Iowa 4-H Center Provides Immersion in Wellness to Campers

AMES, Iowa – Each summer, campers from all over the state visit the Iowa 4-H Center for a week of camp fun. This year, youth enrolled in two camps, Everything Camp and Counselors in Training Camp, will have the opportunity to participate in a research study conducted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach targeted toward lowering childhood obesity in the state.

According to Ruth Litchfield, associate professor and state nutrition extension specialist at Iowa State University, childhood obesity has the potential to diminish the quality of life for millions of American youth and financially bankrupt the healthcare system. The two camps will immerse youth in health promoting activities.

“Educational programs have had success using immersion to help students learn second languages and experience other cultures. We’re conducting this research study because we see great potential in using immersion to teach youth about wellness,” Litchfield said. “We’re going to not only create and deliver experiential health and wellness, but truly ‘immerse’ youth in an environment which fosters health promoting behaviors.”

The immersion experiences will develop the youths’ skills and abilities so they can succeed, and transfer the positive health behaviors they experience at camp to their home and community, Litchfield said.  Youth will have the opportunity to participate in five immersions: nutrition education, gardening, culinary skills, physical activity and a health-promoting environment.

“Most people know the basics of what is healthy versus what is not,” said Litchfield. “Through the activities at camp, we are trying to empower youth to take charge of their health and wellbeing.”

Campers enrolled in either camp can sign up to participate in the research study. Should they choose to enter the study, campers can receive up to a $65 camper scholarship.

“The Iowa 4-H Center is devoted to helping kids develop to their highest potential and lead healthy lives,” said Abbie Parker, Iowa 4-H Center program specialist. “Through this new camp experience, we’re hoping to help youth learn more about growing and preparing healthy food and participating in physical activity to lead healthier lives.”