California Virtual Summer Camps
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Posted by: Russell Hill, University of California
In response to Shelter in Place restrictions due to COVID-19, which prevented in-person overnight and day camp opportunities for California’s youth, a team of UC ANR academics and staff united to provide engaging summer activities to provide virtual spaces for youth peer interactions and foster youth-adult partnerships. A national survey of adolescents indicates, “School closures and sheltering at home in the COVID-19 pandemic isolate children and adolescents from peers, teachers, extended family, and community...fully one-third of adolescents reported high levels of loneliness.” (Loades ME et al., 2020)
A partnership among 4-H academics, campus specialist, county staff, volunteers and teens, Research and Extension Center staff, and the California 4-H Office, developed, planned, and delivered the first-ever 4-H virtual camps in California: Our Wild California and 4-H Grown at Home. www.ucanr.edu/virtualcamp1 www.ucanr.edu/virtualcamp2 are the websites we developed to promote, market and detail the camp offerings.
Planning for these virtual camp opportunities began on April 23, 2020, with a launch date of June 13 for the first camp. During this period, we “learned by doing” and developed two weeklong day camps offered virtually using the Zoom platform. Each camp included 3 activity options in the morning and three options in the afternoon. Activity sessions were hosted by 4-H staff, academics, certified 4-H volunteers and teens. 4-H County Ambassador teams were recruited to lead ice breakers and team building activities during morning and afternoon sessions. Our Wild California virtual camp, held during the week of July 13, 2020, offered 108 youth campers from 18 counties the opportunity to learn about the natural environment. The weeklong camp is comprised of various activities designed to grow youths’ appreciation for nature. 4-H Grown at Home, held during the week of August 3, 2020, offered 105 youth campers from 22 counties the opportunity to explore the natural world from their home.
More than 70% (n=69) of youth campers agreed virtual camps provided them opportunities to explore something they really care about, and 62% reported their camp participation helped them feel more connected to other youth.
“I think that most everyone communicated really well, and the events ran really smoothly. Everyone was so nice and friendly, and I felt really welcome to participate as a teen volunteer.”- Teen Volunteer
“…there are more friendly people in the world than you think.” – Youth Camper
We are now in the process of synthesizing all of the evaluation data and all the assets created to host the camps so that we can create resources for our colleagues, volunteers and others to use as they move forward with their own virtual camps. Once we have these resources available we will let you all know.