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PARENTS WANT TO KNOW: How to Choose a Safe and Fun-Filled Summer Camp for your Child

Gulf and Franklin County campers shooting rockets at Camp Timpoochee in June 2017.

As the school year wraps up, you’re likely trying to fill up your child’s summer with fun and educational programs.  Fortunately, you’ll find a variety of day and residential summer camps out there.  Does the thought of  sending your child to camp cause anxiety for your or your child?  If so, let’ me give you some tips to eliminate those concerns.

First, summer day camps and residential camps can be some of the most memorable events in a child’s life.  Some children make memories and friends that last a lifetime. But  as a parent, you need to feel comfortable about the camp you send your child to.

When starting the camp selection process, begin with your child’s interests. Make sure you know the camp will provide activities that will enhance your child’s personality and maturity level.  Including your child in the process will help them feel more secure and excited about what camp will offer them.  This will also help get rid of some of their anxiety because they’ll know what to expect (especially if they have never attended camp before).

Here are questions recommended by the American Camping Association (ACA) to help you make the best summer camp decision.

Questions to Consider in Selecting a Residential Camp:

  1. What locale do I want to consider? (mountains, oceanfront, distance from home, etc)
  2. Do I want a traditional camp that gives my child a wide variety of experiences, or do I want to select a specialty camp that focuses on a particular activity or set of skills?
  3. What size enrollment will make my child feel comfortable?
  4. How rustic do I want the camp to be?
  5. How structured do I want the program to be? Does my child like to have lots of choice in the activity schedule?
  6. Is my child ready to sleep away from home for an extended stay? (This will help you to select either a resident or day camp setting.)
  7. What session length will appeal to my child and to our family plans for the summer? (One week? Eight weeks? Length of day?)
  8. How can I stay in touch with my child during camp? Does the camp allow mail, phone calls or e-mail? Does the camp have parent visitation days?
  9. How will the camp meet my child’s special dietary or physical needs?
  10. What is my budget for camp tuition? (Remember, many camps offer financial aid.)

Questions to Consider in Selecting a Day Camp:

Day camps offer experiences unique from residential camps. Because of this, there are specific points to consider when choosing a day camp – transportation, overnights, swimming lessons, food service, horseback riding, group pictures, t-shirts, extended care, field trips, etc.

  1. Does the American Camp Association accredit the camp? (ACA has specific standards applicable only for day camps.)
  2. What training does the staff receive on safety, supervision, counseling, problem solving and other issues unique to working with young children?
  3. Is the price all-inclusive or are there extra charges?
  4. If transportation is offered, where is the closest pick-up location?
  5. Does the camp have an “express bus” which transports children quickly?
  6. If before and after-camp extended care is offered, who is with the children and what activities take place?
  7. Is lunch served, or do campers bring their own sack lunch? Are snacks and drinks provided?
  8. If the camp offers swimming, are there swimming lessons, or is it simply recreational swimming?
  9. Are campers in a group with a counselor all day? Or, are campers free to go from one activity to another with appropriate supervision? In this case, who would you talk to if you had a question or concern about your child?
  10. Is an open house offered before camp starts where you can meet your child’s counselor and van/bus driver?
  11. Are parents allowed to drop by for visits or is there a special parent visitation day?

Along with the above questions, you should also know that in the state of Florida, summer camps are not inspected or regulated by the Department of Children and Families (DCF).  This makes it even more important for parents to gather information about the quality and safety of the program on their own. Parents should check to see if they are welcome to visit and observe the camp in action or attend activities with their child at any given time including water activities.

DCF suggests you ask these questions:

  1. What the programs health, safety and nutrition policies and procedures?
  2. Is the staff screened?
  3. What are the staff/child ratios and group sizes of the program?
  4. Is the staff well-trained?
  5. Is the program licensed or accredited?
  6. Are parents welcome to visit? Are family activities offered?
  7. Is there a daily lesson plan?
  8. Is the facility adequate for the number of children enrolled?
  9. What are the hours of operation, fees and payment procedures?

Download the Selecting Summer Care for School-Age Children: A Quality Checklist at http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/childcare/docs/SummerChecklist.pdf.

