FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota State University Extension will be hosting virtual 4-H camps and online programming this summer.

The current restrictions and guidelines in place due to the pandemic means NDSU Extension will not be able to hold its annual in-person 4-H camp in Washburn, N.D., this year. However, staff members were determined to still offer a fun experience for youth.

“Our summer in 4-H is all about youth opportunities. It’s our busiest season of the year. We weren't just going to provide nothing; we wanted to give youth opportunities,” Lindsey Leker, NDSU youth development specialist for the center of 4-H, said.

The camps are separated by age group, depending on the topic, and 15-25 campers can attend each camp. The 12 camps being offered differ by topic and will include 3D printing, a breakout escape room camp, and other topics.

While the virtual 4-H camps will be different from the in-person camp, NDSU is dedicated to making the experience as similar as possible, even incorporating counselors into the virtual camps.

Having one camp already under their belt, NDSU Extension has been pleased with the overall reactions to the camps, by both campers and parents.

“The youth are really enjoying it, a lot of them are craved for social interaction,” Leker said. As for the parents, they are excited to have free opportunities for their children during the pandemic.

Some campers even log onto Zoom 30 minutes before camp to talk to their new friends and engage in social interactions that have been hard to come by.

To be eligible to attend the virtual camps, campers must be of 4-H age. However, those who wish to attend camp do not have to be North Dakota 4-H members, the camps are open to the public.

All of the camps and online programs are offered for free, and are funded by NDSU 4-H as well as grants from Microsoft and Google.

The funding and grants have ensured that campers will have all the supplies they need for the camp, as well. For example, 3D printers have been set up all over North Dakota for the 3D printing camp. Campers simply send their design to a designated printing site, and their object is mailed to them after it has been printed.

NDSU Extension is also offering other online programming, such as photography, showmanship clinics, an eight-week environmental series and more.

While many hope for an in-person camp next summer, NDSU Extension plans on keeping virtual camps and online programming available in the future. They plan to continue to host virtual camps next summer and have additional online programming available for the public this coming school year.

If you are interested in finding out more information about the virtual 4-H camps or other online programming, please visit: 4-H Youth Development or NDSU 4-H Facebook.