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4-H Summer Camps: A Great Vehicle For Youth Development

4-H Summer Camps: A Great Vehicle For Youth Development

Summertime is typically associated with summer vacations, sleeping late, fast foods, rainy days, hot afternoons, and one 4-H camp after the other.  Some would argue that summer camps are simply an advanced “day care” program for parents to drop their kids off to “play” so they can be productive at work without worrying about their children. However, research shows that youth who attend camps during the summer come away with so much more than what camping programs are given credit for.

Teenagers interacting in a team game outside.

Camp Counselors at Wildlife Camp doing a team building activity.

For many youth, traditional summer camp means no homework, no tests, lots of recreation, camp songs, crafts, and lots of swimming. While these are typical camp activities that normally take place during a week of camp, these experiences have a two-fold purpose in that they also serve as a vehicle for significant learning to take place. Many parents are concerned about the amount of knowledge that kids lose during the summer. There has been substantial research that shows students can lose up to 3 months of what has been learned during the school year. By keeping young people’s brains active, acquiring new skills and knowledge, camp offers the chance to decrease the typical summer learning deficit.  How is this done??……I’m glad you asked!

4-H is intentional in providing critical components of a successful learning experience as part of all its summer camp curriculum. These Essential Elements are: Belonging, Independence, Mastery, and Generosity.  They are designed to meet the developmental needs of youth.  Let me give you some examples.

Youth casting a net (seining) in Lake Lafayette for aquatic specimens

4-H campers seining in Lake Lafayette for aquatic specimens

4-H Camp attendees experience a sense of Belonging, the first Essential Element, during cooling off time at 4-H Camp Cherry Lake, while being cared for by camp staff, counselors, and 4-H Youth Development Professionals. Campers enjoy being in a safe place with their peers without a fear of being bullied.  4-H accepts youth where they are and helps them ignite the spark that exist within them, enabling them to reach their potential.

With no parents on the camp grounds telling their children what to do and when to do it, Independence, the second Essential Element, is a key element that a residential or day camp provides for its attendees.  Providing the opportunity for youth to be independent thinkers and to better understand themselves develops at camp as youth learn to make decisions based on experiences and knowledge obtained during camp.

In order to develop the self-confidence needed for youth to feel they can be successful, camp provides many opportunities for Mastery, the third Essential Element, to take place. Whether it is passing the swim test, learning a new skill, or leading a game, having that “I can do this” moment for a camper can make a positive impact on a young person’s life.

Lastly, 4-H camps provide opportunities for youth to learn the importance of Generosity, the fourth Essential Element, by learning and working with campers from diverse backgrounds and different socio-economic levels. Camp could very well be the first time they have spent an increased amount of time with people whose background, race or religion is different from their own. Through planned program curriculum consisting of team building and get acquainted activities throughout the week, the campers learn to focus on what they have in common and to value the contributions of others who may not look or act like them.

Youth jumping off boat into water

Cooling off time at 4-H Camp Cherry Lake

So being away from home, making new friends, being a part of a team, and trying new things are key building blocks to obtaining a successful experience to meet the developmental needs of youth. 4-H summer camp provides youth the platform to create great memories and lasting relationships that can last a lifetime.

For more information on how your youth can participate in 4-H camps, find your local UF IFAS Extension Office and contact your 4-H Agent to explore what programs are offered in your area.

 

Hurricane Season is Blowing In With STEM Day Camp

Street view of Hurricane Michael damage. Photo by Melanie Taylor.

Do you enjoy building structures and figuring out problems? If so, the 2019 STEM Day Camp is for you. The day camp theme is Building for Hurricanes: Engineering Design Challenge. The day camp will be held July 22-24 at the Jackson County Extension Office, 2741 Penn Ave. Suite 3, Marianna, FL 32448 from 9am CT – 2pm CT. The cost is $30; space is limited. Pre-registration is required at https://florida.4honline.com/.

In order to prepare for the day camp final competition, teams will become familiar with engineering, hurricane damage and natural disasters.  In the engineering design challenge, students build a tower to resist a simulated hurricane.

 

Jefferson Co 4-Hers and volunteers helping clean up after Hurricane Michael. Photo by Paula Davis.

  1. The curriculum guide being used to teach the day camp includes, background information, examples and sample activities to help prepare the teams for the final competition.
  2. Teams will demonstrate their hurricane ready structure for the judges and audience, and then give reasons. They must plan and build a tower as tall as possible that will hold up a tennis ball while resisting the force of wind from a fan. For an extra challenge, a spray bottle will be used to simulate rain.  After the towers are built, the group comes together to test them. Adults will not be able to assist members with the design.
  3. All tools and supplies will be provided.

