UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s 4-H Animal Science Camp will take place May 19-21 at Penn State’s University Park campus.
The camp will feature hands-on workshops for 4-H members ages 13-18. Delivered by Penn State Extension specialists and educators, College of Agricultural Sciences faculty and staff, and industry experts, the event is broken down into four tracks: dairy, equine, livestock and small animal/wildlife.
“The focus of the camp is to teach youth more about the science aspects of their 4-H animal science projects,” said Kirsten Dubbs, 4-H animal science specialist with Penn State Extension. “These workshops also can provide them with a glimpse of what their classes and labs might look like if they choose to attend Penn State as undergraduates and major in agricultural or animal science fields.”
Dubbs noted that previous camps have covered topics such as animal nutrition, forage analysis, anatomy and dissection. Participants have learned about ultrasounds for pregnant animals, artificial insemination and semen collection. Other workshops have focused on veterinary science, with youth studying how to suture using animal carcasses.
Attendees in the livestock track have learned about meat quality, with workshops exploring different cuts of beef, marbling and fat percentage. Participants have had the opportunity to prepare and taste various cuts to learn about the differences. In addition, 4-H’ers have engaged in interactive workshops related to animal behavior and handling.
Some workshops feature live animals. For example, equine track participants can learn about the principles of horse behavior and work hands-on with Penn State’s quarter horse foals. Other workshops involve analyzing animal fecal samples and identifying parasites in a lab-type setting.
4-H members in the small animal/wildlife track can explore companion species such as dogs and cats. The camp also will offer a rabbit anatomy workshop this year.
The program draws participants from around the state, with representation from an average of 45 counties in prior years. Dubbs noted that workshop topics change every year, so youth can attend multiple times and continue to gain useful knowledge and skills.
“The animal science camp helps youth make informed decisions much earlier in their lives as students,” she said. “They have the opportunity to get hands-on experience and evaluate their interests.”
As part of the camp, participants attend a career workshop to learn how their 4-H interest areas can lead to an undergraduate program of study at Penn State, as well as to explore career options related to their 4-H project areas.
“We see youth interacting one-on-one with faculty, which is invaluable,” Dubbs said. “They can get contact information and follow up with questions.”
This camp is a science-focused event and not about showing or training animals, Dubbs pointed out. The event is aimed at exposing youth to a wider range of career and undergraduate study opportunities in the animal sciences. Anecdotal evidence and evaluation data from youth suggest these efforts are working.
“We often hear from 4-H families that their teen decided to attend Penn State and the College of Agricultural Sciences because of the camp,” Dubbs said. “Faculty members also have noticed an increase in first-year students expressing interest in animal production as a career option, rather than just veterinary school.”
The camp offers limited spaces for screened 4-H volunteers to serve as chaperones. Dubbs noted that these volunteers can attend the workshops with the youth and gain valuable information to share with their local 4-H clubs or incorporate into their own work with animals.
“This is probably my favorite 4-H event,” she said. “It’s exciting to watch youth participate and make connections. I always look forward to hearing from youth and families about their experiences after camp is over. If youth are interested in 4-H animal projects, I strongly encourage them to attend. It’s also a great opportunity for those interested in science, animal science or agriculture as a career. It can be an excellent first step in figuring out their career interests and where they want to go from there.”
To qualify for the camp, participants must be Pennsylvania 4-H members and taking part in an animal science project. The early bird registration fee is $250. Enrolled 4-H members who need information about how to register can contact their county 4-H educators or Dubbs.
Administered in Pennsylvania by Penn State Extension, 4-H is a nonformal educational youth-development program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that helps young people develop knowledge and skills to become capable, caring and contributing citizens. To find your local program, visit the Penn State Extension website at https://extension.psu.edu/
–Alexandra McLaughlin, Penn State University