February 1999 // Volume 37 // Number 1 // Tools of the Trade // 1TOT2

Previous Article Issue Contents

Cloverbud Connections - A Newsletter Approach to Tuning In to Kids

This creative, innovative newsletter, based on current research and developmentally appropriate skills and abilities of five-to-eight year olds, helps 4-H Cloverbud volunteers tune in to kids. Through the headline article, activity section, campus connection, children's recipe, and guest articles, the quarterly newsletter teaches volunteers strategies to keep children engaged and meetings exciting. Developed in response to volunteer requests for more information and support in working with these young 4-H'ers, the newsletter was piloted in 16 Eastern Ohio counties during 1996 and has been distributed statewide since. Descriptive and qualitative evaluation statistics document the effectiveness of the newsletter.

Bruce P. Zimmer
Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development/Office Chair
Ohio State University Extension, Monroe County
Woodsfield, Ohio
Internet address: zimmer2@postoffice.ag.ohio-state.edu

Scott D. Scheer
Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development
Ohio State University Extension
Columbus, Ohio
Internet address: sdscheer+@osu.edu

Joyce A. Shriner
Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences
Ohio State University Extension, Hocking County
Logan, Ohio
Internet address: shriner3@postoffice.ag.ohio-state.edu

Background Information

Cloverbud Connections, a creative, innovative newsletter, based on current research and developmentally-appropriate skills and abilities of five-to-eight year olds, was developed by an interdisciplinary team, in response to volunteer requests for more information and support in working with young 4-H'ers. When K-2 programming began in Ohio, 4-H youth development professionals looked for fresh ideas to help educate and update volunteers about this new audience.

Cloverbud Connections has been and is an effective medium for meeting this need. According to the research literature, newsletters are a cost-effective instrument for educational and training purposes (Nelson, 1986; Dickinson & Cudaback, 1992).

Bogenschneider and Stone (1997) in a study on prevention programming for parents via newsletters found empirical evidence that newsletters are an effective tool for providing relevant information at teachable movements in a written format and a consistent method for connecting with parents. Furthermore, parents of young children preferred receiving information through reading (68%), over meetings (16%), and audio tapes (4%) (Hennon & Peterson, 1981). We postulate that newsletters are not only productive with parents, but also adult volunteers.

The newsletter was piloted in 16 Eastern Ohio counties during 1996. Enthusiasm and interest grew for the newsletter. It was distributed statewide in 1997. Master copies are distributed quarterly to Ohio's 88 county Extension offices through a weekly state Extension mail packet. Copies are reproduced at the county level for Cloverbud volunteers and mailed with additional local information. Newsletter production is coordinated from the Monroe County office to minimize expense, maintain the newsletter web site, and centralize article submissions.

Once piloted, the Ohio 4-H Foundation provided a competitive grant to expand the newsletter through new resources for article ideas, K-2 research publications, and publishing and clip art software. The newsletter is reaching new audiences through the World Wide Web. The web page is linked through the Ohio State University Extension homepage.

Newsletter Content

Even though the newsletter is grassroots based, the editors focus on involving all levels of Extension. To guide reader attention and interest, each issue consists of five sections: a lead or headline article, activity section, campus connection, children's recipe, and guest articles. Each issue always begins with a headline article focusing on a research topic applicable to K-2 youth and volunteerism. Examples include "Encouraging Creativity in Children" or "Dealing with Volunteer Liability."

Fun things to do are highlighted in the activity section from the Ohio Cloverbud Curriculum or other age appropriate sources. The newsletter also hosts a Campus Connection article providing a link with the state Extension specialist for preadolescent education. The articles remind readers of age-appropriate activities, program suggestions, and statewide updates.

The children's recipe is an innovative section that encourages children to become involved in food preparation and nutrition. The recipes are planned with kids in mind and offer new ideas for club meeting snacks. The final section provides an opportunity for 4-H Youth Development professionals to share Cloverbud program ideas, activities, research articles, and what is working at the county level. Examples include "Cloverbuds, Pets, and the County Fair," "Challenging Cloverbuds to be Active," "Fairgrounds Buzz with Buds," and "Cloverbud Committee works in Medina County." Each issue provides a unique blend of education, activities, and fun to build and challenge Cloverbud volunteers as they teach a new audience through Extension.

Descriptive and Qualitative Statistics

Two surveys were conducted to measure whether Extension professionals perceived Cloverbud Connections to be a useful tool for Cloverbud volunteers. A survey of 49 Extension agents and 6 program assistants produced the following results. All of the respondents indicated that the newsletter appealed to them and 96% would distribute the newsletter to Cloverbud volunteers. Also, 98% perceived the newsletter to be well organized, 92% easy to read, and 94% easy to understand. An e-mail survey with 40 counties of 88 responding indicated that 95% of them are currently copying and distributing the newsletter to Cloverbud volunteers.

Overall, their comments were overwhelmingly positive. Specific responses were: "I think it is very well written. My volunteers are very appreciative to receive the newsletter," "I really enjoy activities to be used, especially when they can make and take the item," "It has been well received by our leaders," and "The newsletter is extremely well done and informative; advisors appreciate the newsletter." The findings support continued use of Cloverbud Connections in Ohio.


Bogenschneider, K., & Stone, M. (1997). Delivering parent education to low and high risk parents of adolescents via age-paced newsletters. Family Relations, 46, 123-134.

Dickinson, N., & Cudaback, D. (1992). Parent education for adolescent mothers. Journal of Primary Prevention, 13, 23-35.

Hennon, C. B., & Peterson, B. H. (1981). An evaluation of family life education delivers systems for young families. Family Relations, 30, 387-395.

Nelson, P. T. (1986). Newsletters: An effective delivery mode for providing educational information and emotional support to single parent families? Family Relations, 35, 183-188.