“It’s different that most summer camps because it’s on the computer,” said Wilmot.
She participated in Wargo Nature Center’s Tom & Huck Camp, but this year it consisted of a box of goodies her mother picked up at the nature center that was full of crafts, supplies, and other activities for kids to enjoy while they interacted via Zoom with nature center staff.
It’s “summer camp in a box,” and it’s paid for in large part thanks to a $6,000 grant from Connexus Energy to Anoka County Parks.
“Other camps are doing it, as well,” said Wargo Nature Center Program Supervisor Lisa Gilliland. “All of our camps are learning together how to do this well, but it seemed like it’d be a fun way to do what we do: working with kids, just not face-to-face.”
Camp staff said they adapted existing summer camp curricula to the at-home, in-box format, and it was stressful at first but seemed to work better once they knew the formats they would have available.
“We still get to experience the fun that they’re having, so they come back and they share all of the awesome experiences, and we’re bummed that we can’t be there sharing all of these expriences with them, but we’re glad we’re still facilitating them,” said Interpretive Naturalist Abby Voigt, one of the leaders of the Tom & Huck Camp.
The campers made rafts at home out of wooden sticks, and Lillie was working on coloring a fish that she would later hook using a magnet.
“I wasn’t looking for virtual summer camps, by any means,” said Lillie’s mother, Allie. “The kids thought it was awesome to get a box of stuff to go through and do all of the activities and it’s been fun.”
Other camps will continue this summer and Wargo staff say they’re already thinking of ways to adapt the virtual approach to being able to offer programming for school groups once school resumes in the fall.