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Explore your environment at 4-H Camp

Student observing nature at 4-H camp

4-H Camp is the perfect place for curious youth to learn more about the ecosystems around them.
[CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, Adelaide Mahler]

Do you want to learn more about the environment and what you can do to protect it? Look no further than 4-H Exploring Your Environment Day Camp!

What happens at 4-H Camp?

This year, 15 4-Hers spent a week discovering the world around them at Sarasota County’s 4-H Exploring Your Environment Day Camp.

Each morning, students visited a unique habitat in Sarasota to learn about the ecosystem and what impacts it. In the afternoon, students returned to the UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County office to learn more about the environmental issues influencing these ecosystems. At the end of the week, youth were empowered to protect the natural world and earned their 4-H Environmental Stewardship pin.

You can watch a video of our camp activities here!

Day 1 – Oscar Scherer State Park

4-H campers removing invasive rosary pea at Oscar Scherer State Park

Campers removed invasive Rosary Pea at Oscar Scherer State Park.
[CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, Adelaide Mahler]

On our first day of camp, students got to know each other and were assigned their special roles for the day. We then hopped on the bus and made our way to our first destination: Oscar Scherer State Park. Youth worked with park rangers to learn about the dangers of invasive species and why we must protect native habitats from them. Afterward, we removed the invasive rosary pea plant from a section of the Legacy Trail.

In the afternoon, we returned to the Extension office where youth imagined their own invasive species and discussed the characteristics that made them difficult to contain. We then learned about land use change and how it impacts native habitats and natural resources by designing our own land development plans.

Day 2 – Siesta Key Beach

Campers sorting through trash at Siesta Key Beach

4-Hers sorted through trash left at Siesta Key Beach. [CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, Sarah Davis]

For our second day of camp, we made our way to Siesta Key Beach to learn about microplastics. After learning about the dangers of microplastics and marine debris, 4-Hers grabbed as much trash as they could from the picnic area and then sorted through it. We had no idea that so much trash gets left behind. To celebrate their trash removal, campers spent some time near the water to cool off.

After a quick swim, we headed back to the Extension office to observe water samples for microplastics. 4-Hers used microscopes to find microplastics in all of our samples, including drinking water! Following that activity, youth discovered how plastics in our ecosystem affect wildlife through hands-on games. Inspired to cut back on our plastic waste, 4-Hers brainstormed non-plastic alternatives to everyday items.

Day 3 – Florida House Institute

4-H Campers at the Florida House Institute

4-H campers explored the Florida House Institute’s edible garden and tried all kinds of new foods.
[CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, Cailyn Raper]

Day three was all about food. 4-Hers traveled to the Florida House Institute to learn more about edible gardening and sustainable architecture. Youth got the chance to try a variety of greens, berries, tea, and even electric daisies. We explored the house to discover different eco-friendly elements and how they benefit the environment.

After trying nearly every edible plant the Florida House could offer, we learned about composting, food waste, food insecurity, and solar energy. 4-Hers got the opportunity to build their own vermicompost (composting with worms) and throw any food waste they had into it. Youth also walked through the steps of the food supply chain and discovered all of the resources that go into each of our meals. To conclude the day, 4-Hers built their own solar ovens to make tasty s’mores.

Day 4 – Myakka River State Park

4-H campers walking under branch at Myakka River State Park

4-H Campers got to explore the rich biodiversity of the hardwood hammocks at Myakka River State Park. [CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, Sarah Davis]

Our fourth day of camp was spent learning about ecosystem services and limiting factors at Myakka River State Park. We spent time exploring all three habitats in Myakka: the prairie, the hardwood hammock, and the wetlands. 4-H campers hiked, took soil samples, and removed invasive Caesar’s weed plants from the park. Students got to see birds, alligators, and unique species of lichen in their native habitat.

After that, students analyzed their soil samples and used scientific skills to determine what type of soil we collected. To finish the day, students dissected owl pellets and displayed the bones that they found within them.

Day 5 – Twin Lakes Park

For our final day of camp, 4-H campers spent the day at Twin Lakes Park. Youth spent time dip

Students observing what they caught while dip netting.

Students looked at the insects and fish that they caught dip netting on our last day of camp. [CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, Sarah Davis]

netting and discovering unique species of insects present in the water. We spent time with an entomologist learning about the different insects we caught and observed them under microscopes.

4-Hers spent the rest of the day researching and rehearsing for their final presentation. For this presentation, campers formed teams and selected a topic that we discussed at camp to share to the whole group. This was a great opportunity for campers to learn more about their interests and put their new knowledge to the test. After everyone had presented, we celebrated the end of the week with fun music and delicious desserts.

Join 4-H Today!

Although our 4-H Exploring Your Environment day camp only happens over the summer, you or your youth can join 4-H at any time during the year! Children age 5-18 can get involved with their local 4-H chapter to lead community service projects, learn about the environment, care for animals, and more. Learn more at our Join 4-H page.