4-H Camps

4-H Base Camp Policy

4-H Program Educators must ensure compliance with the following minimum standards for 4-H Base Camps, except when other offices or organizations are responsible for compliance. 4-H Base Camps is defined as camps where campers sleep in cabins; food is provided by the facility, catered in, or prepared by staff/volunteers; and direct supervision of campers is provided by adult volunteers and/or Extension staff. Youth counselors may be available to assist adult volunteers and Extension staff. 4-H Base Camps are limited in duration to three (3) consecutive nights.

Camp Program Coordinator

A.  An Extension staff member must be identified for each camp to serve as the Camp Program Coordinator. In most situations, that will be a 4-H program educator or coordinator.

i. For camps with more than one county involved in planning, Extension staff members may choose to designate Camp Program Co-Coordinators.

ii. Should Extension staff be unable to serve in this role, the 4-H Regional Program Manager assigned to the county can approve a qualified individual to serve as the Camp Program Coordinator.

B.  The Camp Program Coordinator is responsible for:

i. Serving as the key contact for the camp with the State 4-H Office, the campground,
and volunteers assisting with tasks, such as organization and recruiting.

ii. Ensuring compliance with the procedures outlined in this document and other governing policies or procedures in the planning and operations of the camp program.

a. In situations where a 4-H Regional Program Manager has approved an individual who is not an Extension staff member to serve at the Camp Program Coordinator, the Regional Program Manager must work closely with the Camp Program Coordinator to ensure all requirements are met.

iii. Serving as the Camp Lead at the camp or appointing another Extension staff member or volunteer to serve in that role.

a. Should an Extension staff member be unable to serve in this role, a qualified volunteer can be appointed by the Camp Program Coordinator. If the Camp Program Coordinator is not an Extension staff member, a 4-H Regional Program Manager must approve the appointment.

b. More information about the responsibilities of the Camp Lead is included in Section 4.

C. Camp program Coordinators must attend an annual webinar or meeting organized by the State 4-H Office that includes information on the following requirements:

i. Staffing
ii. Orientation and training
iii. Camp rules
iv. Supervising and instructing campers
v. Transportation
vi. Safety and supervision
vii. Responding to emergencies


A. As a custodial program for youth planned by Extension staff, all contracts related to the program are the responsibility of the University and the Division of Extension.

B. Extension staff must submit contracts associated with camps for approval and follow University Purchasing procurement procedures.

i. To initiate a contract, use the 4-H Contract Submission Form.

ii. To allow sufficient time for review and signatures, submission at least 30 days before the contract is due is recommended.

Note for camps at Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center: As a facility of the Division of Extension, an internal agreement for services, not a contract, will be completed.


A. Volunteers: All adult volunteers serving in any role in an overnight camp must be registered as an Adult Advisor/Chaperone in 4HOnline a minimum of two weeks prior to the start of camp (30 days recommended) in order to ensure compliance with frequency of screening; volunteers who make up adult to youth supervision ratios must meet minimum standards outlined in the 4-H Chaperone Policy.

B. County Employees. Individuals who are employed by the local county must complete the enrollment process in 4HOnline, including registration as an Adult Advisor/Chaperone, in order to work on-site at a base camp.

C. Contractors:

i. Any agreement with a vendor or contractor hired by Extension (e.g., food service workers who are not hired by the camp) whose employees, affiliates, or volunteers will have routine or unsupervised access to minors in the course of the camp must include a representation from the vendor or contractor stating that these employees, affiliates, or volunteers have satisfied a criminal background check that includes a national criminal background check database within the past two years.

ii. Should the contractor be unable to supply this information, a background check will be conducted through UW-Madison.

a. Questions about the need to conduct checks through UW-Madison should be directed to 4-H Regional Program Managers.

b. Fees associated with criminal background checks for vendors will be passed along to the vendor.

D. Guest Speakers:

i. A guest speaker is an individual who is not a member of the program staff on a paid or volunteer basis, who is invited to speak, conduct a demonstration, present, or facilitate for a limited time or on a one-time-only basis by an Extension program (e.g., individual coming in to do a demonstration about wildlife for several hours).

ii. While guest speakers do not need to be to complete a background check, they must not be left alone with youth or share contact information for the purpose of developing relationships with youth following their appearance in the program.

