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History of Virginia's 4-H Camping Program: A Case Study on Events Leading to the Development of the 4-H Educational Centers


Robert Ray Meadows

PhD Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Tech in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Education


Education Administration


Steve Parson, Chair
Tom Hunt, Co-Chair
Robert Richards
Wayne Worner
Roy S. Jones

March 21, 1997
Blacksburg, Virginia


Residential camping has long been used as a tool to reach and teach educational concepts to youth. Since the founding of the first organized residential camp in 1823 at Round Hill School's Summer Camp in Massachusetts, private and public organizations have used camping as a means to teach youth their respective missions and goals. Although a relative newcomer in the camping business when compared to other agencies and groups, 4-H has been involved in camping since the first county camp was conducted in 1915. Virginia has long been in the business of 4-H camping, reaching thousands of youth throughout the years on an annual basis. Now, ranked third nationally in total numbers of youth attending 4-H camping on an annual basis, the 4-H mission "...assisting youth, and adults working with those youth, to gain additional knowledge, life skills, and attitudes that further their development as self-directing, contributing, and productive members of society" continues to be carried out through the residential camping program. The purpose of this dissertation is to describe, record and analyze the concept that provided the foundation for the Virginia 4-H camping program becoming a reality of the 4-H educational centers. It includes the early history of the camping movement in the United States, the beginnings of the 4-H club program in the United States and Virginia, and 4-H involvement in reaching and involving youth audiences through camping programs. The population for this study consisted of early pioneers in the 4-H camping program representing Virginia Cooperative Extension administrators and extension agents, camp staffs, and campers from both white and African-American camping programs, as separate 4-H camping programs were conducted. A systematic document research and structured interviews of the early pioneers was conducted to reach defensible conclusions about the establishment, operation, and purpose of the 4- H camping movement in Virginia. The outcomes of this study are fourfold. First, the study serves to document the organized camping movement in the United States and the beginnings of 4-H. Second, the study explores the early beginnings of the 4-H camping movement in the country with the national 4-H camping movement. Third, the study examined the persons, events, founding and early development of the 4-H camping program in Virginia, including the separate white and African-American camping programs for Whites and African-Americans. Fourth, the study documented the history of Virginia's six 4-H educational centers. The study endeavors to contribute to the body of knowledge concerning the history of the 4-H movement in Virginia.

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