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4-H Capitol Day offers fun, educational day for all ages

October 25, 2023

BROOKINGS, S.D. – SDSU Extension 4-H members and supporters converged in Pierre recently for 4-H Capitol Day. 

The third annual 4-H Capitol Day was Jan. 18, held in conjunction with Brookings/SDSU Day at the Capitol. The day offers an opportunity for 4-H members, alumni and supporters to visit the Capitol and enjoy a mix of fun and educational elements, such as enjoying the signature 4-H Clover Crunch SDSU ice cream, participating in a scavenger hunt and visiting with legislators during a town hall session.

Not only is the scavenger hunt an interactive adventure around the Capitol building, it also has an educational component. Tasks included finding some of the blue tiles famously nestled in the Capitol’s flooring, finding a portrait of South Dakota’s governor the year 4-H was founded, and visiting with elected legislators and officials.

“4-H Day at the Capitol is an exciting opportunity for our 4-H members. This day affords a unique experiential learning experience by exposing youth directly to state government in action,” said SDSU Extension Director Karla Trautman. “The ability for 4-H members to engage directly with legislators to learn about the legislative process is a noteworthy part of the day, as it is often a pivotal learning moment.”

There were also shadowing experiences for 4-H members who are serving as state 4-H ambassadors or who have served as a 4-H legislator. South Dakota 4-H Ambassador Oliver Moeckly shadowed District 14 Rep. Erin Healy (D). Moeckly, a 15-year-old sophomore at Britton-Hecla High School, said he had one-on-one access to ask questions, and was able to attend several meetings with Healy, including a State Affairs Committee meeting, Democratic House Caucus, and House sessions. 

The State Affairs Committee meeting was a highlight, giving him further insight into statewide issues like housing. Shadowing, even for a few hours, is a chance for youth to meet their legislators and learn more about the legislative process, he said. 

“I believe that it is very important for everyone to learn how government works and functions. I know that I definitely learned a lot,” Moeckly said. “Also, this event is a great way to inspire the South Dakota students to possibly become legislators themselves.”

Moeckly noted that many of the legislators he met are also graduates of the 4-H program. As a state 4-H ambassador, Moeckly said the day was a great opportunity to share about 4-H and to learn about leadership from state officials. 

“I am excited to be able to share some of these skills with others in 4-H and other programs that I am a part of,” Moeckly said. 

Even the snow and icy road conditions in some parts of the state couldn’t keep people away, and event attendees described it as a fun, rewarding day. 

“What an impactful day,” said Tim Tanner, SDSU Extension State 4-H Program Director. “Our 4-H youth were able to observe the full range of the legislative process – from the contentious (carbon pipeline) to the inspirational (Jackrabbit football proclamation). It is a day our youth won't soon forget!"

To learn more about civic education opportunities through SDSU Extension 4-H, click here

For more information, contact Hilary Risner, SDSU Extension Program Manager and Regional Youth Educator; or Jenae Hansen-Gross, SDSU Extension 4-H Volunteer Development Field Specialist.