February 2004 // Volume 42 // Number 1 // Research in Brief // 1RIB3

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School Enrichment: An Investigation of the Degree, Impact, and Factors for Success in Colorado

School enrichment is efficient for 4-H in reaching diverse youth in large numbers. But to what degree are agents utilizing school enrichment efforts? What is the impact of these efforts? And what are the factors for success? This article describes a sample of school enrichment activities occurring across the state of Colorado. The research represents the experiences of 20 Extension agents who conduct school enrichment programs. Recommendations for further study are proposed.

Suzanne M. Tochterman
Assistant Professor
Colorado State University School of Education
Fort Collins, Colorado

Jan B. Carroll
4-H Youth Development Specialist
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension
Fort Collins, Colorado

Douglas L Steele
Vice Provost and Extension Director
Montana State University
Bozeman, Montana


School enrichment is efficient for 4-H in reaching diverse youth in large numbers. The national definition of school enrichment is "groups of youth receiving a sequence of learning experiences in cooperation with school officials during school hours, to support the school curriculum. It involves direct teaching by Extension staff or trained volunteers, including teachers" (National 4-H School Enrichment Survey).

In addition to camps, special interest programs, project clubs, and community clubs, 4-H school enrichment is another way to teach life skills to youth. In fact, school enrichment has become the most widely used delivery mode in providing educational experiences through the 4-H Youth Development program. In 2000, 3,640,115 youth were enrolled as participants 131,912 4-H school enrichment programs units (United States Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2000).

In a 1999 survey conducted among Extension 4-H Youth Specialists (with respondents from 50 states), 86% reported that school enrichment was conducted in their counties. The most important benefits claimed by the respondents were: 4-H has gained credibility in view of the formal education community (92%), students have increased knowledge /skills (82%), and a greater diversity of under-represented youth have been served (80%). The major problems identified included: traditional clientele view school enrichment as something that diverts time and funds from traditional programs such as clubs (32%) and schools want free service without contributing their fair share of funds, supervision, supplies, etc. (27%) (Diem, 2000).

In 1997-1998, 76,590 youth were reported in 4-H school enrichment programs in Colorado, representing 59% of all enrollments. During the fall of 1999, agents in 20 Colorado counties participated in a survey to identify the nature of school enrichment projects that their offices had conducted during the previous year.

Description of the Study


Selected 4-H Youth Agents from around the state of Colorado were surveyed as to school enrichment and educational outreach programming. Agents were asked to identify the nature of each of the school enrichment projects that their offices had conducted during the year. A school enrichment project was defined for the purposes of this survey as "a program that takes place during school hours (8am-3pm); it was not camp, or an activity that takes place before or after the school day." Additionally, Agents were asked to describe the impact of the projects as well as the factors that contribute to the success of each project.

Surveys were distributed by email, and follow up was conducted through email and the U.S. postal service, by fax, and by telephone. The findings that follow are a result of the self-reported responses from 20 surveys.

Research Questions

This research study sought to determine:

  1. The project titles of school enrichment projects being implemented in twenty counties across Colorado,
  2. The role(s) of the person(s) who was/were responsible for carrying out each phase of the project,
  3. Role(s) of local school collaborators,
  4. Impact or influence of the school enrichment projects being implemented across Colorado, and
  5. Factors that contribute to the success of the projects implemented in 20 counties.

Agent Demographics

Of the agents who responded, 16 were men, and seven were women. In one case, one man responded to the surveys for two counties. A total of 23 agents responded. Each of the agents was asked how many years that he or she had served as a 4-H Youth Development Agent. Of the 23 agents who responded, the range in years was 1.5-30 years. Eight of the agents surveyed have been on the job for 4 years or less. Eight of the agents have been on the job between 5 and 11 years. Seven of the agents have been on the job over 16 years. Two of these seven have been agents for nearly 30 years (Table 1).

