Transcript of our interview with Julia, Sr. Director of Strategic Innovation
What is unique about Pickering College Summer Camps?
Our summer day camp is really unique because we both build on the traditional summer camp experience with a primarily outdoor education-based camp, and we combine it with projects and exciting technology innovations with a different theme every week of the summer.
What type of child is successful at Pickering College Summer Camps?
I really think our camp has something for everyone. We know that kids love big outdoor games and we have a big outdoor game every day. We know that kids love crafts and we have a lot of different opportunities for both traditional arts and crafts with more building and steam machine-based building activities. We have sports and general activities throughout the day.
We are also super fortunate that we have a farm that's been bequeathed to the school that’s a short five-minute drive away. And every week we have a big cookout and campout day at the farm with some exciting team-building, whole-camp game or challenge followed by an opportunity for kids to cook their own lunches and do some more really exciting outdoor education activities. So I really think our camp has something for everyone and provides an opportunity for every child to be successful.
Is your schedule structured or is it more open?
There is a structure because kids really do respond well to having certain times of day for various activities. But within that schedule, there is a lot of choice. For example, our campers arrive in the morning and we have a welcome circle with their group. But we have activity blocks of things involving building and crafts, things that are more physical activities and things that are more whole-camp games.
We also have a clear snack and refreshment time in the morning and in the afternoon. And one thing that's really exciting for campers and for parents is that we do have a hot lunch provided to our campers in the middle of the day.
Within our activity blocks, there are lots of choices for kids so that they get to do something that they're really interested in. And one of the main choice aspects is the theme of the week. So each week has its own theme, and we think that this is a really great way for kids to get engaged with something that they're really interested in.
For example, one of our theme weeks is interacting with our ecosystem. We have crafts and do some building, and we do all these big games and activities around the theme of interacting with the ecosystem. We have another theme week called “Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water,” and that week really focuses on the elements and again, everything the kids do is focused around it.
Another interesting theme is in week four: treasure hunting, archaeology, and orienteering. And that really takes the kids into these ideas, and it allows a lot of imaginative exploration and also a lot of challenges around these hunts and treasure and orienteering.
We have another theme called “Traditions in Our Land” that looks at the first people around the world and how they've interacted with the land in different countries. What have they built to interact with their land? What sort of arts have they created and what sort of games have they played?
How do your staff deal with behavioural issues?
The primary way to manage behaviour is to keep kids engaged. We plan a super engaging program. We know that kids have different interests and kids come in all different characters, and so we really try to offer lots of stuff to keep our kids engaged. And that's the number one way of stopping behaviour problems when they’re linked to boredom: creating experiences that they're really engaged in.
We are not anticipating any boredom at our camp this summer. If we did have any sort of behaviour challenge, then the first thing we do is communicate with the parents. We really try to partner with parents in our day program for the school year and similarly, in the camp we reach out to the parents [if there’s an issue]. Having a conversation is our first step. We haven't had any major situations that haven't been easily managed between parents and staff.
What do campers value the most about their experience at Pickering College Summer Camps?
There are so many studies saying how much value kids get from spending time outdoors, and we have this beautiful campus with lots of outdoor spaces and also the farm property that we will use. And so the thing that the kids are going to get the most out of our camp is that really authentic interaction with the outdoors. They're going to get lots of fresh air, they're going to get lots of vitamin D, they're going to have chances to run around with their friends and enjoy this large outdoor space.
What message would you give to a new child attending Pickering College Summer Camps?
Often, you don't get that opportunity during the school year to get that full outdoor experience. We really think our camp is going to be the perfect experience for kids who join us for the first time this year to have an outdoor fun summer program. We are super excited to have you with us. We planned a really exciting program for you and from the moment you turn up, you're going to be made to feel very welcome.