How do we include accessible technology-rich activities in our summer camp?
For many years the DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center has coordinated Internet activities at selected summer camps. DO-IT staff and program participants teach campers how to send messages to their friends and family with e-mail, use the Web for fun and education, and create web pages.
Internet activities at camps vary depending on the campers served and the program needs of the sponsoring organizations. Some are day camps where local children and youth drop by for basic Internet training each day. In other settings, campers are scheduled into the computer lab for short sessions, just as they choose to swim, hike, boat, and do crafts; others offer an intense camp session for those who wish to develop in-depth Internet skills.
DO-IT has found the following steps helpful when developing technology-rich offerings at a typical summer camp.
Put together an instructional and technical team. Building a team with both technical and instructional expertise is an important first step. Planning and implementing Internet activities work best when people with a variety of knowledge and skills work together, including an activity coordinator, one or more instructors, and a computer support person.
Determine instructional goals and activities and create materials. Find out about campers' interests and their previous computer and Internet experiences. You are likely to find that you need to create flexible, alternative activities for a diverse group. Determine your instructional goals. Think about what knowledge and skills you would like the campers to take with them when they leave. Allow plenty of time for camper practice and exploration.
Find a facility with computers or make plans to rent or buy them. Life will be easier for you if you can use a facility that already has computers set up, for example, a local school or library. However, if that isn't possible, there are other options. Sometimes computer companies will let you borrow computers, free of charge, for the duration of your camp. If you have the funding and plan to incorporate computer activities into future camps, buying the machines may be your best option.
Arrange for Internet service. If the facility you are using does not already have an established Internet connection, you will need to arrange for accounts on a computer system that is connected to the Internet and then determine a connectivity method. Sometimes you can obtain accounts through a school or university.
Integrate the Internet program into other camp activities. Maximize the impact of Internet education to your camp program by integrating Internet activities into other camp activities. For example, let your campers research a camp activity via the Internet, or create a web page for the camp, including pictures of campers and camp activities.
Publicize the program. There are a number of places you can advertise your camp. Contact local newspapers, radio stations, and television stations. Consider newsletters from organizations that might be interested in publicizing your camp. You may be able to get a promotional spot free or at a reduced rate. Post messages on electronic discussion lists and on the Web.
For information and ideas on including accessible technology-rich activities in your camp view the short video Camp: Beyond Summer. Comprehensive training materials for camp administrators, entitled Internet at Camp: How to DO-IT, are also available.