For plenty of kids who don't live on farms, 4-H is about variety.
A small crowd of fourth graders got to learn more about the details of the 4-H program at an open house Sunday afternoon at the Iowa State University Extension office, in the southeast corner of Crossroads Mall.
All had a reason why they wanted to join the group.
"I want to try new things," said Aubrey Holtorf.
"Because I thought it would be interesting to meet new friends and share projects," said Cayci Bidleman.
Cayci's mom Julaine Bidleman was once in 4-H, but in a different context.
"I was in 4-H when I was a kid, but I was a farm girl. So didn't really know it was pertinent to people in town," she said. "I'm finding that there's several things that are pertinent even though we're not agriculturally based."
The first thing the kids did was meet each other in a structured activity -they had to find out something new about three different people. Then they came into a circle and reported what they learned to the group, as well as sharing why they wanted to join 4-H.
Program Coordinator Linda Cline said this exercise was an example of learning communication skills -part of what 4-H is about.
"This is about meeting new people and exploring new things," she said.
Cline used the kids' reasons for joining to point out how varied 4-H projects can be.
"I like to show my stuff," said Carson Holtorf.
"What do you mean your 'stuff'?" said Cline. "Do you have a rock collection, or a yard business?"
When Carson Holtorf said he wanted to show animals, Cline still had more options. You can show farm animals, she said, but there's also a category for pets - guinea pigs, fish, even hermit crabs.
Several 4-H veterans were there to help explain things to the new recruits. Some were members of the 4-H county council, which helps plan the county fair; others had received blue ribbons at state with their projects.
Darien Walsh told them the basics of what happens at a 4-H meeting. She also explained that there were specific meetings for different areas of interest.
"I have three dogs I take to there," she said. "They train you how to properly handle them and how to train them. There are all kinds of specialized meetings -if you want to do beef, there are beef meetings you can go to."
An interest in dogs could also mean opportunity in other areas. For example, you could take a photo sequence of a dog and enter it in the photography category, she said.
Jacob Lewandowski, 16, has been in 4-H for four years, but this was his first time presenting at the open house.
"I've shown a lot of projects. I've done woodworking, aerospace, rabbits, my sister does dogs, I've done a lot of posters," he said. "I've pretty much done most of the stuff 4-H has to offer."
Lewandowski told the group how to sign up for the program and handed out sign-up packets.
"When you fill it out, you bring it to the club that you want to join, or you can bring it to the extension office," he said.
Lewandowski also praised the club's variety.
"You learn a lot through it. The list is endless. If you want communication skills, you can do presentations, and you get that," he said. "If you want to learn about dogs, you can go into the dog project, and people who know what they're talking about will teach you. And there's so many parent volunteers that will make sure you learn what you need to know."
For more information about 4-H or to sign up, visit extension.iastate.edu/4H or call the extension office at 576-2119.