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August 01, 2008

For Randolph youth, sci fi means 'Science of Fibers'

Volunteer weave with youth
Volunteer Louella Caison, right, helps a camper with his loom during Randolph's "Sci Fi Camp." (Photo courtesy of Barb Dunn Swanson)

Just when you think you have heard it all, then along comes 4-H Sci-Fi Camp! For everyone thinking "science fiction," think again. This camp is really about the "science of fibers," and 4-H members learned all about it during the week-long camp sponsored by North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Randolph County and taught by Susan Garkalns, family and consumer sciences agent, and Barb Dunn Swanson, 4-H agent.

Randolph County has a long, rich history of textiles, and many families in the area have been employed by the textile mill industry. Youth enrolled in this camp have the opportunity to learn new skills including weaving, knitting and basic information about fibers.

Volunteer leaders Louella Caison, Rebecca Craven, Phyllis Holland, Ruth Powell and Jean Vollrath each assisted with the camp. Caison loaned each participant an Inkle loom that each child learned to warp, or to prepare the loom to be woven. Each member learned that patience was one of the biggest requirements needed in weaving. Caison was an expert teacher, and each participant produced a lovely weaving project upon completion.

Jean Vollrath provided a tour of Hickory Mountain Weavery just east of Ramseur on the Chatham County line. She is an award-winning fiber artist and weaver who has made a name for herself in the industry. Vollrath showed the youth several different looms and the different ways they are operated, including a state of the art computerized loom.

Both Holland and Powell, retired schoolteachers, assisted the youth with the weaving, science experiments and demonstrations. Craven also assisted with the activities each day.

To get the camp started, youth were introduced to both natural and man-made fibers. Swatches of fabric including linen, nylon, cotton, polyester, wool and rayon were on exhibit and were also used in various experiments to learn about the fiber content of each.

Youth were even able to extract a fiber from a pineapple leaf. This was a difficult task that required softening the leaf in water, and applying pressure extract the fiber.

The Asheboro Police Department loaned a protective vest for youth to see the different fabrics used to construct this heavy-duty vest. In addition, a scuba suit was borrowed from J. Cooper’s Scuba Center in Asheboro to demonstrate how the neoprene fibers are perfect for scuba diving.

The clothing we choose and the fabrics that comprise our outfits help to keep us cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Breaking down the scientific processes helped each participant learn some new knowledge that will benefit them for a lifetime.

This camp also allowed each participant to think about career paths. Many different career choices were discussed, including artist, designer, weaver, sewer, mechanic, engineer and so much more. 4-H is all about making the best better, and during Sci-Fi Camp, they did just that!

Posted by Natalie at August 1, 2008 04:15 PM