With an Abundance of Caution
We are in full session of camp and our children are enjoying everything that we environmental educators have planned for them. Go for the Gold, Insect Safari, Life in the Sea, Food Explosion, Animal Olympics, Wonderfully Weird, and Sensing Nature are all at full enrollment. Dirt Detectives and Weather-Wise kids went home as a "Camp in a Box" offerings before we were permitted to open on July 6th. and these were very popular.
So, let's take the journey to some of our decision making that had to take place before we were able to open as an "in person" camp.
First, we didn't think that we would be able to open at all. Our neighboring camps were contacted to see what our colleagues had planned. Parents were contacted to get their opinion and it was broad. Some did not want to send their kids out at all, and others could not wait for the children to get out of the house. So, we waited to follow the guidelines that were yet to come. We were all waiting to hear from the governor, and that was a day to day decision based on the scientific data (continuing to this day).
Next, the guidelines, we had to review the documents from the CDC, American Camp Association, and the State and Local Boards of Health. Here we found some specific and some vague information. We took the approach that we would do more than required. For example, masks did not have to be worn within a small cohort group, defined as a family unit. However, now children are wearing them to become "mask tolerant" to prepare for school. We, the adults, are wearing masks and gloves most of the day. About social distancing, did you ever try to keep a 4-8-year-old away from another 4-8-year-old? Moms and Dads know all about this. So, we kept our groups small and we marked spots for each camper. What we normally have is a camp group of 18-20 children at a time during each session. It is now 9. Our ratio of adult to child is 3:10, above the guidelines. We are cleaning and disinfecting before and after all activities above and beyond what is required to keep the children and us all safe. Hand washing is at least twice per hour. Also, doing a temperature check on arrival as required and asking the Covid -19 questions became our routine.
In addition, we rarely plan two camps per week, which now brings our clientele down by half. This pandemic has caused great sacrifice on all parts. We reuse and repurpose as much as we can, we are the frugal society, we watch every expense and still create wonderful activities for the children.
Currently, we depend on our local school decisions as to how our environmental educational group here at the Arboretum will function. Schools will not allow in person field trips and that is much of our fall and spring livelihood. We wait and hope that the virus will be under control by abiding by all guidelines and protocols. We hope that our neighbors are complying as we are on every front. We hope our children will be safe in their schools. Our plan is a reinvention of outdoor science education.
So, to all our devoted members and guests of the Arboretum, we are here, we are relevant, and we continue to abide by the guidelines for campers and guests. As issues evolve, your support is greatly needed and appreciated. Camp is in session and our fall programs are planned.
The future of Environmental Education is another story that may be changing, but isn't everything?