This Spring, we are featuring youth stories from 4-H Camp. Summer camps for 4H members exist all across New York. To see a full listing, visit nys4-h.org/new-york-state-4h-camps. If you are outside New York, contact your state 4H office for a regional listing.
Animals at Critter Care
In Critter Care we take care of many different animals. There are sheep, chickens, snakes, bunnies, turtles, and rats. Different from what you might have heard, rats make great pets! The other animals have different qualities about them too. Did you know that corn snakes can see up to a mile away? Or that male turtles have round shells and the females have flat shells underneath? How about chickens having two stomachs? We learn all these things in the Critter Care class. It teaches us to be responsible. We come in every day for routine feedings and we learn about what animals eat. We even get to handle them! When we hold the corn snake, we have to support his whole body or he will coil up around us. Don’t be afraid, he’s only curious. So when you come to 4-H Camp Bristol Hills, remember to sign up for Critter Care!
4-H Educator’s Note:
4-H Camp’s Critter Care provides an opportunity for campers to interact with a variety of household pets and farm animals. Campers learn how to properly interact with and care for the different animals. Camp staff covers the need for proper housing, nutrition, exercise, and vet care. Hands-on activities include cleaning cages, feeding and watering, and grooming the animals. Each day features a different sensory game, such as how rabbits smell each other. Pairs of campers are assigned to and responsible for “their” rabbit throughout the week. Our favorite camper quote has been, “Boy, farmers sure have to do a lot to keep their animals healthy and safe. It’s hard work!”
Composting at Camp!
by Kelsey Klaczyk and Mollie Mills
Composting is a cool idea for helping the environment! Composting is when you take used or rotting plants (fruits and vegetables) and put them in a bucket or pile. The “plants” will decompose into soil that is very good for gardens. I think it is awesome that we started a compost pile at camp because of our garden and so there won’t be fruit peels all over! So, if all of us at camp start putting food and plants into the compost pile, we’re one step closer to a healthier earth!
4-H Educator’s Note:
The 4-H Energy Awareness at 4-H Camp program worked with campers to identify opportunities to reduce energy consumption. Campers felt composting at camp would reduce fuel consumption with garbage trucks and land fill equipment, while providing valuable fertilizer for our small scale garden. Composting was added to the list of Camp Kapers (jobs performed by campers to support camp), which required the hauling of the compost materials to bins, cleaning collection buckets, and the weekly mixing and watering of the compost bins. Compost from the prior year was used in camp’s garden, which raised a small amount of vegetables used in our salad bar. It was exciting to see the camper’s interest in fresh vegetables and their willingness to try something new. Surveys identified camper’s preference for fresh vegetables increased from 41% to 92% for carrots, and from 22% to 89% for summer squash, by tending to, harvesting, and preparing them at 4-H Camp.
Curly Sue Grows Up, Goes to Camp
by Cara Shulman
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how I got my camp name, not only would I be rich, but I would never stop laughing. My name, for two months out of the year, is Curly Sue. For anyone who is familiar with the movie about two homeless scammers with hearts of gold, picture the girl who plays Curly Sue. Can you see her brown ringlets and brown eyes? That’s what I look like.
When I was nine, my parents sent me off to 4-H Camp Bristol Hills for a week. Little did they know how much I would like camp. While I can’t remember much from that week, I can remember bits and pieces of it, like my cabin (North Star), my exact bunk, and my counselor (Squeegie). I remember how nice everyone was and how easily I made friends, which was especially important my first year. Squeegie named me Curly Sue for reasons unknown to me, but from that summer I always introduced myself at camp as Curly Sue and the name stuck.
Camp is about tradition, the people who work there, and so much more. After 85 years since camp first began, 4-H Camp Bristol Hills is still up and running. Every season brings new renovations, new staff, and new activities, but the traditions make me look forward to camp every year.
