4-H moves summer camps to virtual experiences

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CLAY COUNTY – Florida’s 4-H camps have been canceled this summer but that doesn’t mean children and young adults won’t have the chance to learn over the next few months.

As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Florida 4-H canceled all of its in-person summer camps. These camps usually take place at one of three camps throughout the state and see children of all ages interacting in many ways as they learn about agriculture, astronomy and more. With those canceled, 4-H wanted to find a way to keep this summer educational despite the coronavirus.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, all of our in-person programs like 4-H Legislature and 4-H camps...everything we normally do during the summer….got canceled,” 4-H Youth Development agent Matthew Olson said. “Even though Gov. [Ron] DeSantis has allowed youth programs to resume, 4-H has opted to take caution so we’re skipping out on those things this summer.”

Olson said state 4-H offices and local 4-H offices across the state decided to put together virtual experiences to supplement that lack of camps happening this summer. There are 45 virtual experiences ranging from robotics to drones to astronomy and more. Olson said residents can take chicken and poultry care classes and a number of other agriculture-related experiences.

There are already more than 1,000 people who have signed up for the virtual experiences, Olson said.

“That’s an awesome number because that’s 1,000 people we might not have reached otherwise,” Olson said. “A lot of those that have signed up aren’t 4-H members so this will be their first exposure to 4-H and that’s really important to us.”

All of the virtual experiences are free, Olson said. They simply require a registration of interest. A 4-H agent will then reach out to those people to help them through the official sign-up process. While none of the experiences come with an actual cost, some of the experiences will require the purchase of goods and materials.

“They might need to purchase some things like batteries or lights if they don’t have any at home,” Olson said. “We did make everything with what people might have at home in mind. So ideally, nobody needs to purchase everything because what they need is already in their homes.”

Olson said that it’s important 4-H provide something for its members and other children and young adults this summer, despite in-person event cancellations as a result of the coronavirus.

“We want to give youth an opportunity to learn something new and feel a sense of belonging,” Olson said. “Hopefully it gives them a positive outlook on how to use their time this summer. With our programs, we normally have a lot of kids participate and we know that a lot of them are disappointed that camps aren’t happening this summer.

“These experiences are for them. We want them to feel that sense of normalcy despite how things are.”

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