With the school year ending and the start of summer, the usual fanfare to kick off freedom and fun has been muffled by Covid-19—not only for children but also for parents. As social distancing persists and masks abound, there are more factors to take into account in planning that trip to the pool, park, or playground, and more vigilance needed when actually there.
Additionally, options for summer enrichment have been severely curtailed. In response to the uncertainty about the coronavirus and its spread, summer camps across the country, for example, have closed, eliminating one beacon of hope for parents to receive a much-needed and well-deserved break from their offspring, especially after this three-month-long juggling act of working and teaching from home.
I’m not yet a parent, but I do have an extremely animated five-year-old brother, and I’m personally relieved to no longer have to force him to sit through daily preschool instruction and weekly class meetings on his iPad. But how will I keep him from spending copious amounts of time watching Paw Patrol this school break? And is there any way to combine fun and learning to help make up for the Covid slide?
In a word, yes! Because just as we did with schooling, so shall we do with summer fun: Go virtual. Here are sixteen virtual summer camp opportunities for students to have some educational fun within the comfort and safety of their homes.
Camp Wonderopolis: A digital learning platform to build vocabulary, science knowledge, reading comprehension, critical thinking, and other literacy skills (grades 2–8, free).
Challenge Island: A STEAM (STEM + arts) project-based learning program with dozens of camp themes from which to choose (grades PK–8, $100-125).
Children’s Museum of Phoenix: Week-long camp offerings on the topics of fantasy, the earth, dinosaurs, and space (ages 4–10, $129).
Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh: Week-long camps designed to explore senses and materials in new ways (ages 3–13, $125-150).
Destination Science: A STEM camp that involves games, challenges, and project-building with a science teacher and video guides (ages 5–11, $200).
Everhart Museum: Week-long hands-on activities and live classroom experiences with museum educators on the topics of nature, art, and mysteries of the ancient world (grades K–6, $15).
Explora: STEAM learning experiences aligned to state standards on topics such as architecture, nature, aerodynamics, and chemistry (grades PK–12, $30-70, excluding computer programming).
Florida Museum of Natural History: Week-long camp sessions on paleontology, animals, and rainforests (ages 6–10, $50), and insect collecting and nature photography (ages 10–14, $120).
Got Game: Credentialed teachers and assistants work on children’s reading and writing comprehension and math skills to prepare for the next grade level ($225 per week).
KID Museum: The camp offerings, led by the museum’s educators and focused on independent “making,” include electronics, coding, 3D design, and space exploration (grades 2–7, $225).
Little Passports: The “world edition” of the summer camp focuses on other cultures (ages 6–10, $125), and the “science junior” edition involves STEAM-based activities (ages 5–8, $150).
MarcoPolo World School: A digital learning platform with a STEAM curriculum that includes video lessons and interactive activities with real-world footage and games (ages 3–7, $10 per month after thirty-day free trial).
Museum of Design at Atlanta: STEAM activities designed to teach design thinking and problem-solving skills with topics such as digital storytelling, robots in space, and videogame design (grades 2–12, $250-325).
Smart Buddies: A two-week coding camp where children receive a coding robot that participates in their classes on variables, sequences, loops, etc. (ages 7–11, $179).
Southern Illinois University: Week-long camp offerings on topics including plants and animals, rivers and the ecosystem, art, and advertising (ages 4–18, $50-87 excluding aviation).
Varsity Tutors: Week-long interactive camps on topics such as Recycled ART, Fractured Fairytales, Make your own LEGO Movie, and Detective: Crack the Case (grades K–12, free).
If Covid-19 has taught us anything positive, hopefully it’s to appreciate the little things and to make the most of what we have. And perhaps one more thing for parents in particular: Be creative in engaging kids in academics and the outside world. While they can’t replace the friendships formed and adventures taken in person, summer learning camps that have gone virtual offer an exciting opportunity to meet other youth and partake in enriching programs from across the country. There is some bright side to all this, and we can enjoy the summer sunshine—even through our windows.