If you ask the parents of 4-H campers what their child learned at camp, you may be surprised at what you hear.
“Parents are telling us that their children are learning important life skills such as ‘learning to take care of their own things’ and ‘learning to share responsibilities,’” says Nick Fuhrman, 4-H camping and natural resources specialist. “Although campers participate in activities like canoeing, archery, robotics, swimming, and arts and crafts, one of the most important things that children learn at 4-H camp is how to take care of themselves while away from their parents,” says Fuhrman.
Fuhrman and his colleague Sarah Baughman, a graduate research assistant in 4-H youth development, evaluated the outcomes of Virginia’s 4-H camping program, as defined by the campers’ parents and guardians. They asked a random sample of parents and guardians of children who attended 4-H camp at one of Virginia’s six 4-H educational centers last summer about their child’s camping experience.
In addition to ‘learning to take care of their own things’ and ‘learning to share responsibilities,’ the survey results also showed that other life skills improved. Parents and guardians reported that their child/children did the following things more often after participating in 4-H camp:
Baughman points out that this year’s results are consistent with previous surveys conducted in 2001 and 2004. “The results show that despite normal changes at camp such as staffing, facilities, programming, food, etc., we have been able to consistently improve campers’ life skills over the past seven years,” says Baughman.
According to Fuhrman, “The value of Virginia’s 4-H camping program is in the setting where learning occurs. With such heavy emphasis on standardized testing in the public schools, youth get fewer chances to learn outside the classroom. Camp provides kids with caring adult mentors who model and teach a variety of skills in an environment that youth may not get to experience other than by attending camp.”
All six Virginia 4-H camps are accredited by the American Camp Association, which provides the highest standards for safety and program quality. A youngster does not need to be a member of 4-H to attend 4-H camp. The camps are held at the six 4-H centers: Southwest Virginia 4-H Educational Center at Abingdon, W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center at Smith Mountain Lake, Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Conference Center at Front Royal, Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center at Appomattox, Airfield 4-H Educational Center at Wakefield, and Jamestown 4-H Educational Center at Williamsburg.