Learn life skills, have fun at 4-H summer camp

Kimberly Marie Landry, Tassin, Mark G., Benedict, Linda F.  |  3/27/2008 1:39:11 AM

News Release Distributed 03/12/08

“Fun for a week – Memories for a lifetime!” That’s the theme of the summer 2008 4-H camping experience at the Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center near Pollock, La.

The first of 10 weeklong camps won’t be until May 26-30. But registration for the camp, through LSU AgCenter parish extension offices, is going on now.

The first nine weeks of camp are open to 4th-6th graders. And the last week of camp, Aug. 4-8 – this year called LOST Camp for Louisiana Outdoor Science and Technology – will be for 7th and 8th graders.

“You don’t have to be a 4-H member to attend 4-H camp,” said Kim Landry, LSU AgCenter 4-H camp director. “But you need to go through your local parish extension office and the local 4-H agent.”

Camp fees vary by parish, and the weeks are divided among the parishes, with about 5-9 parishes participating per week. Any parish can send 7th or 8th graders to LOST Camp, the last week.

“About 4,000 youth attend the camp each summer,” Landry said. “Our capacity is about 500 people – campers, counselors and staff – per week. The camp starts Monday afternoon, and the campers go home Friday morning.”

Pick a track

Although all campers share many of the same activities such as sports, swimming, crafts and games, each camper is to pick an educational track in which he or she will spend most of the time. This year five tracks are offered.

One of two new ones is “Get Ready, Get SET.” The SET stands for science, engineering and technology – a new emphasis of the national 4-H program, said Mark Tassin, director of the Louisiana 4-H and youth program.

“We in Louisiana are steering more of our program efforts into science, engineering and technology because of the need for more kids to go into careers in these areas,” Tassin said.

In this track the campers will do creative construction, learn more about aeronautics and explore the world of chemistry.

The other new track is “Explore Louisiana: Wetlands, Wildlife and Water.” The students will take water samples and learn through games and activities how to prevent contamination and toxicity in the environment. They will study the wetlands and their value to the ecosystem.

The “Outdoor Adventures” track this year will include learning how to drive an all-terrain four-wheel vehicle (ATV).

“We’re very excited about having the small ATVs to ride this year,” Landry said. “We expect to have four or five for the children to practice on.”

Campers in this track also will learn hunting and shooting skills using bows and air rifles. By the end of the week, they will receive a hunter’s education certificate.

In the “FIRE” track, which stands for Food Is Really Exciting, children will learn not only cooking skills but the math, science and biology involved with measuring ingredients and killing germs for food safety.

The “Dramatic Arts” track continues to be a favorite with its own theater in the woods as part of the camp facilities. Children will learn acting and set design as well as make puppets.

LOST Camp for the older kids will be a combination of wetlands and environmental education along with outdoor adventures with hunting skills and learning to ride the ATVs, Landry said.

Camp upgrades

The camp, which is on Highway 8 about 15 miles northeast of Alexandria, was expanded to about 80 acres several years ago with the addition of 30 acres from the former Camp Windywood.

The long-term vision for the camp is as a year-round environmental education center as well as traditional 4-H summer camp, Tassin said.

“The master plan calls for a new classroom building first and then an environmental center that includes wet labs, lodging and classroom space,” Tassin said. “A new pond is being constructed that will be used as an aquatic classroom.”

Because Camp Grant Walker is in the middle of the state, it will be accessible to many schools for a one-day environmental field trip, Tassin said.

For this summer’s camp, a new pool house has been constructed that includes bathrooms and water fountains. And a paved sidewalk makes the facility more handicapped-accessible.

“That’s also part of the master plan for the camp – to be handicapped accessible,” Tassin said.

Camp counselors

The 4-H camp is designed to provide younger kids with their first experience away from home to help them learn responsibility and self-reliance. But the camp also offers leadership opportunities for high school-aged kids through the counselor program.

Nearly 300 teens are trained each year at 4-H leadership workshops in every region of the state to be camp counselors. For their assistance they’re given a reduced rate to attend camp, Landry said.

What camp experience means

When 4-H alumni reminisce, they invariably point to 4-H camp, if they attended, as one of the highlights of their lives.

“For many, it was their first time away from home,” Tassin said. “They had to learn to make new friends and to try new things. They had to learn teamwork skills.”

In a survey of former campers and their parents, Tassin found tangible evidence of the value of the camping experience.

For the campers:

– 100 percent learned to do their share when working with others.

– 98 percent met new people they would like to stay in touch with and want to go back to camp next year.

– 93 perent learned to complete jobs they were responsible for and the importance of being on time.

For the campers’ parents:

– 100 percent felt the benefits of camp outweighed the cost; they were glad they sent their children to camp.

– 93 percent said their children were more willing to try to things because of camp.

– 90 percent felt their children gained self-confidence and respect for others.

“Camping is a unique learning opportunity,” Tassin said. “At 4-H camp we offer a nurturing, caring environment where everybody gets the chance to have fun and learn something new.”

100 years of 4-H

2008 is the 100th anniversary of Louisiana 4-H, and the 86th anniversary of 4-H Camp Grant Walker, one of the oldest 4-H camps in the country. Each Thursday, the last day of summer camp, a green 4-H birthday cake will be served along with other green treats, Landry said.

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Contacts: Kim Landry at (318) 765-7209, kmlandry@agcenter.lsu.edu

Mark Tassin at (225) 578-2196, or mgtassin@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer: Linda Foster Benedict at (225) 578-2937, or lbenedict@agcenter.lsu.edu

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