For example, the first meal at camp is pizza, which always seems to make camp a little easier to adjust to. On the first night after we’ve all played a game (generally Capture the Flag), we all head up to the campfire to sing songs, perform skits, etc. Even for camp regulars, like me, the camp songs never get old. And while you can sing camp songs all year, they’re never quite the same as when you sing them with a huge group of kids who are all singing slightly out of tune at the top of their lungs. It’s traditional songs like “Princess Pat” or singing “Taps” every night before bed that really add to the experience.
4-H Camp Bristol Hills is located on a road that practically no one has heard of in a town that wouldn’t be seen on a map, but that doesn’t matter. In fact, for someone like me who lives in town, camp is the perfect getaway. Not only is camp close by, but the scenery is amazing; the sunsets are perfect Kodak moments, and the fog on the hills in the morning is eerie and mysterious. Lying in the grass just looking up at the stars is not something I get to do at home, and it is those moments at camp that I just want to savor.
Beyond my love for the traditions and the scenery is my love for the people who come to camp every year. Every year after my first year, my friend Amelia and I would go together, and later our friend Emily joined in. I remember calling each other on the phone prior to camp to make sure we would all be in the same cabin and doing the same things, a conversation that would usually turn to “do you remember?” about the previous summer. I remember our kooky traditions, inside jokes and just sitting outside the cabins on a bench and talking.
Being at camp allowed me to become independent of my parents (but not too independent), and it allowed me to grow from a little girl to a young woman. Camp is the one place where I don’t have to worry about the stresses of school and my future, I don’t have to try hard to “fit in” and I don’t have to worry about the drama of high school. But most of all, camp is the place where I can be myself with some of the people I love most in the world. The experiences I’ve had at camp will always be with me, and I know that someday my children and grandchildren will hear stories about me when I was their age.
When I was little, I dreamed of becoming a camp counselor. I have been able to live that dream in recent years. To me, it isn’t about doing the outlandish things in life, it’s about the memories you make.
The Story Behind Camp Names
by Keira McClelland
A tradition at 4-H Camp is for counselors to have funny nicknames while at camp. Counselors are given their nicknames based on something that happened to them when they were a Counselor-In-Training or during Staff Training Week. I chatted with some of the counselors to find out how they got their camp name.
My cabin counselor was Cozi. Cozi got her name because she used Cotrizone cream for toothpaste. The kitchen assistant who stays in our cabin is called Smiley. She got her name because “I always smile and I love drawing smiley faces.” A female counselor got her camp name “Handsome” because another counselor would always say to her, “Hey Handsome”. Muppet and Smurf are named after how they talk. Clueless told me “When I was 15 and I was walking by Gleason Lodge (camp’s infirmary), I looked down, and then walked right into a tree!” She wasn’t the only one that walked into a tree, Knock did also! Bench told me she almost fell off a bench in front of the whole camp! Shuga said “I wanted it to be similar to my friend Spice’s name…so we are Shuga and Spice.”
Our camp counselors are awesome! They make camp so much fun. I hope to become a camp counselor some day and have a really cool name.
4-H Educators Note:
4-H Camp Bristol Hills employees approximately 65 staff each summer. Young adults may start working at camp as a Kitchen Assistant (16 years of age), followed by becoming a Jr. Counselor (17 years old), Sr. Counselor (18 years old), Class Specialist (18-21 years old), and Program Director (18-21 years old). Staff are trained and guided by adult senior staff that focuses on developing employment competencies such as personal & supportive relationships, supervision & leadership, problem solving & decision making, planning & organizing, critical thinking, and communication. 4-H Camp is typically the first employment experience for over half of our staff. After an intensive one-week training program, these young adults are responsible for assigned campers while under close supervision and daily guidance from senior staff. Based on the results of end-of-the-season written surveys, the camp work experience helped develop valuable workforce skills. 97% of counselors indicated that their camp experience helped developed their communication, human relationship, and problem solving skills. 94% of counselors indicated that their leadership skills improved because of their camp experience. One camp counselor stated, “I’ve learned a ton about myself as a leader and a teacher. Camp helped direct me toward my future profession.”
To learn more about 4-H Camp Bristol Hills visit: www.4-hcampbristolhills.org/