Because you should know – Florida law does require summer camps to conduct background screenings of all camp personnel, including owners, operators, employees and volunteers. Volunteers providing less than 10 hours of service per month do not need to be screened as long as they are always within sight of a person who meets the screening requirement.  In the state of Florida, the camps supported by UF/IFAS Extension meet each of the standards above.

The above questions and items to consider should help you in the camp selection process.  Always feel confident in asking any questions – as the parent, you have the right to feel confident in your child’s camp selection.

As you begin your summer camp search, remember to check out the day and residential camping programs offered by your local 4-H program.    We are confident in our volunteers and staff competency and would love to have your child participate in our safe and fun-filled summer camps.  Contact your local Extension Office for more details.

Resources for this article may be found at:  www.acacamps.org and www.myflfamilies.com.

Handling Homesickness at Summer Camp

Oh, the distress and worry that begins the feverish panic of the homesickness bug!  It typically bites the week before camp for most parents and campers and hits its highest peak by day two of camp.  Unless quarantined, the homesick bug runs rampant and causes quite a disturbance during camp week.  There is good news:  homesickness is like most any other mild allergy or summer cold; it can be prevented with the right measures.  If it does appear, it can be handled quickly so campers are on the mend and back to enjoying the fantastic summer activities of camp life with little disruption!

Campers who overcome homesickness and finish the entire week of summer camp successfully feel a sense of accomplishment and can also be praised for their demonstrating independence and problem solving abilities.  These are life skills that 4-H residential summer camp strives to teach our youth so they can grow into successful leaders of tomorrow!

Homesickness is a normal part of overnight camp.  Here are a few suggestions on how you can help manage homesickness to keep your children healthy and happy this summer!

PREPARATION IS PREVENTATIVE


By going to camp orientations, meeting with camp staff, reviewing the camp schedule, and answering questions can help your child prepare for what to expect at camp.  If possible, meet with the staff in charge to discuss any issues that may be giving your child anxiety about camp, or let us know of any issues at home that may be stressing your child.  This might include include being assigned to a cabin with a friend, needing a nightlight when sleeping, etc.  Having children involved in these discussions with staff in private will eliminate a lot of the anxiety, and in turn, reduce the chances and/or intensity of homesickness.

You can also allow your child to demonstrate independence early by letting them pack their own camp suitcase.  This will allow them to feel more in control of their situation and the decisions they are going to make for a week, boosting their confidence. (Of course, you will want to check the bag for items they may have forgotten.)

 POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT IS REASSURANCE

Parents can unwittingly set their children up for homesickness failure before camp even begins with just a few simple negative statements.  Statements from parents expressing their anxiety or sadness about their children leaving home can be damaging and ultimately lay a foundation  homesickness.  Please don’t be this parent.  Instead, reassure your child they’ll do great at camp, and reinforce that they will learn new things and become more independent.


CONFIDENCE IS CONTAGIOUS

Parents, remain confident from the time you sign your child up for camp until his/her children return home.  Emphasize the positives of the camping experience such as making new friends, learning new activities, swimming, etc. Keep your camper excited about the experience to help diminish the anxiety associated with the week.

Avoid giving your child the option of going home early from summer camp if he/she gets upset, sad, or homesick.  Instead, speak with the 4-H agent to discuss possible actions that can be taken to remedy the emotions that the camper is feeling.  Only as a very last resort should the parent speak with the child when a child is homesick; more often than not, it makes the homesickness worse.

 

TRUST YOUR 4-H STAFF

One of the hardest things to do may be one of the most important aspects of a successful summer camp for your child:  trust your camping staff.  From the beginning of the camp sign-up process, you  can meet with your 4-H Agent or person overseeing the camping week.   This will help you and your child feel more comfortable in their camp week.  It will also help your 4-H Agent or lead staffer know more about their campers!

4-H residential summer camps are designed to support positive youth development to develop independence, promote a sense of belonging in a group setting, encourage generosity, and facilitate the mastery of targeted life skills. Programs at camp teach 4-H’s fundamental approach of “learn by doing” through safe, fun, educational environments.

To find out more information about 4-H residential camping programs, please visit http://florida4h.org/camps_/  or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.

