4-H has a reputation for holding a variety of wonderful day camps during the summer months.These camps can range from only a few days to an entire week, but then the experience is over. Nassau County attempted a new model to better engage youth throughout the summer with a single topic- wildlife ecology and conservation. Youth met on Mondays from 9 am to 4 pm for 5 weeks and concluded the camp with a presentation night; yes this was a summer camp with homework, a project, and a public speech.
Some would argue that youth would be discouraged against this much work on their summer breaks but our results would easily dispute that thought. Parents rejoiced at the idea of something their kids could do all summer and the youth were excited each day. Peer-Peer relationships and Youth-Adult partnerships grew very strong as there was an extended bonding period. The presentations were also incredible! One youth even created pamphlets alongside her PowerPoint and a Down’s Syndrome camper eagerly gave his first presentation ever.
All campers agreed that by the program’s end their knowledge of possible careers in wildlife had greatly expanded, and with this giving them more options and goals.
Day camps also bring the uncertainty about gaining new 4-H members. However, thanks to the extended time frame with agents the families are already signing up for year-long clubs and activities without hesitation.
Our Wild Summer
What made this camp worth the extra work was the abundant day trips taken to immerse themselves into the careers and concepts behind wildlife conservation.
- Cary State Forest and hiked alongside FWC and the Forestry Service describing native habitat and local wildlife needs. We also learned about edible plants and made plaster tracks.
- Jacksonville University to dive deeper into marine science research
- Jacksonville Zoo for public communication and enrichment building for the animals
- White Oak Plantation to learn about advanced wildlife reproductive techniques like IVF and frozen zoos. We then got a guided tour going over SSPs about some of the few species at the Plantation and even got to touch a rhino.
- Catty Shack to learn about the exotic pet trade
- We were also graced with several specialty guest speakers like the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch and the Jacksonville Herpetological Society.
A clouded leopard was symbolically adopted by the youth to celebrate their time at camp. This was decided from 100% youth effort working through the “Getting to Yes” strategies. We named him “George” after one of the campers.
Two youth were even given specialty awards for their hard work during the summer.
Needless to say, it was a wild summer.
If you are interested in learning more about fun, hands-on learning opportunities available to your children or the youth you work with, contact Nassau County 4-H at 904-530-6353.