E. Youth Counselors:

i. Youth counselors are to be selected through a process approved by the Camp Program Coordinator.

ii. All youth counselors must enroll as a Wisconsin 4-H member and complete the 8th grade prior to the start of camp.

a. Camp Program Coordinators have the flexibility of setting alternative minimum grade levels for youth counselors as long as it is not less than 8th grade (e.g., must be in 10th grade.)

b. Youth counselors-in-training must enroll in 4-H prior to the start of camp. Age or grade minimums are to be approved by the Camp Program Coordinator.

Supervision, Orientation, and Training of Camp Staff

A. Each base camp must have a designated Camp Leader. Throughout the duration of the camp (i.e., set-up to teardown), the Camp Leader is responsible for:

i. Ensuring compliance with procedures outlined in this document.

ii. Serving as the key contact for the employees of the facility at which the camp takes place.

iii. Supervising camp staff (e.g., other Extension staff members, volunteers, youth counsellors).

iv. Ensuring orientations are provided for volunteers, youth counsellors, and campers.

v. Approving major changes to the camp schedule.

vi. Responding to and reporting any accidents or incidents requiring a report in a timely manner.

Note: Should anyone other than the Camp Program Coordinator serve as the Camp Lead, the Camp Program Coordinator is responsible for ensuring that the Camp Lead understands the requirements of this policy prior to the start of camp.

B. Adult volunteers/chaperones:

i. Prior to the official start of each camp, volunteers must complete orientation offered by the Camp Lead (or designee) that includes, but is not limited to:

a. Camp rules

b. Expectations for each role (e.g., chaperone, youth counselor)

c. General behavior expectations

d. Youth protection guidelines including, but not limited to:

  • supervision ratios
  • rule of three
  • leaving camp/transportation
  • electronic communication/social media
  • rules surrounding sleeping arrangements
  • respect for privacy
  • welcoming and inclusive environments
  • appropriate physical contact
  • In addition, this document must be shared with volunteers

e. Responding to situations of bullying, harassment, abuse, or other prohibited behaviors by a youth or adult

f. Review of risk management and emergency response procedures, including severe weather plan and use of/restrictions on use of hazardous materials.

g. Parameters for leading any high-risk activities approved for the camp

h. Supervising youth counselors

Orientation must be completed each year the volunteer works at camp.

C. Youth Counselors

i. New youth counselors must complete training prior to the start of camp. Training must be a minimum of 4 hours for new camp counselors. Content must include, but is not limited to:

a. Youth counselor responsibilities and expectations

b. Dealing with challenging situations/preventing behavioral problems

c. Health and safety

ii. Prior to the official start of camp, an orientation for all Youth Counselors that includes the following must take place:

a. Camp rules

b. Expectations for each role (e.g., chaperone, youth counselor)

c. General behavior expectations

d. Youth protection guidelines (as outlined in Extension’s Handbook on the Protection of Vulnerable Populations from Abuse and Harassment) including, but not limited to:

  • supervision ratios
  • rule of three
  • leaving camp/transportation
  • electronic communication/social media
  • rules surrounding sleeping arrangements
  • respect for privacy
  • welcoming and inclusive environments
  • appropriate physical contact

e. Responding to situations of bullying, harassment, abuse, or other prohibited behaviors by a youth or adult

f. Review of risk management and emergency response procedures, including severe weather plan and use of/restrictions on use of hazardous materials.

Orientation must be completed each year the minor serves as a youth counselor at camp.

Rules for Campers

A. The minimum age for any camper at an Extension base camp is eight (8) years of age.

i. 4-H program educators have the flexibility of setting alternative minimum age levels or grade levels for base camps, as long as they exceed the age minimum listed in this document (e.g., minimum age of ten (10) or fifth (5th) grade).

B. Expectations for camp and campers must be distributed to campers and their parents/guardians prior to the start of the camp and reviewed with campers on the first day of camp. These include:

i. drop off/pick-up options

ii. rules for camper behavior

iii. appropriate dress and footwear

iv. what to bring/what not to bring

v. leaving premises during camp program

vi. medical information/medicines

vii. gender identity

C. Rules must include:

i. behavior expectations

ii. cell phone usage

iii. prohibited items

iv. following instructions

v. use of safety equipment (as appropriate)

vi. emergency response procedures

Supervising and Instructing Campers

A. Camp activity schedule: The Camp Program Coordinator must approve a 4-H program schedule at least 15 days prior to the start of camp. The schedule must include:

i. Activities that are appropriate for the developmental age of the participants

ii. Expected dates/time for activities

iii. Type of staff responsible for each activity (e.g., Extension staff, Extension volunteer, camp facility staff, other staff with description). Adults must be assigned to each activity, even if youth counselors take a leadership role.

