O’Malley, A. M. & Roberts, R. (2022). Storying outdoor youth education: A historical narrative of the Louisiana 4-H camping movement. Journal of Agricultural Education, 63(4), 91-104
Perhaps one of the most formalized ways that 4-H has fostered agricultural innovation and practical education has been through their outdoor youth education program, more commonly known as 4-H Camp. Although 4-H Camps were first created for local clubs, camping events soon expanded to the state and national levels. In fact, three years after establishing the first 4-H Camp, more than 1,700 had emerged across the U.S., with attendance surpassing 100,000 youth. Because of its positive outcomes, the 4-H Camping movement has become celebrated as a novel technique to motivate youth to engage in agrarian concepts. Despite this, little work has been done to document the historical origins and evolution of the camping movement. Therefore, a need emerged to describe the actors, forces, and events that led to the prevalence of 4-H Camping in Louisiana. Through our analysis of the data, four themes emerged: (1) early foundations, (2) facility infrastructure development, (3) impact and organizational changes, and (4) the evolution of programmatic delivery. When considered together, the themes knit together the story of the Louisiana 4-H Camp. A key implication from this investigation was the need for greater advocacy efforts among 4-H leaders and agents. For example, the Louisiana 4-H Camp had to navigate multiple barriers throughout history, such as a lack of funding and staff. However, through individual and collective advocacy efforts, the 4-H camp secured vital resources to support 4-H members’ needs. Going forward, researchers should explore how fundraising and donors for 4-H camps could be better leveraged and sustained over time. This should include exploring strategies to inform legislators, policymakers, and citizens about the impacts that 4-H camps can have on youth and the state of Louisiana.