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Skill-a-thons showcase 4-H youth knowledge

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BROOKINGS -- As 4-H continues to prepare youth for the future, a new format called "skill-a-thons" is being incorporated into local and state 4-H contests. Skill-a-thons feature several stations focused on different topic areas and allow youth to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and abilities.

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South Dakota 4-H Youth Program Director Peter Nielson said there are two reasons South Dakota is transitioning many of its contests to the skill-a-thon format. Foremost is the educational value they offer.

"Skill-a-thons give youth an opportunity to develop and display a cross-section of knowledge as opposed to only ranking a class of four objects," he said.

For example, a livestock skill-a-thon may feature stations with activities related to animal handling, nutrition, quality assurance and genetics to give individuals a broader industry knowledge.

The second reason South Dakota is transitioning to more skill-a-thon formats is to mirror similar contest changes on the national level. With these contests in place in South Dakota, youth teams at the senior level will be eligible to qualify and compete in skill-a-thon competitions on the national level.

The state horticulture contest has already transitioned to the skill-a-thon format. It now includes judging of horticulture classes and reasons, combined with plant identification and a written test.

Last year, skill-a-thons in beef, sheep and swine were also offered for 4-H and FFA youth during the South Dakota State Fair. This year those contests will continue and a goat skill-a-thon has been added to the livestock offering.

The visual arts and photography contests will be merged into one skill-a-thon focused on visual and technology components and implemented in 2014.

Additionally, in static judging a Consumer Decision Making contest will replace the family consumer science judging contest for the first time at the 2013 South Dakota State Fair. Topics will include nutrition, clothing, textiles, personal care, personal finance and entertainment and leisure. Senior contestants will also give oral reasons.

Upcoming Skill-A-Thons

• State Fair Skill-A-Thon Aug. 30 & 31: The South Dakota State Fair will host four separate Skill-a-thons: Beef, Sheep, Swine and new to 2013 Goat. Aug. 30 the Swine Skill-a-thon will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. CDT and Sheep Skill-a-thon 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. CDT; Aug. 31 will be the Beef Skill-a-thon from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. CDT and the Goat Skill-a-thon will run from 5 to 8 p.m. CDT. The new Goat Skill-a-thon will expose youth to both the meat and dairy production sides of the goat project.

• State Fair Premier Exhibitor Program: In addition to the Livestock Skill-a-thons at State Fair, 4-H youth, ages 11 to 18, that are exhibiting beef, sheep or swine may enter the Premier Exhibitor Program. Participants in this contest will practice their decision making and communication skills by competing in four events: Industry Interview, Skill-a-thon, Production and Management Quiz, and Showmanship. A panel of judges, representing the South Dakota beef, sheep or swine industry, will ask a few short questions during the industry interview and score youth on accuracy of their answers and overall presentation skills. Contact your local 4-H youth program adviser to register for Premier Exhibitor.

• Western Junior Show Skill-A-Thon: Finally, the Western Junior Show Oct. 9-12 in Rapid City will be adding a Livestock Skill-a-thon to its schedule for any youth to participate.

For a full list of rules and suggested study resources to help youth prepare for the Livestock Skill-a-thons this summer please reference the South Dakota State Fair 4-H Division Handbook. If you have any other questions about the Premier Exhibitor or Skill-a-thons, contact SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Livestock Field Specialist Megan Nielson, megan.nielson@sdstate.edu.

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