Heather Haines, 4-H Agent, UGA Extension Forsyth County

Research shows that students can experience a loss of academic skills and knowledge during the summer break, commonly referred to as the “summer slide.” By engaging in learning activities over the summer, students can prevent this loss and even make academic gains. For the last 110 years, UGA Cooperative Extension has been committed to helping Georgians learn beyond the four walls of a traditional classroom. Summer break provides an excellent opportunity for students to explore subjects and topics that may not be covered in their regular curriculum. Whether it’s through reading books, attending camps, or participating in educational programs, students can discover new passions and interests. Under the 4-H Thriving Model, these self-discovered and self-identified interests are called Sparks.

According to research conducted by the National 4-H Council, Sparks are an essential part of positive youth development, and can be broken down into six main ideas:

  • Growth: Sparks provide the “intrinsic fuel” that powers youth to grow and build new skills, and to overcome barriers that stand in their way. A spark may drive an individual to face down their fear of public speaking, learn new tech skills, get more involved with their community, stay out of trouble, and much more.
  • Contribution: Sparks create actions that almost always benefit the larger society. A love of music may lead to playing at a nursing home once a month; a passion for social justice may lead to greater civic engagement; A love of basketball may lead to volunteering as a coach for younger children. The possibilities are endless!
  • Connection: Sparks spur youth to build networks of peers who share their interests. Sparks create engagement opportunities for caring 4-H adults who have the expertise to help them.
  • Protective Factors: Youth pursuing their sparks are more motivated to succeed, stay out of trouble, and govern their own behavior. These youth tend to avoid behaviors that might endanger themselves or others, are motivated to succeed in academics, are self-aware, and make healthy choices.
  • Positive Adjustment: Being engaged in one’s sparks contributes to a larger sense of purpose in life, greater optimism, higher self-esteem. These youth tend to feel a sense of having a place in the world. Youth actively engaged in their sparks tend to feel a sense of knowing their “niche,” and a sense of place in the world. They feel confident, knowing they have a place to fit in.
  • Thriving Orientation: Youth who benefit from the people and places they are associated with grow in their connection, competence, caring, confidence, and good character. They have high personal standards and take responsibility. When they also start contributing, making the world around them a better place, they are said to be thriving. Sparks are at the heart of a young person’s ability to achieve a thriving orientation, leading to highly positive 4-H outcomes.

To help youth find their Spark this summer, the local 4-H program will be hosting six day camps that cover a wide variety of interests and will give youth the opportunity to connect with peers from who share their interests from around the community.

May 31st: Fortson Fun Day at Fortson 4-H Center
This a full day of fun for our county 4th-6th graders, early drop off at our 5110 Piney Grove Road office and late afternoon pickup. Lunch is provided by Fortson 4-H Center. Cost is $40.

June 6th: Forestry Day in the North Georgia Mountains
This event is open to all 4th-12th graders but they must be prepared to walk 3 miles. We’ll travel to Ellijay for a full day of activities including a property tour with Master Naturalist, Winston Davis, and his property managers to go over land management practices and the wildlife that call the property home. After lunch, we will tour BJ Reece Farms. If you are interested in Forestry Judging, this is the perfect day camp for you! Lunch will be provided. Expect a 9AM drop-off and 4:30PM pickup. Cost is $30.

July 16th: Flying Wild Day Camp
4th-12th graders will travel to Elachee Nature Center to learn about native birds, habitats, and migration patterns. Students should bring a packed lunch, coolers will be provided to help keep food cold. Dropoff will be at 9AM at the Forsyth County Extension Office. We will return around 4:30PM. Cost is $30.

July 18th: Atlanta History Day
History Lives Here! 4th-12th graders can join us on July 18th to learn about Atlanta and Georgia history, visit Cyclorama, see the historic Swan House, and tour the historic farm and garden. Students bring a packed lunch, coolers provided. 8AM drop-off and 4:30PM pickup. Cost is $15.

July 26th: Dahlonega Day
This year, our annual visit to Dahlonega will include a visit to Red Oak Lavender farm and tubing down the Chestatee River. This event is open to all 4th-12th grade students.  Students will bring a packed lunch, coolers provided. Dropoff at 9AM, 4:30PM pickup. Cost of $25.

July 29th: Helen Water Park
4th-8th graders are invited to close out the summer with the 4-H Team at Helen Waterpark! Dropoff at 9AM, pickup at 4:30PM. Lunch is provided. Cost $40.

You can view all programs that Forsyth County 4-H is currently registering for by visiting https://t.uga.edu/9g2