Yes, I also am assuming you were at a Cloverbud meeting - kiddos 5-8 years of age, which is intended to expose them to 4-H projects and give them an idea what 4-H is about. The meetings are monthly, low-key, sociable. These can differ a lot by region. My sister is the Cloverbud leader in her county and does monthly meetings where they've done breadmaking (learning about yeast and kneading), nutrition things, simple sewing, an annual community service project (delivering Valentines to a care home, etc.). Where I am, Cloverbuds is coordinated by the Junior Leaders (13 and older), and has ranged from making simple rockets to "Eat Your Colors" (different colors of fruits and samples of them) to simple science stuff (the cornstarch mixtures), seed-starting, etc. etc. Cloverbuds can get a "participant" ribbon for putting projects in the fair, and sometimes can even do interview 'judging,' but regular 4-H doesn't start 'til you're older.
If you were at a regular 4-H club meeting, the rule is 8 as of January 1st I think. 4-H clubs also meet once a month. Often, younger siblings are there too (at our club, two younger siblings are now officially members but have been at the meetings for years so it's been an easy transition for them). Some clubs are set up with a variety of project types, other clubs may be more focused (sometimes there is a club where ALL the members are taking horsemanship, for instance; other projects that they're taking are fine, but horse is what they all have in common). The club we belong to is a nonspecific club, so there are kids who don't take any livestock projects at all, mixed with kids who take mostly livestock projects. The kids in our club range in age from 8 to 15. And there are about 15 kids in the club, it's a big club.
If there are a lot of newer members, the leaders/parents may be more involved initially. One of the things I really appreciate about 4-H is that it teaches parliamentary procedure (the basic structure for meetings, how to make a motion, etc.). Until kids understand that, parents often have to remind them that once a motion has been made and seconded, they should ask for discussion, then move to a vote. My husband thinks this is overkill, but really it's great preparation for many meetings that we attend as adults. The co-ed meetings, record keeping, and project structures are also great I think.
Onatightrope's description of club meetings is accurate. Our 'old business' at our last meeting included a National 4-H week community service project, final plans for our community service project (highway clean-up), review of upcoming due dates with record books. New business was planning a Christmas tree decorating project for a local charity, and nominations for club officers. Afterwards, a member gave a demonstration from his project (how to show a cat), and there were treats. Occasionally, there will be a training session at the meeting of a nonspecific project club - for instance, something on leadership or character development or public speaking. But that's not the norm.
Project meetings are separate from club meetings (unless you are in a club which focuses on a specific project, like the horsemanship club mentioned above). I'm a project leader for sewing - we will have several skills workshops over the course of the year. We have a junior leader who does a spectacular job with a two-county, day-long workshop for first time sewists every year; I'll be adding some additional workshops where kids can bring projects and work on them with me, and possibly a few workshops for the older sewists to work on more advanced skills, like welt pockets or bound buttonholes or tailoring pants patterns to their builds or etc. Our leathercraft leader holds a monthly leathercraft project meeting; the dog project leader doesn't start dog project work until spring, then they have workshops every three weeks or so.
Does that give you a better idea how it works? Obviously it will vary by area, but typically, leaders are parents who are skilled in a project area, and willing to teach other kids. If parents don't know how to do entymology or something, then the project leader will help kids who need help. The 4-H program is only as good as the volunteer leaders and the support structure for those leaders. Some leaders will do very structured, class-room like project meetings; others will have "bring your project and we'll talk about it" meetings. It's going to depend on the personality of the leader, and the needs of the project members.
(I come from a long line of 4-Hers, and was active all the way through high school and into college, and worked at the Extension office as a Home Economist for several years as well, so am pretty familiar with the program and really believe it's great.)
Edited by elanorh - 10/16/11 at 8:48pm