Cooperative Extension Service
In the News - February 2013
ABOUT TO DRAW -- 4-H member prepares her shot during the archery section of the 4-H Wildlife and Forestry Camp on Sept. 29 at the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center in Ferndale. (U of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture photo by Mary Hightower)
FERNDALE, Ark. – The C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center may be just 10 miles outside of Little Rock, but for the young campers who visit every summer it can feel like worlds away from everyday life. And that’s a good thing – one of the best, in fact – about going to camp, according to Shannon Caldwell, 4-H camping coordinator.
Caldwell, 44, has been to a camp every summer since she was 9 years old and has a backpack full of priceless memories from those annual treks.
There are countless reasons she thinks you should head off to camp. Her top five:
1. Try something new
“You get to do things you don’t normally get to do,” she said.
The things you love to do while you’re at home will still be there for the doing when camp is over, but there are ample opportunities at camp to do things you don’t get the opportunity to do often – or even to try something you’ve never tried before.
There are 4-H camps for kids who want to know more about everything from wildlife and horsemanship to leadership and entrepreneurial endeavors. There are the basics, too, of course, like canoeing, archery, arts and crafts and swimming. You never know which activity might become a favorite!
“There’s a huge sense of accomplishment that comes with trying something new,” said Caldwell. She remembers going on a long hike in 100-degree weather one camp day in 1980. “That was one the hottest summers we’d had in Arkansas in a long time. We went on a hike and we were just drenched in sweat, and I remember thinking, ‘Look at what I just did! If I can do this, I can do a lot of things.”
Camp challenges kids to really push themselves, and their efforts are rewarded tenfold when they see that they can do things they didn’t think they could, like climbing a rock wall or catching a fish.
2. On your own
“You get to be away from your parents for a little while and gain some independence you might not be able to gain at home,” Caldwell said. “I think camp is harder on the parents sometimes than it is on the kids. Actually just allowing kids the opportunity to express who they are and allowing them to take care of themselves a little more than they might be able to at home, I think that’s a big deal.”
The counselors at 4-H camps are some of the most responsible around, and they keep things moving so that campers don’t get bored. However, campers are accountable for getting themselves dressed and ready to go, among other things, lest they miss out on all the fun.
“It’s nice to have ‘me’ time,” said Caldwell, who cherished the time she got to stand on her own at camp, away from her four younger siblings. “I got to be Shannon rather than ‘Shannon the older sister’.”
3. Camp culture
Camp culture is unique, free from the pressure of the expectations of school and home. Whereas kids might be expected to fit into certain molds or adhere to certain stereotypes in those places, being at camp gives kids a chance to spread their wings and figure out what they want to do and who they want to be.
“You get to meet people you would probably not otherwise meet, and you can form strong bonds with these new friends,” according to Caldwell. “And you can see them at camp next year even if you don’t see them anywhere else.”
4. Lifetime friendships
Campers have the opportunity to form strong bonds of friendship with some of their campmates, there from all over the state. Over the years, Caldwell has heard campers say they don’t have friends at school but that they do have friends at camp.
“I have friends that I met at camp and we’ve stayed in touch. Campers make friends and they go home and they’re ecstatic when they see each other again the next summer.”
Conversely, campers also have to figure out how to get along with those with whom they might not have as much in common.“When they’re on a hike out in the wilderness they can’t just get mad and stomp away and close a door,” said Caldwell. “If there’s an issue, they’ve got to work it out. 4-H is all about life skills and that’s what camp is all about, too.”
Then there’s the fact that you get to do things outdoors, said Caldwell.
“There’s a lot of research that shows how beneficial it is for kids to be able to get outside and explore,” she said. “I’m glad there has been a push to get kids to get outside. I think they’ll enjoy it if they’re just allowed to get out there and experience it.”
And there are the camp traditions, too, that keep kids coming back. Sitting around a campfire at the end of the day, doing skits and chatting, and starting each morning with a camp song, are just a couple of 4-H camp traditions.
“One thing that keeps kids coming to the camp is that they feel a connection to the place and to the traditions that are happening at that place,” said Caldwell. “I want these kids to feel like they do have a second home here, that they do belong here and even after they grow up and have kids of their own that I hope they feel like this is still their place and that they can come back any time.”
To learn more about 4-H and 4-H camps, go to http://www.arkansas4hcenter.org/summercamp/.
The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
February 8, 2013
By Kim Dishongh
For the Cooperative Extension Service
University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Extension Communications Specialist
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
University of Arkansas • Division of Agriculture