B. High risk activities: Camp Program Coordinators must identify and document any proposed activities that are classified as high-risk on the activity schedule. High-risk activities are defined as any sport or activity in which a mishap could lead to serious injury. Examples of high-risk activities include, but are not limited to, shooting sports, archery, ropes or challenge courses, horseback riding, rock climbing, waterfront paddling, waterfront swimming, all-terrain vehicles, power boating, mountain biking, sailing, skiing, backcountry/wilderness camping, and ziplines. Prohibited high-risk activities include paintball.

i. When engaging in high-risk activities, the minimum standards identified in the 4-H Project and 4-H Activities Policies must be met, whether the activity is led by Extension staff, Extension volunteers, or employees of other organizations.

ii. All 4-H programs will refrain from engaging in any high-risk activity for which guidelines are not posted to the policy page on the Wisconsin 4-H website.

iii. Questions about activities that could be classified as high-risk, but are not listed in this section should be directed to the 4-H Regional Program Manager assigned to your county.

C. Supervision ratios: Supervision ratios of one (1) adult who is vetted and trained according to Sections 3 and 4 of this document to every 10 minors must be maintained throughout the duration of the program. Youth counselors are counted as minors in these ratios.

D. Additional youth protection standards: All applicable requirements outlined in Extension’s Handbook on the Protection of Vulnerable Populations from Abuse and Harassment must be implemented at camp. This includes, but is not limited to, Section 5(E) on overnight activities.


A. Transportation of minors to and from camp is the responsibility of the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the youth unless a bus or van is rented from a licensed transportation company through approved UW-Madison procurement processes.

i. When minors (either campers or youth counselors) drive themselves to the location of the camp with a vehicle that remains on site, keys must be stored by camp staff, Extension staff, or a designated Extension volunteer in a locked box for the duration of the camp.

ii. Permission from parent(s) or guardian(s) must be given in writing for a minor to leave the camp grounds at any time other than a scheduled group activity (as referenced in Section 7(B)) or a medical emergency when not accompanied by their parent(s) or guardian(s).

B. A bus or van must be rented through approved UW-Madison procurement processes to transport youth from the camp groups to another location for a scheduled camp activity.

i. Parents must be notified in writing about any scheduled activities that are to be held off of the camp property prior to the start of camp.

ii. In situations where a van is driven by Extension staff or a volunteer, rules established by UW-Madison Division of Business Services must be followed. These include:

a. The University no longer allows the use of 12 or 15 passenger vans, unless, with very limited exception, as authorized in writing by UW-Madison Risk Management and appropriate campus Dean or Vice Chancellor.

b. The driver must be authorized through the appropriate UW-Madison Driver Authorization process. Please allow a minimum of three weeks for processing.

C. Driver Authorization Process for employees can be found on the UW-Madison Division of Business Services website.

D. Driver Authorization Process for Extension volunteers is outlined in the Volunteer Management section of the Extension Employee Handbook.


A. Any overnight base camps involving minors that are scheduled as part of an Extension program or activity must take place at a facility licensed by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) under Wisconsin Administrative Code ATCP 78.

B. The Camp Coordinator must annually verify that the camp has a current license.

Application of ATCP 78

A. When the operator of a camp that is licensed under ATCP 78 does not provide staffing to ensure full compliance with ATCP 78.16, ATCP 78.18, ATCP 78.19, or ATCP 78.20, the 4-H program is responsible for maintaining compliance with those sections of the statute. Outlined below are areas in which compliance must be maintained.

i. ATCP 78.16: Food Preparation and Service

a. Secure services of volunteer or paid staff possessing current SafeServe® Food Handler certification or other current certification on food protection practices recognized as in compliance with the requirements for food handling under ATCP 75.12. This individual (or individuals) will supervise all food preparation and service throughout the direction of the camp. This includes indoor and outdoor food service and preparation.

