Campers discover their inner scientist

Happy Independence Day. It’s time to celebrate the good old red, white and blue.

I hope everyone gets to enjoy the holiday in a fun and safe manner. I want to give a big “thank you” to all the firefighters across our great land who have been and will be working tirelessly this summer. We greatly appreciate your efforts.

Last week, La Plata County 4-H hosted the San Juan Basin 4-H Natural Resources Camp along Pine River in Bayfield. This three-day camp is for our junior and intermediate level 4-H members. It was a great success with more than 35 4-H members attending the camp from Archuleta and La Plata counties. La Plata County 4-H leader Raejean Riegel did a fantastic job as camp cook. All meals were delicious and made with a whole lot of love.

The camp also received great help from some stellar senior level 4-H members. Mesa Lynch, Keegan and Oakley Felker, Stephenie Riegel, Antonio Pena-Riess, Wyatt Griego and Brando Little acted as youth leaders. These older 4-H members helped with team-building exercises and organizing camp skits, songs and performances.

And, they just showed off how older 4-H members assist younger members in building life skills. One morning at the camp washing station, we overheard Griego say: “This is a camp where everyone helps everyone else out.” This soon became our camp motto.

We also were very grateful to have Barbara Shaw, Western Region 4-H STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) specialist, join us for camp. Shaw engaged our youths in some very exciting STEM-related activities. We learned about botany by making our own handmade journals, which incorporated pressing native plants on the covers. We explored astronomy through an evening storytelling session about the night sky’s constellations. We investigated Pine River through a hands-on class about water quality. And, finally, we had a blast learning about macro-invertebrates and staying cool finding neat creatures in the river.

Shaw always does an amazing job at making STEM fun and letting the campers develop their inner scientist.

At the end of camp, youths were dirty, tired and full of stories. Even better, kids left camp saying that they can’t wait until next year. I would agree. There is something really special about just camping out with others and having a good time without the distractions of TVs and other social media.

This week, La Plata County 4-H is excited to be hosting Pipestone County, Minn., 4-H members as part of our Interstate Exchange Program. Last year, we had a terrific time in the Great Plains and look forward this year sharing our neck of the woods. We have wonderful activities planned to show off our rich Native, Hispanic and Western cultures – and the beautiful scenery.

The Interstate Exchange Program is made possible through the gracious support of Aline Randle. We are extremely grateful to offer such a great experience to our 4-H members. It truly makes me proud to be an American.

felsengh@co.laplata.co.us or 382-6463. Greg Felsen is La Plata County 4-H youth development agent.