LUERSSEN HONORED NATIONALLY BY 4-H YOUTH DEVELOPMENT PROFESSIONALS
FOR THE ANTIGO TIMES
Holly Luerssen, Lincoln and Langlade Counties 4-H Educator, UW-Madison Division of Extension, received the Excellence in Camping Award from the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals (NAE4-HYDP) during the annual NAE4HYDP conference on November 16th in Memphis, Tennessee. Luerssen, with colleagues Megan Suehring (Shawano County 4-H Positive Youth Development Educator), Laura Huber (Wood County 4-H Educator), Kaitlyn Benarde (Marathon County 4-H Educator), Michael Rusin (Clark County 4-H Educator) and Anne Williams (Oneida County 4-H Educator) were honored for their development of and leadership on the “Lumberjacks: Building Your Future” Camp in a Bag Program in the summer of 2020.
The purpose of the Excellence in Camping Award is to recognize outstanding effort in youth development through 4-H camping as related to practice, evaluation, or research by members as individuals or as part of a team. In order to be eligible for the National Award, the Lumberjacks: “Building Your Future” camp program took highest honors first at the Wisconsin Association of 4-H & Youth Development Professionals, as well as on behalf of the Midwestern Region.
Residential summer camp is a hallmark of many counties in Northern Wisconsin, especially Langlade and Lincoln Counties. It was evident that a typical in-person camping experience would not be possible for youth during the 2020 summer, due to COVID-19. To adapt, Holly and several colleagues worked to develop a hybrid summer camp program featuring a written curriculum with project materials, static video instructions, and virtual campfires with all needed program materials assembled in a bag. “Lumberjacks: Building Your Future” Camp in a Box served nearly 1,000 youth from 400 families across the 7 North Central Wisconsin counties. A hybridized camp model was created to serve youth with and without internet access. Curriculum (at an elementary reading level) was provided with required materials. To support campers, instructional videos were shared; live “campfires” including guest speakers, interactive games, and songs were hosted on Zoom; and a closed Facebook community was created allowing families to share Camp experiences. This model enabled participants to form a true community of learners.
The program included three camp days. Arts & Crafts, Astronomy, Mindfulness, STEAM, Group and Water-Based Recreation, Wildlife Ecology, Physical Education, Camp Cooking, Music, and Career Considerations were included. The camp schedule was modeled after the traditional overnight camp experience. It started at “sun up” with making bunks, flag raising, and making breakfast and concluded with evening skit night, flag lowering, and getting ready for bed. Families were encouraged to create their own camp space at home for the three days. Photos shared via the virtual community showed families camped in a variety of ways, from utilizing their living room to complete tenting set ups in the backyard.
Educators leveraged partnerships with public and private entities to make camp an even richer experience for participants. One educator contacted the Raptor Education Group, Inc. (REGI) to ensure their programmatic efforts could be shared with youth state-wide. Partnerships with private companies also enriched the educational experience, from a local maple syrup producer and distributor donating maple syrup samples and invited an educator to record the business set-up, to PONSSE, a family based company who specializes in cut-to-length forest machines and their information systems donating professional booklets that encourage youth to learn about forestry practices and equipment. A professional “Lumber Jill”, Kate Witkowski, donated her time to share how she became interested in timber sports and how kids can become involved as well.
Colleagues collaborated to secure funds from local and state-wide sponsors to ensure camp kits would be affordable for any youth to participate. At the very most, the camp in a box kit was $10 per base kit, due to financial support from sponsors such as the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation, the Lincoln County Safe and Stable Families Grant, Wood County Solar Project, and several county and community 4-H clubs or committees.
The National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals (NAE4-HYDP) is the professional’s organization for those dedicated to promoting, strengthening, enhancing and advocating for the 4-H youth development profession. The National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals is an internationally recognized, non-profit, non-partisan association of professional youth development educators. NAE4-HYDP is one of the largest professional associations for youth development workers with a diverse membership of nearly 4,000 youth development professionals.