4-H Skillathons: Showing What You Know

A skillathon is…

  • a fun, active, and challenging learning tool for a group of almost any size, age, or ability.
  • a competitive, noncompetitive, learning-by-doing activity. This teaching method helps youths develop both life and project skills. The skillathon works well at a project meeting, club meeting, camp classes, after-school sessions, in the classroom, or at a mall or fair.
  • a series of learning stations with realistic situations and tasks to do. Teams attempt to complete tasks before being told or shown. The station facilitator follows with questions to help the teams build on their experiences.

Setting up a skillathon is an excellent activity for youths to practice developing their leadership skills. People and materials need to be organized, decisions made, and signs prepared. To help guide the planning committee, some tasks that should be considered are listed below. Skillathon stations can be set up on almost any curriculum, e.g., Identifying Breeds of Animals, Preparing a First Aid Kit, Finding Your Way, How Long Does It Last?, What Makes an Ecosystem?, Fabric Durability, Identifying Woodworking Tools, or Water On the Move.

Skillathon Preparation

  • Decide on the stations needed, considering time and resources available
  • Make up a realistic situation and task sign for each station so that teams don’t require additional directions
  • Decide who will be in charge of each station
  • Decide on the equipment and supplies needed at each station
  • Delegate the responsibility for gathering supplies

Station Facilitator

  • Be familiar with the skillathon topic
  • Develop several questions to ask participants
  • Allow participants to discover for themselves how to accomplish the task, instead of telling or showing them how
  • Help the learning by using the steps of the skillathon model

Skillathon Model

  • Form teams of 2 to 5 participants
  • Make supplies available
  • Provide the teams with realistic situations and tasks
  • Step back and allow the teams time to discover their own solutions
  • Respond to teams’ questions with questions so answers are their own
  • Listen to teams’ presentations
  • Accept the teams’ solutions
  • Ask questions to help them build on what they presented
  • Reinforce their efforts with praise

Continue to Skillathons: Experiential Learning in Action