Table 1.
Summary of Agent Demographics


M = 16

F = 7

n = 23

Years as 4-H Agent

1.5 - 4 = 8

5-11 = 8

16 - 30 = 7

Results and Discussion

School Focus of Agents

Agents worked in a variety of school settings. School enrichment projects were implemented in early childhood settings and elementary, middle, and high schools. All agents were focused on serving the children and youth of their home state, Colorado, with one agent's efforts including students from a neighboring state, Nebraska. Most agents focused their energies in the elementary schools (80%). Other age groups targeted were middle school (50%), high school (40%), and early childhood (10%). The majority, however, focused on more than one age group (Table 2).

Table 2.
% Agents Focusing on Various Grade Levels Public, Private, and/or Home School

High School


Middle School


Elementary School


Early Childhood Settings


One Level Only


Agents reported that school enrichment projects took place predominantly in public school settings. Several of the agents, however, had access to private school opportunities. A few of the agents (10%) extended their energies into the home school arena. A third of the agents divided their school enrichment efforts between the public and private sector.

School Enrichment Content

Projects mentioned by agents and frequency of mention were:

  • Special topics lecture, including agriculture, bees, cattle, farm machinery, leadership, nutrition, owls, rockets, teamwork skills, and wildlife (19)
  • Character counts curriculum (7)
  • Earth Gardens/Greenhouses (7)
  • International 4-H Youth Exchange (IFYE) (5)
  • Workforce Development, including Wild about work, Career Day, Future Focus, Host internships (5)
  • Science Series Curriculum and Science Fairs (6)
  • Agricultural Sciences (7)
  • Other (11)

Role(s) of Agents and Others

The majority of the school enrichment work was done by the agent. Frequently, agents acted as consultants by training teachers and instructing them on curriculum uses, and providing instructional materials. Although it was most often the agent who delivered the instructional material, volunteers often presented material as well. Agents in this case served as trainers of the volunteers. Volunteers then went out into the schools and delivered instruction. Finally, agents periodically enlisted the assistance of others from outside agencies, including the FFA organization, Cattlewomen's Association, IFYE Program, etc. to serve as guest speakers at schools.

While each agent took on the majority of the work in carrying out school enrichment projects, only 20% of those surveyed reportedly completed all of the efforts alone. Of the majority who worked with others, 35% of agents reported they enlisted volunteers to assist, 40% of agents collaborated with outside agencies, and 55% of the agents acted as a consultant to the teachers within the local schools. Nearly half of the county agents surveyed were invested in more than two collaborative partnerships.

Local School Collaborators

In order to implement school enrichment projects in the schools, agents reported it was necessary for them to pass the necessary institutional gatekeepers. Each of the agents used different tactics to gain access to the students in the schools within their counties. Agents overwhelmingly reported that it was essential to their success to establish a significant relationship with one teacher in each school building. Over half of the agents reported working directly with one teacher to gain entrance to the school or schools. Others shared that they met one teacher and were invited to give a guest lecture in his/her classroom, creating a reputation

The teachers who used 4-H School Enrichment represented different disciplines. Agents made initial contacts with teachers across the curriculum: physical education, vocational education, special education, science, and English.

Agents were creative and resourceful in their approaches and reported gaining entrance by initiating relationships with teachers, the school superintendent, school board representatives, librarians, and district home-school science fair organizers. Agents reported a variety of different approaches to initiating contact with the various schools, including sending letters to principals, making appointments with school department heads, and distributing pamphlets or letters to teachers in their school mailboxes.

One agent reported that the county 4-H administrative assistant personally calls each school and speaks first with the school secretary to gain access. Two agents reported that their spouses worked in local schools. One agent attended and presented at an in-service teacher-training workshop that was sponsored by the district. One conducted a presentation of school enrichment opportunities available through 4-H at an all-district principals' meeting. Most reported knocking on doors until one opened.

Perceived Impact of School Enrichment

Agents reported their opinion of the influence of the school enrichment projects being implemented in 20 counties across Colorado. Eighty-five percent said that the greatest impact was increased conceptual knowledge for students within the local schools. Eighty percent mentioned the acquisition or review of skills. Forty percent told of strengthened relationships with teachers, while 35% reported that school enrichment activities teach morals and life skills, supplement state curriculum standards, and get the word out about 4-H and the variety of things 4-H can offer. Twenty-five percent said that information was disseminated (Table 3). Several agents reported that additional impacts included recruitment opportunity for 4-H members, increased community awareness for students, and increased school support for 4-H.

