Summer camp: Smaller, more intimate groups plus 'disguised' learning

By ANNELISE DEMERS
Posted 7/23/20

Summer Camp is a right of passage for any child. Playing all day with friends with not a worry in the world. The idea of summer camp has been turned upside down in today's corona world. No intermingling with children outside of your

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Summer camp: Smaller, more intimate groups plus 'disguised' learning

Posted

Summer Camp is a right of passage for any child. Playing all day with friends with not a worry in the world. The idea of summer camp has been turned upside down in today's corona world. No intermingling with children outside of your designated group or pod. Temperature checks and consistent cleanings are only some of the new protocols put in place this year.

Lara D’Antuono, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Warwick, believes this summer will be one the campers and staff will remember forever.

“I think it's super cool and I'm really excited because this is the one opportunity these kids are going to remember this summer for the rest of their life because it's for all the reasons that we know right now.

“How unique, and how cool is it as a counselor that you get to impact these kids. For all these hours for their entire summer, they're building up these special relationships and bonds. These memories are going to be ingrained in who they are and these staff have this unique opportunity to do that and when I talk to them and say, What do you like what do you don't what don't you like? One of the first things that they all say is this unique opportunity to build these bonds and have these special relationships with these kids. Because you're never going to get it again.”

The Boys and Girls Club has changed its summer camp to accommodate the new state regulations. Campers are divided into pods by age limited to 13 campers and two counselors. A majority of the campers will spend their summer at the Norwood or Oakland Beach branch of the club.

Usually the club operates its summer camp at the Masonic Youth Center with 180 to 200 campers. This year there are about 90 campers between the two club branches.

The summer camp program began July 6 and will end August 21 and is available for kids the ages of 6 through 13.

D’Antuono saw the new rules as challenging but not impossible.

“While I think there are challenges, I appreciate the fact that we're trying to keep them safe. But, I would say we haven't found it impossible.” Both the Norwood and Oakland Beach branches have transitioned from childcare to summer camp. Monique Rossi, operation director, was jumping up and down when she learned summer camp rules were going to be more relaxed then childcare.

Liam Donnelly, a 7th grader who attends St. Kevin School in Warwick talked about mask wearing at camp.

“You don’t have to wear a mask, but I choose to. Just to be safe.” It is mandatory that staff members wear a mask throughout the day.

In the late spring the Boys and Girls Club planned on hosting their auction and cash raffle, which helps fund camp scholarships. This event is their largest of the year and can net approximately $80,000. The event was cancelled. Also, the club had to raise the cost of camp from $150 to $200 a week. D’Antuono was saddened the price had to jump. 

“So being a Boys and Girls Club we couldn't do that because we feel that every kid no matter what socio-economic category they're from should have access to it. So through the Champlin Foundation through the Providence Journal fund and some various other opportunities, we were able to give out almost $15,000 in scholarships and we gave priority to working parents because they need to stay employed.”

This year the club awarded $17,510 in scholarships, which equates to 96 camp weeks.

They have added on to the usual summer camp traditions with disguised learning.

When talking to Pod D, a group of 6 and 7th graders, all disliked online learning. They felt that they couldn’t truly learn the material. Three new learning programs have been put in place. Drop everything and read (DEAR), is a program in coordination with the Warwick Public Library. D’Antuono and Rossi explained, “The kids will have five different levels, and they have to pick between a list that's at the top, and they have to do something for about 20 minutes and if they complete each level, the public library will give them a prize. They can read for 20 minutes, they can read to someone for 20 minutes. They can listen to someone read to them for 20 minutes.” 

Social and emotional learning is one of the added features of camp this year. Each grade has a lesson plan designed for them with different topics and challenges. This program aims to help create healthy individuals not just physically but mentally. Some of the topics covered are thoughts on the pandemic, body image, making friends, and the consequences of drugs. Rossi referred to the program as something that will help campers succeed. 

“Set them up to succeed in anything that they do, whether it's school friends how to succeed being a good friend, or being a good team player,” she said.

TheCampers are also working on IXL, a math program used in Warwick schools. They will do this for approximately 20 minutes a day. Rossi also stressed how the club is not supposed to be a school. The club should be fun and always stay fun. 

Normally campers go on field trips at least once a week as well as have visitors from different places like Save the Bay come and talk to them.

These aren’t options now.

D’Antuono with Rossi want to keep camp new and exciting so they found different treats to keep the children engaged. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday food trucks visit the clubs. They do lots of neighborhood walks. An added bonus this year is that campers are allowed to have electronics on them like a phone or a DS. These devices are used during camper’s free time.

Pod A is comprised of the youngest campers. One of their counselors is Jared Cayer who has been a counselor with the Boys and Girls club for six years.

“You have to be wary of germs and how close we get to others and work on getting them into a routine. They are young so you have to remind them to not touch that because someone else touched it. Overall I’m used to a big group but it’s fun to have a small group of campers because you get to know the kids better.”

Pod D is made up of seven children, a mix of 6th and 7th graders run by counselor DaShawn Howland. Madelin McLeam is a 4th-time camper going into the 7th grade at Vets. “I’ve been hanging out with the staff, especially DaShawn, playing card games, going outside, and hanging out.” Along with her friends, Shannon Bryne and Taylor Mooney, they decided to enjoy their free time by performing an impromptu dance show. The other members of pod D watched the show and after each routine was over the campers applauded but the loudest and most enthusiastic applause was coming from Howland. Angel Polanco a returning camper knew exactly why he wanted to come back to the club, he “Comes here to have fun.”

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