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By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
Hancock County 4-H members will not be spending time away at camp this summer.
Ohio State University Extension, which oversees the 4-H program, has canceled all in-person activities throughout the state through July 6 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 4-H camps have also been canceled through Aug. 31.
However, the Ohio 4-H staff will be making a virtual camp available, according to Hannah Epley, interim associate state 4-H leader and 4-H camping and older youth specialist.
“We don’t want to miss out on camp,” she said. “We want to make sure that everybody stays safe and healthy, and ultimately that’s our No. 1 priority.”
Epley explained that Ohio 4-H has a camping design team comprised of 4-H professionals throughout the state who have been working to offer a statewide virtual camping opportunity called Ohio 4-H Camp…ish.
“We went with that name because there’s no way to replicate what a 4-H camp is in person, virtually. There’s no way we can do that just because of the connections built and those sorts of things,” she said. “But we’re just hoping to offer some types of camp experience to be able to give them a virtual experience this summer.”
Camp…ish will be held June 9-11, with sessions from 9-11 a.m., 1-3 and 4-5 p.m. daily. Camp is open to 4-H members and their friends between the ages of 8 and 18. There is no cost to participate, although some activities will require the use of basic art supplies, household items or things found outdoors.
“We’re doing it in chunks, because we want to make sure that kids have their breaks because if you’re in front of a computer for too long, I know I get antsy,” said Epley. “We just want to make sure that they have their breaks and can eat lunch and do those sorts of things.”
She noted that campers are not required to attend all of the sessions.
“They don’t need to commit to a three-day experience. They can register for all or part of it. And if they just want to come and participate in a particular craft we’re doing or a STEM activity, then that’s completely fine. So they can kind of pick and choose what they’re interested in doing,” Epley said.
Each day will begin with a flag ceremony, she said. There will be different activities each day, and some will involve challenges.
“For instance, one day we’re going to say, ‘OK, in the next scheduled break, go outside and make a magic wand of some sort.’ So they’ll get a stick and they’ll get grass, they’ll get flowers, whatever it is. So we are encouraging things like that. And obviously, parents need to be involved in those, too.”
Epley said she’s excited to see how Camp…ish turns out this year. She’s hoping it might even encourage members who have never been to 4-H camp to attend next year.
“Camp is an important part of 4-H because it gives youth the sense that they can do so many things on their own,” she said, adding that many times, this is a young person’s first experience being away from home.
Visit go.osu.edu/campish to register by June 7.