DENTON — Traditional summer camps in Caroline County took a virtual turn in response to the COVID-19 restrictions. Under the direction of Caroline County Recreation and Parks, camp programming is free, open to all students in Caroline County, involves minimal transportation and is extended to seven weeks.

Program Services Division Supervisor Stacy Seward said, “Our team transformed the four-day-a-week, in-person Summer Learning Centers program traditionally delivered within five weeks in three elementary schools into the Virtual Caroline Camp Network (VCCN). These include weekly Camp-In-A-Box deliveries with program supplies and equipment for students to participate in a variety of fitness, STEM, character building, arts, literacy and math enrichment activities all summer long.”

Supported by funding through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program and the Maryland State Department of Education, CCRP has transformed the General James F. Fretterd Community Center in Denton into the production epicenter to produce the virtual camp video content uploaded every Monday morning to the Google Classrooms. Campers still receive healthy meals delivered with the Camp-in-a-Box supplies each week in partnership with CCPS Food Service Program, and weekend backpacks in partnership with the local nonprofit, Food for Learning. Registration is at 220+ and, Seward said, “There is always room for more!”

“This has been fantastic,” said Jess Swann, teacher at Greensboro Elementary School and parent of first-grader Alice Swann. “This has engaged my daughter in all the subjects. I am not creative, so it’s not easy for me to develop all the crazy make-a-volcano type activities. We do these together and have such a good time.”

Swann further noted the videos have really inspired her as a professional educator to rethink how she can better format her digital classroom for the school year start in late August.

Renee Barringer, mother of Aubrey, age 5, noted that even going on vacation is a challenge.

“Aubrey tells me: ‘I have to get my points, Mom!’ In fact,” Barringer explained, “if her fourth-grade buddy James is doing VCCN activities, Aubrey must do them as well. She lives for the Camp-Box delivery and wants to engage in every challenge.”

Each camp week is shaped around a theme. This week it is Pirate Treasure Hunt, next week Under the Big Top and a final week of Summer Olympics.

“The themes keep it creative and fresh for the program directors and their assistants,” noted Nicole Scott, one of five camp-team content directors. “The pre-recorded content is also supported with live instruction by CCPS certified teachers every day to reduce learning loss in reading and math and inspire practice and play in these subjects.”

Scott added, “When kids are having fun and engaged, learning happens. That’s our goal.”

Aubrey Berringer’s quest for points is part of the engagement strategy. When campers post pictures of their completed activities or videos of their fitness challenge into the Google Classrooms portal, they earn points on a leaderboard.

“Not only are we tracking camper engagement, which our funders love,” Seward said, “we can reward them with special prizes that we include in their post Camp Box delivery based on the points achieved.”

To find out more about the Virtual Caroline Camp Network and check out some of the videos, visit the Caroline County Recreation and Parks Facebook page or carolinerecreation.org. Registration is free.

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