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Taking the show on the road

Tennessee 4-H Camp Centers offered day camps across the state to help provide opportunities for students amidst a global pandemic
Story by Allison Farley Photos Submitted by UT Extension 4-H Agents 8/23/2021


Gibson County 4-H member Tyler Campbell, left, and Crockett County 4-H'er Amelia Boone learn to shoot archery for the first time thanks to Ridley 4-H Camp Staff member, Taylor Gobble, during the 4-H Traveling Road Show visit to Milan.
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During a summer full of canceled events and limited in-person opportunities for youth, Tennessee 4-H staff worked hard to bring 4-H Camp to students across the state as they took the popular experience on the road.

“While we were working through camp plans for this summer, most of the state was still under mandates of reduced operations,” says Daniel Collins, State Extension specialist for 4-H Camping, STEM, and Performing Arts Troupe. “We knew that, with us not being able to have anything 4-H camp-related in 2020, many 4-Hers would be chomping at the bit to get out and do something this summer.”

To provide the most students with a chance to experience a taste of 4-H Junior Camp, Extension staff developed the “Traveling 4-H Camp Roadshow,” which made a stop in nearly every county across the state. Some smaller county 4-H groups collaborated and hosted the show together, while other communities with more members staged the event on their own.

“Our agents were able to work together with 4-H Camp staffs to make the most of their day camps with the students,” says Daniel.

During a typical summer, thousands of fourth, fifth, and sixth grade youth from across the state would attend traditional Junior 4-H Camp at one of the four 4-H Centers located in Columbia, Crossville, Greeneville, and Middleton. They would enjoy traditional activities like kayaking, canoeing, swimming, playing sports, archery, crafts, and fishing, and would learn about electricity, wildlife, ecology, photography, and more.

“While we knew it wasn’t the same experience, I think campers loved getting to participate in some aspect of 4-H camp, because for many of them, this was their first taste of camp,” says Lacy Harnage, 4-H Center Manager at the Clyde York 4-H Center in Crossville. “We hope that it has piqued their interest to come experience over-night camp when we get the chance to offer that again in the future.”

The roadshow brought crafts, portable archery and ax-throwing stations, and even a gaga pit, the classic 4-H camp game that is a version of dodgeball played on the ground inside of a hexagon.

“We knew those students who had been to camp before would be excited to play gaga again,” says Daniel.

Tennessee Farmers Cooperative was proud to help sponsor the tie-dye 4-H Clover t-shirt craft that students made during their day of camp.

In addition to the classic camp activities, some counties either created their own or requested other parts of the traditional experience they liked.

“Some local staff asked, ‘Could you also bring your STEM program?’ or ‘Can you bring your critter guy?’ While it did depend on the 4-H center visiting them, many sessions were able to offer these extra activities thanks to the efforts and flexibility of Terry, Lacy, and Scotty, our center managers,” says Daniel. “They are absolutely fantastic and worked with our agents in the counties to develop a schedule and activities specific for their counties.”

For many 4-Hers, the day camp was an opportunity to experience camp that may not have been available in a typical summer. 

“Some agents that I've talked to say they are going to continue to offer day camps in addition to regular camp in their counties,” says Daniel. “They feel like they can reach more 4-Hers just by providing a couple of opportunities for them to explore new project areas and interests without the members being required to stay overnight.”

It’s because of this, Daniel adds, that the state staff would like to help develop new opportunities to be offered on the local level.

“I want to see us continue to offer these type of experiences and to develop the resources for our agents and our program assistants across the state to be consistent as they provide some great opportunities for our kids.”

Overall, Lacy believes that the extra effort of taking this show on the road was well worth it.

“With us being able to bring the roadshow to their county, they were able to get a taste of what a week would be like,” says Lacy. “I believe that the day camp experience has given them an increased interest in what 4-H has to offer and the confidence to be able to attend for a week next summer!”

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