- Author: Russell D. Hill
- Author: Fe Moncloa
- Author: Liliana Vega
- Contributor: Roshan Nyak
After attending first ever California 4-H virtual summer camps, 62% of youth participants reported they feel more connected to other youth, which is especially important for health given this time of COVID-19 isolation.
Shelter in Place restrictions due to COVID-19 prevented in-person overnight and day camp opportunities for California's youth. A national survey of adolescents indicates, “School closures and sheltering at home in the COVID-19 pandemic isolate children and adolescents from peers, teachers, extended family, and community...fully one-third of adolescents reported high levels of loneliness.” (Loades ME et al., 2020)
How UC Delivered
In response to these restrictions, a team of UC ANR academics and staff united to provide engaging summer activities to provide virtual spaces for youth peer interactions and foster youth-adult partnerships. A partnership among eight UC ANR academics, including one from UC Davis, 31 staff, volunteers and youth representing 20 counties, four Research and Extension Centers, and the California 4-H Youth Development Program Statewide Office, developed, planned, and delivered the first-ever 4-H virtual camps in California: Our Wild California and 4-H Grown at Home.
Planning for these virtual camp opportunities began on April 23, 2020, with a launch date of June 13 for the first camp. During this period, we “learned by doing” and developed two week long day camps offered virtually using the Zoom platform. Each camp included three activity options in the morning and three options in the afternoon. Activity sessions were hosted by 4-H staff, academics, certified 4-H volunteers and teens. 4-H County Ambassador teams were recruited to lead ice breakers and team building activities during morning and afternoon sessions.
Our Wild California virtual camp, held during the week of July 13, 2020, offered 108 youth campers from 18 counties the opportunity to learn about the natural environment. The week long camp is comprised of various activities designed to grow youths' appreciation for nature. 4-H Grown at Home, held during the week of August 3, 2020, offered 105 youth campers from 22 counties the opportunity to explore the natural world from their home.
More than 70% (n=69) of youth campers agreed virtual camps provided them opportunities to explore something they really care about, and 62% reported their camp participation helped them feel more connected to other youth. Research shows that lack of social connection can have negative impacts on health. Thus, these outcomes contribute to improved health and the public value of promoting healthy people and communities.
“I think that most everyone communicated really well, and the events ran really smoothly. Everyone was so nice and friendly, and I felt really welcome to participate as a teen volunteer.”- Teen Volunteer
“…there are more friendly people in the world than you think.” – Youth Camper
Source: Loades ME et al. 2020).Rapid systematic review: The impact of social isolation and loneliness on the mental health of children and adolescents in the context of COVID-19. Journal American Academy Child & Adolescent Psychiatry,Jun 3; [e-pub]. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2020.05.009)