Kids at cooperative camp
Cooperative education is fun and engaging when combined with a camping experience and hands-on activities.

Jump-starting a generation

Feb 13, 2019

On a sunny summer afternoon, a group of students are purchasing shirts and mementos at the camp co-op store — they want to remember their week at camp and the experiences they shared with their friends.

This isn’t a typical summer camp experience. At the beginning of the week, the campers created the co-op store, purchased memberships and elected a board of directors. At the close of the session, every camper received a dividend based on products purchased during the week.

“Millennials and other younger people love cooperatives — they just don’t know it yet,” says Cathy Statz, education director, Wisconsin Farmers Union. “By engaging kids through hands-on activities like the co-op store or a lemonade stand, we plant seeds for the cooperative system.”


Hands-on Learning
The CHS Foundation has supported development of cooperative education through projects like cooperative camps for more than 20 years.

“Cooperatives were founded on the principles of education and training,” says Nanci Lilja, president, CHS Foundation. “What better way to demonstrate our commitment to
the cooperative system than by supporting projects that educate participants about how we do what we do?”

In 2018, grants worth nearly $450,000 were awarded to support more than 20 next generation-focused projects. While it might seem difficult to teach kids ages 8 to 18 about the cooperative system, evidence shows these hands-on approaches are working.

“We spend a week at camp immersing students in everything about cooperatives,” says Statz. “By the time they leave, campers can take those examples into real-life experiences.”

Proven methods like camps are an essential piece of the education puzzle, but new teaching techniques have also emerged. The CHS Foundation recently partnered with the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) to reach agricultural education teachers and FFA students with cooperative messages through the new My Local Cooperative initiative.

The initiative will put ag teachers in the driver’s seat, teaching students about cooperatives through testimonials, videos and virtual field trips.


Shared Goals
“The cooperative system and agricultural educators have three things in common,” says Ellen Thompson, National Teach Ag Campaign project director, NAAE. “Both are committed to education, local communities and opportunities in agriculture. We know exciting things will happen when we connect those two groups.”

Through the My Local Cooperative website, students and teachers can watch videos, dive into topics and investigate cooperative careers.

Efforts like these will help ensure cooperative strength far into the future, Lilja says. “The cooperative system has a rich history and a unique story. The CHS Foundation will continue to support projects that demonstrate that value.”


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Check out the full C magazine with this article and more.

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