A steady stream of Delaware third-graders walked from table to table in the Willis building conference room on March 22, looking at displays and asking questions of 4-H veterans before deciding on projects to tackle.

A steady stream of Delaware third-graders walked from table to table in the Willis building conference room on March 22, looking at displays and asking questions of 4-H veterans before deciding on projects to tackle.

The annual 4-H open house was open to anyone, said Laryssa Hook, educator for 4-H youth development at The Ohio State University Extension office in Delaware County. But third grade is the first year children can join, so Hook and her staff targeted that age group, sending flyers home and making presentations at several elementary schools in the county.

Delaware County has 75 4-H clubs, Hook said. Club memberships range from as few as five to more than 60. The Delaware Extension office is at 149 N. Sandusky St.

The Cloverbud program is for children in kindergarten through second grade. Cloverbuds have specific programs they follow, Hook said. In third grade, they become 4-H members and may choose one or more projects to complete each season. Youths can remain in the program through age 19.

4-H offers more than 200 projects to members, Hook said. Some can be customized to fit each child's interests.

"This (open house) is a great way for them to get to know something about 4-H before they jump in," said Tracy Burger, adviser for the Kountry Kids 4-H Club in the Sunbury area. She was manning a table on large animal projects with Morgan Jolliff, a freshman at Buckeye Valley High School who has been involved with 4-H for six years.

The open house gives students a chance to ask questions of someone who is already involved, Jolliff said. She explains why she chooses to raise beef cattle as her project and she talks to potential 4-H members about the other advantages of belonging to the organization.

"It's a great opportunity to meet new friends," she said.

"I've met kids from all over the county, many of whom I would never have met otherwise," said Lindsay Hope, a sophomore at Buckeye Valley and a member of the Delaware County Junior Fair Board.

While she raises dairy and feeder heifers, she also maintains a garden, which is what she and Tina Stevens, adviser for the Berlin 4-H Club, were promoting at their table.

Stevens is also learning about beekeeping and hopes to add a project on that to this year's offerings.

"I am so excited to see so many third-graders and their parents here This is such a great family organization," Stevens said.

Brian and Connie Coghlan of Powell both belonged to 4-H when they were younger and brought their children, Sara, a third-grader at Wyandot Run Elementary, and Kevin, a fifth-grader at the same school, to the open house.

"We like the diversity (of the projects)," Brian Coghlan said, and the alternative to the "electronic age" many kids live in today.

Sara said she was leaning toward arts and crafts projects, specifically puppets,while Kevin was leaving his options open.

In addition to animals, gardening, crafts and other hands-on projects, kids have opportunities for kids in the performing arts, said Chuck Boquist, director of the 4-H Singers for over 15 years.

Last year, the group included nearly 20 singers who performed at county fairs, the state fair and other venues such as retirement homes, he said. The group is open to all 4-H members ages 9 to 18.

The deadline to sign up for 2010 projects is April 15, Hook said. More information about the local 4-H program and the project guidebook is available online at Delaware.ose.edu; click on 4-H Youth Development.

cpreston@thisweeknews.com