Kansas 4-H youth are still going camping this summer, though it may not be the way they have been used to doing it.
Amy Sollock, the southwest regional specialist for Kansas 4-H Youth Development, said the state’s largest youth organization will be celebrating the benefits and traditions of camp on social media during the month of June.
"We’ve been camping at the Rock Springs Ranch (near Junction City) for almost 75 years, and it’s one of our very beloved and time-honored programs," Sollock said. "We love going to 4-H camp at Rock Springs and the benefits that our kids get from camping at Rock Springs are tremendous. There’s just nothing like it."
In April, K-State Research and Extension announced that it was ceasing all in-person activities in Kansas at least through July 4.
"Like everyone, we were pretty bummed that we would not be able to camp this year, but we understand the reasons why," Sollock said. "The health and safety of our participants, volunteers and staff comes first."
Sollock said the state’s 4-H leaders, like others throughout the organization, got together and developed ways in which they could still celebrate some aspects of 4-H camp and teach the values the experience offers.
"So," she said, "for the entire month of June, we are going to have all kinds of fun content that we’re going to push out through social media, including some fun challenges and videos to celebrate what summer camp is all about."
There is no charge or registration needed to follow along on social media, Sollock said, and many of the activities can be done right in 4-H members’ backyards. She urged youths to follow Kansas 4-H on Facebook to be part of the fun, and to share their own experiences by posting on social media with the hashtag, #4HCampLivesOn.
"We are going to have a backyard photography contest, and the state 4-H Youth Council has planned a virtual camp song challenge," she said. "We are hoping it becomes one of those challenges that goes viral and can provide kids with a lot of humor as we sing our silly camp songs."
Sollock said plans are in the works to create videos that will be recorded from popular sites at Rock Springs, such as the flagpole, campfire circle, water wheel and Palomino horse herd.
"There are some cool things in the works," she said.
Kansas 4-H will offer several outdoor education videos on topics normally taught at camp such as using sunscreen and bug repellants, the importance of drinking water, fishing tips and bike safety. Kansas 4-H will also promote opportunities for service activities in local communities.
"We want to give kids a chance to celebrate what they’re missing out on this year," she said. "We know that 4-H camp is a favorite activity for many kids each year.
"We’ve seen some really creative efforts from kids and families, volunteers across the state as we navigate this situation that none of us have ever lived through before. There’s a lot of fun that can be had right in your backyard."
Sollock also made a prediction: "4-H Camp 2021 is going to be stronger than ever and I don’t think we’ll ever be so excited for a 4-H camping season as we will be next year."
For more information regarding opportunities available to youths in Kansas, visit www.Kansas4-H.org.