Summer living should be easy, especially for our kids, especially this year.
As Amy Terrill, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Kawartha Lakes (BGCKL) notes, during a crisis children have “even more need for some sense of normalcy, playtime, physical activity and social contact.”
To meet the needs of kids who’ve been cooped up and isolated for months, the club has just kicked off 10 weeks of summer camp.
We’re in unprecedented times and these are camps adapted to our situation. Last year 280 kids a week participated, and social distancing was on nobody’s mind.
This summer the in-person camps are limited to four groups of 10 each week (nine campers and one leader) and the club has created a set of new “virtual specialty camps,” with up to 20 kids employing phones, tablets or computers to participate from home.
Safety is the number one priority.
Weeks of work have gone into thorough cleaning and disinfecting of the facility and — with health unit support and oversight — developing protocols for safe operation.
Among the measures in effect:
*All staff and program participants are screened for COVID before entry.
*Each of the four groups has its own room and equipment.
*Much of the programming is outdoors and social distance is maintained.
*Hand washing stations; twice-daily disinfecting of high-touch surfaces and daily disinfecting of other surfaces.
*Supervisors monitor social distancing, safety, quality of programming, and hand hygiene.
As with past camps there will be a mix of physical activities, games, and educational challenges. What won’t be possible are the activities calling for larger numbers or loading onto a bus for field trips.
But Terrill sees a real upside to the smaller numbers.
“There will be more one-on-one time and closer connections with individual kids. I expect to see rock-solid relationships.”
That’s important, she explains. “Kids want to connect with strong mentors. That’s a healthy development.”
Virtual Speciality Camps
Each week’s virtual camp has a particular focus. The summer’s schedule includes three sports camps (basketball, soccer, hockey), arts camps (dance and musical theatre), science and technology (kid tech nation, discovery lab, and brain gain) and a “kid food nation” camp.
Sessions are held on ZOOM, a video conferencing platform, that lets kids actively interact with leaders and one another, so a computer, laptop or phone is required. (The club can supply a loaner computer if required).
A list of materials needed for the week’s program is sent out in advance.
Much of it is readily available around home: the first week’s art camp called for items such as string, colouring pencils and crayons, a cereal box and plastic gloves; rolled-up socks and marshmallows were on the list for the following week’s basketball camp. But the club will also supply for pick-up a “camp kit” with additional supplies.
Each camp has two leaders and a program supervisor, all of whom have received special training from the Jays Care Foundation — programming ideas and ways to use the ZOOM technology to make the online experience interactive and engaging. (The Jay Care Foundation also provided funding for the camp kits).
For the virtual camps, the only safety of concern is internet safety, and the staff have that covered. A link to the ZOOM session is sent out along with a password. Program supervisor Keaton Briere manages each session and once everyone has joined, “locks” the session down so no other entry is possible.
What does a sample day at a virtual camp look like? For the second day of art camp the focus was painting and campers completed a multi-stage project, pouring paints and using Saran Wrap to make an abstract design, adding a silhouette on top and decorative border.
They began at 9 am and finished at 2:30 pm, the day divided into half-hour online sessions followed by half hours offline, working away independently.
The leaders began by sharing their screen for a PowerPoint introducing the project and the expectations.
Project work was interspersed with drawing games and ice breakers to help kids get to know one another. Each had opportunities to share what they’d accomplished.
Reports from the first week’s camps have all been positive. From an 11-year-old in-person camper: “I’m happy to be back. My favourite part is just being here, and the splash pad. Camp is different but still fun and I’m happy to see the leaders.”
Briere noted the virtual campers became increasingly comfortable with ZOOM and its features and were all fully engaged with the activities.
“Honestly, kids are loving the camp, the interactions with the leaders especially” was her summation.
Undoubtedly, there are happy parents out there too.
After months of juggling full time childcare and working from home they too deserve some fun summer living.
To register: Although the in-person camps are currently full, you can be added to a waiting list and will be notified should spaces open up or government limits on group-size change. Still lots of spaces in all remaining Virtual Specialty Camps, though, and you can register here. Program fee for the in-person camp is $147.50 for a week; for the virtual camp it is $15 or $100 for the summer.