Land, Life & Science

Year-round Fun and Learning at 4-H Centers

“Through our 4-H and Youth Development program, young people learn so many skills that benefit them for future career, workforce, leadership, and educational opportunities. Knowing our 4-H centers are within close proximity of each of our Tennessee counties, it’s an incredible opportunity for not only youth but also for teachers to bring their classrooms for STEM and leadership learning.”
-Ashley Stokes, dean, UT Extension

It is not hard to find someone whose childhood included 4-H camp. Fun times spent swimming, honing archery and target shooting skills, and using creativity with crafts are cherished memories for generations of Tennesseans. Today, those much-loved activities continue at Tennessee’s four 4-H and Youth Development Centers, even as the centers themselves have evolved into sites of amazing, year-round hands-on learning for K-12th graders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Youth track wildlife using telemetry, hike through hardwood forests, explore water quality and aquatic life in wetlands, and study the stars overhead. Hands-on experiences like these bring STEM learning to life, helping youth to master challenging subjects and grow excited about their future.

Explore Tennessee’s four 4-H and Youth Development Centers and experience the learning that takes place at them through the eyes of young campers.

Clyde Austin 4-H and Youth Development Center, Greeneville

A camper practicing archery
The skies above the Clyde Austin 4-H and Youth Development’s pristine location in the rolling foothills of the Appalachian Mountains make for excellent STEM learning in astronomy. Youth study nature, forestry, dendrology, and aquatic ecology in the wetlands, warm-season grasses, spring, creek, pond, and hardwood forest that lie within the center’s boundaries. At a Fossils and Wildlife Center, youth examine ancient life captured in stone and learn about an array of animals. Other experiences include archery, orienteering, rockets, Lego engineering, and roller-coaster physics.
Hailey holding a microscope
“This camp feels like home to me. For years I’ve been coming here getting hands-on STEM experience and learning so many different things that I normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn. I’d like to one day be a 4-H agent so I can give other kids the same opportunities that I’ve had.”
Hailey, tenth grade, Clyde Austin 4-H and Youth Development Center

Clyde York 4-H and Youth Development Center, Crossville

Clyde York 4-H and Youth Development Center pond and lawn with a gazebo and chairs
Located on 192 acres atop the Cumberland Plateau, the Clyde York 4-H and Youth Development Center is full of rustic scenery, miles of beautiful hiking trails, and two picturesque lakes where campers can enjoy fishing and canoeing. STEM activities in the center’s REEL program, which stands for Redefining Environmental Education for Life, include physics, agriculture and natural resources, and pollinators. At an adventure challenge course and popular zip line, riders, if they’re brave enough, can glide across the lake and test out the laws of motion in action. The center played a significant role in our nation’s history, serving as a prisoner of war camp housing German and Italian officers captured during World War II. Many relics and artifacts from that era can still be seen on the grounds.
Alexis measuring a tree
“I really enjoyed learning about trees during the 4-H homeschool field trip. I found it fun and interesting to learn how to measure trees and how the rings in the trees can tell their age and what happened to them each year. This was my first experience with 4-H. I really liked it! I enjoy hands-on learning, and that’s what this field trip was all about. I look forward to going to more 4-H homeschool days.”
– Alexis, sixth grade, Clyde York 4-H and Youth Development Center

Lone Oaks Farm 4-H and Youth Development Center, Middleton

Youth playing in a circle with a multi-colored parachute
STEM learning at Lone Oaks Farm 4-H and Youth Development Center addresses key challenges in agriculture through state-of-the-art learning areas and unparalleled outdoor environments. Resources include an advanced classroom whose walls can be raised to allow for outdoor hybrid learning and also support traditional learning using whiteboards, TVs, and more. A wet lab hosts hands-on experiments in soil erosion, stream mitigation, and other natural resource topics. On-site gardens feature vegetables and herbs used in farm-to-table programs and demonstrate advanced production techniques such as aqua- and hydroponics. Row crops such as cotton and soybeans help youth explore West Tennessee agriculture, while in riflery programs at the Clays at Lone Oaks Farm youth learn about gun safety and use.
Landon holding a visual tracker
“We used visual trackers to find owls around the camp. It was a lot of fun walking and trying to locate them. I want to become a scientist to study and track animals every day.”
– Landon, fifth grade, Lone Oaks Farm 4-H and Youth Development Center

W.P. Ridley 4-H and Youth Development Center, Columbia

Youth in a circle playing games
Wildlife and nature are key parts of the W. P. Ridley 4-H and Youth Development Center. Located in the heart of Columbia, the camp provides a secluded, natural environment in a busy area of the state. Hiking trails and creeks are great sites for STEM learning about animal habitats, aquatic life, and water quality. Science programs also include solar energy, drones, and weather and climate. In an “old-timey” area, kids learn pioneer skills, such as butter churning, and dive hands-on into Tennessee’s history and heritage.
Youth doing a STEM activity
“I love doing STEM activities because there is always something to learn and many times you are surprised by the results. It is fun to do science outside.”
– Sebastion, third grade, W. P. Ridley 4-H and Youth Development Center

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Fall/Winter 2023

Cover of the Fall/Winter 2023 issues of Land, Life and Science