The queen of all things fun

OTTAWA — Saying yes to all project ideas opens up a world of opportunities for young people, said a 4-H leader.

Caroline Boddy, who spoke at the recent Global 4-H Network Summit in Ottawa, detailed the benefits of her leadership style.

“I say yes with all my heart and follow those kids wherever they want to take it,” she said.

Addressing concerns about projects getting out of hand, she said, “if it’s their idea and they are driving that, they will moderate that.”

Boddy, 4-H Canada’s national volunteer leader of the year, used examples of an all-boys camp in Alberta that says yes to everything, including burning a cabin. It started by having the group build a cabin and then burning the old one.

In her own Golden Prairie 4-H Club in east-central Alberta, members’ interests range from busking to haunted houses.

During the summit session, youth participants sought ways to create more interaction within multi-age clubs.

Boddy said play and youth leading clubs are important components. Avoid standing at the front of the room lecturing, she said.

“Recognize you can take any room full of strangers and if they can play interactively … we walk away with a shared experience that makes us better friends,” she said.

She recalled how the busking project began with a child who wanted to do something with Samoan poi balls. That led to members building trick sticks, stilts and balloon animals and in later years hoops, unicycles and juggling in live performances.

“You follow whatever anyone wants to do,” she said.

She watches to see where she can help. When the stilts were too high for one member, they lowered them.

To overcome the shyness of first-time buskers, she helped them create a black light puppet theatre, in which a group worked together in the dark to stage a performance.

“Busking props make people play with each other, watch each other and get inspired,” said Boddy.

She said people are scared to say yes because they’re not sure what to do next, but the dynamic nature of such projects keeps leaders en-gaged longer.

She said the members teach one another, build leadership and self-confidence and engage with their community in addition to acquiring physical development in motor skills and body strength.

“I meet the kids at where they’re at and watch them and see what’s going on for them,” she said.

Another example was a male teen who wanted to find a way to dress as the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland.

They spent 500 volunteer hours creating a haunted house in a museum complete with the room of doors, Mad Hatter and a castle and featuring the Red Queen, played by the teen wearing a costume he created.

For the teen, who has gone on to study theatre arts, it provided an outlet for his desire to cross dress.

“We created that safe space where he could have permission to be who he wanted to be,” said Boddy.

She concluded her session by inviting participants to create a tulip for a giant bouquet.

“It shows individually you can all contribute to make something bigger and hand that love we put into it onto someone else and brighten their day.”

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