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COVID-19 hasn’t put the brakes on a series of 4-H day camp programs offered each summer by the Penn State Extension in Lebanon County — but, like so many other summer opportunities this year, the programs have moved online.

“I’m really pleased that we’re able to provide some educational and fun activities during a long and what’s been a hot summer so far,” extension educator Martha R. Gregory told LebTown Friday.

“Some kids might be having a little video fatigue after doing online school in the spring, but this is a little less structured — and it’s not graded,” Gregory said. “They can pick and choose based on their interests. Families that are looking for something to keep their kids focused and learning this summer, this is a great opportunity for them.”

Although she misses the in-person interaction with the kids, Gregory said they were able to increase the number of topics offered because of the Zoom format.

Read More: Lebanon 4-H team competes in potato-judging competition

“We’re actually working as a regional group,” she said, noting that the Lebanon County Extension Office is working with counterparts in several other counties to produce additional content and delivery options. Close to a dozen counties are participating, she said.

Student participation numbers are about the same as usual, Gregory said. Earlier this month, for example, she taught a class on “Pennsylvania Heritage Foods and Folk Art” that had 26 online participants.

“We don’t have huge numbers, but I’m finding that in teaching virtually, smaller groups are a preference because it’s easier to monitor participation,” she said.

Read More: Lebanon County 4-H Club looking for new members and mentors in 2020

There was a bit of a learning curve in adapting the programs to Zoom, Gregory said.

“Probably a little bit, just in getting used to a new technology,” she explained. “It’s a program we’re very used to using in a meeting format. Converting it to an instructional format for the kids is a little different than holding a meeting.”

But educators were able to use the program to include PowerPoint and video elements in the instruction, as well as “interactive games to get them involved,” she said. They also used multiple cameras so they could provide closeup and detailed views of their subjects.

For some programs, she said, the extension office mails out materials, but in other cases the students simply use items they can find around their homes.

Programs started earlier this month. The final four-day class session is in early August.

Upcoming day camp topics include:

  • “From Farm to Fork”
  • “Computer Science: Think… Plan… Play”
  • “Babysitting Basics”
  • “Take the Bait and Go Outdoors”
  • “Pet Parade”
  • “Science Fun in Your Kitchen”
  • “Plant Science: Growing with 4-H”
  • “What’s All the BUZZ About?”

Also on offer are several self-guided virtual projects:

  • “Cultured Curiosity”
  • “Simple Machines – Engineering Design”
  • “Cloverbud STEM”

The full schedule is available online. Classes run for 90 minutes each day (times vary) on Mondays through Thursdays; registration is due online on the preceding Wednesday, Gregory said.

The programs are open to students from ages 8 to 18 and are free to 4-H members, Gregory said. Non-members can register for $25.

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Tom Knapp

Tom has been a professional journalist for nearly four decades. In his spare time, he plays fiddle with the Irish band Fire in the Glen, and he reviews music, books and movies for Rambles.NET. He lives with his wife, Michelle, and has four children: Vinnie, Molly, Annabelle and Wolf.


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