Assuming you have even heard of the 4-H program before, one thing probably comes to mind: farm kids. The 4-H organization did indeed start out as a way to teach youth farming, cooking, and food preservation practices. Even today, in fact, there are still thriving 4-H livestock and home economics programs. 4-H has, however, evolved to become so much more!
By definition, 4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills. The “4 H’s” are Head, Heart, Hands, and Health and their motto is, To Make the Best Better. 4-H programs employ hands on learning using their educational philosophy, “learn by doing.” Activities in 4-H clubs range from public speaking events to leadership retreats, entrepreneurship and economics. Participants may learn about gardening, arts and crafts, home organization, or even model airplane construction.
4-H camp is a great introduction to the 4-H program and to summer camps! Most 4-H camps are traditional residential camps. Campers live at the campsite for a week or so and participate in traditional activities which may include boating, hiking, fishing, crafts, swimming, shooting sports, and recreation. Campers typically live in cabins and may not have the conveniences of home including air conditioning, TV, and video games. Led by well trained instructors, many camps are accredited by the American Camping Association and are often among the least expensive camping choices available. Most 4-H membership is free and in fact, many camps do not even require membership for camp participation.
As an example, the typical 4-H camp in Kentucky lasts Monday through Thursday or Monday through Friday and costs from $80-$120. That price includes transportation to the camp, lodging, meals, snacks, and most, if not all, activities and supplies. A typical day at a 4-H camp in Kentucky would include waking up in a cabin with other campers then heading to the dining hall for breakfast. Cabins have to be left clean, teaching the campers how to care for their own space. Classes would then meet and would include topics ranging from archery to scrapbooking. After lunch all campers get to swim in the pool, have some down time, and a snack. In the evenings, group activities including recreation, camp fires, friendly competitions, and leader-led skits entertain the kids before heading back to the cabin for some rest.
There are literally thousands of camping options available to kids in the summertime. Ranging from sports to science and much more, special interest camps are cropping up all over. Many of these “camps” have no traditional camping elements at all. Special interest camps may indeed excite your child and teach him or her a few things about the chosen topic, but there is something special, however, about the simplicity of a traditional 4-H summer camp. Sure, your kids might be taken out of their comfort zone and have to “rough it” for a few days. And yes, 4-H camp leaders have heard more than their share of complaints about the heat, the bugs, the lack of TV, and the food. But this character-building, classic camping style is one your child will remember for a lifetime. Having the opportunity to paddle a canoe, cast a fishing lure, sing silly camp songs, and see the stars without artificial light pollution are priceless additions to childhood.
4-H camps are available in several states throughout the nation from California to Texas and Kentucky to New York. To see whether or not 4-H camp is available in your state, visit www.fourhcouncil.edu. Once there, scroll to the bottom of the page and choose 4-H Camps Program. On this page you will find a United States map. Simply click on the state of your choice to see whether or not a 4-H camping program is available in your area. If there is a camp available in your state, you will find links to specific websites for your area. For more information about 4-H in general you can contact your local Cooperative Extension Service Office. The Extension Service exists in every state in the nation and can be visited at http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/.
4-H is an incredible youth program that has truly stood the test of time. It has been around for more than 100 years. 4-H camp offers a fun and affordable, traditional camping experience for kids. Check out www.fourhcouncil.edu for more information on 4-H and 4-H camps in your state!