Just as they do every year, 2020 4-H summer camps offered Minnesota youth the chance to try new things and make new friends. Those camps just looked a little different this year.
Extension 4-H had dozens of in-person summer camps scheduled when COVID-19 made them impossible. So 4-H educators quickly pivoted to develop online camps that would deliver similar learning and camaraderie for youth stuck at home, and challenge them to get outside, too.
4-H virtual camp
At 4-H virtual camp in June, campers made walking tacos, did some baking, learned to use a compass, cooked with solar power, explored nature and made crafts. For 200+ participants, each day opened with a flag ceremony and closed with a cabin game night. Group gatherings happened on Zoom, but afterward, participants took up challenges to try new things away from the screen.
S’mores featured largely for two sisters who attended. "We made a solar oven and cooked s’mores in it," said Kenley Huss, age 11. Sibling Brady, age 9, noted that they had also made s’mores cones in the microwave.
Both said that while missing out on sleepover camp was disappointing, they definitely had fun and learned new things, like survival skills. "One thing that I liked learning was how to survive if you're stuck somewhere at night," Brady said. "Your specific needs, what would come first, what you don't need for 3 weeks, 3 days or 3 hours. You can't live for 3 seconds without oxygen."
Morris regional camp
At Morris regional camp, youth from 14 different Minnesota counties were invited to sleep in tents in their backyards or under tables at home to make it feel a little like sleepaway camp. They gathered online in small groups each morning before counselors urged them to "go out and do" photography, science, and plant a garden.
Paige Moe, age 10, saw some kids in the camp whom she knew from school and from her 4-H Club, the Swift Falls Winners. "It was fun. I got to do a lot of new experiences that I hadn't really done before. I did photography, master chef, plant detective and creative crafts."
Although not as exciting as sleepover camp might have been, Paige said she liked learning new things and seeing friends from school and 4-H club. "It was interesting to experience camp over Zoom," Paige said. "I think they did a really good job giving us as many learning experiences as we would have had in person."
As of June 30, Extension 4-H has delivered 12 camps to 628 youth participants. Just like every year, youth could choose from traditional summer camps with a broad range of outdoor and indoor activities, or camps focused on a single topic, like birds or horses. For those who couldn't take part virtually in real-time, they could choose 4-H Camp in a Box and participate on their own schedule.
Minnesota 4-H has a summer camp for you. From traditional camps to campus immersion for those looking ahead to college, just choose one and sign up!