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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.

 

Happiness in a Hammock at Camp

Happiness in a Hammock at Camp

Exploring New Activities with 4-H Club and Camp

When Chase Weston arrived at a meeting of the Panacea 4-H Explorers Club for the first time, he was not sure he wanted to be there. Chase’s normal activities of choice included reading and playing video games. He rarely played with other children and did not usually enjoy playing outdoors.

The Panacea 4-H Explorers Club meets weekly and offers youth the opportunity to sample activities ranging from painting and cooking to outdoor skills. Members march in parades and volunteer together at community events.

Getting Active With Archery

Chase receives archery instruction from Club Leader Trena Gooding.

From that first day attending an Explorers Club meeting, during his time with 4-H, the once very reserved and quiet boy has undergone a dramatic transformation. This summer, Chase had the opportunity to participate in a two day archery summer camp. On the first day, he did not want to participate and asked to go home. On the second day he started to warm up to archery and by the end of the day he did not want the camp to end!

Club Leader Rhonda Lundy said, “I have seen a drastic change in Chase through his participation in 4-H. He is definitely trying things outside his comfort zone and his parents couldn’t be happier.”  Chase accepted the opportunity to attend Camp Timpoochee with support from a 4-H state scholarship. During his week at camp, Chase enjoyed activities like dance class and kayaking. He was able to continue with his newfound love for archery during residential camp.

 

 

 

Happiness in a Hammock at Camp

A boy laying in a hammock at camp.

Chase enjoys free time in a hammock at Camp Timpoochee.

While he has stepped outside his comfort zone and tried many new activities during the week, Chase declared his favorite thing at Camp Timpoochee was enjoying the view from the vantage point from one of the many hammocks strung between trees throughout camp.

Links to Resources

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

Benefits of Summer Camp

Camp Choices with 4-H

Youth Development Outcomes of Camp Experiences

Breaking Norms and Building Youth through 4-H Camping

Breaking Norms and Building Youth through 4-H Camping

Five boys appear happy together at camp.

Campers make lasting friendships at camp.

4-H camp week is the sacred week of the summer that many youth look forward to every year.  The 4-H residential camping program features a week-long, overnight stay at one of the various 4-H camps in Florida (Timpoochee, Cherry Lake, Cloverleaf) and is generally shared with at least one other county.  During this week, youth venture out with their peers and explore their environment through a wealth of activities ranging from snorkeling, kayaking, shooting sports, crafts, creative dramatics, aquatic sciences, STEM, and so much more!  Laced within the camp program of activities are life skills these youth may acquire and build on throughout their lives such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, critical thinking, empathy for others, and confidence to name a few.

Large group of youth and adults outside at 4-H camp, all wearing blue shirts .

Holmes and Walton counties at Camp Timpoochee, June 10-14, 2019.

Walton and Holmes counties camped at 4-H Camp Timpoochee June 10-14, 2019.  Amongst record setting numbers for each county’s camp history, the Agents also observed many opportunities for growth in their campers and counselors.  One specifically was a male camper who initially seemed to have difficulty adjusting to camp life.  He is an only child, had never stayed away from home and thus, prior to camp, had set a day limit for himself because he was so anxious.  Once the counselor noticed his camper’s struggle, he immediately began working with his fellow counselor team to devise a plan tailor made for his camper to ensure he felt a sense of belonging and stayed at camp all week.  By day two, the camper’s attitude toward camp life had flipped from negative to positive and he even shared with his parents, “Camp is awesome!  Please don’t come pick me up yet.  I’m having so much fun!”  Within another day’s time, the male counselor team had this camper (and nearly all other boy campers), motivated to hold the door for others simply by turning it into a game of “pass it on,” the door that is.  It was truly a sight for the Agents to see their counselor team solving problems cooperatively for the benefit of the camp family and building confidence in their campers.

A group of girls celebrating a win after an outdoor game at 4-H camp.

Cabin teamwork conquers Organized Mass Chaos!

Counselors are the front lines during county camp week.  They are the leadership within the cabins and group activities alongside camping staff.  These teens are trained by their 4-H Agents for a minimum of 6 hours prior to camp to prepare them to handle various situations.  Each teen comes with their own set of skills and their own “treasure chest” of problem-solving abilities they contribute to the counselor team each year.  This camping season, one female counselor capitalized on her training and created an actual “treasure chest” for her campers within her cabin.  She utilized this as a positive reinforcement strategy where her campers could win coins for doing great things throughout the week.  The campers then could turn in their coins to gain a treasure from the chest!  Within this cabin, this strategy worked wonders to motivate the girl campers to keep their cabin clean, sing together for meals, show appropriate behaviors throughout camp, and participate in all activities. 

 

A camp counselor walking with his camper on a dock, at 4-H camp.

Serving by leading others.

Often times camp is described as “the safe place,” a place where youth can come to drop the stereotypes, drop the stressors of home life or school life, and just be themselves.  While 4-H Agents, 4-H Camp Directors and staff are the adult leaders, these campers and counselors teach us lessons daily during county camp week that we store in our own “treasure chests” for the next camping season to make our best years even BETTER!

For more information on how your family can participate in 4-H, 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.

NW District 4-H Entomology Camp is Just Around the Corner

Collecting and pinning insects are just some of the fun things we will be doing at entomology camp.

We’re revving up for the NW 4-H District Exciting World of Insects Day Camp set for July16-18.   At this camp, youth from counties across the district will come together to learn everything from what an insect is, to insect parts and orders, and how to collect and pin insects, and create insect art.

This camp is a great springboard to competitions and events later in the year.  By participating in this day camp:

  • Participants will leave the camp with all of the supplies they need to continue collecting and pinning insects on their own
  • Collections and art projects can be entered in local fairs and in the state 4-H contests
  • Participants will also be ready to compete in the state 4-H Insectathon insect ID, skillathon, and quiz bowl contests and in county and district demonstration contests

Stay tuned to our Facebook page for pictures and follow-up from camp.  If you’d like to learn more about 4-H day camps in your area, 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.