Covid Careful Camp 2021

check for updates

Last updated: September 7, 2021. This is a living document and will be updated regularly.  The research, guidance and information about COVID 19 is changing constantly. Our experience working with campers on the ground may also inform these plans. Please check back and see how our plans have evolved and changed before your camp or workshop.

why we’ve elected to err on the side of careful

We have made a conscious decision to err on the side of caution in our 2021 COVID policies. We appreciate that families who have medical issues in the household or other reasons to be cautious have been especially isolated during the pandemic, and we want to serve those families.

choosing a covid-careful camp

Covid Careful Campers. We will be asking all campers to thoughtfully consider if they can GENUINELY get behind our covid careful guidelines. We are counting on real cooperation from all our campers to create a safe camp experience for everyone. If you think hand-washing, mask wearing, and physical distancing is NOT something you want to prioritize and be part of, we hope you will find a “pod” that shares your feelings and create some fun with those people. At camp we’re going to err on the side of careful.

No program can be COVID SAFE. There is risk involved attending In Person programs no matter how careful we are. Thus, if there are people in your house that have particular medical vulnerabilities please consider joining one of our virtual programs.

about CDC and local mask guidelines

During the spring and summer of 2021 mask guidelines changed more than once.  Our practice didn’t. We wear masks at camp except when we can reliably social distance.

our experience and practice so far (as of September 7, 2021)

During the month of March 2021 we ran four “practice days” with volunteer campers to test out our covid careful protocols. We adapted GAMES, set up ART SPACES with individual tables for each camper, we made “dots” to establish social distancing during games and circles, we created hoops for our lunch area to define personal space for each camper. On the final practice day we ran a full 9-5 camp day with a full compliment of campers and a  nurse observing us the entire day. We learned a LOT from our volunteer nurse that day and were able to upgrade our protocols significantly for our first In Person camp—- which we ran 9-5 for a week during Spring Break 2021.

During the summer of 2021 we ran 12 back to back camps with different age groups each week; ranging from age 7 to adults. We kept learning the entire summer. In the end, we had no COVID at camp all summer. And I feel good about our experience.

It’s impossible to do social distancing perfectly every minute—- however, we were able to do it very well most of the day with the structures and adaptations and guidance we’ve put in place. During the camp day every single thing we do is tweaked in big or little ways. And each camp is different too— it’s really different putting COVID protocols in place with a group of 7-12 years old at Toys and Games camp, than it is putting COVID protocols in place with a watercolor camp for ages 10- adult. But, all in all,  it is DOABLE, it feels like CAMP, we had a great time and lots of FUN, and the campers were truly willing cooperative partners in all of this. I feel glad that we can provide a place for people to gather, I think we all really need that. We plan to run our Fall-Winter-Spring season camps with the same COVID-careful guidelines.

how we do covid careful camp (as of September 7, 2021)

Our covid careful practice for in-person programs in 2021 include:

