Two boys hold books out of a car window while participating in a social distancing school event in Tennessee. Photo credit: Shawn Millsaps / Save the Children 2020.

As Save the Children’s award-winning SummerBoost Camp went remote and virtual for the first time ever, it brought communities together even if coronavirus concerns forced them to be apart. Photo credit: Shawn Millsaps

Summer Camp Gets a Virtual Boost

Amidst Coronavirus Concerns, Award-winning SummerBoost Camp Goes Virtual

As families across the United States adjust to continued COVID-related guidelines this summer, Save the Children is responding to the needs of the nation’s most vulnerable children. That meant reimagining our pioneering SummerBoost Camp to have kids participate virtually while still benefitting from all the program has to offer. 

After a school year unlike any other, many kids would just want to spend the summer of 2020 running through the sprinkler and staying as far away from a book as possible. But now more than ever, after months away from the classroom, children need to keep their brains active to avoid summer learning loss.

Without regular access to books and math activities, many low-income children lose up to three months worth of reading and math skills over the summer. That’s why it was so important to ensure Save the Children’s SummerBoost Camp, an award-winning program that mixes academics with games, physical activities and community building, went on this summer, even if it was a remote experience.
 
For some, the camp wasn’t entirely remote. A school community in Tennessee decided that the end of the first-ever virtual SummerBoost Camp was a cause for celebration – a socially distant celebration, of course.
 
Students, parents and staff participated in a parade to mark the end of a successful and fun summer program. Students riding in vehicles decorated with balloons and signs made their way around the football field, while staff distributed books, learning resources, and items from Save the Children partner Kinder along the parade route.
 
“All of our parents and kiddos were overwhelmed and grateful for everything they received from Save the Children and Kinder Joy,” Shelby Eriksen, Program Specialist for Save the Children in Tennessee, said. “We feel like although this summer was a new learning experience for all of us, the feedback from our families was overwhelmingly positive.”
 
The school was one of 12 SummerBoost sites in Tennessee, where students had meals and kits for activities delivered to their homes by bus twice a week.

SummerBoost Camp, which was named a 2017 New York Life Excellence in Summer Learning Award winner by the National Summer Learning Association, isn’t all work and no play. Even in a virtual setting, the program provides opportunities for physical activities as sites distributed fitness calendars, as well as student/family weekly physical activity challenges and materials.
 
During the four-week program, which spanned the entire month of June, the nearly 800 SummerBoost camp students at the 12 sites in Tennessee read a total of 5,000 books, completed nearly 15,000 activities and submitted 11,000 pictures.
 
“I feel like we made a really huge impact,” said Chapple Osborne-Arnold, who serves as Deputy State Director. “This was a very successful summer, more than I think any of us could have imagined.”

The Volunteer State wasn’t the only one taking part in the virtual SummerBoost Camp fun. Thanks to Save the Children supporters, our innovative national staff, passionate colleagues on the ground and our dedicated partners, kids in Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Washington and West Virginia are also staying engaged in learning this summer. The virtual camps were designed for support online, as well as by phone and by mail to reach many of the participating families that do not have internet access.
 
“I think the kids may have started the summer a bit disheartened because they knew how much fun they had in the past during a normal SummerBoost experience,” Eriksen said. “This was going to be virtual and it was going to be different, students had been out of school for months and I was thinking that they’re not going to want to start picking up new things. But to see the response of so many kids really enjoying the virtual camp was very exciting for me.”

You're not alone. As a national leader in early childhood education, Save the Children will continue to support and supplement learning – whether it takes place in-person, virtually or in a hybrid model, in the nation’s most rural communities. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been publishing free learning resources and materials to help parents and caregivers, including weekly activities and tips on how to help children cope with school closures.

With your help, we are also working to make sure kids can learn and get the nutrition they need during this crisis, with more than 300K kids served and 6 Million meals prepared and delivered.

In the months ahead, Save the Children will continue to ensure children receive nutritious meals whether in a school building or at home. Learn more about our response to COVID-19 and work across America to keep children healthy, educated and safe.

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