After the day camp, you can continue this challenge and further expand your engineering skills at the North Florida Fair STEM judging event on 4-H Day at the Fair, November 16, 2019.

If you would like to learn more about this 4-H STEM Day Camp, 4-H Day at the Fair, additional 4-H day camps and programs in your local area, or how to get involved as a 4-H volunteer, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.

Introducing the 2019 Camp Timpoochee Staff!

Pictured:
Top L-R: Jessie, Katelyn, Olivia
Middle L-R: Mason, Clair, Matt
Bottom L-R: Hailee, Miles

For campers, getting to know their camp staff is beyond just learning names and faces.  It is an important aspect of belonging, one of 4-H’s essential elements included in every facet of our program.  So, when camp time rolls around each year, Ms. Ariel, our fabulous Resident Camp Director at 4-H Camp Timpoochee, responds to our call for a little early information on the latest and greatest members to join the team, the 4-H Camp Timpoochee Camp Staff.  Without further delay, allow us to introduce our trained camp team for Summer 2019:

Meet Mason, a 2nd year camp staff member and student majoring in Recreation, Tourism and Events, from Cottondale, FL.  His favorite camp activity is Marshmallow Paint War, favorite camp song is “5 Little Muffins,” and favorite canteen items are water and Twix bars.  Something interesting about Mason that we just learned is that he once spent 13 days in South Africa.  He shared that, because of camp, he understands that a small act of kindness can go a long way.

Jessie’s hometown is Chipley, FL and is also a 2nd year camp staff member.  She is majoring in Natural Science.  Her camp heart song is “Down by the Bay,” her favorite camp activity is sitting outside during free recreation and hanging out with the campers.  Her favorite canteen snack at camp is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and a little fact about Jessie is that she can eat twelve chocolate chip cookies at one time!  She shared that because of camp, she is allowed to meet new people and create memories and adventures not only for herself but for others as well.

Hailee hails from Stuart, FL and she joins the camp staff for the first time this year.  She is a Marine Biology student so her favorite song is “Just Keep Swimming” of course!  Her favorite camp activity is Smores and her canteen snack of choice is a Snickers bar.  An interesting fact about Hailee is that she collects snow globes and pressed pennies from all over the world.  Because of camp, Hailee says she can help create memories that her campers, fellow staff, and she will never forget.

Katelyn, originally grew up in Middleton, NH but now calls DeFuniak Springs, FL home.  She is also a 1st year camp staff member and is studying Microbiology.  Her favorite camp song is “You’re Momma Don’t Wear No Socks” and she loves to kayak and then snack on Skittles and Sprite during canteen.  She shared that she once lived in Alaska for a period of time.  Katelyn said that, because of camp, she gets to work with awesome youth and staff for the summer.

Matthew joins us from Pensacola, FL as a 2nd year camp staff member studying Mass Communication with a focus on advertising and a minor in psychology.  His favorite camp song is “Bomdalele,” his favorite camp activity is movie night, and his canteen snack of choice is a Kit Kat with a Dr. Pepper.  An interesting fact about Matthew is that he has 10 siblings and 49 first cousins!  Because of camp, Matthew says he gets to make other people as happy as he possibly can.

Miles, a Chemistry major, is also from the west coast, Santa Rosa, CA, and this is his 2nd year as a camp staff.  His favorite camp song is “Down to the Swamp,” and he enjoys a Pepsi and a Crunch bar after his favorite camp activity, going out on the boat.  Something interesting about Miles is that he rides a motorcycle.  He shares that because of camp, he is responsible.

Clair is a Marine Science major and 1st year camp staff from Archer, FL.  Her favorite camp song is “The Princess Pat,” her favorite camp activity is campfire time, and she loves to eat Kit Kats during canteen.  Something unique about Clair is that she built herself a wooden kayak once.  Because of camp, she shares that she gets to teach others about her passion, the ocean.

Olivia is from Grand Ridge, FL, also a 1st year staff member, and is majoring in Business.  Her favorite song is, “I’m a Little Coconut,” her favorite activity is Marshmallow Paint War, and she snags Cheese-Its during canteen.  In her spare time, she loves to travel.  Olivia shares that, because of camp, she gets to meet many new people and play a small role in the campers’ lives, helping them have an amazing week at summer camp.

Thank you again to Ms. Ariel and her camp team for taking the time to share with us before we kick off the 4-H Camp Timpoochee summer residential camping season.  If you’d like to learn more about 4-H Camp and how you can send your child to 4-H camp for a week of fun-filled camp traditions, life-long memories, and long-term friendships, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.

