|4-H Extension Corner|
|Summer, Learning, and Fun|
There is a famous song about "summertime, when the living is easy." In 4-H, those lyrics should be "summertime, when the programs are lively!" Every Alabama community and every county Cooperative Extension System office has exciting 4-H youth development activities taking place throughout the summer months. It’s time for day camps on topics like pet care and art; kids are traveling to the 4-H Center for memorable summer experiences; and many clubs find service opportunities, building community gardens or providing puppet shows at Senior Centers. It’s a great time to be in Alabama 4-H!
Each community 4-H program offers different activities. Many counties have groups going to 4-H summer camp throughout the month of June, though individual kids are also welcome. Alongside the traditional short-term camps, this year we have added two week-long camps, one focusing on Science and Technology and the other with a High Adventure theme. Although it’s a little late to plan for this summer, your kids can already begin looking forward to next summer or to school trips to the 4-H Coosa River Science School.
In Alabama, we firmly believe "4-H is where you live." That is certainly true when you look at county 4-H programs. For example, Marshall County 4-H always has something going on. Kids in the county can take part in day camps that will help young people build new skills – while having fun. They can be part of "hands-on, minds-on" 4-H programs on cooking and sport fishing. And in July, Guntersville’s Rotary Park will be the site of a very special "Junior Master Gardener" camp. These three-day events fill up kids’ mornings and provide tremendous learning experiences for much less than the cost of childcare.
To the southwest, in St. Clair County, young people will have just as much fun through the summer’s "4-H Clover Classroom." Kids can bring along a favorite adult and learn the practical and rewarding skills of canning and food preservation. Or they can go high-tech and learn about Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Archery, sport-fishing and other programs will round out the summer of fun. And what school-age boy (or girl!) would want to miss out on the joys of vermiculture – worm farming! Talk about "knowing their audience"!
In nearby Dekalb County, 4-H has one clear summer mission — to have fun while learning! This strong 4-H program will make kids better photographers, advance their skills in cooking, gardening and woodworking and provide great summer day camps in music, dance and theater. They will also show off their talent through fund-raisers for the American Red Cross. More than one adult has said to me: "4-H has lots more opportunities than when I was a kid." That’s because kids today are really different.
I would encourage you to check with your county 4-H office to find out what kind of good stuff is going on in your community. More than that, if you have a skill or resource that can aid positive 4-H youth development, get involved! If you have too many vegetables in your garden or a catfish pond, let kids harvest squash for the food bank or learn to fish. If you have a riding stable, start a 4-H horse club. If you are good at photography, baking or some other kid-friendly hobby or profession, share your enthusiasm. Since the dawn of time, young people have complained about having nothing to do – so help 4-H nip that in the bud!
In this column, we always like to talk about childhood and parenting. That’s part of our 4-H mandate to share university-based research. Summer is a wonderful time to celebrate family life and childhood. I would encourage you to make special opportunities to do things as a family. Memorable moments don’t require trips to expensive resorts; they also come from picnics and Little League baseball games. And remember learning is not like a merry-go-round you can step off and on. It is important to make learning an on-going part of your child’s summer.
"Fun" reading will help sharpen academic skills, and there are also new abilities to learn during the summer: digital photography, gardening or fishing. And make travel a learning opportunity for the whole family. All of us who have traveled with adolescents know they may complain the whole way, but they will talk about the experience for years to come. Whether you visit historic Mobile, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Space Museum or hike Mount Cheaha, there is much to be learned – and YOUR attitude toward learning has an impact on your children’s appreciation of knowledge. If you curl up with a book, your child will curl up with a book. If you hike, your child will hike.
Even if you are staying close to home, find good stuff to do with your children. Let them take responsibility for some new task like making supper or painting a bookcase. Sure, it may not be perfect, but allow them to relish the learning experience.
We have the saying "If it isn’t fun, it isn’t 4-H!" That is actually a pretty good attitude to life. If summer isn’t fun, if learning isn’t fun, if gardening or taking care of pets isn’t fun…we are all missing out on something important in life.
Amy Payne Burgess is an 4-H Regional Extension Agent for DeKalb, Marshall, and Cherokee Counties.