A hard reality set in last Spring when parents had to accept that the upcoming summer was not going to look like summers passed. Gone were the normal summer camp options, ones where kids gathered in large groups and interacted without the concept of social distancing; instead, parents were faced with deciding whether a virtual camp could truly be worthwhile. The skepticism was understandable; an online camp is not exactly what you think of when you picture summer camp for your kids!
On top of it all, virtual camp requires a massive increase in children’s screen time. Before we were forced into a state of remote operations, the amount of time kids spent with technology was a controversial issue for parents around the world. Over the past few months, people have learned how to utilize technology to learn new skills and connect in previously unimaginable ways. Now, it doesn’t seem so far fetched for one of these ways to be remote summer camp. Read on for information on how virtual camps work and five examples of great camp opportunities:
How Does It Work?
Karen Tingley, education director of the New York City zoo summer camps, has described the structure of their virtual camp as “a 10-week interactive television show”. Everyday campers are introduced to new animals and zoo staff who lead them in different activities, such as yoga. Other camps lead activities that require more at-home participation. For example, Wolf Camp starts with an hour of instructional time before sending campers on a two-hour solo assignment to practice what they’ve learned. This compensates for the lost outdoor element by sending kids to explore in their own neighborhoods. Wolf Camp then fosters a social atmosphere with a video chat lunch period.
One notable improvement brought on by digital camping is the price difference. Interlochen Arts Camp, for instance, has a $2,950 charge for their virtual high school program, a major step down from their usual $9,000 sleep-away experience. Going to camp online is providing many children with an opportunity they might not have been able to afford under normal circumstances. There’s also a number of free weekly programs available.
Where Should Your Kids Go To Camp? A number of high quality programs are available. Here’s five expert approved, STEM-focused options.
Digital Arts Experience has a series of morning and afternoon classes that go through the beginning of September. Does your child want to be a comic artist, filmmaker, YouTuber, or coder? For $359 a week, kids can pick a virtual skill they would like to learn and spend time learning with professional instructors. If you don’t sign up for the camp or just want a little extra social time, kids can still take part in online, after-class gaming meetups for $10-$27 a session.
At just $125 a week, children can spend a few hours a day with a certified instructor doing STEAM activities. The award winning program allows kids to be hands-on while interacting with instructors and other counselors online. In addition to receiving a Parent Choice Award in 2018, the Challenge Island program was voted Top Virtual Camp in the US by Parade Magazine and Top Virtual Camp Vetted by Camp and Education Experts at Business Insider.
ID Tech has the seal of approval from parents and students who have tried their virtual tech camps. For $500, your child can spend four hours a day practicing her computer skills. Instructors will take her through programs such as Java and Adobe 3D as well as test her gaming skills with Minecraft and Roblox. Campers spend half the time learning and the other half applying what they’ve learned in independent practice. Sign up now online and ID Tech will provide a coupon for $100 of your camp experience.
Does your child want the chance to program her own robot? For $249, Smart Buddies will send her her own robot and spend four weeks teaching her the basics of coding. Their After-School-In-A-Box program promises to bring students through the beginners level all the way up to a “junior coder” certification. The best part is that the fun never has to end as children can continue to learn and practice on their robot for as long as they want.
Camp WIT offers an entrepreneurial-focused program that gives campers the chance to interact with scientists as well as professionals from countless other fields. WIT simulates the camp experience by organizing campers into virtual cabins and gathering cabinmates around a virtual campfire. Afterwards, campers are treated to a loaded schedule of diverse activities ending with a professionally-led career development session in the afternoon. WIT includes 45 professionals from 20 fields. Prices and times vary.
If your child loves camp, they’re probably aching for the traditional smores and ghost stories around the fire environment. The good news is while virtual camps seem at first glance like a less-than option, they are actually opportunities for kids to let go of tradition and hone their 21st-century skills. And when it’s all well and done, there may just be enough time for a backyard campfire with your family.