Summer Camp 2020 – a new wave of experiencing Summer-time fun and learning activities

SWCDC Staff and child participants express their impressions – contents & discontents.

Written by, Francine Elizabeth Natal – SWCDC Staff member & School-age Group Supervisor

Summer Camp was long-awaited and much anticipated.  Children and adult Staff both shared a mutual excitement for what lied ahead.  We expected to engage in activities indoors and outdoors that have the markings of Summer-time fun: Arts & Crafts, Trips, Music e.g. drumming and Creative movement, EDUTAINMENT!  However, none of us were prepared for the challenges we would soon face with regards to a change of plans i.e. the “in-person” experience we had hoped for was rather a Virtual online interactive session.  COVID-19, the Coronavirus changed the format of Summer Camp 2020 and we were uncertain as to what that truly meant! So, it was with uncertainty that we entered into this new experience which made us more determined to “find our way”, get acclimated, so the children we serviced would enjoy Summer Camp.  We made a few errors which is quite common when doing something new and different but overall, the children and the adult staff had a mutual respect and remained positive, this made everything good in spite of the oddity this circumstance did present. Not all of us share the same views and opinions but we do concur, Virtual Summer Camp 2020 did impact our lives for the better; we learned to be more resilient.    

Disclosed are thoughts and impressions from a few Staff, a parent and children – whom were the participants of the SWCDC – Virtual online Summer Camp – Year 2020 (Southwest Philadelphia).

Shaketia Sills (Program Coordinator for SWCDC – Afterschool/ Summer camp):

Summer camp 2020 has been an amazing experience filled with smiles and laughter by staff, students and parents. The theme for this summer was dealing with your emotions; Staff did an awesome job implementing virtual structured activities around this theme which were creative, educational and engaging. These activities included positive action lessons, prevention lessons, wellness lessons, Spanish lessons, literacy lessons, stem lessons and alternative activities such as game clubs, art clubs, and kickboxing.  Thank you to all of the staff, parents, and students; because of you all we shared some unforgettable memories this summer!

Kim aka Kimberly J. Ellison (TEACHER: Subject – Arts & Crafts, Games or Storytime):

One word comes to mind – EASY… I really liked the virtual online teaching experience. However, I am not sure how good it truly is for children, being that it restricts them from physical engagement, the social interaction essential for cooperative learning ( “Peer learning” – an educational practice in which students interact with other students to attain educational goals.”).  In addition, being one who suffers with anxiety, which became evident per my Military Life experience and involvement in 9/11 – Operation Freedom, “less is more” with regards to my level of comfort for noise, conflict, and etc. that are prevalent when working with youth “in-person”. So, the anxiety that I suffer with was to a minimum which was a positive outcome; I accredit this to having a Virtual- online teaching experience.

Melvin Draughn (TEACHER: Subject – Structured Fun & Games): 

Three (3) Words that best describe my overall virtual online teaching experience are: interesting – fun – personal; it was different, something new; the children showed up and we had good times i.e. edutainment. The Virtual online teaching experience was “Personal” i.e. we were seeing the inside of their homes during lessons and they were seeing the inside of mine, this approach yields a more “personal touch” as for the context of the learning.

Sharna Barber (TEACHER: Subject – Kick Boxing):

Personally, I didn’t like it at all…I preference “in-person” Teaching.  My overall observation is that “online” or virtual lessons are challenging for the children. Many seemed less open with sharing their feelings and I could see they were mindful that their parents were nearby and could see and hear them. So, when we asked how they were feeling we saw them look over as though they wanted to meet with the approval of their guardian or parent before answering the question. So seemingly it was as if the virtual, online teaching sessions did “cramp their style” as for the best learning approach in comparison to their liking.  They were not as open with sharing their emotions and feelings about things as they usually are and I know it was due to them being “at home” where they are monitored and may feel less free to share their opinions.

Sharon Faulk (TEACHER: Subject –Arts & Crafts, Games or Storytime):

It was good…no problems. Employment matters!  Can’t complain when you are able to work, needing finance or income, you appreciate work and especially when you enjoy what you do.  I enjoy working with children and to me Virtual or online Summer Camp was an enjoyable experience.

Cassuendra Ford (TEACHER: Subject – Kick Boxing):

I had an interesting experience…pc or virtual online was fun but I missed that “in-person experience”.  I preference working with the children in-person, my choice is a hands-on experience not virtual – online sessions. PC connectivity was an issue, it made things difficult, hard for the children and I to see each other – the screen would freeze or the image on the screen would not have a clear resolution, making the activity more challenging to engage in.

Joetta Namayan (SWCDC enrolled Summer Camp participant – STUDENT: promoted to 5th grade this year):

It was fun, entertaining and knowledgeable i.e. the lessons learned and sessions administered.  Although on-line sessions were longer than in-person sessions, I found them to be fun.  

Pamela Dawkins (PARENT of a Summer Camp enrolled child: Maddilynn Moore):

I thought the format and the engagement piece (interactive sessions online) was beautiful and I liked what the program offers.

Yvescar Delva (PARENT of a Summer Camp enrolled child: Christie Raymond): 

It was a good thing, I liked it for my child and every child involved. 

Christie Raymond (SWCDC enrolled Summer Camp participant – STUDENT: promoted to 3rd grade this year):

It was very nice; I liked reading the Velveteen Rabbit story (each chapter) at home and during Literacy class. Learning how to build a story – as for its composition was something I enjoyed lot.  Also, the BTG sessions were fun and interactive! BTG was an informative session and I learned new things, I am glad to have experienced this during the Summer.

The Closing statement…

In closing, as a part of this program my thoughts were that it is essential and the children benefitted from being enrolled and active participants but so did the adult staff, they too were challenged at doing something new.  I applaud the efforts of SWCDC in accepting this new and innovative mode of servicing Summer Camp to the youth.  This was a challenge but it was a good one for all who participated.  I look forward to this again in the event social norm conditions mandate such. 

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