Ian C, nutrition camp.jpg
Ian Corazao, son of TWU graduate student Marc Corazao, and his wife, Michelle, learns to make Sloppy Joes during TWU's Summer Nutrition Culinary Camp. The camp, along with the Digital Days camp (photo below) moved online due to COVID-19. (Courtesy photos)

Camps forge ahead in online format

Some of TWU’s homegrown summer camps moved online in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, with faculty, staff, students and departments pulling together to make the camps a success.

When organizers of the sixth annual Summer Nutrition Culinary Camp had to scrap the plans for an in-person event, nutrition & food sciences faculty member Kathleen Davis, Terry Scholar Anne-Marie Alford, and the camp student leadership team decided to hold a virtual camp.

More than 100 children ages 7 to 17 registered for the camp. In addition to children of TWU students, faculty and staff, campers were from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Houston, Lubbock, El Paso, San Antonio, New York and Florida.

The children and their parents cooked recipes for lunch and a snack each day in small Google Meet groups, with two student volunteers to advise them.

Davis also had help from other departments on campus:

  • Fitness & Recreation instructors created age-appropriate fitness videos for campers to use
  • Michelle Reeves (health & wellness initiative) provided small stipends to help the nutrition and food sciences student leaders
  • Amy O’Keefe (CARE) offered to have her graduate assistant, Jackie Macias, and student assistants help run technology
  • Volunteers from the Food & Nutrition Network student organization, the TWU departments of nutrition & food sciences in Denton and Houston, and CARE assisted with the camp
  • The regional association of dairy farmers, Dairy MAX, with the assistance of TWU Advancement, provided 12 families eligible for free or reduced school lunch with Target gift cards in order to help offset their grocery costs

Participants normally pay to attend the camp. This year was different.

“We wanted to do something for the community and give kids and parents something to do, including those who might not be able to afford it — like student parents,” Davis said. “I had wanted to do more scholarships for the face-to-face version in the past. With the increased hardship COVID-19 meant for many, (department chair) Shane Broughton authorized offering it for free.”

Pioneer Digital Days Camp

When the Pioneer Digital Days Camp launched in 2019, the power went out 10 minutes into the first day of camp. Campers pressed on, with direction from TWU faculty and students leading the camp, making their own lights with circuitry, robots, digital storying and phone “hot spots” for access.

This year, with COVID-19 closing campuses, organizers again adapted and moved the camp to a virtual format.

Sharla Snider, literacy and learning faculty member, noted that new ways of using tablets, smartphones and computers “have changed our lives. In the time of COVID-19, these tools have become windows into our world and have prompted the use of both high- and low-tech items.”

The purpose of the Pioneer Digital Days Camp is to help young children and their parents be effective digital citizens and learners in the new virtual age. Faculty and graduate students in the early childhood education program’s “Brain-Based Learning for the Young Child” class hosted the camp July 13-17. Using brain-based learning strategies and a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) framework, the graduate students developed activities based on the “Theory of Loose Parts” and various parent education platforms to provided practical experiences in the course and camp.

The weeklong camp took place in small, collaborative online Zoom meetings, with 24 children ages 2-9 exploring various types of Tinker Stations, low- and high-tech activities, and educational presentations. Parents learned healthy digital culture parenting skills and brain-based learning strategies to support their children’s learning experiences at home.

Snider said the final outcome of the course will be an online community Makerspace that will engage the families in extensions of their camp experiences and continued creation of their “Family Tinker Stations.”

The camp is offered free to the community.

“The camp is part of practical experience for our students and represents our QEP Mission — Learn by Doing,” Snider said.