Adventure Campers will….
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Each year more than 4000 campers will attend one of the three 4-H camp centers in North Carolina. Adventure campers entering the driveway at Millstone 4-H Camp are immediately welcomed by a sign with this quote from the former 4-H North Carolina State Program Leader, L.R. Harrill, “You will leave this place a different person. We hope you will be a better person.” Participation in an adventure camping program will allow hands-on learning to occur naturally. Campers will develop or increase their life skills and build resilience as they experience new independence, responsibilities, and opportunities. The American Camping Association espouses that adventure camping is one of the very best ways to decrease summer learning loss, with no standardized tests required to collect metrics. It is clear to parents that learning occurred when they pick up their campers at the end of the week. The clothes may be dirty, the suitcase may have a slightly pungent odor, and the shoes may no longer match; but the camper is better for the experience.
As a camper, one of the vital life lessons learned is independence. Activities and experiences offered during a camper’s time away from home may include horse care and trail riding, archery, ziplining, and daily responsibilities like setting or clearing a table and cabin cleaning. Each day begins and ends with a flag raising ceremony and each cabin takes turns sharing different parts of the ceremony. The camper is required to clean their personal space and the cabin before continuing to the daily schedule of activities. Tasks like these develop processes for problem solving and working cooperatively in groups, while encouraging campers to care about their personal space and the camping center. When a 4-H camper returns home, you can bet they have had a week of “chores” as well as adventure.
The overnight camp experience is an instant self-esteem booster. Youth will learn camp songs where they have to yell as loud as they can and meet new people from different walks of life. They might participate in the talent show, organized games, or even the dance. At the end of camp, they receive awards for all of their hard work which adds an additional boost to their self-esteem. The counselors are encouraged to find a unique characteristic of each camper in their cabin and give them personalized certificates at the camp’s closing ceremony. A camper might approach a new activity like canoeing or high ropes with trepidation but they regularly walk away with a new accomplishment and a success story.
Resilience capacity, or how well a person will bounce back from a difficult situation, begins to build in the very young and continues through life. There are many activities at an overnight camp that may be new for a young camper. Counselors will guide youth in acknowledgement of their abilities and limitations while developing skills and options for growth. Campers will be invited to improve personal skills while experiencing a variety of activities they may be initially resistant to trying. However, through the support of their peers, counselors, and instructors, they are normally more than willing to take on the new challenge.
In July of 2022, Lee County will take 4-H’ers between the ages of five and fourteen to experience overnight adventure camping in one of two NC 4-H Camp Centers; Millstone 4-H Camp and Betsy Jeff Penn 4-H Camp. For most it will be their first time away from home for more than a sleepover at a friends or relative’s house. Campers will make new friends, create lasting memories, learn something new, strengthen life skills and experience positive change. If you want to know more about this opportunity please contact Pam Kerley. This article is a compilation of camping articles written by agents across the state. Brandi Boaz & Chrystal Starkes largely contributed to the content. I also used information from the state 4-H camping webpage and the American Camping Association website.
Pam Kerley is the 4-H Program Assistant for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center. 4-H is a positive youth development program offering programs that suit a variety of backgrounds, interests, budgets, and schedules. From in-school to after-school, clubs to camps, 4H’s programs are available in Lee County and we welcome children who want to have fun, learn and grow. In North Carolina, 4-H is brought to you by the NC State Cooperative Extension. N.C. Cooperative Extension’s experts and educators share university knowledge, information, and tools you can use every day to improve your life.