Sixteen Pine Bluff children spent four days cooking, learning about nutrition and participating in physical activities during a youth enrichment summer camp at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Hosted by the UAPB Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, the annual camp teaches children, ages 6 to 11, basic cooking skills, good nutrition and food safety practices and ways to be active.

“This was the second year we hosted the youth enrichment camp,” Teresa Henson, UAPB Extension specialist–nutrition outreach coordinator, said. “We had a new group of excited campers, and this year we incorporated several science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities into the program.”

The children participated in several hands-on cooking sessions. They learned how to prepare vegetable and rice stir-fry, chicken fingers and sweet potato fries, pizza and tossed salad, and vegetable wraps and fruit salad. During the cooking sessions, they learned about kitchen safety, basic cooking measurements and the nutritional content of different foods and beverages.

“The kids loved the idea of trying new fruits and veggies and getting the chance to prepare their own dishes,” Henson said. “Each day they would ask, ‘Ms. Teresa, when are we going to start cooking?’ or ‘What are we cooking today?’”

Easter H. Tucker, UAPB interim family and consumer sciences program leader , taught the campers how to make ice cream and the science behind the process.

During an apron-making session with Linda Inmon, Extension specialist for UAPB, they learned the importance of measurements and dimensions.

Shaun Francis, Extension horticulture specialist for UAPB, spoke to the children about sweet potato production. During a visit to the campus farms, they learned about livestock. David Fernandez, Ph.D., Extension livestock specialist, taught the children about goats, and they were able to try goat milk.

The UAPB 4-H Club hosted several ice-breaker and team-building exercises that helped the children get to know each other. Outdoor physical activities included kickball games and relay races.

Henson said all learning activities were aligned with the Arkansas Common Core Curriculum for science, math, reading and language arts for grades 1-5.

Upon the camp’s completion, the children were asked to write about their favorite part of the camp and their overall experience, Henson said. Based on their responses, the most popular activities during the camp were the hands-on cooking sessions, the goat farm visit and the outdoor physical activities.

Henson said it is important for children to learn about cooking and nutrition.

“We aim to provide local children the opportunity to try new and healthy foods,” she said. “At the camp, they are able to learn basic life skills related to cooking and exercise, as well as social skills by working as a group and communicating with each other.”

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.

— Will Hehemann is a writer/editor with the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.