Crystal Ahrens cuts up a brisket for BBQ Bootcamp beef lesson. Provided photo.
When traditional Louisiana 4-H summer camps were forced to cancel because of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of fourth through seventh grade students lost the opportunity to attend camp. Across the nation, COVID-19 signaled an urgent need to transform 4-H programs to remain viable in this new socially distanced reality. Louisiana 4-H answered the call through many avenues, one of which was a highly successful Virtual Summer Camp, which included Virtual BBQ Bootcamp.
The 4-H Youth Development State Office team spearheaded a new virtual camp experience for 4-H and non-4-H youth in Louisiana, across the nation and around the world. Virtual 4-H Camp was organized by the Camp Grant Walker team. The plan consisted of four weeks of virtual camps: photography; science, engineering and technology; barbecue; and gardening. The BBQ Bootcamp was unique as the only fully live virtual camp event and was hosted by Crystal Ahrens, 4-H animal science specialist, and Claire Zak, 4-H healthy living specialist. The three-day event served to educate youth on pork, chicken and beef commodities from farm to plate, incorporating animal, meat, and nutritional and health sciences for an all-in-one program. Each day highlighted one commodity.
Due to Louisiana 4-H’s large Facebook following (13,000-plus), it was selected as the main hosting site. All sessions were uploaded to the Louisiana 4-H YouTube channel as well. Each live session was approximately one hour long plus time for additional questions and comments. To enhance engagement, Ahrens and Zak utilized the Be.Live platform for streaming to Facebook to allow guests into the stream and provide engagement options such as comments with profile pictures on screen. 4-H youth were invited to serve as virtual camp counselors to start each day with the 4-H pledge and song just as it would happen at on-site 4-H Summer Camp. Online trivia challenges were created using the Kahoot! Virtual learning program each day. The challenges matched the topic of the day to recreate game time at camp.
Another virtual learning program, Flipgrid, was used to incorporate camp vespers each day. Flipgrid is a virtual tool that allows youth to post videos and encourages social connection and evaluation. The final day of BBQ Bootcamp culminated with a Family Game Night Trivia event live streamed to YouTube. The bootcamp on Facebook had a total three-day cumulative reach of 15,900 with 1,488 interactions. Over the three camp days there were over 150 minutes of engagement using Flipgrid and 61 Kahoot! trivia challenge completions.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture