What in regards to the summer time camp 2021? | The change
I recently had a meeting with several camp leaders in Australia where they had just finished their summer camp programs (that's November-January Down Under). I asked how their summer was going during COVID-19, to which they replied, "Fantastic!" They said it was their biggest summer ever, which was 20% above pre-COVID levels.
While the summer season only starts after three to four months, camp managers and parents in the USA ask: "What will happen to the camp this summer?"
As the executive director of HoneyRock, Wheaton College's outdoor leadership development center, I oversee eight weeks of summer camps for grades 1-12. I believe that summer camp is desperately needed now and can be offered safely if we continue to follow proper health protocols. As the data from Australia shows, there is a deep hunger for camp experiences amid the hardships we all experienced during COVID.
The summer camp is needed now more than ever
Parents have firsthand experience of the effects COVID has on children. Much research is currently underway confirming what parents already know. COVID has had a tremendous negative impact on our children. Social isolation, inactivity, longer screen time, school breaks, and constant disruption all affect the mental and physical health, learning, and social development of children and adolescents. (2-5) The potential long-term effects on an entire generation are significant. (3)
The summer camp environment is the opposite and antidote to the loss and harmful effects of COVID. Camps do not offer social isolation, but a caring community and friendship. Instead of inactivity and screens, camps offer a wide range of activities that allow children and teenagers to enjoy the great outdoors and participate in activities that involve the whole person. During a summer camp, children share life with friends and mentors. You will experience the freedom, joy and connection that children and young people long for, which in turn leads to lasting memories and transformations. This is exactly what our children always need, but they especially need it now to replenish what was lost in the past year. (5)
We saw this game at HoneyRock even in the early stages of the pandemic. Last summer we were able to safely run summer camps at HoneyRock before tests and vaccines were widely available. Like every summer, after their child's session, we sent a survey to the camper parents asking them to share where they had seen their camper grow as a result of their summer camp experience. The numbers you see below are higher than any other year recorded.
- 93% of parents said they are increasingly able to connect God's Word with their daily life.
- 100% of parents said that their personal character had increased.
- 100% of parents said they were ready to face challenges.
- 99% participated in daily activities and events.
- 96% grew in their desire to serve others.
These statistics show that our children are more receptive to learning and growth because of their experiences and losses over the past year. Your readiness for camp is at the highest level. An experience at camp this summer could provide the fresh air, strength, healing, and connections kids and teens need during this time.
Can we have a COVID safe summer camp this summer?
Yes. Here are three reasons why:
Children have a significantly lower risk of contracting the disease or spreading it.
An article summarizing the research stated: “Children, especially children under the age of 13, are less prone to infection, less likely to have severe symptoms, far less likely to be hospitalized, or less likely to die when infected to transmit the disease when infected. "((6)
Mitigation efforts work.
Last summer, we didn't have a COIVD-19 outbreak at HoneyRock when we hosted more than 400 campers and 115 local employees for four weeks. This was partly due to the implementation of NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions) in the camp. NPIs include quarantine and pre-arrival testing, use of cohort models, monitoring of symptoms, physical distancing, use of masks when mixing with non-cohort groups and individuals, increased hygiene measures, improved cleaning and disinfection, improved outdoor programming, early detection of infection and early isolation. and indoor ventilation. ((8)) Each of these preventive measures provides an extra layer of protection and significantly reduces the likelihood of COVID entering or spreading in the warehouse.
Deep life changing learning.
Last spring, when COVID was new, our society responded by closing everything. The vast majority of camps have canceled their summer programs. However, our team at HoneyRock has decided to further develop customized schedules and programs.
We all had to change our behavior and our sacrifices for the sake of others and for the opportunity to enjoy life together at camp. This process has changed us and equipped us all for the coming year. Most of all, we have learned to sacrifice love for one another through self-denial and service. As can be seen from the parents' responses above and our late summer staff reports, the depth of learning and growth was unprecedented and well worth the effort and sacrifice. The eternal, life-shaping outcome we experienced was the opposite of the emotional, physical, and spiritual costs of staying home and well worth the risk.
I encourage you to seriously consider camp for your children this summer. As one camper parent said at the end of the summer of last year: "My children urgently needed a camp, and so did I."