Summertime learning lives on through hands-on lessons at Grant County 4-H camps.
Between two separate camps, 76 children spent a week at Lake Creek Youth Camp near the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, participating in a variety of activities intended to build life skills.
From hiking and archaeology to crafts and making hobo stew on the campfire, many campers enjoyed new experiences.
“We have kids who live in the county who went to Strawberry Lake for the first time,” said OSU Extension Office Manager Carol Waggoner, who was one of the camp directors.
The Extension — which administers the national 4-H program for Grant County — and a large group of volunteering and contributing organizations and individuals work together to host the camp and mentor the youths.
OSU Extension’s Christal Culley, whose duties include 4-H, said the result is rewarding — for campers and volunteers.
“It brings so much pleasure and excitement to see a kid get to do something for the first time,” Christal Culley said, “... things they don’t get to do every day.”
Connecting with the past
Groups of campers rotated through several activity stations one afternoon.
After helping children cook snacks over the campfire, volunteer Callie Moss of John Day recalled doing the same when she attended a 4-H camp when she was a child.
Moss taught the campers about leatherworking this year and said she started learning about similar activities when she was at camp.
Although some things have changed — they have electricity now and warm showers and no longer take their sleeping bags on horseback rides into the wilderness — she said the camps provide a solid foundation for outdoor education.
“It teaches them independence and respect for nature,” she said.
With a circus theme this year, 47 local incoming fifth- through seventh-grade students attended the Grant and Harney County 4-H Camp.
And attendance looks bright for the future.
Eight-year-old Mahayla Moss, who was just visiting a camp for the day with her grandmother, said she wants to come back when she’s older.
Connecting with nature
The 4-H Natural Resource Camp, which is open to all students going into seventh through ninth grades, began in 2009.
Elise Delgado of the Blue Mountains Forest Partners collaborative group said the collaborative had donated in the past but became directly involved this year to help teach the importance of returning natural resources to healthy conditions.
“We want students to look at the landscapes and understand where that landscape is on the spectrum of healthy and unhealthy,” she said.
Twenty-nine campers participated in a progression of classes, learning about unhealthy conditions, such as forest overcrowding, and the impact on plants, animals and humans — guided by volunteers with diverse perspectives such as forestry, wildlife and recreation specialists to professionals from the timber industry.
Kai Markle, a 13-year-old from Portland, said he learned how to tell trees apart and determine a tree’s age by a core sample.
“A lot of the forests are overcrowded, and there’s not enough water and resources,” he said.
He said he also enjoyed the more traditional activities, such as making arrowheads.
Away from the noise and crowds, Markle said he prefers Eastern Oregon over Portland.
“I like the independence and responsibility aspect,” he said. “You’re more self-sustaining.”