Volunteers and staff make 4-H Exploration Days possible

It was no surprise that participants at this year’s 4-H Exploration Days June 20 to 22 had a blast and they learned while doing it. During this annual event, kids – and they don’t have to be in 4-H – experience college life, staying in Michigan State University dorms and eating in a dorm cafeteria. They learn by doing (the 4-H way) by attending sessions on various topics from aerospace to visual arts and crafts. Free time allows swimming, skating, souvenir shopping, exploring, bowling, basketball and dancing. It’s a tremendous opportunity for fun and learning jam-packed into three days. It also gives young people a chance to develop social and academic skills needed for a successful transition to college and careers.

 

But it takes a tremendous amount of work and organization behind the scenes to make MSU’s largest pre-college program a success. Registration for the 43rd annual 4-H Exploration Days closed with 2,404 people from all but one of Michigan’s counties. More than 80 percent of those attending were young people 11 to 19 years old. Adults attending included chaperones, field staff and resource people.

Headed by Judy Ratkos, MSU Extension senior program leader, the event takes months of planning and preparation. More than 300 adult and teen volunteers, outside resource people, and MSU Extension county-based and campus-based staff members served as session instructors or helpers for the 204 sessions offered this summer. Nearly 300 adult volunteers registered as chaperones. It’s estimated that volunteers contributed more than 20,000 hours to this year’s 4-H Exploration Days.

This year, the hot weather did not spoil the fun. According to Judy, staff members and volunteers prepare for the possibility of high heat and humidity, providing water coolers and cups in each dorm lobby and water jugs for outdoor sessions and activities to prevent dehydration.

Besides sessions and activities, inspirational speaker and “Evolution of Dance” performer Judson Laipply spoke and performed his “Evolution of Dance” at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts. The performer also spent time with participants at three 4-H Exploration Days sessions.

A time capsule created at the 4-H Exploration Days in 1987 (some of you may remember that) was opened during the Wharton Center show. That year was the 150th anniversary of Michigan’s becoming a state. The capsule contains an item from almost every Michigan county. Visit the 4-H Exploration Days Facebook page to view photos of what was in the capsule.

The 2012 4-H Exploration Days theme was “Join the Revolution of Responsibility.” The Revolution of Responsibility is a movement for positive change in every community in the U.S. involving 4-H’ers taking on the responsibility to make a difference where they live.

We’re grateful to the many volunteers and staff members who made this event possible. It won’t be long before Judy and her team gear up for the 44th 4-H Exploration Days June 19 to 21, 2013. You can bet plenty of lucky kids will be there to learn and have fun.

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