More than 200 Georgia 4-H members from 14 counties in south Georgia learned about the importance of water and why they need to treasure the natural resource during the annual 4-H2O camp, which was held June 11 to 13.
The annual camp was hosted by the University of Georgia C.M. Stripling Irrigation Research Park (SIRP) and Mitchell County Extension office and attracted the most participants in its 12-year history with 240 4-H members and leaders attending.
“We are overwhelmed by the interest that youth from our fellow Southwest District counties show for water conservation, use efficiency and the overall importance of water. These youth are learning valuable information about a major natural resource, as well as increasing their STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) skill set which they can utilize during their regular school year,” said Danielle Simmons, Mitchell County Extension 4-H public service assistant.
Students from Baker, Calhoun, Colquitt, Crisp, Decatur, Dougherty, Lanier, Lee, Lowndes, Mitchell, Sumtery, Terrell, Tift and Worth counties attended the three-day camp.
The camp was held at different locations each day. On Tuesday, the group met at the Blackshank Farm Picnic Area located on the UGA Tifton campus. Wednesday’s session was held at Stripling research park in Camilla, Georgia. On Thursday, the children enjoyed a visit to Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Georgia.
“This camp allows us to stress the importance of water and why it’s important to this part of the state and why we need to conserve it,” said Calvin Perry, Stripling research park superintendent. “We want these kids to know why it’s important for our crops, but also to animals and us as humans.”
Each educational station offered at Stripling research park focused on a different component related to water.
Kasey Bozeman, UGA Extension 4-H specialist in Athens, Georgia, and Sylvia Davis, Mitchell County Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent, talked to the 4-Hers about drinking water to sustain their bodies throughout the day. Cale Cloud, UGA Extension area water agent for the Southwest District, spoke about irrigation and its significance in agricultural production. This session was a student favorite for the 4-H’ers who got to cool off under the irrigation pivots.
David Hall, UGA Extension water educator for the Southeast District, showed the group how water moves through different soils. John Snider, an associate professor at UGA-Tifton, taught the students about plant life and how plants use water to grow. Julie Shutters with Golden Triangle RC&D emphasized the importance of cleaning up streams.
The camp came on the heels of a three-week drought experienced throughout south Georgia in May.
“I think the farmers who use surface water were starting to get pretty worried. They were having to irrigate thirsty crops from a limited water source without rain in the forecast. That started to get very serious,” Perry said. “It’s important to relay that type of information to these kids to help them realize water is not an unlimited resource and we need to treat it as such.”
This is the 11th year that Stripling research park has teamed with Mitchell County Extension to host the camp. The first year was hosted solely by Mitchell County.
To learn more about Stripling research park, a state-of-the-art irrigation research and education center, see https://striplingpark.org.