process, judicial process, elections and party platforms, and politics and the media. Students study civics and practice what they’ve learned through debates, mock trials, and legislative processes, elections, and discussion at county 4-H meetings – all of which culminates in the annual Know Your Government Conference in Olympia, Washington.
The most important thing I have gained from attending Know Your Government was…
- “…to accept people for who they are and that change is not necessarily a bad thing.”
- “… I learned how to be able to speak in front of crowds, I never really speak in front of crowds because I’m scared of crowds.”
- “… learning how the government/legislative process works, also how a bill becomes law.”
- “… how one vote can change so much.”
- “… how to get up and speak up about something, even if I am nervous; to embrace things I enjoy.”
- “… how to adapt to change with an open mind.”
WSU Extension would like to thank our generous sponsors:
For more information about the Know Your Government Conference, visit 4h.wsu.edu/conferences/kyg/
Both the community service aspect and the service learning emphasis of the Know Your Government program provide students with a strong sense of accomplishment, and the development of civic disposition leads them to stay involved. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, students who receive effective civic learning are more likely to vote and discuss politics at home, are four times more likely to volunteer and work on community issues, and are more confident in their abilities to speak publicly and communicate with their elected representatives.
Research shows that civic education of youth leads to:
- Young people who are engaged in civic education, with greater political involvement and regular participation in elections
- Participants seeking additional civic education for themselves and their community
- Social improvements and more active, positive citizenship
- Increased participant willingness and likelihood to address social problems at the local level and beyond
- Civic improvements accomplished by engaging a community in its entirety
2018 KYG IMPACTS
The 2018 Know Your Government Conference showed significant gains from pre- to post-program in the following life-skills areas and in civics:
- Understanding of how the Washington State Legislative System is organized
- Understanding of the role a lobbyist plays in the legislative process
- Understanding of how to be engaged in the civic process
- Having the confidence to speak in front of groups
- Increased life-skills in:
- Accepting differences
- Responsible citizenship
In alignment with 4-H’s mission, community service was another focal point of KYG this year. Combined, youth and adult participants put in more than 780 hours of service with various local organizations serving the Olympia community. KYG delegated worked alongside many local non-profits including:
- Family Support Center
- Nisqually Land Trust
- Priest Point Park
- GRuB – Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities
- Salvation Army
- Family Education & Support Center
- South Side Reading Foundation
- Union Gospel Mission