BERLIN – A local nonprofit will host three summer camps in a virtual format this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In July, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) – a National Estuary Program that protects and conserves the watershed of Maryland’s coastal bays – will host three virtual day camps that feature hands-on, interactive activities with educators and scientists.
While the nonprofit will continue to host in-person camps through the Ocean City Recreation and Parks Department in late July and late August, Environmental Coordinator Liz Wist said MCBP has developed virtual camps for three different age groups during the first full week in July.
Using the videoconferencing platform Zoom, kids ages 7 to 13 will have an opportunity to learn about the Coastal Bays watershed. Registered campers will also be given an activity box filled with all the materials they will need for their day at camp.
“We just really wanted to provide an opportunity and see what the response would be,” she said. “What started as an idea in response to coronavirus has slowly warped into something much more.”
Since introducing the virtual camps, Wist said several local and out-of-state youth campers have signed up to participate.
“We now have a chance to reach youth that may not have the ability to even travel to our bays, so we actually have about six youth campers from out of state, one as far as Missouri …,” she said. “I think it also extends to those who can’t normally participate in in-person summer camps because of autoimmune or other illnesses. It gives them an awesome opportunity to engage in hands-on activities about our coastal bays.”
The first session, “Fantastic Feathers and Fins,” will be held on July 7 from 10-11:30 a.m. for children ages 7-8. The second session, “Crazy Creatures of the Coastal Bays,” will be held on July 9 from 10 a.m. to noon for children ages 9-11. The third session, “What Lies Beneath,” will be held on July 10 from 10 a.m. to noon for children ages 12-13.
“Each age group has different lessons,” Wist said, “so each camp is structured differently.”
Wist said activity boxes – which could include a nature journal, magnifying glass, specimen jar and identification pages – will be delivered to campers before virtual day camps begin. Guardians will also receive information on the Zoom link and parental guidance.
“A lot of students now, due to the way this spring was structured, are used to online virtual platforms,” she said. “Because of that, we thought this would be successful.”
Wist explained each camp session will be limited to 10 participants. Each session will feature activities, breakout lessons, guest appearances and videos.
“We view this as a big smorgasbord of fun opportunities, so we are going to complement the camp by making some videos of us out in the field,” she said. “We don’t want to just give them lessons, but we also want them to see the ecosystems we engage in.”
Registration is $15 per camper and will include an activity box of materials. For more information, contact Liz Wist at email@example.com.
“What we want to do is to encourage these campers to start thinking like scientists and make good observations about the natural world and have positive environmental experiences, keeping it as fun and lighthearted and creative as possible,” she said.