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4-H Fosters Education for Military Youth: Summer Camps and more

Abigail Kinder
 March 15, 2022

WASHBURN — Nestled amongst a forest of tall cottonwood trees on the banks of the Missouri River just outside of Washburn, the North Dakota 4-H Camp offers a perfect summer getaway for youth all over the state. Not only does 4-H provide a variety of exciting summer camps to foster every passion imaginable, but it presents valuable opportunities for young minds to learn and develop critical life skills.

In America, 4-H is the largest youth development organization. It includes agriculture, gardening and horticulture, natural resources, food and nutrition, home and family environment, civic engagement, and more.

4-H Youth Development Agent for North Dakota State University Extension Emily Burkett said, “We promote hands-on learning. I think a lot of people feel that you need to own animals to participate, but you don’t! You don’t even have to pursue animal interests. There are several pillars that we focus our work in, but the ultimate goal is what we call the BIG M," that she explained mean B-Belonging, I-Independence, G-Generosity, and M-Mastery. “We want kids to develop in all four of those and master their skill or craft or at least get a deeper understanding of the subject they are passionate about,” she continued.

During the summer, 4-H holds a variety of specialized camps for ages 5-18 from May through August. The property includes a mud pit, waterslides, a barn, an obstacle course, sports arenas, and a swimming and fishing pond in development on the property. 4-H summer camp is the ideal place to learn, grow, and have fun.

While camps are open to any child in the state (4-H member or not), this summer offers a unique opportunity for military children ages 10-14 through the Outdoor Adventures for Air Force Youth Camp, Aug. 7-11, 2022. This camp is made possible by a 4-H Military Partnerships/Department of the Air Force grant that covers $325 of the cost, allowing Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard youth to attend the camp for only $25 per camper. The program also includes transportation to North Dakota 4-H Camp from three locations in North Dakota: Fargo, Grand Forks Air Force Base, and Minot AFB.

Diane Hahn, a program coordinator for 4-H Youth Development, said, “The Air Force camp will have a piece of everything. In addition to campfires, team challenges, archery, outdoor games, and water activities, we’ll have a few specific hands-on activities that will focus on things like team building, communication skills, leadership… we’ll do some activities where they’ll learn more about emotional intelligence and those types of things.”

4-H also offers multiple other scholarships, including those for military youth of all branches to attend any camp at ND 4-H Camp. And according to Burkett, scholarship opportunities for income-qualifying families are also available, increasing accessibility to non-military affiliated youth as well.

Not only does 4-H offer summer camps, but it has a variety of other year-round opportunities for children from clubs to contests and specialized projects that provide supplemental learning and truly encourage that “mastery” aspect, even for parents.

[Photo: submitted]

“It’s about learning in your community. I’ve noticed that it’s also good for families in general,” said Burkett. “We [recently] had a livestock practice day, and it was one of the first days where people were able to get their animals off their farm and go practice. A few parents were so much more nervous than the kids. The other parents said ‘Hey, we all start somewhere; you’re doing great.’ I feel like especially after COVID, we’ve lost a lot of our community and our fellowship with other people, but 4-H programs are a great way to bring that back.”

4-H Youth Development Specialist Lindsey Leker is in charge of 4-H STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and camp programming. She helps to develop the hands-on activities to allow youth to learn valuable skillsets and set themselves up for success throughout their lives. “We do a variety of activities every camp, but our focus is educational programming,” she said. “We focus on STEM education, natural environment education, things that we can do at the camp that the kids will have fun with.” Whether solving a crime through forensic techniques, learning about robotics, or practicing archery skills, 4-H has engaging educational opportunities for everyone.

4-H programs also focus on building youth-adult partnerships and guiding children to practice independence in a caring environment. NDSU Extension staff, volunteers, and camp counselors provide opportunities for youth to connect with caring adults in the camp setting. ND 4-H Camp is still in need of male summer camp counselors and individuals from all cultures and backgrounds, including those from military families, and are encouraged to apply. Counselors with a military family background can identify with and serve as role models for campers with similar experiences and provide all campers with a unique perspective.

With the help of passionate individuals and meticulously designed programs, 4-H plays a significant role in providing valuable skills to youth and creating a fun, educational environment to inspire the next generation.

For information on camp scholarships for military youth, contact Diane Hahn at diane.f.hahn@ndsu.edu. To sign up for a 4-H summer camp, visit www.ndsu.edu/agriculture/extension/extension-topics/4-h-youth-development/camps. Interested in making a difference in the lives of North Dakota’s youth as a camp counselor? Reach out to Lindsey Leker at lindsey.leker@ndsu.edu. Moreover, visit the Youth Center for more information on 4-H clubs at Minot AFB.


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