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Fun In The Sun: 4-H Helps Enrich Summer For Kids In Need

The Issue

After years of neglect, after-school and summer enrichment programs for urban children from low-income neighborhoods are finally attracting the attention and the support they deserve. Educators and researchers are focusing on what these children are learning from their participation in organized after-school programs and summer camps. These venues are often ideal for integrating non-formal science and environmental literacy activities. They also provide excellent opportunities for children to learn and practice positive social and civic skills.

What Has ANR Done?

Since 1998, Fun In The Sun (FITS) has been a free educational summer day camp for boys and girls ages 6-11 from very low-income families in Santa Barbara and Goleta. Collaborators include the California 4-H Youth Development Program, Girls Inc. and the local YMCA. FITS is funded through the local chapter of United Way.

The camp's summer-long educational and recreational program includes a variety of activities, from character education to science and environmental topics. Reading and social skills are integrated into all activities.

UCCE 4-H staff helps recruit and train FITS staff, who are mostly Latino undergraduates from UC Santa Barbara and the local community college, as well as teen volunteers who serve as staff assistants. Parent involvement is also encouraged through Family Fun Nights, where campers share their camp achievements with their family members.

4-H provides programming focused on natural science and the environment. Topics include watershed restoration and water quality, gardening, oak woodlands and their wildlife, reuse and recycling, and the very popular sports fishing program.

The Payoff

FITS helps children develop life skills

Through FITS, 4-H has helped provide a no-fee summer enrichment program for nearly 300 young people from disadvantaged families every summer since 1998. Surveys show that children who participated in FITS have:
-Increased their interest in and appreciation for science by 56%
-Increased their reading skills by 50%
-Improved their social skills and ability to bond with a group
-Appreciated the opportunity to spend time with caring adults

In addition, participation in Family Fun Nights by the campers' family members has consistently been close to 100%.


Supporting Unit: Santa Barbara County

A. Michael Marzolla, Santa Barbara County UCCE Youth Development Advisor, 305 Camino del Remedio, Santa Barbara, CA 93110
(805) 692-1730