LINCOLN, Neb. – Last week, 4-H members from across the state took part in the summer tradition of going off to camp, complete with crafts, competitions and campfire songs.
The camp was the first in a series of virtual 4-H camps taking place this summer. Nebraska 4-H staff did their best to keep the essence of camp alive and well, even as COVID-19 has pushed this year’s events to online spaces.
“We always pride ourselves on meeting kids right where they’re at. We are essentially bringing camp right into your living room,” said Sean Gundersen, Nebraska 4-H camp director. “We wanted to give kids experiences and opportunities to connect with others, create meaningful relationships and learn by doing.”
This year’s virtual camps, like all 4-H camps, are open to youth ages 8-18. The virtual camps are delivered in three-hour sessions, either in the morning or afternoon. And while camps will be online, campers will still get to meet other youth with similar interests and learn from Nebraska 4-H camp professionals, University of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty and students, and industry professionals.
Upcoming camps will help youth build skills and knowledge in areas such as engineering, mobile content creation, agriculture, natural resources, and education and teaching. Husker faculty and staff will work as virtual counselors and activity leaders.
The Calibraska Arts Initiative series will provide opportunities for Nebraska youth and adults to learn more about literary, performing and visual arts. The online summer classes are led by teaching artists and professionals in Los Angeles and beyond, operating in conjunction with the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts.
The classes include animation, film, drawing, character design, anime, stand-up/improv comedy, acting and hip-hop dance. Adult classes are included and will be June 15-July 31.
Scholarships are available, as are class material kits for anyone who needs extra help or may be interested in a series of classes. For a full list of classes and registration deadlines, visit https://www.calibraska.org.
Last week’s camp, Virtual Vibes: 4-H Camp Style, replicated the traditional sitting-around-the-campfire experience online. Throughout the week, the virtual campers learned about animals, worked on crafts and experiments, sang silly camp songs and took part in friendly online competitions.
“I think that in this time, when we’ve been socially isolating ourselves, we’re giving kids a real opportunity to connect with each other and create the relationships that they desperately need,” Gundersen said.
Ashley Washburn is a parent and former Seward County 4-H’er. Her fifth-grade son, Evan, attended last week’s camp.
“With two parents working from home right now, and having two kids who are without child care at the moment, it’s awesome to have an activity that’s engaging and that will keep them busy,” Washburn said. “That’s a huge benefit right there.”
Evan said he enjoyed interacting with the students on screen, experimenting in the magic milk activity and dancing to the 4-H songs with everyone.
“It was cool to see what their projects looked like,” Evan said of the other kids’ magic milk experiments during the first day of camp.
Washburn said she was impressed with how well 4-H staff were able to deliver the camp experience in a virtual format.
“I could tell they were really working hard to kind of replicate that in-person experience,” she said. “They had activities, music, dancing, camp songs and all of those things that you would hope to have in person.”
Camps always end with a reflection piece that asks campers to consider how what they learned applies to life outside of the 4-H experience.
“We are creating a prolonged experience over a week that we are very hopeful will create some connections and real-life relationships outside of the virtual space,” Gundersen said. “It’s a truly interactive experience where the youth are interacting with each other and with these adults who care for them.”
For a full schedule of camps, along with descriptions and registration information, visit 4h.unl.edu/camps-centers/summer-camp. Additionally, Nebraska 4-H is offering a limited number of camp scholarships. For more information and to apply for a scholarship, visit 4h.unl.edu/camps-centers/summer-camp/scholarship.
Nebraska Extension continues to offer other live, free in-person learning experiences with Living Room Learning, the Boredom Busters Challenge and Family Fun Night. Find the complete list of virtual summer programs at 4h.unl.edu/virtual-home-learning.