• By Ryan Farley, Extension Agent

4-H/Youth Development: 4-H Middle School group travels to Georgia 4-H Environmental Camp for spring

4-H members from Woodford County pose for a picture at Jekyll Island 4-H Center.  Pictured are Ashlynn Gampper, Delano Mullins, Zach Pantaliono, Bruce Walton, Trevor Varner, Gillian Brown and Reida Harrod. (Photo submitted)

For many families, spring break trips are a yearly tradition that involves spending a lot of time on the road, usually heading somewhere warm that has a beach. For Woodford County 4-H that tradition began this year, as seven Woodford County 4-H middle school students and two adults headed to the Jekyll Island 4-H center for a four-day, three-night environmental camp experience that you can’t get here in Kentucky. Delano Mullins, Bruce Walton, Reida Harrod, Gillian Brown, Zach Pantaliono, Trevor Varner, Ashlynn Gampper and volunteer chaperone Laura Brown, along with Woodford County 4-H Agent Ryan Farley, made the 9-and-a-half hour trip down and spent several days exploring and learning all about the beach and what the island has to offer.

The 4-H Center on Jekyll Island featured a camp-like setting, including cabins, a dining hall, a basketball and volleyball court and even a couple of shelter houses. It didn’t have the pool or lake, or even the high rope course that one might see at many other camps, but it made up for those absences by being a short boardwalk journey away from the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. The group from Kentucky, which included 4-H members from Woodford, Scott, Fayette, Jessamine, Bourbon, Clark, Lincoln, Boyle and Clark counties, arrived at the center on Wednesday and jumped right in with several educational classes that included beach ecology, seining and nets. These classes gave 4-H members a unique opportunity to learn more about the beach ecosystem and hands-on experiences with many of the critters living in the surf. During the seining and nets class, the Woodford County 4-H group learned about the anchovies, lady and blue crabs, cannonball and lion’s mane jellyfish as well as the squids they found. The group also spentTuesday learning how to work their saltwater fishing rods and reels and taking a night hike on the beach, identifying constellations in the sky and learning about bioluminescent plankton in the sand.

On Thursday, the group fished in the ocean, with Mullins catching the one lone trophy (a kingfish), and then spent the rest of the day in a herpetology class handling corn and rat snakes, visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and learning about fiddler crabs and bald eagles in a saltwater marsh. In the afternoon, 4-H members took a trip to Shark Tooth Beach, where only one shark tooth was found, and rounded out the night with a campfire and s’mores. The trip wrapped up on Friday with a maritime forest class before the group hit the road back to Kentucky.

This opportunity for middle school students is just one of the many exciting and unique experiences 4-H has for middle school-aged youth.

If you know someone interested in participating in middle school 4-H programming, please call 859-873-4601 or email ryan.farley@uky.edu

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