A Remarkable Week that Proved Summer Camp Magic Survives the Pandemic

Posted by Andrea Stutesman on June 28, 2020

Well, 2020 has been a difficult year to say the least. From the child's perspective, their lives were completely transformed in the blink of an eye. Seeing their classmates, friends and family in person quickly turned into online learning, staying indoors, and wearing masks when in public. From my perspective, these last few months have been some of the most challenging work of my life. As a member of the marketing team, I had to get the word out about our new adapted programs immediately while still also helping develop them. I worked with different teams, everyday things changed and my work was different. It was exhilarating, stressful, exciting and emotionally draining—quite the learning experience and one that I will never forget.

As summer was rapidly approaching, the organization made the difficult decision to temporarily furlough some of their year-round-staff—and I was one of them. While I had the option to file for unemployment, I felt it was the right decision to stay on as an instructor in the field. I wanted to reconnect with our mission and spend time with kids in the great outdoors. I started out at Avid4 Adventure as a Survival Skills instructor four summers ago and I still remember the magic effect that outdoor adventuring for a week had on kids. Given the circumstances of a global pandemic, this magic was going to be more important than ever and I wanted to be a part of it.

survival skills

Fast forward to my first week of instructing Camp at Home. At first, I was nervous. There was a lot of pressure to make sure that the first week of summer camp—the first week to truly just have fun and be a kid again in a long time for these kids—would be perfect. Nevertheless, I put together a plan using our curriculum guide and my past survival skills knowledge, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

After the first day, I knew the week would be just as curative for me as it was for the kids. I had the honor to lead The Flying Otters—a wonderful group of girls in Boulder and we had SO much fun. Some of the week's activities included cooking pizza in solar ovens, doing an urban scavenger hunt while riding bikes downtown, learning to use a compass, making popcorn on a camp stove, telling ALL of the riddles, dipping our feet in the creek to cool off, learning all of the Leave No Trace principles, playing fun outdoor games while incorporating the garden hose, learning to build shelters, going for a hike, spotting a bear, learning what to do when you see a bear, identifying new plants, writing in our adventure journals, making bracelets out of yucca plants, making gnome homes, and writing and acting out a play summarizing everything the group learned from the week! Our entire week included precautionary measures to be extra safe like frequent hand washing, social distancing and wearing masks when that wasn't possible.

Gnome Homes

One of the most memorable activities we did is simple enough to do right in your backyard. I'll admit, even I made one and had a blast! Gnome homes are small homes made of natural materials no larger than your arm, from your elbow to the tip of your fingers. They offer all of the benefits of teaching kids how to make natural shelters while being safer and having less of an impact on the environment (we disperse all materials at the end after we take pictures).

gnome home

Not to mention, it's much easier to add in all of the amenities like a fire pit, boat dock and furniture with smaller materials. Kids have to build their shelter to hold up against the wind test (camper blows on their home), the rain test (a few drops from a water bottle poured on the mini shelter), and the earthquake test (campers stomp near the shelter to make sure it's sturdy).

gnome home

These activities were so much fun for the kids. And honestly, I had just as much fun right alongside them after some of the most difficult work I've ever done, simply because I let myself be a kid for the week. I can't imagine what it has been like being a parent through all of this, but after a week of laughs and adventures, I would highly recommend taking a brief pause from the world around you and fully participating in some fun outdoor activities with your kids. You might be drained of energy, but you'll be full of joy and a renewed sense of hope that everything is going to be ok.

Topics: Adventure Stories