NMSU Valencia County Extension hosts summer day camp

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There might be no better way to spend a summer day than to prepare a snack, do a craft project, and learn how agriculture impacts your life.

Seventeen youth, ages 6 to 14, did just that at a four-day summer day camp held at New Mexico State University’s Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service office in Los Lunas.

NMSU photos by Jane Moorman: During NMSU Valencia County Extension summer day camp, the youth played with a parachute during a fitness activity. The campers did a variety of activities during the four-day camp including cooking and making crafts.

“We wanted to provide a youth development program for children that are not necessarily 4-H members,” said Laura Bittner, Extension county program director. “4-H does a great job reaching out to kids who are familiar with its program, but we have a lot of other youth who are not exposed to 4-H or our other youth development activities. We are always looking for opportunities to attract new people, both young and old, to our services.”

This year’s campers were Jessica Apodaca, Juliana Williams, Joy Williams, Talysa Gallegos, Jamie Williams, Lauren Apodaca, Tiffany Gallegos, Alexis Herrell, Gabrielle Montoya, Chloe Blanton, Makenzie Drake, Hailey Drake, Brandon Velasquez, Rhett McCarty, Trini Galles and Ricardinho Contreras.

The theme for each day set the tone for the activities. Monday’s Creativity Day started the week with a get-to-know-you session in which the youth interviewed their fellow campers like news reporters.

“This was an opportunity for the youth to build new friendships, while practicing public speaking skills,” Bittner said.

Tuesday’s “Where Does Food Come From?” theme allowed campers to learn the origins of the ingredients for their breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes.

Wednesday’s “How Does It Grow” theme included making dirt buddies – campers planted grass in a cup that they decorated with faces.

“As the grass grows, it becomes the hair of their dirt buddy that they can cut, and watch it grow back,” said Newt McCarty, Valencia County Extension agricultural agent.

Thursday’s “Let’s Get Moving Day!” focused on physical fitness as the campers played with a parachute. As the campers bounced balls on the parachute cloth by making waves, and each camper raced across the circle under the billowing parachute, the youth didn’t even realized they were exercising.

The campers also participated in a relay race titled “What’s Its Origin?” in which they had to decide if an item came from a natural resource, farm, store or factory.

“This demonstrated that everything in our life comes from natural resources,” McCarty said. “The product is either raised on a farm or made in a factory before it reaches the store to be purchased.”

Each day’s activities included a preparing snacks like pizza and quesadillas, and doing a craft project, including making a suncatcher and a personal photo frame.

“Everyone enjoys food, and it brings people together,” said Bittner. “It is a fun opportunity to teach kids about food safety and the importance of washing their hands. Cooking programs are always a great way to build self-esteem and confidence in kids by giving them an opportunity that their parents may not be comfortable giving them because of a variety of reasons.”

The Valencia County Extension office plans to have other such events in the future.