b. All food preparation and service shall also comply with written or video-presented procedures for the safe handling of food, personal hygiene, and proper washing and sanitizing of utensils and equipment provided by the camp director. As it is required under ATCP 78.16(3) that the camp director provide such resources to assist groups with safe food preparation and service requirements, groups should request these materials prior to arrival.

ii. ATCP 78.18: Safety and Supervision

a. Provide supervision by approved 4-H volunteers or staff members with a minimum ratio of one adult to 10 youth (See Section 6(C)).

b. Train all adult volunteers and other staff members providing supervision of youth on use of hazardous substances (if used at camp) and plans for camper security and dealing with emergencies. (See Section 4 on minimum training requirements.)

c. Identify emergency response procedures that include the following: missing or runaway campers/participants; first response actions for incidents or accidents; fire or weather related/natural disasters; name, numbers and address of the local medical facility; procedures for a camp intruder situation; and lost swimmers if there is a lake, pool, or any other water activities on site.

d. Provide adults who meet the minimum standards identified in the 4-H Project and 4-H Activities Policies to lead approved high-risk activities including firearms, archery, ropes or challenge course, horseback riding, and rock climbing. For situations in which 4-H does not have an approved policy for a high-risk activity, all 4-H programs will refrain from engaging in that activity at camp. (See Section 6(B) on High-Risk Activities.)

e. Ensure there is a minimum of one certified lifeguard for every 25 persons or fraction thereof participating in water-based activities at each water activity area. Provide an overall ratio of one adult supervisor to each 10 participants at each water activity area. Enforce designated method for checking youth program participants in and out of the water.

iii. ATCP 78.19: Health (More information about Wisconsin 4-H Health Policies (including Health Forms) can found at: Health & Safety – Wisconsin 4-H)

a. Ensure the services (either paid or volunteer) of a certified emergency response technician, registered nurse, physician, or other qualified individual as outlined in ATCP 78.19(5) to attend camp as the Camp Health Supervisor. This person will be responsible for routine and emergency healthcare supervision at the camp and must be available on the premises of the camp at all times during the 4-H program. (See Section 3 for screening requirements.)

b. In situations where the camp is three nights or less, local emergency medical service (EMS) has a target response time of 15 minutes or less to the camp, and there is a phone (not coin operated) to contact EMS on premises, individuals certified by the American Red Cross in a community first-aid and safety course (or equivalent) and adult/child/infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation can serve as the Camp Health Supervisor.

c. Collect health forms that include an up-to-date written health history that describes any physical condition, medications or allergies requiring special consideration.

d. Identify qualified person(s) to dispense medications. All medications brought to camp by campers and youth counsellors are to be stored in clearly labelled containers including the name of the medication, dosage, frequency, and route of administration. Medication prescribed by a physician will be stored in packaging from the dispensing pharmacy.

e. With the exception of medications used in life-threatening situations that may be carried by a camper or staff member (e.g., bee sting medication, inhalers, insulin syringe, EpiPen), all medication brought to camp by a camper or staff member under 18 years of age shall be kept in a locked unit and shall be administered by health services staff.

f. Maintain a log in a bound book with pre-printed page numbers indicating the following information: name of the person receiving the medication or treatment, ailment, name of the medication or treatment, quantity given, date and time administered, by whom administered, and comments. Maintain these records for a minimum of two years (or as required by UW-Madison).

g. Ensure at least one Extension staff member or Extension volunteer is screened through the UW-Madison Driver’s Authorization process (see Section 7(B)(ii)) to drive in cases of emergency.

iv. ATCP 78.20: Register

a. Maintain a register that contains the names, home addresses and phone numbers of all campers and staff and the names and phone numbers of persons to notify in case of an emergency. The register shall be retained for a minimum of 2 years (or as required by UW-Madison).

b. Detail a method for tracking campers that shall be used to monitor persons entering and leaving camp during the program session.

Record Keeping

A. 4-H Program Educators must register their intent to camp at least 30 days prior to the proposed start of the camp each year. As the contract process may take several weeks, staff are encouraged to submit their Camp Program Registrations as early as possible.

i. Camp Program Registrations must include:

a. Name of 4-H Camp Program

b. County/Counties/Area administering the 4-H camp program

c. Name of 4-H Camp Program Coordinator

d. Camp dates (start date/end date)

e. Camp facility name and phone number

f. High-risk activities

g. Requirements in ATCP 78.16, ATCP 78.18, ATCP 78.19, and/or ATCP 78.20 that need to be met by Extension

ii. Registrations will be reviewed by 4-H Regional Program Managers.

a. 4-H Regional Program managers will follow-up with staff regarding activities classified as high-risk and use of facilities in which compliance with ATCP 78.16, ATCP 78.18, ATCP 78.19, and/or ATCP 78.20 needs to be addressed to help guide planning.

