On April 1st, I started my internship with the University of California Desert Research and Extension Center (UC DREC) and the Farm Smart program. When I began this internship, my only experience was working with high school and college students. I wanted to gain experience working with elementary students and creating lesson plans for K-12 schools. When I was notified that the 4-H program's annual Sustainable You summer camp wanted to collaborate with Farm Smart, I immediately offered to help and work with the 4-H program and its youth. I worked closely with faculty from the 4-H program, UC Cooperative Extension Office, and high school students in preparing for the camp's events. My role in this camp was to guide high school students in becoming camp counselors, preparing their lessons, and providing any supplies that they might need for the event.
The camp was divided into five topics, one topic per day. The topics were water, food, land, energy, and air. Each day highlighted the basic concept as well as major environmental issues, shown through group activities and active discussions. With so much preparation done before camp officially began, I enjoyed watching the youth counselors conduct the lessons and implement the activities. There was one topic in which I enjoyed observing the most: food. On food day, the campers took a wagon ride around UC DREC's research fields, making various stops along the way. On one stop, the campers participated in irrigating a piece of land using siphon hoses and learned how important water is when growing our food. The campers then visited the cattle feedlot and sunflower patch in which the counselors and campers discussed cattle and sunflowers as a food source. After the tour, campers were then welcomed to pick cherry tomatoes from Farm Smart's local garden. Once the campers returned to the classroom, the counselors and campers discussed how to make healthy food choices using MyPlate and then applied the MyPlate concept through a healthy snack. After the snack break, campers formed into groups and played a Jeopardy game, testing their knowledge of what they learned that day. The campers enjoyed the friendly competition and I was delighted to see that all campers knew the answers to every single question. The best part of camp was the fact that every day of the camp's week was like what I just described. Every camper was fully engaged in the discussions and activities. There was so much content for five days and was clear that active learning took place throughout the camp's events.
Even with the camp finished, I remain impressed by the youth counselors' leadership and initiative in teaching the campers about sustainability. The counselors were quick to react and adapt to any schedule changes during the camp day and were actively interacting with the campers every day. These counselors recognized the fact that the campers view them as role models and thus mindfully lived up to that expectation. There was a bond that strengthened not only between counselors and campers but amongst the campers themselves. There were campers that attended the camp in previous years. These campers welcomed new campers and helped each other understand the content and perform the activities. The 4-H program emphasizes its learning method of youth teaching youth. This was truly shown during the camp week and I am glad to have been a part of this event.