Structure, Strategy, Reflections
Our hope is to empower Girl Scout Camps across GSUSA with structures, strategies, and our lessons learned from our wonderful Camp-In-A-Box.
You are welcome to any of the resources we have here -- take what works for you, adapt it for your flavor -- but most importantly, have a wonderful time providing Girl Scouts with a fantastic experience!
Most Important Things To Know:
Everything needs to have a hands-on component. Otherwise it is a lecture and is boring.
Intentional Downtime - At Camp, Campers get down time to just BE, connect, and integrate what they are learning. We used Unit Time to accomplish this. (See below)
Quality of Items - Spend a little more to get something they will keep forever. Sending Campers $80 of materials with things they will keep, treasure, and inspire exploration is better than $40 of things they will throw away. A $3 compass whose bubble gets in the way of the needle means it is $3 of trash. A $9 quality compass is something they will keep and use, play with and experience for a lifetime.
Zoom is an enhancement, not a requirement. Technology fatigue is real. There is no pressure to attend the Zoom meetings. Activities can be done with their own creativity or followed-along-with later from the recording.
Silliness is important. We loved singing the Announcement Song.
The chat room is like a fidget toy. We left it ON in most cases.
How did this all work?
Campers registered (Google Forms + Square Store / Cookie Dough / Financial Assistance) for a week of Day Camp.
Campers received a comprehensive box of activities with everything needed for a hands-on experience. 100% of items needed for each project was included.
We offered 5 days of 4 sessions each day (Schedule)
10:00am - Opening + Unit Time
11:00am - Activity Session
1:00pm - Activity Session
3:00pm - Activity Session
Thursday: 6:30pm Campfire Celebration
Campers were divided into 4 Units, and grouped into "Youngers" (Yellow) and "Olders" (Blue). We had a 5th group of "Boys Unit" and they attended the Blue sessions.
Each Unit had 1 Adult Leader, and 1 or 2 Teen Leaders (SWAT = Super Wonderful Alpenglow Teens). The Unit Leaders job is to take care of the Campers and create connection, provide help, manage the chatroom.
For each Session, we had a Zoom Host - whose job it was to host the meeting, record to the correct location (Zoom Cloud or YouTube), support the person teaching the class, and manage the technology.
The Teacher of the class was free to teach and be brilliant without the added pressure of managing technology.
3 Woodworking activities (Jacob's Ladder, Bird House, Mini-Cornhole Set
3 Sewing activities (Bean Bags, Crochet, Braided Dog Ropes)
Outdoor Skills (First Aid, Compass, Animal Track Bandanas, Native Plants, Fire Safety, Solar Oven Cooking)
Arts and Crafts (Guided Painting, Kites)
Movement and Mindfulness (Goats and Dogs, Zoom-ba, Mindful Breathing during Flag)
Connection (Sign Language, Unit Time, Zero-Hour Connect with Teen Staff, Campfire, Closing)
We asked families to upload pictures to a shared Google Photos Album and our Friends and Family Facebook Group. We took Screenshots and asked the campers to all look at their campers and say, "Cheese!"
It was a lot of work, 100% worth it, 100% magical!
Unit Time? How did that work?
Campers were loosely divided between "youngers" (Daisy/Brownies) "olders" (J/C/S) (We didn't have any Ambassador Campers).
Within those "youngers" and "olders" we had individual units with 10-15ish Campers (and a Boys Unit of brothers).
Units met their Unit Leaders and Program Aides (Teen Staff) the week BEFORE camp. At this Zoom meeting, the Units selected their Unit Names, got to know each other, considered designs for Unit Flags, Camp Names, Unit Cheers. (Used Breakout Rooms)
Each morning, after Flag, Morning Announcements, Mindfulness Exercise, and Sign Language Lesson, we moved to "breakout rooms."
When logging in, Campers changed their Zoom Name to: #, Name / Camp Name (Unit Number, Camp Name, Real Name) for example: 3, Daisy / Juliette. This made for easy sorting for breakout rooms.
During Unit Time, Campers had an opportunity for share about their day, projects from the day before, make plans for how to do flag, play games (hangman on the whiteboard feature!), get to know each other. DANCE PARTIES were a hit!
Units spent anywhere from 10 - 30 minutes together.
Once their time together was finished, Campers could leave (hang up / leave meeting) to transition to the next Zoom Session.
Make sure the Unit Leaders are set to "Co-Host" so they have the ability to mute participants during the breakout rooms.
Unit Leaders need to wait to be the last to leave the meeting in the breakout rooms, in order to ensure that no Campers were left behind unsupervised.
2 Adult Zoom Staff need to wait in the main room in order to let people in who came in late or had dropped off and re-logging in, and to make sure the room remained supervised.
