There’s a particular kind of magic that happens when young people and adults gather for summer camp. The blend of laughter, friendship, song, campfires, learning, and games combine to create a sense of belonging that children cherish and remember for the rest of their lives. Camp creates community.
But what happens when we can’t gather? What happens when a worldwide pandemic threatens to cancel summer camp for our children?
The good news is campers and camp people are resilient. Camp uniquely prepares youth for the unexpected. Every day presents new challenges and obstacles that they must learn to overcome and navigate with their fellow campers. Of course, the adults are also learning and adapting right alongside the kids. In early March, when it became clear that the effects of COVID-19 might extend into the summer months, the nationwide camp community began to mobilize and put their resilience skills to work. Within days new support groups, webinars, and virtual camp ideas started flooding the internet. Camp inspires creativity and collaboration, and that’s exactly how camps have responded to this crisis—with compassion and collective action.
Camp Quest’s humanist, secular camp communities are no exception. Our camp network spans thirteen states and hosts over 1,000 young people every summer. In fact, 2020 marks Camp Quest’s twenty-fifth summer of fun, friends, and freethought. Our leaders always keep the safety of campers as our number-one priority. While it’s still too early to know the full impact of the pandemic, our camps are already preparing to ensure that campers have a safe and fun experience this summer—whether they gather in person or online. We’re also posting regular updates to our website about the status of camp programs.
While schools are closed, we’ve been working to provide campers and their families with extra support. We launched Camp Quest At Home, featuring virtual events and online activities that campers can do from their living rooms and backyards. Our first event, Socrates Cafe, is a virtual version of a favorite activity where campers discuss big philosophical and ethical questions. This online session filled up within twenty-four hours. Since we started meeting three weeks ago, campers have discussed ethical dilemmas, pondered whether we can predict the future, and explored whether we should genetically modify humans. The depth of their conversations would surprise many adults. Our campers know that Camp Quest is the place where they can push themselves and their ideas to new horizons.
In addition to planning more virtual events, Camp Quest is doing what we do best—asking questions! Every day we’re posting a new question to our Facebook page for young people and their parents to explore together, along with a suggested activity. We’re also supporting parents by providing a weekly newsletter featuring family-friendly podcasts, games, and activity suggestions. Sign up for our newsletter and select “weekly at-home activity ideas” to get more fun ideas delivered straight to your inbox.
We’re grateful to have partners at the American Humanist Association’s Center for Education. Now, campers can complete a humanist activities workbook and earn an AHA badge and Camp Quest backpack if they complete all the activities. Even more activities that help children explore the philosophy of humanism are available on our website.
Of course, this is a challenging time for parents too. Navigating the sudden flood of online learning options—and the safety concerns that come with them—can be overwhelming. Being at home together is a great time for parents to talk with their kids about internet safety. We’re committed to ensuring our campers feel just as safe online as they do at camp. That’s why we created this video that outlines tips for safely interacting with others online.
While camp in person is definitely preferable, there are plenty of benefits that campers gain from virtual camp. Campers from Virginia to California are getting to interact and discover that their camp community isn’t constrained by physical boundaries. Children are learning that they’re not alone, even while they and their families are practicing social distancing. Together, campers are finding creative ways to thrive.
Camp Quest is a community built around empathy, critical thinking, and a commitment to living our humanist values. Campers need us in this challenging time, and we need your support to keep our campers connected. Please donate to support Camp Quest today. If you would like to support our online programs, or to suggest an activity, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.