From Camp T Director Jill Teegardin
The global pandemic has caused everyone to think differently about work, education, socializing, and daily living. When MDE-LIO began offering distance learning opportunities this year, Camp T staff got on board and began thinking of new ways to connect with campers and their families. After thinking through different options, we concentrated on three specific opportunities: Virtual Family Campfires, Discovery Kits, and Adventure Packs.
Gathering Around the (Virtual) Campfire
Camp T offered four virtual campfire events over the summer: three for families of students who are Blind or Visually Impaired (BVI), and one for families of students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH). Each campfire consisted of an opening cheer, games, a scavenger hunt, and a closing song. These events gave families a way to connect with each other and have fun during uncertain times.
Nature in a Box
In July, dozens of families signed up to receive a Discovery Kit. In fact, Camp T staff ended up shipping 154 kits to students across Michigan! Each kit focused on a specific theme and age level: The Nature’s Way Kit (for ages 5–8) focused on using bodily senses to explore the outdoors. The Amazing Adaptations Kit (for ages 9–12) focused on how animals adapt to the environment they live in. The Soil Science Kit (for ages 13–18) focused on learning about soil texture, layers, and permeability. Each kit consisted of five learning activities, as well as materials and instructions for completing them. We were thrilled to hear that so many families enjoyed their kits:
- “My child was able to do the activities independently or with little assistance. All of the materials for the activities were included in the box and were neatly organized by activity.”
- “She loved the independence of reading the instructions and doing the activities herself. She was so excited!”
- “He kind of groaned about doing something educational, but after one exercise, he was totally hooked!”
- “It was fun to do some hands-on educational activities. She enjoyed some of the activities so much, she wanted to share with extended family.”
Later in the summer, Camp T mailed 122 Adventure Packs to families around the state. These packs consisted of a book and three interactive activities. Three books were available to students based on age group, including Monarch Butterfly (ages 5–8), Summer According to Humphrey (ages 9–12), and The Wild Robot (ages 13–18). A few of the activities included dissecting owl pellets, building butterflies, and participating in a “comedy night” with their families.
As staff members prepared Discovery Kits and Adventure Packs in June and July, Camp T looked a lot like a shipping and receiving center! Supplies were delivered, kits were created (cutting, counting, and packing), address labels were printed, boxes were taped, and staff members bustled to get packages ready. MDE-LIO’s Instructional Materials Center in Lansing was also busy transcribing braille and creating both large-print and regular-print materials. It was a team effort to get all 266 packages prepared and mailed to our campers. Many families submitted photos to MDE-LIO, and it was wonderful to see so many campers having fun with their activities.
Looking back on the summer, Camp T’s “distance camping” activities provided a new way for Camp T staff to connect with students and families from around the state. It was also a great way for staff to think outside the box and keep families engaged and connected while staying at home. This fall and winter, Camp T will offer virtual Family Nature Club events for families of children who are BVI. These events will offer an activity for families to complete at home before joining a virtual hangout with other families. Seasoned Camp T families and new families are encouraged to join in on the fun!
What’s New at Camp T?
Blowing whistles, bouncing basketballs, rolling goalballs, cheering spectators, laughing campers: These are all sounds we can’t wait to hear at Camp T’s new activity center!
We expect to break ground on the activity center this fall as part of the first phase of our facility updates. The center will allow campers to participate in a variety of indoor recreation activities, including goalball, basketball, and soccer. In addition to the new activity center, the entrance to Camp T will be updated, including new signage, a safe entrance, landscaping, and lighting. In the second phase of our facility updates, we will begin renovating part of the maintenance building and create a nature center.
Despite not having campers in person this summer and fall, exciting work is being done at camp! Camp T has been around for many years, and our upcoming improvements will help guarantee that it will be around (and thriving) for many years to come. We can’t wait to share these new updates with families in person in the future!