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Tradition with a twist: 4-H MoYava Camp incorporates new "STEM" Activity

Photo Courtesy: Jamie Campbell

About 75 campers, aged 9-19 spent their days and nights sleeping under the stars, singing around a campfire, fishing, and even practicing archery, as part of the traditional 5-day “MoYava” 4-H Camp the first week of July, at the James 4-H Camp and Outdoor Learning Center in Prescott Valley.

And if all that wasn’t enough…. This year’s campers were the inaugural class to participate in a new STEM component: some ‘lab-like’ learning.

“Traditionally, we’ve always focused on STEM in 4-H, as far as learning about science through natural resources, and leadership activities,” says Gerald Olson, Mohave County Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development.

But this year came with a little extra “oomph”: ‘Buggy Hands’.

‘Buggy Hands’ let campers see the growth of bacterial colonies from their own hands.

Dr. Gerardo Lopez, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in 4-H STEM – or science, technology, engineering and math- helped introduce the program, with the help of his graduate student Daniela Cabrera.

“In many ways the 4-H model is based on 'hands-on' experiences which encompasses the STEM philosophy of learning by doing, making connections across disciplines. We are bringing STEM related topics to 4-Hers in order to broaden their minds and perspectives, hopefully sparking an interest in STEM related fields,” says Lopez.

Lopez says campers got a chance to ‘Gram stain’ an isolated colony, and see their hand bacteria under a microscope.

He says campers were able to walk away with a better understanding of the transmission of pathogens in the environment and importance of good hand hygiene.

“STEM education is essential to the future of our country, state, and our children. STEM is everywhere and influences our everyday experiences and are the fastest growing field of occupations. STEM is more than a acronym. STEM is a way of thinking about how educators at all levels should be helping students integrate knowledge across disciplines, encouraging them to think in a more connected and holistic way,” says Lopez.

But the STEM piece was just one part of the "MoYava" experience.

Campers were able to get the true outdoor camp experience, sleeping in cabins and being outdoors.

A goal at "MoYava" Camp every year.

“We want to try to get kids outside,” says Olson. “There’s a saying that goes, ‘No child left inside’. Kids are on their phones, or playstations so much; they’re way too tied to their electronics. At camp, campers go for 5 days without electronics,” says Olson.

“We do an overnight hike. We give the campers a chance to sleep outside, under the night sky. This is a first-time experience for many. It opens their eyes to the world around them. Most kids have never experienced something like that,” says Olson.

Olson has facilitated 4-H camps in Mohave County for more than 35 years, and runs "MoYava" 4-H Camp, named for ‘Mohave’ and ‘Yavapai’ Counties – where most campers come from – for 13 years.

And in that time, many "MoYava" Camp families have children that come back every year.

Gerri Goers-Rogers, a grandmother of 4 4-Hers, ages 7-17 who have all attended "MoYava" Camp, says 4-H and the Camp have been wonderful.

“They do canoeing, fishing, swimming, archery, they get shooting sports, they get first-aid training, they do arts and crafts, they go on hikes, they have an overnight camp out. Oh my goodness! There’s so much!” says Goers-Rogers.

“They have great campfire stories, they sing songs. One of the most heart-wrenching events is a flag retiring ceremony, where they actually cut the flag up, burn it, and each child gets to say something about the flag. It brings a tear to your eye. The campers talk about our soldiers, our country, it makes me cry every time I see it!” says Goers-Rogers.

Her’ granddaughter, 14-year-old Madi Goers, has attended MoYava Camp for 4 years, but this summer, worked as a Camp Counselor.

She says the camp is a great experience, too.

“My favorite part of camp is the overnight hike. You get to hike out, and you get to sleep under the stars, and if you live in the city, you don’t get to see a lot of stars. So when you’re underneath, you get to see a lot of stars, and it’s really cool,“ says Madi.

Madi encourages other kids to try to attend camp.

“It’s a really good way to meet more people from different counties, just to have a really good time, get to do shooting sports, most kids don’t do that kind of stuff, so you get to meet more people, get to be a family, and you get to do things you haven’t done before."

Click here, to learn more about MoYava 4-H Camp.

Click here, to learn more about the James 4-H Camp facility.