B. Post-camp information must be completed and submitted within 60 days of the close of camp each year.

i. Details submitted will include the following information, at minimum:

  1. 4-H camp staff training outline and schedule
  2. 4-H camp program schedule (dates and times of activities, who provided leadership/oversight of the activity; clearly designated high-risk activities)
  3. Transportation, if hired (e.g., name of charter bus company)
  4. Attendance records, which include all youth and adults who participated in the camp through 4-H (e.g., campers, volunteers, guest speakers, contractors hired by Extension, etc.) (if full records are not retrievable in 4HOnline).
  5. When applicable, method in which requirements of ATCP 78.16, ATCP 78.18, ATCP 78.19, and/or ATCP 78.20 were met (e.g., name of the individual supervising food service and their certification information; camp handbook) are required.

ii. Regional Program Managers must complete an annual review of these materials and address opportunities for improvement with 4-H program educators.

C. Medical/Health Histories (Health Forms)

Camp medical/health histories should not be uploaded, however, this information should be retrievable in 4H Online.  If paper forms were used instead of 4H Online, these forms must be stored in a locked location and stored for the creation year (CR) plus seven (7) additional years.

D. Accident and Accident Reporting

Accident and Incident Reports should  be submitted by the 4-H Program Educator to UW-Madison Risk Management within 48 hours. Low-risk incidents should not require a report to Risk Management.  A “low risk” incident is one where the impact to an Extension Volunteer(s), Extension Program Participant(s), or third party is both minor and temporary.

4-H Outpost Camp Policy

All 4-H Outpost Camps must follow the 4-H Base Camp Procedures and the requirements listed below. The Camp Program Coordinator and Camp Lead must ensure all 4-H policies are followed.

Outpost camp is defined as any overnight camp where: campers sleep in tents and food is cooked outdoors over an open flame.

Outpost Requirements

  1. Outpost camp is limited to three (3) consecutive nights
  2. Campers must be at least eleven (11) years old at the time of camp. 4-H staff can set a higher minimum age.
  3. Outpost camp facilities must:
    • Be licensed by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) under WI Administrative Code ATCP 78 or ATCP 79.
      • When camping at a facility licensed under ATCP 79, the Camp Lead must ensure requirements applicable to camps licensed under ATCP 78, as outlined in the Base Camp Procedures, are implemented except as noted in Section 9 of this document.
    • Include toilet facilities and fresh water accessible to campers
  4. Outpost Campsite Boundaries
    • Set clear campsite boundaries. Only those youth and adults who are part of the camping program are allowed within the campsite unless authorized by the Camp Lead.
    • A buddy system must be in place and a 4-H Camp Chaperone be informed when youth leave the campsite boundaries for any reason.
    • A 4-H Camp Chaperone must complete a count of all youth and adults at mealtimes and when the group leaves the campsite boundaries.
  5. Orientation & Training (See Outpost Camp Tip Sheet for more information)
    • Camp staff, counselors, and campers will receive training on:
      • Tent safety
      • Fire safety
      • Food safety
  • Camp staff and counselors must be trained before camp begins
  • Campers can be trained before or during camp
  1. All campers, counselors, and camp staff must follow local rules, regulations, and ordinances and 4-H policies.
  2. Tent Safety
    • Tents must be pitched in areas designated for camping by the facility.
    • Tents must be pitched at a safe distance from any fire ring (at least 10 feet).
    • An open flame must never be used in a tent.
  1. Fire Safety
    • An adult must supervise open fires at all times (including campfires, camp stoves, grills, etc.)
    • A fire extinguisher and/or water must always be within reach of the fire.
    • A three-foot buffer must be maintained between a campfire and the area where campers will sit or stand around the fire unless actively engaged in cooking.
    • Never use flammable fuel to start or maintain a campfire.
    • Fire building must be supervised by an adult.
  2. Food Safety

Questions about any of the following procedures should be directed to the 4-H Regional Program Manager assigned to the county. For other types of camping, please see relevant 4-H procedures.

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