  • 100% outdoors (which is standard operating procedure for our spring break and summer camps anyhow.)
  • Small Groups. 12-15 campers per week, and 4-8 staff. We have also learned that even 15 kids, so much fewer than our normal camp size, is still a big group for social distancing, so we are structuring most of our activities to have 2 or 3 smaller groups.
  • Older campers. We are currently serving ages 7-adult. We will not be hosting Art Party or Stepping Stones in 2021. We are sad about this, but do not want to run those camps without the billions of counselors we normally have, and we can’t have that many counselors with our covid careful limits.
  • Physical distancing. We will be asking everyone to maintain 6 foot distancing throughout the day and will be creating an environment that supports this. These supports include:
    • A Monday morning orientation that engages campers to be fully responsible for maintain 6 feet distance or a “crocodile” between them and anyone else. I learned in our March “practice days” that social distancing will not happen unless campers are in charge of this.
    • Dots spaced 6 feel apart in lots of situations—- games, circles, while waiting to get materials or sign up for something etc.
    • Hoops or “chill bubbles”– we created lots of 6 foot hoops that we place on the ground 6 feet away from one another. These “chill bubbles” are all over the orchard and yard and this is where we eat. You can spread out in your chill bubble, take off your mask and eat and relax. We also use chill bubbles for distancing while crafting and dancing and doing many of our activities. And chill bubbles can be used for mask breaks during any activity.
    • We use pool noodles in any tag game. We have adapted lots of games to avoid “clumping”.
    • Small tables for individual work spaces, we purchased enough of these for every camper.
    • 6 foot poles around camp to check distancing.
    • NOTE: unless you live in the same household with someone all the time,  we expect social distancing at camp EVEN if you are in a quarantine pod with someone. So, for example two siblings can sit together or eat in the same “chill bubble” but two friends who are car pooling together and in a quarantine pod together can not. We made this decision to guard against people feeling left out and also because we didn’t feel capable of keeping track of so many things.
  • Mask wearing as needed. Everyone will be asked to have a mask around their necks all the time. If we are doing an activity where we are outdoors, in a small group, settled and reliably physically distanced, masks can be down. If we are doing an activity where we might have brief closer contact, we’ll ask for “masks up”. We also have a “If you are MOVING you’re MASKED” guideline.
  • Frequent hand washing. Everyone will have a small bottle of hand sanitizer clipped on and we’ll all clean hands on cue throughout the day, including during every transition, before eating, before and after picking up tools or materials. When possible Art Camps will have kits that include tools and materials for each camper; musical instruments will be assigned to a specific campers for the week. When tools or materials are shared we teach people to sanitize their hands before and after use. We also spray down shared tools periodically with sanitizer.
  • Health Department  and Medical Team Advisors. Louise attended a series of meetings Chatham County Health Department ran for camp directors. The Health Dept. has been wonderfully responsive to our questions.  We also have a nurse in our camp community with experience handling COVID issues in both school and camp settings who generously responds to our questions with informed guidance in real time.
  • Training for staff. All directors will receive special training focused on Covid Careful best practices. Our staff training for teaching artists, counselors and volunteers will include practice and discussion about these protocols.
  • Vaccination for staff.  We are working only with vaccinated staff or staff who have COVID immunity that meets the CDC recommendations.  Currently people who have recovered from COVID can be considered the same as someone who is vaccinated for 3 months after their infection.
  • Creative preservation of CAMP MAGIC!
    • We are inventing new games and adapting favorite games to incorporate physical distancing while running and tagging and playing hard!
    • Exuberant closeness and connection. We are very aware that camp normally includes lots of hugs and piggy back rides and sitting in laps and puppy piles. We are getting creative about other gestures and things to do that give some of the same happy feelings as a hug, while staying covid careful!

positive things about covid careful protocols

Surprise! Some of the things we’ve done to address safety at camp during a pandemic we actually LIKE. Everything takes more time and more space and it slows things down a little, camp feels more relaxed and spacious. There is a courtesy to the consideration of other peoples personal space; needing to social distance gives meaning to being patient, thinking of others and waiting your turn. The “chill bubbles” at lunch actually feel GREAT. Having your personal space defined and protected for a little while in the middle of the day seems to help people nourish themselves and recharge. Having 15 campers is kind of dreamy. No one gets lost in the shuffle, it’s possible to really connect with every camper.

will I have to wear a mask all day??!!

This is the question we get asked most often, so we thought we’d address it directly!

No, you won’t have to wear a mask all day.
You WILL have to have a mask around your neck and READY to wear all day. and we don’t want a bunch of fuss when we ask for “masks up!”
During transitions, when ever you are moving,  when ever we are together as a whole camp big group, and during activities where there will be brief close contact, we will ask for “masks up”
When people are outdoors, in a small group and  settled in a socially distanced configuration, masks can come down. Different camps have different amounts of mask wearing depending on the activity. Camps that are more active will have more mask wearing.
We create environments that makes it easy to stay six feet apart.
And there are “chill bubbles” all around camp where you can take a mask break when ever you feel like it.

So, for example, when you arrive at camp, put your mask on.
Keep it on while walking to the shelter and putting your stuff in your cubby.
Keep it on while walking to the back field. During morning games masks will be up.
Wear your mask while walking to the morning circle.
In the morning circle, since we are in a big group and don’t have big margins to our social distancing, we keep our masks on.
Wear your mask walking to the orchard for snack.
Once you are in your “chill bubble” masks can come down for eating and socializing.

Wear your mask while walking to morning workshops.
Once you are settled at your work station (for visual arts) masks can come down for the duration of the workshop (till lunch)

Even with our 100% outdoor setting and a lot of cues and structures for social distancing, I found at Earth Romp Camp (spring break 2021) that we had masks up the MAJORITY of the time. Maybe 75% of the time. That was a pretty active camp. Camps like creative writing, felting, ukulele, or watercolor—- where a lot of time is spent settled and working at a personal workstation— it might be more like 50% of the time, or even less.

