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AHS June Blog: North Carolina 4-H Camps

The Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences publishes a monthly blog written by students, alumni and faculty sharing important topics and helpful resources related to the fields of agricultural, extension and human science. In the June blog post, David J. Herpy, a North Carolina 4-H camping specialist, discusses the impact 4-H camps can have on the youth of North Carolina.

Kids need camp now more than ever. The past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly proven that. While COVID-19 has transformed the way we live, work and play, it has brought to light the importance of community and connection for youth in a time when remote learning and social distancing have become the norm. North Carolina 4-H Camps & Centers, owned and operated by NC State Extension, provide life changing experiences for youth from 5 to 18 years old, as well as seasonal employment opportunities for college age students.

4-H camp, one of four main delivery modes for North Carolina 4-H Youth Development, is one of the most impactful and powerful experiences for 4-H youth. Few tools are as powerful as a residential camping experience for developing life skills, spending a week away from home surrounded by nature, learning new things, making new friends, and trying new activities. So many life skills are developed and strengthened during just one week of 4-H camp, including communication, decision making, independence, leadership and teamwork, to name a few.

North Carolina 4-H Youth Development operates three 4-H centers from the Central Piedmont to the Sandhills to the Coastal Plains, including Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Educational Center, located thirty minutes north of Greensboro; Millstone 4-H Camp, located south of Pinehurst; and the Eastern 4-H Center, located an hour inland from the Outer Banks.  Each 4-H center provides weeklong residential summer camp experiences during an eight week summer camp season, as well as year-round environmental and outdoor education programs, conferences, retreats and workshops.

Each of the three North Carolina 4-H Camps & Centers are accredited nationally by the American Camp Association, the national association for the camping industry and camping professionals nationwide. Only an estimated 25% of camps are accredited nationally, which is a rigorous peer review process that demonstrates a camp’s commitment to best practices and the highest industry standards for health, safety, staffing, and operations. This should be an important consideration for parents and caregivers when choosing a camp.

According to a recent 5-year impact study* conducted by the ACA, the following promising themes emerged from the study, thus demonstrating the need for camp:

  1. Camp appears to be a key context for developing relationship skills.
  2. Camp is an integral part of a young person’s overall learning.
  3. Camp is a unique learning experience that appears to promote skills transferable to 21st century school and work contexts.
  4. Camp is a safe place for young people to explore who they are and how they want to be viewed by others.
  5. Camp gives campers the opportunity to practice being around and appreciating people with attitudes, values and abilities different from their own.

To learn more and register your child, check out:

*Reference: Research 360: Promising Themes from Phase 1 of the 5-Year Impact Study