On June 4, the Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services Department announced the cancellation of all summer camps scheduled through the month of July. For local parents, this would mean finding a substitute for their child’s favorite athletic, recreational and artistic summer camps.
There are many alternative programs in Athens that offer engaging and educational experiences for kids all summer long, to the relief of parents concerned about keeping their children occupied.
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia has summer opportunities for children and families to utilize over the next few weeks. One of these initiatives is a new program called Garden Earth Explorers - Summer Expeditions, which allows families to enjoy their own private, educational garden experience.
Director of Education at the Botanical Garden, Cora Keber, said throughout quarantine she personally has found joy and serenity by spending time outside. Keber hopes families will get the chance to reach the quality state of mental and physical wellness nature can provide with the Garden Earth Explorers program.
“We ended up having to cancel all of our summer camps in the month of June, so we wanted to offer an opportunity for families to come out and experience the garden,” Keber said. “In response to avoiding large group gatherings, we want to keep the experience really fun, but we also want to make sure our guests and staff are being safe.”
Garden Earth Explorers allows families to select a 90-minute program which involves a private garden adventure led by an environmental educator. Topics include stream ecology, a treasure hunt, the rainforest and more. In addition, optional boxed lunches will be offered at registration to complete your trip with a picnic in the garden.
To accommodate social distancing guidelines, Garden Earth Explorers will only allow up to nine participants per program. For a minimum of three participants, registration will cost $50 plus $10 per additional participant.
In addition to Garden Earth Explorers, the Botanical Garden also offers ways to enjoy the educational and immersive experience of the garden from home. From scavenger hunts through your neighborhood to searching for decomposers in your own backyard, there are many remote learning opportunities for kids to use this summer.
“I didn’t know what to expect from this experience because when you’re teaching science, a lot of times the best way to engage is to be in the actual environment,” Keber said. “But those opportunities are limited right now.”
Other remote resources available for kids are the summer academy camps offered by the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education & Hotel. This series of programs includes virtual courses specializing in topics such as ocean discovery, creative writing, video game design and more.
Missy Hill, program manager at the Department of Advertising and Public Relations for UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, decided to take advantage of UGA’s virtual summer opportunities when she enrolled her 14-year-old son, Andrew, in the Mini Medical School camp at the beginning of June.
“With the structured hours of 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and a scheduled lunch break, [Mini Medical School] provides a great opportunity for Andrew to learn while my husband and I are working from home,” Hill said.
Hill said she originally planned for Andrew to attend a three week-long camp with Duke University’s Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) held at UGA. After the program was canceled, she was relieved to find out UGA had other options available for her son to have meaningful and engaging experiences over the summer.