Bring the Family: Columbia’s 4-H Center Offers Years of Fun for Kids

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Employees say UT is a great place to work. Benefits such as insurance, annual leave and sick leave are competitive and, in some cases, better than those offered by private companies. More perks of working for UT include taking advantage of day care, classes, camps and other activities for children right where you work.


With 16 years as a Crockett County UT Extension Agent, Tonya Bain has seen her fair share of 4-H camps.

“I’ve been to 4-H camp every year and usually twice,” Bain says. So it’s no surprise that both Bain’s kids, daughter Reagan and son Parker, are 4-H camp veterans. Parker, 11, plans to return to 4-H camp for the third time this summer. Reagan, 14, attended junior high 4-H camp last year.

Both attend the W. P. Ridley 4-H Center in Columbia, where they enjoy the zipline, rifle range and a sport unique to 4-H camp—Gaga.


“Gaga is like dodgeball, but the kids are in what we call ‘the pit’ in a circle, and they have to hit the ball to one another and can only touch it with their hands,” Bain says. Daughter Reagan’s favorite camp experience was eating chocolate-covered crickets. The crickets are purchased ready to eat. The kids then get to dip them in chocolate and put sprinkles on them.

“I can’t say that I’ve ever been hungry enough to eat one,” Bain jokes, “but that is still one of Reagan’s favorite camp experiences.”

Bain’s favorite part of camp is interacting with the kids, especially her own. She noted that through the county’s volunteer leader program, other parents can come to camp with their kids, too.

“Some of my best leaders have been every year with their child. They consider it vacation time when they can do things with their child,” Bain says. “And if they come as a volunteer leader, they get to go for free, which is nice.”

Camp is both fun and educational. Each camp has an annual theme, ranging from science to Tennessee history.

“The kids are always doing something hands-on and learning, whether they realize it or not,” Bain says.

One of the biggest benefits of camp is the independence kids learn. While kids have adult and teen leaders to supervise and assist them, they also have responsibility for keeping up with the daily schedule and money for their activities.

“Mom and Dad aren’t there to make a lot of the decisions that are usually made for them,” Bain says.

To learn more about 4-H camps, contact your county extension agent or