LSU AgCenter prepping for 4-H camp season

New Pavilion Interior

The LSU AgCenter Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center in Pollock features a new 10,000-square-foot multipurpose pavilion where campers can gather. Photo by Tammi Arender

(03/04/16) POLLOCK, La. – For fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders, a week at the Louisiana 4‑H summer camp is an unforgettable experience where kids learn life lessons while having summer fun, according to Markaye Russell, LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Ouachita Parish.

Camp activities range from standup paddle boarding to hunter safety certification to general arts. Each day is filled with something different to excite, engage and encourage personal growth, Russell said.

“For some students, it’s their first time to be away from home,” she said. “From simple tidying skills, like making their bed or packing their suitcase, they learn independence and responsibility. It makes a difference when they’re doing those tasks as a team in their cabin and not just because mama said so.”

The 10-week camp season attracts students from all 64 parishes. Each week some 400-500 4-H’ers will gather at the Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center in Pollock.

The participants get to choose one of seven tracks, or programs, they want to focus on for the week. Choices this year include: water safety, food and fitness, Get Ready-Get SET-Science Engineering and Technology, outdoor adventures, Explore Louisiana: Wetlands, Wildlife and YOU, the artist within and hunter’s safety certification.

“One personal decision the 4-H’ers get to make at camp is which track they want to participate in for that week,” said center director Christine Bergeron. “It’s a decision they get to make all on their own with no parent or teacher. That in itself helps build self-confidence and personal growth.”

Camp organizers always try to have something new and different for the campers, especially those who are returning.

This year the food and fitness track will feature hands-on cooking, group fitness and learning fun and creative ways to eat healthy, Bergeron said. New activities in the outdoor adventures track will include waterfowl identification, making paper mache duck decoys, various forestry activities and tree identification.

A new 8,000-square-foot pavilion will serve as an activity area and provide adequate shelter in case of inclement weather, according to camp organizers.

The camp experience is designed to develop life skills related to Head, Heart, Hands and Health – the core of the 4-H motto.

Research has shown the participants are benefitting greatly from the experience, according to Barry Garst, an extension specialist from Virginia Tech University. Data from a survey conducted by researchers from Virginia Tech, Iowa State University and the University of Missouri found that the overall 4-H camping experience is positive. One parent even noted in the survey that her child opened up to her and acted more mature when the camp week was over.

“One of the best parts of the camp is the 9- to 12-year-olds are learning so much, and they don’t even realize it because they’re having so much fun,” said Mark Tassin, LSU AgCenter associate vice president for youth development.

Another benefit of youth resident camp is the lifelong friendships.

“It’s about building bonds, not only with kids from their home parish but kids from another part of the state,” said Terri Crawford, AgCenter regional 4-H coordinator. “I had one student who met her future husband at 4-H camp!”

The cost of the camp is $165. Deposits are due by April 29 for camp weeks 1-5 and May 13 for camp weeks 6-9. The first camp begins May 23 and the last week of summer camp begins on July 25.

Children who are not 4-H members also have an opportunity to attend. The camp will be opened up to non-4-Her’s after each parish’s quotas are met.

Individuals may sign up by contacting the LSU AgCenter office in their parish.

5/11/2016 3:11:51 PM
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