Wildflower Seed Bombs: For those who garden AND those who don’t!

Two youth make wildflower seed bombs.

Wildflower seed bombs are a great indoor or outdoor project with unlimited potential for learning.

Wildflower seed bombs are the perfect project for kids itching to get outside.  Even if you don’t have a green thumb or you don’t have outdoor space or the weather isn’t cooperating, you can make seed bombs that will help beautify roadsides, vacant areas and neighborhoods.

Give Them a Toss!

These little beauties don’t get their name from any explosive properties but from the fun you have “launching” them around your yard or neighborhood. As you toss them into places that  aren’t frequently mowed, you beautify your neighborhood and provide an invaluable food sources for native Florida pollinators like bees, wasps, butterflies, and more.

Even though you may be more fond of some pollinators than others, there’s no doubt we need them all. Their pollination services are critical to fruit development in many of our fruiting crops. So if you like squash, cucumbers, melons, almonds and so much more, here’s what you can do to help:

Gather Your Materials

  • Air-dry clay
  • Wildflower seeds
  • Potting Soil

Make Your Seed Bombs

  1. Pinch off a small amount of air-dry clay – enough to make a ball about the size of a bouncy ball or about 1″ diameter.
  2. Work equal parts seeds and soil into the clay and form it into a ball.
    Amounts really are up to you. More seeds = more flowers.
    But, too much soil will keep the ball from holding it’s shape. If this happens, add more clay and either have a bigger bomb, or divide it into two smaller bombs.
  3. Store them in a cool dry place and let them dry out completely in an air-tight container until you’re ready to spread some wildflower cheer.
  4. Now for the fun part!  Toss them where you want flowers to grow.

Things to Consider…

  • The air-dry clay acts as a binder only. It’s natural, non-toxic, and when wet, it will soften and allow the seeds to grow.
  • Before storing in an airtight container, allow your seed bombs out to dry completely.  Even a little moisture will allow the seeds to sprout.
  • Be careful when throwing your seed bombs.
    1. Don’t hit people, animals, or other anything else with them – just the ground.
    2. Throw them where areas don’t get mowed very much.  Some people throw them out along roadways or in abandoned lots. If these places are mowed regularly, they won’t last long if they even get to bloom.
    3. Get permission if you’re throwing them in public places.

Resources

Gardening is just one of the many Florida 4-H programs.  To see what programs are available in your county, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office, or contact your 4-H Agent about starting a gardening program in your county.

Let the Hunt Begin:  Hunter Safety and 4-H Shooting Sports

While this year’s hunting season is winding up, it’s never too early to think about getting ready for next year.  Whether it’s deer, squirrel, ducks, dove or turkey, there are important hunting rules and guidelines both youth and adults must follow.  Organizations like the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and your local UF/IFAS Extension Office provide programs to keep you on target each hunting season!

Youth with shotgun on shooting range.

Safety is a key element of any shooting sport.

SAFETY FIRST
Each hunter must take some version of the Hunters Safety Education course.  Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, and 16 years or older, must pass a hunter safety course before a hunting license can be purchased.  There are four options to complete this requirement:

  1. Traditional Course and Skills Day
    – Face-to-face instructor led course
    – Hands-on skill day – register here
  2. Online Course and Skills Day (two part process)
    – Complete one of the online courses
    – Hands on skill day – register here
  3.  Florida Virtual School Outdoor Education
    – FREE to Florida students in grades 9-12 or ages 12-18
    – Apply here
    – Earn 0.5 credit for high school
  4. Firearms Safety Certification and Online Course
    – Adults only
    – Must have completed previous firearms training
    – Must complete one of the online classes in Option 2
    – Follow procedures outlined in the Application for Hunter Safety Certification

If you’re using the Hunter Safety Mentoring Exemption and hunting under the supervision of a qualified hunter, you are exempt from this requirement.  

Map of Florida showing hunting zones

Our district covers Zone D – Escambia to Gadsden/Wakulla & Zone C – Leon & Jefferson.  Map courtesy of FWC.

Find Your Zone
Hunters should strive to be good stewards of Florida’s resources to keep this sport a tradition for generations to come. Take the time to determine what hunting zone you live in.  Your zone determines your hunting season – meaning the appropriate time you can collect specific game in that area.  You can find the Florida Hunting Zones Map here:  http://myfwc.com/hunting/season-dates/zone-map/.  Next,  check the annually updated hunting season dates and bag limits related to your zone to stay in compliance with FWC regulations:  http://myfwc.com/hunting/season-dates.

4-H Shooting Sports
Find your local UF/IFAS Extension Office and determine if there is a 4-H Shooting Sports program in your county.  Participation in a 4-H Shooting Sport program provides year-round opportunities for youth to not only practice their discipline but also to explore other disciplines in a safe, inclusive, environment with 4-H volunteers/mentors!

Group of 4-H youth on shooting range.

4-H grows important life skills like responsibility, goal setting and teamwork in youth through shooting sports.

4-H Shooting Sports includes air rifle, small bore rifle, archery, shotgun, muzzleloading and hunting and develops important life skills in a safe and educational environment.  Shooting sports day camps are popular during the summer, so ask you 4-H Agent if one will be scheduled for you county.

Attention Volunteers!
Would you like to become become 4-H Level 1 Certified to coach and teach youth shooting sports?  If you are already enrolled as a 4-H volunteer, log in to your profile and register for the February 16th hands-on training in shotgun and archery.  You’ll also complete five online learning modules as part of your training.  If you’re new to 4-H, enroll at florida.4honline.com, and let your county 4-H Agent know that you are interested in teaching shooting sports.

Explore the links below to see how you and your youth can get involved in 4-H and stay up to date on the hunting regulations for your area:

4-H Alumnae Reconnect through Love of Horses

Russell and Julie McMillian, Gulf County 4-H Alumnae and 4-H Leaders

Russell and Julie McMillian both grew up in Gulf County and together have established a thriving business based on their love of horses.  They now own a small farm in Dalkeith, just south of Wewahitchka, and their business Rockin’ M Ranch, consists of horseback riding lessons for beginners and beach rides for tourists and locals alike along the beautiful beaches of Cape San Blas.

How did this all begin?  Russell and Julie both grew up as Gulf County 4-H members of the Big River Riders 4-H Club.  They both participated in a variety of 4-H programs; including Horse Camp, Camp Timpoochee, Congress (now known as 4-H University), District Events, North Florida Fair Ag Judging, Area A and State 4-H Horse Shows, etc.  They both learned the values of 4-H through learning how to raise and compete with their animals, agricultural commodities, leadership skills, public speaking, community service, good decision making skills, and much more…

As adults, they both went in separate directions, but still maintained their love of horses and the farm life.  Russell began his career in flooring and tile work, while Julie received her education degree and taught Kindergarten at Wewahitchka Elementary School.  After reconnecting as adults, they married on September 25, 2010 and turned their passion for horses into a full-time love by creating their own business, Rockin’ M Ranch.  Russell still does flooring, tile work on the side, and helps his grandparents with their hay business.  Julie decided to leave the teaching field, and she manages their business full time.  She began giving beach rides on the Cape at the age of 14 and still loves it as much today.

Julie and Russell McMillian pictured with Brooke (left) and Hayleigh (right).

Russell began his time with 4-H at the age of 12 and Julie was 8 years old.  As members of the Big River Riders 4-H Club, they adored their 4-H leaders, Mr. Jesse Eubanks and Ms. Jean McMillian (Russell’s grandmother), and the Gulf County Extension Director, Roy L. Carter (now retired), whose passion for horses was contagious.  Julie explained that she was a very shy child and that participating in public speaking for District Events really helped her come out of her shell.  They both loved learning the values of the four H’s: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.  They feel 4-H has helped them develop into productive adults with good decision-making skills and in-stilled in them the importance of giving back to their community.  They have served as 4-H volunteers for the Big River Rider’s 4-H Club since Russell’s daughters joined 4-H years ago; Brooke (17) and Hayleigh (15) also ride horses and have competed in a variety of Gulf County 4-H programs throughout the years. Russell and Julie have also taught a variety of horse riding classes at multiple Gulf County 4-H day camps.

As 4-H and community leaders, their most important goal is to give back to the community that gave to them as 4-Hers growing up here. They really love introducing new riders to the love of horses and 4-H.  On any day, Russell and Julie can be found throughout the county at various events supporting 4-H members and any youth for that matter.

When asked what advice she has for someone thinking about becoming a 4-H volunteer she said, “Do not have regrets…just do it. Do not be scared off by the fingerprinting and application process.  It is quick and easy, and maintains the safety for you and the children.  Get started! 4-H is a great opportunity for youth and adults.”

“As a 4-H extension agent, you can only hope to find 4-H volunteers as dedicated as Russell and Julie McMillian.  Their passion and love of 4-H is infectious and draws in youth looking for a place to belong.”  -Melanie Taylor, Gulf County 4-H Agent

For more information about Rockin’ M Ranch, please go to http://www.therockinmranch.com/.  For more information about how to become involved in 4-H, either as a youth member or adult volunteer, visit florida4h.org or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.  4-H offers a variety of roles for volunteers to share their passions, skills and interests.