As parents were preparing their children for summer camps earlier this year they were not expecting to spend a summer indoors. When May rolled around, plans had been canceled and families were faced with a unique alternative, digital summer camps children can attend at home. Understandably, this option was met with skepticism. When most people think of “camp” they think of the great outdoors where kids learn new skills and practice socializing. The new reality of social distancing never seemed to line up with these virtues. 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. Now, screens are the only way to interact with the world and the screentime critics appear to be losing the fight. 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.
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 new 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.
Digital Arts Experience has a series of morning and afternoon classes going 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.
3. ID Tech
ID Tech has the seal of approval from parents and students who have tried their virtual tech camps. For $500, your child can spend 4 hours a day practicing their computer skills. Instructors will take them through programs such as Java and Adobe 3D as well as test their 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 your camp experience.
Does your child want the chance to program their own robot? For $249 Smart Buddies will send them their own robot and spend 4-weeks teaching them 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 cabin mates 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 copt out 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.