According to the National Geographic Society, the 2006 Geographic Literacy Study shows that young Americans have "a limited understanding of their world within and beyond their country's borders." But Ohio youth are showing increased interest in global issues through a unique 4-H camp program.
In August 2006, 40 teens (ages 12 to 15) and five adult leaders gathered at 4-H Camp Clifton near Yellow Springs for a weekend camp focused on cultural differences and diversity. The TCLT ("Teamwork and Cultural Literacy for Teens") 4-H Cultural Learning Camp was first offered in 2004 with 12 campers, and grew in 2005 to 26 participants. In 2006, the group nearly doubled again, and attracted youth from Greene, Guernsey, Jackson, Montgomery, Scioto, Stark, Summit and Warren counties.
The camp's focus on global issues attracts teens representing a broad array of socio-economic backgrounds, including race, gender, household income and community structure. Before arriving at the camp, participants are assigned one or two nations and/or regions (Nepal, Botswana, Thailand, Haiti, Japan, Appalachia or the Shantytowns of Mexico and South America) and are asked to do some research on the population, living conditions, products and religions of the area to share with the group. During the camp, participants build their own "shanties" of cardboard and other scrounged materials, with the goal of sleeping in them that night. The goal is to increase awareness of global living conditions and distribution of resources and affluence, as well as improve interpersonal skills and abilities to work with others.
In 2006, four of the participants were Japanese -- members of an exchange program between Ohio 4-H Youth Development and Japan's LABO program. In addition, six teens who had participated in Camp TCLT in past years became part of the planning committee, learning leadership and organizational skills through their participation. Expanding on this experience, about 30 of the participants traveled the following month to Heifer International's Global Village in Howell, Mich., to experience life as a subsistence farmer in a developing country.
Camp TCLT was funded by a grant from the Ohio 4-H Foundation. Ohio 4-H is the youth development arm of Ohio State University Extension. 4-H has a strong tradition and continues to provide youth with excellent "Learn by Doing" projects and activities.
For information on starting a such a program in your community, contact:Steve Brady
Created: 2008-04-11, Updated: 2008-04-11