The global pandemic is a global conversation, with experts in a wide variety of fields discussing the impact it has had on our communities. One such expert is Dr. Saul Rosenthal Ph.D., a health psychologist as well as an active parent of a year-round adventurer with us. He has been sharing innovative ideas and thought-provoking conversations with his community through a podcast. Recently, our founder and CEO, Meghan Gardner, was a guest on the podcast to discuss a number of topics relating to the virus, the summer camp industry, and families. You can listen to the podcast episode on Dr. Rosenthal’s website.
Meghan and Saul discuss numerous aspects of how COVID-19 has impacted the 2020 camp season for Guardian Adventures, both positively and negatively. But before we can examine these key points, it’s important to define what Online Summer Camp with our Guardians is like, inside and out. Meghan elaborates on this with a clear image – a living videogame. She explains how videogames can engage their players in immersive environments and stories utilizing the core concepts of Autonomy, Progress, and Belonging (APB).
Autonomy is the player’s ability to choose their own actions and experience the consequences or rewards that follow. Progress is an obvious measurement of the player’s advancement through the story while they “power up” as they make beneficial choices. Belonging, regardless of social distancing, has not changed. It is still defined as a sense of being part of a group or community, one that supports each individual as they advance through the challenges. This is something many parents attribute to the Guardian Adventures summer camps and, thanks to online innovation, can still have their campers experience this summer. Although we pride ourselves in being an “unplugged camp” (phones and tablets are relinquished when camp begins), the offline, in-person experience doesn’t need to be lost as the adventures become digital.
The conversation of the interview flows to the safety precautions being taken both online and upon the reopening of businesses. We have been checking in with local health departments on a regular basis to stay up to date with new regulations and recommendations regarding safety during this pandemic. When in-person camps return, it will be because we feel confident that it is the right time to do so.
We then get a sneak peek into the philosophy of Guardian Adventures and our story-based adventures. The idea of “fun before learning” is pondered and applied to lesson retention. Imagine a chalkboard with a “Ferris Bueler’s Day Off” droning lecturer. Now imagine a powerful wizard explaining the physics of a catapult. One definitely seems more accessible, especially to imaginative children, than the other.
The excitement of an adventure makes the education engaging on a level that is hard to grasp until you (literally) live it. But there’s more to learn from our adventures than just STEM. The ability to play a character within a story allows our campers to become the heroes of their own tale. What happens when a mistake is made? The character receives the consequences – not the camper. This frees the adventurers to experiment with morals, decision making, and with their own personality traits, without the impending fear of personal failure. That is an incredibly freeing experience and one that we believe can help inspire the heroes of tomorrow.
We also hear some new details about Guardian Adventures program licensing (currently being playtested by 200 or so camps) and the importance of our full-day immersion this summer. There are no local in-person hangouts for kids so the hope that youth will get out and socialize is diminished by the lack of swimming pools, parks, playgrounds, etc. This is why online camps will be unprecedentedly valuable this summer. Our programs can help keep social engagement high with kids this summer and our licenses allow organizations from around the world to do just that.
Lastly, we get to learn what Meghan’s doing to keep herself healthy. One word…family. Family is an unspoken positive outcome of this quarantine. More and more families are finding themselves looking forward to eating their meals together, spending valuable time together, playing games, and exercising. These are the kinds of activities that are helping us all get through this sluggishly moving time.