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Summer 4-H classes available -- Classes are open to any and all youth, not just those involved in 4-H

If your kids need fun activities to fill up their day, try 4-H day camps. No, you don't have to be a 4-H member, and it won't cost an arm and a leg.

Throughout the summer months, 4-H youth ambassadors are directing activity day camps for kids anywhere from kindergarten and up.

"4-H is all about learning," Sharon Smith, Becker County's 4-H program coordinator, said. "The camps have hands-on activities that are good for all kids. We welcome them even if they're not members."

Smith said there are always activities going on for kids, and they try to keep it open for all kids to enjoy.

In January, Smith directed a workshop called "Technology Explorers," where kids learned to use GPS systems, build junk robots and balloon cars.

She said the attendance was about half members and half non-members, but she'd like more parents to know that the opportunities exist.

Smith said the staff doesn't pressure the kids to join 4-H if they attend, but "we welcome them if there is interest and we'll make the information available on how to join and get involved."

While some people still have the misconception of 4-H being all about farming and raising animals for county and state fairs, Smith stressed that it's "so much more than that."

"These camps are a hands-on way of learning and exploring, to try new fields and project areas," she explained. "Plus, they can meet new friends and get ideas from them, too."

Camps like these in the past have gotten kids excited about certain projects afterwards, she said.

She remembered the kids that came to the technology activity day and had to face new challenges. They were given a set amount of supplies and had to build machines to fit certain challenges.

With only a plastic cup, a toy motor, some markers, an on/off switch and a few other small items, they had to build a robot that could "leave a trail of color."

Although some kids were initially intimidated by the task, the older kids in the group helped get them started, and since parents are welcome, it became a bonding experience for kids to learn something along side mom and dad.

"Everyone catches on at their own pace while they build relationships and communicate," Smith said. "There were a lot of exchanges of ideas trying to put it together."

Even after they'd gotten the basics down, Smith said the kids often went back to tweak it; making it run in a straighter line, or in a more perfect oval.

"At that point, they started taking on their own challenges," Smith said.

Taking on challenges and learning by experimentation is what the summer day camps are all about. At the end of the day, "they feel like they've created something and they had no idea they could."

The camps run from now until mid-August.

For children that have completed kindergarten, first and second grades, they can participate in pirate-themed scavenger hunts, discover secrets of wildlife and living in the woods, beach adventures and wild west themed games and activities.

For the three-hour camps, it's only $5 for 4-H members, and a dollar more for non 4-H kids.

For older kids who have finished grades three through six, it's $6 for members and $7 for non-members.

Afternoon sessions of playing their own "Survivor" challenge games, solving a mystery "CSI" style, brushing up on Harry Potter trivia, inventing new uses for recycled goods and building rockets and planes will keep them entertained for hours.

For more information, call Sharon Smith at 846-7328 ext. 3 or e-mail her at Be sure to register three days before the scheduled class. Scholarship funds are also available.