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Don’t Give Up: 6 Ideas for Delayed, Abbreviated, or Online Summer Camp

Posted by Jason Mellet on Apr 24, 2020 5:00:00 PM
Jason Mellet

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The COVID-19 crisis has launched a temporary, socially-distanced way of life. Extra precautions at camp will be both wise and appreciated by your loyal families. But what if camp is delayed? What if on-site activities have to be canceled altogether? 

We adapt. We innovate. There are more ways to bring joy to the camp community! Don’t forget: your camp is not just a physical place—it’s people, programming, ideas, laughter, friendship, and fun. Families are signing up for more than the venue. The fantastic staff and magic of your program keep campers coming back year after year. Lean into these things when the virus looms large.

If the pandemic curtails or cancels traditional camp—whether by state orders or your own personal decision—there will still be meaningful options on the table.

6 Ideas for Adjusted or Online Summer Camp Due to COVID-19

Without skipping a beat, many camps have already embraced pre-emptive plans to tackle the summer of 2020.  Here are a few ideas and resources to help you flesh out your own adjusted or online summer camp strategy.

1. Create Marketing Collateral for Delays—Right Now

Get ahead of the contingency plan.  There’s no official word yet in many states over whether summer programs will be mandated to close.  The holding pattern doesn’t mean you have to wait.  Start developing attractive camp marketing collateral around delays right away.

It’s okay to leave dates blank (we’ll get there). Use a positive voice and construct an email newsletter that touts the silver linings of a later start date and how lucky we are to still get to experience camp.  Start working on a pragmatic but compassionate plan for issuing refunds to families who can’t make new dates work, and build attractive web banners, flyers, and posters to promote the new plan.

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2. Develop a “Good Parts” Contingency Plan

Camp might be forced into a shorter window of operation.  But an abbreviated camp experience can still be great! What were the best parts of previous years?  The real highlights of camp? Put together a dynamite “good parts” version of the program.  Try not to cram everything in—be realistic. Focus on what fits comfortably in half the time, and the rest can wait until next year.

3. Anchor a Shortened Program Around a “Theme”

Cuts to the old program might make everything feel “less.” Sometimes it’s better to ditch the old way and build the abbreviated program fresh around a unified, fun theme that fills out the new duration. This can make camp truly new, different, and special this year—so there’s no comparison with last time.

4. Go Nationwide

The closing of physical camp would be a bummer, and a move to online summer camp could impact enrollment.  But online summer programs also gain access to a wider audience that can make up for lost local business. Get listed in as many nationwide directories as possible—like Camps With Friends!

5. Select Virtual Platforms (like Zoom and Instagram)

Many programs have embraced online summer camp

  • Staff and counselors from Stomping Ground will offer Zoom sessions for everything from smoothie making to one-week D&D campaigns. 
  • Brave Trails is using Instagram for variety shows, open mics, and discussions. 
  • Some Jewish camps are using online gatherings to sing songs, deliver Havdalah services, and bring their message into campers’ homes.
  • Varsity Tutor is launching a one-week half-day camp, with enrichment classes on chess, languages, photography, theater, coding, and more (through instructors they’ve vetted).

Take the lead of the above examples, or these, or those, or others in brainstorming for your camp.  There’s even a camp that delivers its program through Minecraft!

6. Target Summer Learning Loss

Matthew Boulay of the National Summer Learning Association observed that “We’re going to have roughly 50 million students nationwide go five or six months without formal schooling, and that’s assuming school starts in the fall.” Many summer camps can assist in putting together resources that will help bridge that gap.

In the event of online summer camp, your best bet might be to pursue a learning loss focus. Assemble virtual resources, classes, and workshops that will help kids keep their minds and bodies active and engaged until school returns!

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