Mongolia 4-H based on Wyoming’s example
Laramie – Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia native Sergelen Vanganjal lived in Laramie while her husband attended graduate school at UW. While there, her children participated in a local 4-H club, and the experience was so positive she approached UW Cooperative Extension service staff members Kim Reaman and Warren Crawford about developing a 4-H program in her home country.
Crawford and Reaman just returned from a two-week trip to Ulaanbaatar, where they provided training and consultation for the Mongolia 4-H Organization, which was established last year.
“We focused our training on experiential learning, which is the teaching process at the heart of the 4-H program and how we work with youth in their project work,” explains Reaman.
“We also discussed a lot of basic principles surrounding 4-H, including the volunteers involved and the hands-on learning processes it focuses on,” adds Crawford.
He adds that forming a club and holding meetings was a brand new concept.
“Our primary audience included librarians, school teachers, 4-H staff and a few 4-H volunteers,” notes Reaman.
To date, the primary focus of the Mongolian 4-H program has been to increase reading skills in the Mongolian youth population.
“Clubs were established and kids would come in and read during a summer reading program. The hands-on aspect was to create something that reflected the content they read,” notes Reaman. “They created artwork, some wrote book reports and others role-played parts of the story.”
“It was really a parallel to 4-H in Wyoming. Here students work on their projects then go to the county fair to show what they’ve learned, but in Mongolia the focus was all on reading,” adds Crawford.
Additional project interests include horticulture, gardening, visual arts, crafts and cooking. While Ulaanbaatar has a population of a million people, the remainder of the country is referred to as the countryside, and there is interest in livestock projects in the more rural areas.
“They are interested in implementing what are already some really traditional 4-H projects in the western United States,” notes Crawford.
“We are also doing a youth exchange next summer. We received a grant through the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, which allows us to administer the exchange,” explains Reaman.
Crawford and Reaman will travel back to Mongolia with 29 youth and six adult chaperones next summer. Youth will fill out an application and complete an online interview to be considered for the exchange.
“Kids from any of the 13 western states are eligible,” says Reaman.
“We are hoping to recruit a large number from Wyoming. This is where we live, and we would love to see as many Wyoming kids participate as possible,” adds Crawford.
Eventually Reaman and Crawford would like to see youth from Mongolia come to Wyoming also, creating a true exchange program.
“One long-term goal is to create some sister clubs for the Wyoming 4-H program in Mongolia, allowing youth to share and compare projects in their different cultures,” says Reaman.
“For example, horses are used for different purposes in Mongolia, but there are kids with a passion for horses there just like there are here. Kids with horse projects here could learn about another person’s love for horses in a different way, and vice versa,” comments Crawford.
Reaman adds that an increased cultural awareness between the two countries would also benefit youth in both locations and foster global citizenship.
“There are so many similarities between Mongolia and Wyoming in terms of ecological systems, the altitude, soil types and weather conditions. It’s almost identical, and seems to be a very natural fit. We hope the kids will have a lot in common and be able to compare issues such environmental related concerns,” says Reaman.
“They have the same natural resources, including coal and natural gas. The landscape is also very similar – we could have been standing in Wyoming based on how it looked there,” notes Crawford.
Another similarity Reaman noticed was the level of passion and dedication displayed by the volunteers.
“We saw librarians who were establishing clubs through their libraries, and teachers who were very excited about providing kids with the opportunity to grow and learn,” she notes.
“The agrarian nature of the country is also comparable to the history of Wyoming,” says Crawford. “The culture is still really ingrained in livestock production and the land, but the population is shifting to more urban areas. We are seeing that same thing occur in Wyoming – there’s still a passion for agriculture, and it’s still the root of our society, but people are moving into more industrial and urban areas.”
Both Reaman and Crawford look forward to continuing their involvement in the Mongolian 4-H program. Crawford says The Mongolia 4-H Youth Organization is really the catalyst behind 4-H in Mongolia, and that he and Reaman look forward to being part of establishing a long-term relationship between them and Wyoming 4-H.
“A special thank the Global Perspectives program at the UW College of Agriculture, the Wyoming State 4-H Office, Wyoming 4-H Foundation, the International 4-H Youth Exchange (IFYE) Alumni Association and the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia for funding to make this training possible. Thanks also to all the staff and volunteers at the Mongolian 4-H Youth Organization who were such gracious hosts and made our trip so enjoyable,” adds Reaman.