(07/26/23) PORT ALLEN, La. — Having fun is the goal of summer for many young people. A recent West Baton Rouge Parish day camp aimed to show its young participants that learning can be just as fun as their favorite summertime activities.
LSU AgCenter 4-H agent Alexis Lejeune said the three-day Ag Explorers Camp was designed for fourth-through eighth-grade students.
“Actually, we were looking into doing a one-day camp,” she said. “And when we spoke with West Baton Rouge Parish Parks and Recreation, they said there was a need for a middle school camp.”
There are already enough camps for the elementary age group, she said.
“So, this was an opportunity for us to partner with another agency and to also recruit new 4-H members at the same time,” she said.
Lejeune said the camp was truly a collaborative effort between not only an outside agency, but also agents within the AgCenter to meet a need.
During the camp, participants rotated between stations where they learned about wetlands, horticulture, arts and crafts, nutrition and outdoor activities.
“We learned that 4-H is the only form of agricultural education that’s available since there is no FFA in the parish,” she said.
Lejeune designed this camp from scratch, bringing in the parks and recreation department to collaborate with the event while using AgCenter-approved lessons.
This was an opportunity for these students to get a feel for 4-H if they aren’t members and to learn some new skills in the process.
“Each station they visit is related to 4-H. In 4-H, we have cooking contests, we have school gardens, and we have our wetland’s ambassadors,” she said. “So, when it’s time to join 4-H once school starts, they’ll already have a head start.”
Kiedi Mabile, program coordinator with West Baton Rouge Parks and Recreation, said her organization had a need to be met for students in fifth through seventh grades.
“The reviews that we have received so far are that the parents are very excited that we are providing a quality, educational camp where the campers are learning skills they would not ordinarily learn,” Mabile said.
Lejeune said only about 20% of the camp participants are current 4-H members, and the rest may have never known about 4-H had the camp not been held.
“Coming in, some of these kids weren’t aware of everything 4-H has to offer like it’s all about livestock and shooting sports,” she said.“Those are big parts of 4-H, but there’s much more, like learning knife skills for the kitchen, how to pollinate gardens, and wetland conservation.”
Mabile said this is the beginning of the connection between her organization and the AgCenter.
“My goal here at Parks and Recreation is to collaborate with the LSU AgCenter from Clover Buds through Master Cattlemen and Master Gardeners,” she said.
AgCenter nutrition agent Claire Barbier said at her stop, the students learned about pickling and how to make salsa.
Two other action-filled stops were the wetlands project, which featured hissing cockroaches and pythons, and the gardening stop, where the students created “seed bombs” to start their own gardens in egg cartons.
AgCenter horticulturist Alli Decell said the campers also learned about pollination, trying different varieties of basil. On the final day, they studied hydroponics.
LSU AgCenter 4-H agent Alexis Lejeune in West Baton Rouge Parish and Kiedi Mabile, program coordinator with West Baton Rouge Parks and Recreation, take turns showing their courage by holding a giant hissing cockroach during the Ag Explorers Day Camp held in Port Allen July 18 to 20. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter
AgCenter horticulturist Alli Decell shows students how to make “seed bombs” during the three-day Ag Explorers Day Camp held in Port Allen July 18 to 20. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter