Summer Fun’s Gone Virtual
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I love 4-H. I love our school year STEM Group (this year programming robots). I love our Spring 4-H Livestock Projects. I love getting ready for presentation competitions and putting together project record books. But, my favorite part of the 4-H year is 4-H Summer day camps. I love planning all the experiments and testing them out. I really love when we’re all together, figuring things out, asking questions, laughing.
This year summer is going to be different in a lot of ways, and that includes our Pamlico County 4-H Summer Fun. Even though we can’t be together at the extension office, that doesn’t mean we can’t have some good 4-H fun together. Because this year, maybe even more than ever, summer learning loss is going to impact our kids.
4-H always starts from a place of fun, if we aren’t having fun, then what’s the point? However, we are always learning something as well. Summer learning gap is the loss of school year learning that can occur over the three months summer break from school. While summer holds magical qualities for our kids, starting the new school year possibly a month behind the expected benchmarks may decrease the likelihood of students meeting the new year’s objectives. It may also add increased stress to youth who already deal with an enormous amount of situational stress.
There is a concerning trend of our kids spending less and less time outdoors and the detrimental results to their health. In the last nearly three decades, the time our kids have spent outdoors has continually declined despite the fact that time outdoors reduces risk of developing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, lowers stress, and reduces childhood obesity and the risk of type II Diabetes. It’s no wonder that childhood health concerns have been increasing.
While both are plenty of cause for concern there is another aspect of both overall health and summer break that causes concern, nutrition. So often we think about nutrition when we’re trying to lose weight and it can be a cruel math problem. Weigh this, count those, divide by half, never eat bread, reduce sugar intake, eliminate all things that taste ever so decadent. Really nutrition can be and should be a delicious activity, an activity that we can all (to some degree) follow through from seed to a plate at the table.
So often we find ourselves disconnected from not just the local food system but the food production system as a whole. We may not have our own vegetable patch or access to a local food market. When I think about it, this situation makes me really sad. I can remember hours spent in my grandfather’s blueberry field, bringing back that bounty to make pies and preserves with my mother and sister, and an unbelievable feeling of pride when the rest of our family gathered and enjoyed the food so many of us had a hand in producing.
When our kids have the opportunity to gather and prepare a salad from the produce that grew from the tiny seeds they planted, eating becomes an entirely different experience. Nothing tastes quite as good as the pea soup you’ve made yourself, from the pea you grew yourself. Part of this feeling is nature and part of it may be pride in something done well. Studies have shown that kids who participate in school, home, or community gardens have a much greater knowledge of food production, and more significantly, are more likely to choose healthier snacks for themselves. Further, children participating in gardening are more likely to have increased consumption of both fruit and vegetables.
With all this in mind, I am very happy to share that this summer one of our day camps will be Garden to Gourmet. Our kids will spend three days learning about gardening and kitchen safety. A vital part of this program is how elements of STEAM are integral to plotting out gardens and measuring ingredients for a delicious meal. I think there are very few better ways to spend summer afternoons then getting your hands in the earth and watching plants go from seed, to seedling, to vegetable producing plant, and nothing better than feasting on the bounty our hard work has brought forth. Our youth will be following the process all the way through to the kitchen, where they will learn kitchen and food safety, as well as have a great time participating in a cook off!!!
It isn’t summer without time in the garden, but it also isn’t a 4-H Summer without engineering challenges. This summer is no different. Every week beginning June 25, we will have an engineering challenge, from mechanical engineering, to environmental engineering, to biomedical engineering, and acoustical engineering. We will learn the fundaments of engineering, how to apply those to real-world problems, and use critical thinking to design, construct, and refine our solutions.
Our Garden to Gourmet Program will be held virtually on Tuesday afternoons beginning June 30 through Zoom, or through a series of videos if kids can’t access Zoom. Register for Garden to Gourmet
4-H Engineering challenges will be held on Thursdays beginning on July 2 through Zoom or videos if kids can’t access Zoom. Registration has ended.
Kids who have registered will be provided with kits to complete the projects in our Virtual Programs. For more information on 2020 Summer Fun Programs check out our website or give us a call at 252-745-4121.