Table 3.
Perceived Impact of School Enrichment

Increased conceptual knowledge for youth


Acquisition or review of skills


Strengthened relationship with teachers


Teaches life skills and character, supplements state curriculum standards, gets the word out about 4-H


Disseminates information


Factors Contributing to the Success of School Enrichment

Agents were asked, after describing their school enrichment activities, to respond to the following question, "What factors, in your opinion, contribute to the success of this project?" The response provided most frequently was the collaborative effort among stakeholders, including teachers, agents, community members, volunteers, and other agencies. Collaboration was described as cooperation, teamwork, partnering, group effort, and alliances between and among constituents. Eighteen different partnering agencies were mentioned in the survey by agents.

The second factor most credited for success was teachers' "buy-in" or investment. Without the teachers' buy-in, the school enrichment activities proved impossible for agents to implement. Another factor for success was a school's willingness to invite an agent to come and present to the students. The fourth most frequently mentioned factor for success was that of volunteer participation. Agents' actively involving volunteers greatly contributed to the success of the project. The fifth most commonly mentioned factor for success was the degree to which the agent was able to exercise his or her influence, communication style, resourcefulness and skill/knowledge base. Many other factors for success were also mentioned.

Emergent themes of factors for success that were noted in the between-case analysis were:

  • Interagency collaboration;
  • Teacher buy-in;
  • School buy-in,
  • Student interest, energy, enthusiasm, and motivational level:
  • Volunteer participation,
  • Agent influence, communication style, resourcefulness, skill/knowledge base;
  • Student interest, curiosity, energy, and investment;
  • Free materials;
  • Hands-on-learning methodology;
  • Community involvement and investment;
  • Supplements the school curriculum;
  • Standards of curriculum aligned with state standards,
  • Local newspaper coverage; and
  • Timing.


In the 20 counties surveyed, agents reported the degree to which they were facilitating school enrichment projects. The data revealed that differences do exist among the counties polled, in the numbers of students served, who are gatekeepers of the schools, and the programming decisions made. Similarities also exist. Most agents agreed that the major impact of school enrichment projects was the increased knowledge and skills that students acquire. Agents also agree that without collaborating with others, school enrichment activities would be nearly impossible.

Questions for Future Consideration and Research

During the analysis of the data and subsequent discussion with agents around the state, several additional questions were generated. They relate to state policy, staffing, and evaluation (Table 4).

Table 4.
Questions for Future Consideration and Research



State Policy

  1. Do the numbers served by each School Enrichment projects enhance existing state priorities?
  2. Is there a certain number or quota of students that one 4-H agent is expected to serve?
  3. To what degree are agents expected to work within the schools? Should agents be focusing on early childhood, elementary, middle, and/or high school aged students?
  4. Should agents be focusing on special needs students? Private school and/or home school students?


  1. Is there a number that physically impossible for one agent to serve?
  2. What is the agent's role in terms of School Enrichment? Are agents to be consultants to teachers, workshop facilitators, and/or resources for information?
  3. Which agents have more than one 4-H agent within their County office, and/or support staff? To what degree do these agents and staff work together to meet the needs of the youth within their county?


  1. Do numbers reported of students served accurately reflect the quality of the students' learning?

The consideration of these questions is important, because Colorado State University Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development values relationships with Colorado's schools and welcomes the opportunity to provide educationally sound, research-based, action-oriented curricula for use in school classrooms. The lessons should be educational and interesting for the students and easy for the teachers to use.


Funding for this research was provided by the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development.


Diem, K. G. (2000). National 4-H School Enrichment Survey.[On-line]. Available at: http://www.fourhcouncil.edu/Revolution/Resources/Enrichment_Survey.asp

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2000). Annual 4-H Youth Enrollment Report 2000 Fiscal Year. Washington, DC: Author.