4-H leaders learn how to instruct youngsters

TUSTIN — It was called “Instructing the Instructors.”

The three-day session, sponsored by 4-H, came recently at the Kettunen Center east of Tustin.

The workshop brought in instructors from all over the state including Seth Hopkins from Baldwin. The role was to teach other shooting sports instructors and target shooting was the main emphasis. Student-instructors came from all over the state including the Upper Peninsula. It was sponsored by the 4-H Extension Department out of Michigan State University.

Classes started on Thursday and ended on Sunday, april 29.

Dale Elshoff of East Lansing is the state coordinator for 4-H shooting sports and was at the weekend event.

“We do our work based on the youth and the youth needs and the volunteers do the heavy lifting and make that happen in their counties,” Elshoff said. “My job as state coordinator is to help them do their job and make sure we’re staying on task.”

Elshoff said about 160 individuals are trained every year.

“We have repeaters,” she said. “This time we have more first-timers than normal, which is great. So we have new energy coming into the program. When we surveyed them the first night, three-quarters of them were here for the first time.

“People are sometimes hesitant to give up an entire weekend and maybe take off a day on Friday to get there. But once they’ve been through the workshop once, they want to come back and they want to do different disciplines. They want to talk to people at the workshop from all over the state and find out what’s working in their clubs.”

Disciplines include archery, shotgun, rifle and hunting and wildlife.

Hopkins, who works in the 4-H office as program coordinator at Baldwin, was in a group involving instructing students on tracking wildlife. One expertise was to look for blood trails

“I want to bring this back to Lake County and work with the Lake County Sportman’s club, get into the schools, get 4-H programming and bring it to them,” Hopkins said. ‘That’s where my interest is. There’s the ethical part of it. If you’re hunting and shoot at a deer, it’s ethically your responsibility to track it down. This is a major component of hunting.”

The weekend attendance at Tustin was 180.

“Each volunteer needs to be a 4-H certified volunteer and by 4-H shooting sports to work with kids in the different disciplines,” Elshoff said. “We’re here from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon so they get about 20 hours of training.”

Bob Richards of Ovid in Clinton County was among the trainer-instructors.

“We’re helping to certify instructors for the local chapters,” he said. “My group is rifle, which is BB gun, pellet and .22.”

The weekend included course work.

“We go through instruction,” Richards said. “We’re teaching these people how to teach the youth. That’s our emphasis. We also use video. They must be certified ... each course is specifics. This course I have is pellet and rifle. There’s also a muzzleloading class, plus archery and shotgun.

“It goes across the board. We have people that have never shot before to people that have been in the sport for 20 years.”

Student-instructors are certified for one discipline at each workshop, including the one last weekend, Richards said.

“A county will usually send one or two people and get the (different) disciplines,” he said. “You must be a 4-H leader.”

The 4-H workshop at Kettunen is conducted once a year. The Marion Gun Range is also used during the workshop.

“We’ve done workshops regionally so the volunteers don’t have to drive as far,” Elshoff said. “We try to spread it out.”