With summer heating up in the U.S., parents may be looking forward to ways to have fun with their kids, while at the same time embracing the "new normal." The days of dropping kids off at a community pool, or weeks-long stints at summer camps, may be long gone — but there are other ways to incorporate the great outdoors into family fun time, without traveling far.
Try a local camp instead
Sending kids out of state for summer camp may not be feasible as travel restrictions and travel-related quarantines remain in place in multiple states. States in the Northeast such as New Jersey, New York and Connecticut have announced they would impose two-week quarantine requirements for travelers from states that have seen a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Pennsylvania has been encouraging travelers from such states to quarantine for two weeks since the start of the pandemic.
Rather than making the trek to your child’s annual summer camp, this summer may be the perfect time to try out a camp closer to home.
In northeast Pennsylvania, one popular camping program has returned with new restrictions to protect little ones from COVID-19. Pocono Environmental Education Center, (538 Emery Road, Dingmans Ferry) began operating its Adventure Day Camp during the state’s "yellow phase" of reopening in Pike County. Now that Pike is in the "green phase," overnight "residential" camping is allowed. Day camp starts at PEEC Monday, June 29. Residential camp is scheduled for July 20-24. More information is available on the center’s website.
The center is following National Camp Association Guidelines in light of the pandemic, including limiting counselor to camper ratios (one counselor to every nine campers) and limiting camp groups to 20.
A video statement released by PEEC outlines precautions being taken to protect campers; that video, plus a tour of the center, is available on PEEC’s website at PEEC.org.
Virtual camp and activities
Many summer camps have gone virtual this summer, despite reopening efforts. Virtual camps offer children a wider range of options when it comes to choosing a summer camp that may offer a special focus such as music, theater, or any other interest.
Pocono Mountains Music Festival Virtual Performing Arts Camp allows students to participate in private and group coaching sections culminating in The Pocono Mountains Music Festival’s Silent Symphony on Aug. 1. The program, which begins Monday, July 6, will enroll campers until the end of June. Tuition is free. Coaching sessions include musical theater vocal coaching, acting and, new this year, virtual recording/self taping. Pending guidance from the CDC, in-person musical theater dance classes may also be included in the schedule. Returning instructors include Klea Blackhurst, Campbell Walker Fields, and Chris Blem. For more information, go to PoconoFest.org.
PEEC is hosting a free, six-week "virtual scavenger hunt" series in an attempt to bolster environmental education while reaching a wider audience. With support from the Alliance for Watershed Education of the Delaware River, the center will post themed lists of different plants or animals to social media pages, and challenge participants to get out into the great outdoors to seek out each organism. Participants can submit photos for each item on the list to PEEC for the chance to win prizes. The scavenger hunts take place every Monday through Aug. 3. For more information call 570-828-2319 or go to peec.org.
Brodhead Watershed Association is offering an online scavenger hunt adventure for outdoorsy kids looking to get outside. The Scavenger Hunt at Ice Lake allows kids to explore Ice Lake Preserve in Barrett Township, armed with a list of sights to "capture" using a camera. Kids can explore the 70-plus acres at Ice Lake to find anything from a baby hemlock tree to lichen. Ice Lake also features plenty of kid-friendly sights and sounds such as calling bullfrogs, fish and a mossy waterfall. For the scavenger hunt checklist, go to brodheadwatershed.org/gopoconos. The association will host several scavenger hunts throughout the summer in the Poconos. Children up to age 12 may submit their photos to the BWA for special acknowledgment during the summer of 2020. Ice Lake is off Route 390 in Cresco, at GPS coordinates 41.147435, -75.289393.
Agriculture-related tourism, or "agritourism," provides farms with the opportunity to increase revenue while educating customers on the importance of farming and sustainability. While the agritourism industry is nothing new —think pumpkin patches or apple picking in the fall — wide-open spaces and connecting with nature via farming is likely to have wider appeal in a post-pandemic America.
Paradise Lavender Farm is hoping to harvest some fun this summer by inviting visitors to get down and dirty with their own farming experience. The farm, located at 5801 Paradise Valley Road, Cresco, is allowing visitors — while the lavender is still in season — to cut their own fresh lavender for only $8 per large bundle. Budding agritourists can also peruse the nearby Paradise Lavender Shop, located on the farm, and pick up locally made goods such as soaps and lavender-scented masks. Of course, the goods are made with lavender from the farm. The farm is also available to rent for birthday parties or other events like weddings.
In addition to allowing visitors their own unique farming experience, Paradise Lavender Farm is hosting a "Nature Scavenger Hunt," which challenges families to explore the farm’s nearby Fairy Walk. Families can embark on the scavenger hunt from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, or noon to 3 p.m. Sundays. Other days and times are available by appointment. Cost is $1 per family member, maximum eight people. Email email@example.com or call 570-269-8206 for any questions or reservations.
Rethinking the summer ’fun run’
Running a 5K with your kids may not appeal to some, but for many avid runners, competing in "fun runs" and walks, such as charity 5Ks, is a family affair.
With such events being canceled nationwide, even with looser COVID-19 restrictions, organizations that rely on the fundraising brought in by fun runs are looking to the web for help.
Carbon County Environmental Education Center in northeast Pennsylvania is one such organization that has gone virtual with its annual fun-run fundraiser. CCEEC’s annual Rattlesnake Run has become its own online phenomena. For a $20 registration fee, runners get limited edition rattlesnake-themed swag. Runners can log 3.1 miles, anywhere, anytime before July 18 to complete the Rattlesnake Run. Registration is available online at https://bit.ly/31gDY3l.