Mark Tassin, Gautreaux, Craig | 7/21/2007 3:01:05 AM
It may be the same place where some kids’ parents or grandparents spent part of their summers, but today’s 4-H Camp certainly isn’t the same.
Although the LSU AgCenter’s Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center is 85 years old, it’s seen many changes and improvements through the years – including a new name to indicate its year-round use.
Formerly known only as 4-H Camp Grant Walker, the facility is located near Pollock in Grant Parish. It plays host to thousands of young people who participate in weeklong summer camps, but it also sees a variety of other educational events for adults and youth throughout the year.
As for the summer, however, by the time August arrives, more than 4,000 fourth-graders through sixth-graders will have attended 4-H Camp there.
The original camp was built during the Great Depression, but it has been updated many times and now includes all of the modern conveniences of home – and then some.
While parents of today’s young people may have gone swimming in the creek, a modern pool is the place to beat the summer heat. Parents may have written a letter to home, but today’s 4-H’ers have the luxury of a computer lab to send e-mails, access the Internet and play educational games. They also have modern classrooms for educational sessions and a state-of-the-art distance education system that allows both summer campers and other groups that use the facility throughout the years to link up with other facilities across the state.
Paul Coreil, vice chancellor for the LSU AgCenter and director of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, says the 4-H summer camping program is a very important part of the state’s 4-H educational experience.
"The camping program remains one of the cornerstones of what 4-H has to offer. For some, it’s the first time they are away from their parents or their home and the first time they have to take personal responsibility for themselves," Coreil said. "The outdoor educational experiences, interpersonal skills developed and recreational opportunities available throughout the week are indeed an experience they will never forget."
Mark Tassin, state 4-H director, says the camp has changed over the years but has still maintained its charm.
"The camp has evolved to include all the modern features one has at home. Yet, with the stone buildings and architecture, it still has that rustic feel," Tassin explained. "The activities take advantage of what Camp Grant Walker has to offer, including nature trails, canoeing and outdoor skills.
"All of these are vital components of the camp experience."
Just like the camp itself, the curriculum has been modified to meet the needs of today’s students. Youth can choose from five different activity tracks that cover a wide variety of interests.
A Dramatic Arts track culminates at the end of the week with a show for all the campers. The presentation is held in the newly designed Theatre-in-the-Woods.
The Outdoor Adventure track includes hiking, target practice with an air rifle and a bow and arrow, and outdoor survival skills.
The Youngsters in Nature curriculum focuses on the native insects, animals and plants that are found in the surrounding area.
The Safety Superheroes program teaches life-saving techniques along with safety issues related to the Internet.
The final track is called CHEFs, Camping Healthy Equals Fun. This course focuses on health issues related to nutrition and the benefits of exercise.
4-H Camp is open to students in the fourth grade through the sixth grade. This year there will be10 weeks of camp with the last day on Aug. 10. The camps are organized by LSU AgCenter 4-H agents in parishes across the state – with young people from approximately six to nine parishes attending each week, depending upon how many students are enrolled from each parish.
For many students this is their first time to spend an extended period of time away from home. Although there may be some signs of campers being homesick at the beginning, friendly counselors and the many exciting activities make those feelings go away quickly, the experts say.
Of course, the Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center isn’t just dealing with young people. Because one of its unique features is that it is open for events year-round, throughout the year special programs are held for 4-H’ers and other groups interested in using the many amenities offered at the camp.
"The camp has more than 600 beds, a fully functional cafeteria and an educational center with four classrooms and 20 computers in the computer lab," said Jane Jones, who currently serves as the resident director for the facility. "Wireless Internet access also can be found throughout the campground, so you can now take your work outside and enjoy the beautiful surroundings."
The LSU AgCenter oversees the state’s 4-H program which has more than 52,000 members statewide and tens of thousands more who participate in activities provided by the youth development program each year. 4-H strives to provide young people with educational experiences and activities that will help them develop life skills and knowledge to benefit them, their families and their communities.