RESOURCES

http://florida4h.org/camps_/

https://www.acacamps.org/press-room/how-to-choose-camp/homesickness

Benefits of Competition

From its beginning, the 4-H program has used a system of clubs and competitive activities to promote learning and the development of specific skills of 4-H members (Ladewig & Thomas, 1987). Sometimes competition is viewed negatively.  Florida 4-H does not believe that competition is beneficial for youth under the age of eight, but for older youth, competition can help promote the development of life skills.  When you break it down, competition is simply the process of comparing skills (Midura & Glover, 1999).  Competition provides opportunities for youth to master and demonstrate life skills that can be used in the real world. For example, livestock judging participants learn more than animal science- they learn about the ethical treatment of animals, how to communicate and critical thinking.

Weber and McCullers (1986) stated that “young men and women who traditionally attain the highest levels of achievement in the 4-H program are typically very successful ‘in other aspects of life as well.” Other studies have also shown that competition helps to decrease juvenile delinquency, foster responsible social behavior, stimulate creativity, motivate young people to set goals, prepare them for the competitive world and gain important life skills.

Competitions involving judging are beneficial educational tools used to prepare youth for the workforce, regardless of their chosen careers. Former participants have learned to become team players, which is essential to their success and efficiency in the workplace.  Teambuilding skills are an essential element of success at any age.

In a 2003 study conducted by the University of Idaho to determine development of beneficial life skills associated with past participants in 4-H Livestock and Horse Judging programs, over 97% of the judging alumni indicated that the Idaho 4-H judging experience positively influenced their personal success. The participants indicated gaining the following life skills:

  • Ability to verbally defend a decision
  • Animal industry knowledge
  • Decision-making
  • Oral communication
  • Organizational skills
  • Problem solving
  • Team building
  • Self-confidence
  • Self-discipline
  • Self-motivation

Overall, 4-H participants perceive that 4-H competitions are very valuable to them in terms of teaching responsibility, building self-confidence and self-worth, and preparing them to face challenges in a competitive world.  Florida 4-H offers many opportunities to help youth develop through competitive events:

  • 4-H record books
  • Public speaking
  • Demonstrations, or show and tell presentations
  • Graphic design
  • Photography
  • Judging competitions
  • Shooting sports
  • Animal shows
  • Fair exhibits

To learn more about competitive opportunities in 4-H, or how you can become involved as a coach or project leader, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.

Related Article- The Impact Ag Judging Had on Me

Resources:

https://www.joe.org/joe/2002june/a5.php

https://www.joe.org/joe/2006december/rb3.php

http://countryfolks.com/4-h-ffa-competitions-benefit-students-livestock-and-communities/

https://www.joe.org/joe/2002april/rb5.php

https://www.joe.org/joe/2005april/rb5.php

 

 

4-H in October

October is an exciting month for 4-H – we have some great things happening. First, it includes National 4 H Week, October 1-7. This year during National 4-H Week, The Northwest district is proud to celebrate the #TrueLeaders that make our community great. Every child deserves to be recognized for the great things they are doing. Help us celebrate #TrueLeaders during National 4-H Week by shouting out your favorite 4-H’er. #TrueLeaders lead by example, empowering their peers and inspiring communities. 4-H’ers, show your pride this National 4-H Week! Share photos of how youth are stepping up as #TrueLeaders in your county.

As part of National 4-H Week, 4-H’ers participate in 4 H National Youth Science Day (NYSD), the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. This year’s 4 H NYSD event will take place on October 4.

Our local Tractor Supply Company will be supporting 4-H clubs October 4-15 with their Paper Clover Campaign, this is a national in-store fundraiser that benefits state and local 4-H programs. Tractor Supply invites friends and family to support 4-H by donating $1 at store checkouts for scholarships that send local kids to 4-H camp and other 4-H leadership experiences.

October also represent a time when our local tailgating youth will advance to the state finals. The northwest district will have 8 youth advancing to the state competition October 14.

October also means that it is fair time! You will be able to view our 2017 4-H youth exhibits across the Panhandle at local fairs and rodeos!

