As it turns out, your child doesn’t have to miss out on summer camp this year after all.
With the recent debut of virtual summer camps and a nearby Family Camp in Harrisonburg, your children can still get similar camp experiences that they’re longing for. But if those two just won’t cut it—Congressional Camp has stepped in.
Despite a summer mostly defined by COVID-19, the traditional, large-volume summer camp organization is debuting in-person summer camps for 2020 starting today, July 6, just with some new rules and restrictions in place.
“I think certainly the parents are happy to hear we are doing it,” says Dan O’Neil, director of auxiliary programs at Congressional Camp.
As many things will, the newly designed, modified mini camps will look a little different than years past, with rules requiring a six-week-long day camp where children will be kept in groups of 10 or less, with two counselors for every group.
Each day will still be filled with traditional activities such as ropes courses, archery, swimming, arts and crafts, sports and educational experiences, but the organization has added reading time and STEM time to encourage further independent learning and offer an opportunity for students who are trying to “fill the gap” from missed instruction due to COVID-19 and virtual learning.
“These times aren’t traditionally part of our day camp, but with the way some of the spring semesters and school years ended for people, we wanted to add a little more of an educational side to our summer program because we feel like the kids really need it,” says O’Neil.
Although around 160 kids will still be attending in-person camp this year, versus the projected 2,400 in original registrations before the pandemic began, O’Neil says there are still things to look forward to about hosting NoVA- and DMV-based children this summer.
“I think one of the things we’re certainly looking forward to is that energy on campus,” says O’Neil. “Whether it’s seeing the kids tackle the climbing wall, or swimming in the pool, just all of those fun noises you hear from all of the activities around the campus. I know as a father of three (who all will be attending), I think I am excited for them to have that social interaction and growth, to connect with old friends and meet new ones, and just get that personal interaction that we haven’t been able to do.”
If you’re still wondering how the students will continue to be kept safe, even in what O’Neil calls their 10-person “cohorts,” here’s the rundown: The campus is providing masks to all of its attendees to be worn indoors when they are not social distancing, and the masks are optional when the students are outside. Plus, many of the activities will be taking place in makeshift outdoor “classrooms,” as well as a heavy emphasis put on not sharing materials and maintaining cleanliness through hand washing, hand sanitizer and more.
“We used to be really big on washing hands before and after meals [with the kids],” says O’Neil. “But we’ve taken a number of steps, from bringing in portable sinks to bathroom trailers, and now we’re going to be insistent on washing hands before and after every activity.”
Otherwise, the students will be kept in their 10-person groups for the entire six-week period, with no large assemblies or gatherings to maintain safety for everyone involved.
For those who are interested in Congressional Camp but missed the deadline for in-person camp, check out its virtual camp offerings here. For more information on how the organization continues to serve the community and will maintain the CDC’s safety standards through the summer, check out its website.
As for looking ahead to next year, O’Neil has his sights set on having students back in school in the fall rather than dreaming up the summer of 2021.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming students back in the fall, and camp gives us a great chance to really work through all of the kinks of that,” says O’Neil. // Congressional Camp: 3229 Sleepy Hollow Road, Falls Church
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