Meghan Clark, Chief Operating Officer of Whitaker Center, answers some of the questions parents should be asking about summer camps before enrolling their child this year.
Q: 2020 was certainly not a fun summer for kids with many camps closing or doing virtual-only models – What types of camps are you offering this year? Are they in person? Virtual? Hybrid?
A: Whitaker Center is offering in person summer camps for the 2021 season. We will host 7 weeks of camp that include Girls in STEM, weeklong STEM Camps for grades K-6, two-day STEM Camps for grades 7-9, and Musical Theater Camp. We were very successful in holding in person summer camps in the summer of 2020 and feel we can continue that model in the coming summer.
Q: For in-person camps, how many children are you allowing per camp? Are you also reducing the number of staff?
A: Our camp capacity depends on the age group and ranges from 20-30 campers. Whitaker Center maintains a staff to student ration of 10:1 (or better) for all of our camp experiences.
Q: What safety measures are you taking to ensure the campers’ safety? What does drop off or pick up look like for parents?
A: We are maintaining the Health and Safety Procedures that we implemented last summer for student and staff safety. Our procedures follow the CDC guidelines and PA Department of Health guidelines. These protocols involved temperature checks each morning for students and staff, continual mask wearing, social distancing, and frequent handwashing and hand sanitizer.
One of the best changes we made last summer was the contactless drop-off and pick-up procedures. A masked, Whitaker Center staff member approaches the car and asks the name of the student and who will be picking them up. The temperature of the student is then taken and they are permitted to say goodbye and exit the vehicle. The staff member then walks the student into the building.
At pick-up, a Whitaker Center staff member approaches the car and asks for the child’s name and the adult’s name. The adult must show ID and match the name given in the morning. Once this verification is done, the staff member pages the student and they are escorted to the car for departure. This process worked seamlessly and allowed for quick entry and exit to camp each day. We are excited to continue to implement this process again this summer.
Q: What kinds of things are you doing to ensure parents still feel like their kids are getting the full camp experience? A lot of parents want to make sure their kids are receiving instruction or sharpening their skills in a particular area – some want their children just to relax and have some fun. Are you doing anything to make sure the kids aren’t receiving the “watered down” version of camp while still being safe?
A: Whitaker Center prides themselves in their camp offerings. Each spring, the Education Department writes new curriculum and activities for each summer camp. This allows us to keep the programs fresh and to continually develop age-appropriate, engaging activities. Over the last two summers, this curriculum writing process has included the development of activities and opportunities that align with the Health and Safety Procedures as well. This continued growth in our camp programming truly makes the camp experience a valuable one for all students- and they are a lot of fun too!
Q: What kind of physical space will Whitaker have to ensure their campers can socially distance from one another and what sorts of recommendations would you make to other camps regarding physical space if they are limited to a specific space?
A: Whitaker Center has large classrooms on our lower level that will be utilized for camps. We will also be using our open lobby spaces for games and activities that involve more movement for the students. Musical Theater camp takes place in our Sunoco Performing Arts Theater where there is plenty of room for song and dance. Finally, we are working with a local partner to expand into their spaces, if needed, to ensure the everyone has the space they need to execute their camp activities safely.
Q: One of the first things we were told at our office before the shutdown, was that we should stop all “food sharing” (for instance, candy or cookies in a breakroom or ordering a pizza to split for lunch). Are you recommending kids bring their own lunches? Or are you instilling certain protocols for any snack/lunchtime among the campers?
A: At Whitaker Center, campers bring their own lunch each day. They are provided with an individually wrapped morning and afternoon snack each day of camp. We will be continuing many of the protocols for snacks and meals again this year. A trip to the restroom to wash hands before and after all snacks and meals will take place. Campers will be required to bring a disposable lunch bag (brown paper or plastic bag), disposable water or drink bottles, and students will be seated at the tables in a socially distant manner. These mealtime protocols worked well last summer and we will continue them this summer.
Q: How much has COVID changed the curriculum of your camps? Are there major differences in the activities two years ago vs. this upcoming summer?
A: As mentioned above, the curriculum for summer camps is developed each year by the Education Staff and grows with trends in education and the community. The recent implementation of the Health and Safety Procedures has pushed the educators to create alternatives to the large group, collaborative projects. They have been stretched to find new approaches to get kids collaborating and communicating on projects while remaining physically further apart and in small groups. This change in teaching style has made them better educators and allowed for students to increase their flexibility with new styles of learning in the classroom.
Q: Are you requiring vaccinations or a physical from a certified physician prior to enrollment this summer?
A: At this time, there is no vaccine approved for children 16 and under. We will not be requiring a physical form for those attending camp.
Q: Will you be requiring any sort of waiver to be signed by parents regarding COVID protocols or legal responsibilities of the camp/camper? Do you require a signed waiver regardless and does that waiver look different this year?
A: Whitaker Center for Science in the Arts has a set of acknowledgements that take place at the time of registration. These acknowledgements include health information was disclosed and the understanding of pick-up and drop-off times, to name a few. This summer, we will not be requiring a more specific waiver.
Q: What kinds of questions do you recommend parents ask before enrolling their child into a camp this summer?
A: Before enrolling I would ask the facility about their Health and Safety Procedures, if the have done any in person programming in the past year, and how they are keeping campers and staff safe. These are the most frequently asked questions when parents call Whitaker Center for information about camps.
Q: Do you have any other advice for parents as they are enrolling or evaluating summer camps this year?
A: I would encourage parents or guardians to call or email with any questions or concerns you may have before enrolling in camp. There are programs, like Whitaker Center Summer Camps, that have held programming successfully over the past year and have protocols in place to make it a wonderful summer for your camper!