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4-H’ers enjoy ‘Fun in the Sun’ at Tri-County Junior 4-H Camp

Forty fourth-sixth grade 4-H’ers and nine teen counselors from Boone, Marshall, Hardin and Story counties participated in the annual Tri-County Junior 4-H Camp July 30 through Aug. 1 at the Iowa 4-H Center near Madrid. The camp was directed by Annette Brown, ISU Extension and Outreach Region 8 4-H youth development specialist. Campers were involved in many “Fun in the Sun” theme-based activities led by teen counselors, camp-based activities led by 4-H Center staff and special environmental activities by a naturalist.

Research has shown that free play in nature increases children’s cognitive flexibility, emotional capacity, critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity, use of imagination, self-esteem and self-discipline. It makes them smarter, more cooperative, happier and healthier. Peg L. Smith, American Camp Association’s® (ACA’s) chief executive officer says, in her article “The Case for Camp - Why Kids Need It Now More Than Ever”, “We’ve been so concentrated on the brain, we forget about the rest of our bodies. This change in focus has led to an obesity rate that is unacceptable. Our kids are not as healthy as the generation before. Families used to live in a community. We’ve lost that, keeping kids inside and losing a sense of neighborhood. Add to that the fact that our kids stand to inherit all the economic, social and environmental challenges we’ve created, and the legacy we have left our children and youth begins to look bleak. So, how do we prepare our children with the skills and more importantly, the competencies they will need to tackle changes in our world? We could start with a positive camp experience. A quality camp experience provides our children with the opportunity to learn powerful lessons in community, character-building, skill development, and healthy living — a meaningful, engaged, and participatory environment … Simply put, camp changes lives.”

Tri-County 4-H campers started their positive camp experiences with get-acquainted activities and team-building elements at the team’s course to develop a sense of belonging and community. The 4-H Center activities, led by camp staff, provided physical exercise in the forms of canoeing, creek walking, a night hike, swimming, archery, atlatls, climbing tower, mega zip-line, water games, Gaga ball and lots of walking. Environmental activities taught youth about the power of the sun as they constructed solar ovens to make banana boat desserts. They used art skills in designing sun prints and made fans to keep them cool in the sun. Campers learned about animals and vision on a night hike. A “Fun in the Sun Carnival,” led by counselors, provided an evening of outdoor games to challenge camper skills. A shiwreck meal, complete with pirates, provided an entertaining eating adventure. No cell phones, computers, Internet, iPods or other electronic devices were allowed during camp.

Additional annual traditions for the camp included campers preparing one breakfast and one campfire meal. This year’s campfire meal taught campers how to use pie irons to make fruit pies, how to use Dutch ovens to prepare taco meat, and how to roast sweet corn over the coals. The camp was culminated with 150 family members participating in a BBQ meal and closing campfire at which camp songs, recognition and S’mores were enjoyed by everyone.

Many people make the camp possible. In addition to Brown’s leadership, Rachael Siebens, a naturalist from Story County, taught the environmental activities; Natalie Hedlund, Boone County 4-H youth coordinator, led the creek walk and Bryghtyn Franker, summer day camp assistant, taught a STEM session on creating cars, rockets and airplanes. County extension staff from the Boone County, Hardin and Story counties (Melissa McEnany, Mary Wilkins, Emily Klaffke, Jared Calvert, Makayla Johnston, and Logan Worden) took turns assisting throughout the week. Parents volunteered their time to chaperone during the evenings and to prepare the closing family BBQ meal.

Senior level 4-H members Amanda Brown, Josie Consier, Lillie Longhorn, Michaela Ostendorf, Karolyn Peterson, Kenton Reece, Tiffany Stotts and Braeden Weyhrich from Boone County and Creighton Caple from Story County volunteered as teen counselors. Their leadership skills helped campers belong, experience new camp opportunities, learn camp songs and have fun in a safe environment.

Information about becoming a 4-H member or a volunteer is available at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach office in each county. Visit your county’s web page to learn more