When it became clear that traditional summer camp might not be an option this year, Rosa Caldwell, Education Programs and Activities Coordinator for the parks department, started imagining a new way to deliver summer camp – without parking kids in front of a device all day.
“What is something we can do without fail?” she asked herself.
The result is the Camp at Home program, with week-long camp sessions delivered online, but where the real action takes place at home with families or caregivers. Camps are designed for kids ages 6-12, and since the camp experience takes place at home, it is open to children throughout Whatcom County and beyond.
Seven week-long camps have themes such as the “Weird World of Wonka” and “Robots Attack” – each designed to keep campers guessing as to what will happen next.
Mysterious twists are just part of the fun. On the Friday before camp starts each week, a box of arts and crafts supplies are delivered to campers’ homes. (If you live within Whatcom County, the kit will be hand-delivered. For those outside the county, the kit will be mailed.)
Caldwell said they didn’t want campers and their families to be without any of the supplies necessary to complete the projects throughout the week, so the idea of delivering supplies was born. Kits come with the basics such as scissors, construction paper and watercolors as well as items specific to the week’s theme. Campers will need an internet connection and a device, plus a way to take photos and video.
Each morning campers will check in with their counselors via the See Saw app, be introduced to the day’s storyline, get a project to complete and then log off to start creating in real-time.
“These camps are really designed for kids and their families to do at home together,” Caldwell said.
She says she hopes it also takes the pressure off parents to come up with something new for kids to do each day. Some days campers may be creating art, other days they may be building something or “traveling” to faraway places. The goal is for these at-home camps to still capture the essence of a day camp.
That includes plenty of time outside. “We want kids outdoors,” Caldwell says. Before for the end of the camp day, campers will check in again to share the day’s project. This way, Caldwell says, kids are still connected to the community of campers.
INSIDE SCOOP: Wondering where (and how) can I get outside safely? Check out our blog “How To Safely Enjoy Bellingham and Whatcom County Parks” to learn about Whatcom County’s Parkscription app.
The Camp at Home concept challenged Caldwell and Recreation staff to design a program that could be delivered no matter how Covid-19 affects the community throughout the summer. She knew that even if virus rates fell there could be a resurgence, and it seemed too risky to offer an in-person camp when the community might have to turn on a dime and go back into isolation.
“The question became, ‘How do we develop a camp that’s virtual, but really not virtual?’” she said.
This hybrid camp was the result. Caldwell notes other camps are being delivered entirely online, and some are being delivered in person. She is hopeful this best-of-both-worlds delivery meets families’ needs for summer activities.
Caldwell says she knows some parents might do an internal groan over using See Saw as a method of communicating because it reminds them of communications with school, but she stresses that the online component is truly minimal.
“It’s still camp. It’s not a school setting,” she said.
Some camps will use additional technology, such as the animation camp, which requires a free app for campers to create their animations. One camp will use Zoom for a virtual evening around the campfire, another will use it for a trivia game. Almost everything else will be activities for families to do at home.
For those interested in signing up for the weekly camps, Caldwell says the deadline for registration is the Thursday before camp begins. If your camper is outside Whatcom County, please register 10 days prior to the start of camp so that the box of supplies can be shipped to their location. (This can be a great option if the kids will be visiting relatives out of state.)
You can find complete information on each week’s camp and register at https://www.cob.org/services/recreation/activities/Pages/Summer-Camp.aspx