Logging In To Zoom (or, How to organize many many children and families over technology)
When logging in, Campers changed their Zoom Name to: #, Name / Camp Name (Unit Number, Camp Name, Real Name) for example: 3, Daisy / Juliette. This made for easy sorting for breakout rooms AND supported keeping last names protected on our recordings.
Depending on the Session, Campers logged into the Green, Blue, Yellow, or Purple Room
Yellow Room = Younger Unit Zoom Meeting
Blue Room = Older Units Zoom Meeting
Green Room = Whole Camp Together (Yellow + Blue = Green!). Used for Session 1: Opening/Flag and Combined Sessions (Zoomba! and Camp Closing)
Purple Room = Campfire Celebration, included families and guests.
Families received the Zoom Login information the evening before. Each night's letters included a reminder of the next day's activities and supplies needed.
Cleaned up copy of the Alpenglow Daily Emails.
Daily email outlines were pre-written, so we didn't have to be making it up as we went. #Awesome.
"2020 Family Links" was where we put the daily Zoom Links on the Website. It was used for a quick-find feature for people who couldn't access their emails. Required to be logged in to Google Address to see it. This was a great "Plan B" so people didn't send us emails saying, "I can't find the link." Instead, they were empowered to find it on the website.
Teaching over Zoom & Staff
We had 1 Teacher / 1 Zoom Host who managed the Technology and supported the Teacher.
2 units attended at a time, so we had 2 Unit Leaders (adults) and 1-4 Teen Staff to manage the Chatroom.
Having extra adults on hand really helped.
Prerecorded Videos / Slides (static or with video) helps a TON. That way the Teacher can show a bit, and then talk about it.
When there are a lot of steps, make sure you have their attention, using the same strategies you'd use in a real camp. "When you are ready to listen, put your finger on your nose." Have them say back the instructions. Have them do that one step, have them indicate that they are finished. REPEAT!
We had access to parents if we noticed Campers needed support from frustrations. During registration, we took phone numbers and texting information to be able to reach the grown-ups on the other side of the screen. This only happened once, but I'm glad we were set up to support that camper.
For some campers, we found saying, "If you can't work on it right now, you can watch the replay," and "Some Campers like to watch it all the way through now, and work on the project later with their family." This helped manage meltdowns.
Videos can take a LONG time to upload. Have lots of upload power. Or use another resource with quick uploads.
Plan 3 days in advance for YouTube Live. YouTube requires ~3 days to set up the account and verify. You must also have all of the people who will be broadcasting to YouTube from Zoom, sign-in and have their identity verified through YouTube's processes.
We had a training session for Staff to make sure they all knew how to use it -- even the teachers, with the checklist of what they should know. Each person took turns being the Host to have the ability to try out all of the features.
We matched Teaching Staff who lacked comfort using Zoom with Hosts who were very comfortable.
Zoom Hosts had a Zoom Mod Information checklist to remember what to do each time.
Everyone MUST test their processing speeds. Can they share a YouTube Video AND work Zoom at the same time, or does it get glitchy?
If a Dance Party or Zoomba Party with background music is being broadcast, fix the sound with the setting: "Turn off background noise suppression."
All meeting passwords should be numbers, for ease with participants logging in for audio by phone!
Managing Teen Staff
This is not a training year. The energy it takes to generate enthusiasm over a camera is HUGE. We may be able to provide training opportunities throughout the year, but this is not something we could take on for this program.
Teenagers needed texts, wake-up calls, and support from their own parents to show up at the right place at the right time.
We added parents of Teen Staff to our Staff Facebook and Staff Google Groups in order to support the teens.
We managed the Teens on Band (their app of choice).
At the last minute, our SWATs organized our Camp Mascot to have adventures with the Campers. In an in-person camp, our Mascot would travel with one Unit. To adapt, our Mascot traveled between SWATs, and shared about their time at the end of the day in a video. Tybalt was then passed along to the porch of the next SWAT.
What we'd do differently next time:
Less than 3 woodworking projects, only 1 weaving/sewing project.
No one Staff person should lead more than 3 activities (= 6 sessions). Teaching it twice isn't that big of a deal. The preparation - materials and lesson plans/videos/slides take a lot of time.
Packing boxes is its own job. It is a big job.
If you do a Dance/Zoomba Party, don't be surprised if YouTube flags any copyrighted background music.
Staff -- Have your meals planned add prepared. We move fast from one session to the next, and that really helps to have your food handled!
2020 Family Links - Used for a quick-find feature for people who couldn't access their emails. Required to be logged in to Google Address to see it.
This was a great "Plan B" so people didn't send us emails saying, "I can't find the link." Instead, they were empowered to find it on the website.