We really want a smooth safe summer/year of IN PERSON camp! A little mask wearing seems worth that prize!

what parents need to do and think about to support our covid-careful camp

  • CHECK IN WITH  YOUR CHILD EVERY DAY BEFORE CAMP- If they are not feeling well in ANY way, please keep them home. The “COVID SURVEY” is generally done on DAY 1 of camp, but after that we rely on parents to screen their children.
  • If anyone in your household is showing any of the COVID symptoms, or is sick in ANY WAY please keep yourself or your camper HOME. And call the camp director. We will guide you on what to do in order to get back to camp.
  • In case of sickness on the part of your CAMPER or someone in the HOUSEHOLD—- the sick person should be PCR TESTED and receive a negative test BEFORE we can welcome you back to camp. PCR tests are different from rapid tests and normally take at least 24 hours to get results. So, getting tested immediately upon onset of symptoms is what I recommend, that way by the time your symptoms have resolved, you will hopefully have test results. If you wait to get tested you might be feeling better, but still unable to come to camp because you are waiting on test results.
  • ONE DRIVER- To limit exposures, it is ideal if ONE person does all the driving back and forth to camp. If it is possible to have a designated driver for camp, please plan for that.
  • DROP OFF and PICK UP  IN DRIVEWAY- Parents are asked to park only on the EAST side of the driveway (the RIGHT hand side coming into camp.) Parents are asked to stay in their cars. There is a walking path for pedestrians on the East Side of the Driveway—- campers should go directly to the walking path and come into camp.  For younger campers, counselors or staff will meet cars and escort campers into camp at the beginning of the day and to their cars at the end of the day. We can make exceptions to this for new campers on the first day or any camper who is feeling anxious and would benefit from having some parent support with transitions. We normally LOVE to welcome parents into our camp space and encourage parents to join us for any part of the day. This summer we feel our priority needs to be limiting exposures.
  • A TIGHTER QUARANTINE- Please consider strongly having a tighter “bubble” during the camp week.
    • Take special precautions with a parent who is an essential worker. Wear masks even at home, limit contact if possible.
    • Stay home. Eliminate errands and outings when ever possible, skip after camp activities for the week.
  • COMMUNICATE with camp staff and ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION- if you have suspected exposures to people who have COVID symptoms or who have tested positive, please LET US KNOW and consider keeping your child home if the exposure was close or prolonged. (We can also get nurse or health dept. guidance about your specific situation.)

first aid- both physical and emotional

If someone is injured or hurt physically or emotionally our staff, with MASKS ON, may come in close to provide first aid and/or comfort to a camper or fellow staff person. We will err on the side of careful in all daily routines. But we recognize there are times when things are out of daily routine and providing care takes priority.  We will be discussing these kinds of scenarios in our staff trainings and will give our directors the authority to make the judgement call for how to provide care in exceptional situations.

summer camp and workshop registration

    • Sign up Early. With a limit of 12-15 campers many of our programs fill up fast. 
    • Selected Campers. In order to have a good spread of ages, racial and gender balance, and  we will not be running on a strictly “first come first serve” basis. This is to ensure we have a good spread of ages, plus racial and gender balance each week.  We also want to include as many campers as possible in our summer camp season, so we may prioritize getting a camper enrolled for a first camp over a different camper coming to three camps. 

car pooling

Car pooling is set up by parents, not camp, but we will provide contact information so parents in different locations can contact one another. Please respect each families decisions as to what is acceptable to them for managing risk during a pandemic.

Here is a CDC document called “Protect Yourself When Using Transportation” which includes a section on shared rides and carpooling.

what if. . . ?

– there is a stay at home order?

We will honor a stay at home order and we will not hold camp In Person.

– someone in the camp community tests positive for COVID?

According to our Health Dept. contact IT DEPENDS on the exact circumstances and what we are to do if this happens is CONTACT THEM (they have a 24/7 COVID line) and they will advise us. We will not NECESSARILY have to close camp. If  the person has had DIRECT contact with campers, we probably WILL have to close camp. If it’s more indirect. . .  like someone’s parent or sibling (who is not at camp but is at home), then camp might be able to continue.

– if we have to cancel In Person camp, what happens?

Each Camp or workshop will have a plan for this and you will know ahead of time what the plan is. Some camps will have a Plan B Zoom Camp that is offered. Some workshops have a hybrid model where we will meet In Person when ever possible, but if we can not meet in person because of COVID or weather, we meet on Zoom for that particular day.

We have offered lots of  “Hands On Virtual” workshops on Zoom  since summer 2020  and have some excellent experience to bring to zoom camp at this point. We will bring everything we’ve got to a pivot if it becomes necessary: Our talented big hearted staff, our very best ideas, some cool guest artists, a stellar attitude, brilliant creativity, & love and enthusiasm that will travel all the way to your home!