Central Panhandle Fair – October 2 -7
Art in the Garden Festival at the UF IFAS Research Center in Quincy- October 7th
Bonifay Rodeo – October 5-7
Walton County Fair – October 9-14
Panhandle Youth Expo– October 11th-14th
Pensacola Interstate Fair – October 19-24
North Florida Fair – November 2-12

Local 4-H youth will exhibit their artwork, plants and animals that they have been caring for this past year. Youth exhibits and plants are judged. Youth receive ribbon awards using the Danish judging system at county and regional fairs. This means that exhibits are judged against a “standard” rather than against other exhibits. For example, a painting that has been created by a 4-H’er is not compared to other paintings. Rather, it is judged according to the criteria of standards for paintings. A blue ribbon means that the exhibit meets high standards and good quality work is shown.

October and November are busy months in 4-H. To find out more information about other 4-H programs like this or volunteer your time to work with youth, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.

4-H Record Books…Simplified!

No need to dread the record book! This article breaks it down into simple steps.

In 4-H, young people have tracked their activities, events, profits and losses, skill development and learning experiences, and much more using the iconic 4-H Record Book. In addition to record keeping, the 4-H Record Book gives members an opportunity to reflect on their year, measure their achievements and growth, set goals, and develop plans to meet those goals. Once you understand the purpose and value of record books, you are probably wondering where to start.  Here are the most frequently asked questions about record books to simplify the process:

What’s the difference between a project book and a record book?  A project book guides youth through the project and includes background information and activities to help them master the subject matter.  A record book is the record of what youth did and learned in the project and documents goals, knowledge and skills gained, leadership experiences, awards earned, and service to the community. Record books are typically bound in a cover, scrapbook or three-ring binder and turned in for evaluation at the end of the project or 4-H year.

Some project books include a records section, but many do not.  If your project does not have a section for records, then you will want to insert a Florida 4-H Project Report Form (based on your age level).

What types of information should I keep track of for my record book?

Cloverbuds Juniors Intermediates Seniors
Personal information Name, 4-H age, club, # of years in 4-H, member, parent/club leader signatures
Project Plans and Goals NA What are your goals (run for office, attend a workshop, earn a blue ribbon in showmanship)
Project Highlights A list of activities you did this year (demonstrations, field trips, leadership activities, workshops, exhibits)
Project Attachments Photos of you doing project activities; newspaper clippings, club or workshop programs, exhibitor tags, cage cards, feed tags
Project Story, or Reflection NA What you learned, who helped you, what you liked (or disliked) about the project, what you would do differently next time, whether or not you encountered any problems and what you did to overcome them
Financial Records Financial records are usually only associated with animal science, gardening and entrepreneurship projects.  Not all record books will have a financial record section.

How do I keep up with all that information?

Calendar Have a calendar dedicated to your 4-H work and record your activities- club meetings, workshops, how often you feed or water your project, shows or exhibits, etc.
Index box Keep a recipe box full of index cards with dividers for each section of the record book.  Each time you do something related to one of the sections, write it on the card.
Notebook Keep a journal of your project, recording activities.  You can even divide the notebook into sections that correspond with each section of your record book
Electronic Device Yes!  There is an app for that.  Sponsored by Tractor Supply and National 4-H Council, there is a market animal record book app you can download from iTunes.

To inspire you, here are some quotes that Florida 4-H youth wrote in their record books:

  • “As the VP (vice president) of my club, I had many opportunities to speak in front of a crowd.  This has helped me in other aspects of my life such as school.  I have become a better public speaker.”
  • “I have taken bigger and better responsibilities.  I learned to be responsible and to challenge myself to bigger expectations and to be kind, nice, and pleasant to others.”
  • “4-H has given me the opportunity to do things that I normally would not get to do.”
  • “4-H has meant a lot to me because it teaches me so much about my project and our world.  (I learned) to follow safety practices, treating animals with respect, being careful when leading an animal and watching out for others and their animals.”

As we start the 2017-2018 4-H year, think about your 4-H project area and how you will document it this year. If you have a skill to share and would like to inspire the next generation, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.  We offer a wide variety of roles to fit your interests and schedule. For more information about 4-H, visit our website or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.