We asked Moorelands Camp Director, David Borsook, how he felt about Moorelands’ Virtual Camp 2021. As he answered, you could hear the smile in his voice. “One of our program goals – both in 2020 and this summer – was to find ways to keep the kids feeling connected and growing through their time spent with us.” That’s a key goal in a regular camp season. We focus on kids making positive connections with each other, with camp staff and connecting to the camp community. It has always been a camp goal – returning to our Four C’s introduced in 1972.
Overcoming Covid Challenges
COVID, and the need to meet virtually, presented a new challenge – how to keep kids feeling connected to camp when we couldn’t be together in person. So why the smile? Because David knows camp exceeded this program goal. “The Moorelands Camp team turned a tough situation into a ‘win’ for both our kids and their families.”
“It took a lot of work and commitment from the staff, but we’re confident we delivered on every one of the virtual camp program goals, and Zooming into homes to deliver camp to kids gave us a new opportunity to deepen our relationships with families.”
Working Together with OCA Camp Partners
David should know. In summer 2020, David took a volunteer role with the Ontario Camp Association’s (OCA) Standards Review Committee. This accredited teacher and Camp Director was one of twelve volunteers committed to reviewing the 600+ OCA standards, based on decades of camp experience and current best practices, guiding accredited camps in Ontario. Then COVID struck, and David and Steve Archibald from Camp Medeba, were tasked to create the definitive Virtual Camp Programs Guide to assist all Ontario camps in navigating the pandemic. The two reviewed all 600 existing standards, tweaked some and created new ones to handle the new challenges of online program delivery. Putting together a working group of five, the group reviewed current best practices, research and regulations, to create guidance on such important topics as online privacy, using apps for program delivery, staff training, and online safety. In spring of 2021, the OCA Virtual Camps Guidance Document was released to all members of the OCA. This guide is meant to be a foundation piece for all accredited camps on delivering excellence in virtual programming while creating a safe space for children.
Virtual Camp Helps Kids Gain Skills
When we asked David what he missed the most this summer, his answer was instant and clear – “The kids! They need to be here, getting outside and laughing together under a night sky with stars. I’ve been a camper since I was 6-years old. I attended day camps and overnight camps. Camp influenced my decision to become a teacher. I chose to focus on outdoor education and, specifically, overnight camps—and ultimately Moorelands Camp—because I believe that overnight camp gives kids the best chance to grow their ‘soft skills’—what we develop through the Moorelands kids’ Habits & Qualities—and independence. I’m proud of the work I’ve done as a teacher and proud of the way my colleagues focus on teaching math, literacy and numerous other necessary skills. I think a school day is already crammed with learning, but not all kids learn the same way or at the same time. I know Moorelands Camp is my best way to help kids learn more critical skills that lead to life success. After all, Camp is where I learned mine.”
Fesitve Fridays – Keeping Kids Connected Year-Round
So why the smile when you talk about our camp families? “Because by taking camp to our kids in their homes, we found ways to share our activities and intentional learnings with the whole family. We started a monthly, Virtual Camp and Games Night, “Moorelands Festive Fridays,” as a connection piece for the entire family. It provided us with an opportunity to connect as a community beyond the summer and further strengthen our relationships with parents and all family members. It has been so successful that we decided to make it a permanent part of our camp program.”
To wrap up our conversation, we asked David what was giving him the most joy this year.
“The new and deeper connections we have with our families. Parents are engaging with us in ways they never have before. They are connecting us to other communities that need what we have to offer. One mom told us that they see us, not only as a program for their child, they see Moorelands Camp as a community the whole family are a part of!”