A summer camp like no other year
Quiet Heart Wilderness School adjusts to COVID-19 guidelines
Last updated 7/28/2020 at 5:18pm
Summer camps for kids are a staple in Edmonds. Building fires. Learning how to interact with others. Having fun in the great outdoors.
This year is different, as you might guess, as the coronavirus has changed how we think about safety and gathering in groups.
Quiet Heart Wilderness School, a summer tradition in Edmonds since 1997, is a prime example.
The camp is allowed under Gov. Jay Inslee's Phase 2 guidelines, updated June 22 to allow groups of up to 22 to meet. Cloth face coverings are required for children age 5 and up and recommended for ages 2-4.
These necessary changes means Quiet Heart has had to significantly change how it approaches summer camp.
"Gosh, where do I even start?" said Chrissy Roberts, into her second year as the school's new owner. "Everybody's wearing masks when they're within 6 feet of each other, and our instructors are wearing masks all day long."
In addition, families and staff received a pre-camp health form for the 14 days prior to arriving at the school.
Although more people are allowed to meet, Roberts said sessions have a maximum of 10 campers, two instructors, and a teenage volunteer. So no more than 13 people at a time.
"We're calling them bubbles, and those bubbles can't be popped," she said. "It's kind of a bummer, because at the end of the day, if we have more than one camp in a park, we'll bring everybody together and play a gigantic board game of capture the flag or something, but we can't do that this year."
Other precautions include hand-washing stations near restroom facilities; proper hand-washing techniques are discussed with campers. Students also must clean or sanitize (using the Quiet Heart-provided hand sanitizer) their hands throughout the day.
In addition, any shared objects are cleaned and sanitized after use. Group supplies are distributed by staff members only, who sanitize their hands before and after distribution. And each camp location has a locked restroom available only to Quiet Heart campers.
Led by experienced instructors, Roberts said Quiet Heart students are exposed to topics such as primitive and survival skills, edible and medicinal plants, animal tracking, wilderness navigation, awareness skills, team building and problem solving.
Various programs range from those for preschool children, those ages 4-7, 8-13, and for those 13 and older, among others.
"We are a wilderness school, meaning we are really trying to create connections for kids and nature," Roberts said. "Our goal is to give kids experiences that make them have a connection with nature so that they ultimately grow up and become stewards of the environment and nature.
"We're pretty lucky in that our camps are always outside. This year we're in Yost Park, Pine Ridge Park and Southwest County Park. We also rent the back parking lot space of the Edmonds Unitarian Universalist congregation so we can build campfires and have other activities there."
Like most summer camps, Quiet Heart charges tuition. This year, a $20 fee has been added to cover additional costs related to the pandemic. Quiet Heart has almost 300 people registered in its programs.
Roberts said she is looking to create a nonprofit arm of Quiet Heart to provide scholarships in an attempt to include more minority students, as well as those from low-income families.
"One thing I would like to bring to Quiet Heart is for us to not be serving our base all the time," she said. "I want to get kids in the woods who are not in the woods; a lot of times, we get kids from families used to camping and hiking, which is great. We want them out there, too.
"But I'd also like to be able to get some kids in underserved populations who are not getting the opportunity to go into the woods."
For more information: http://www.quietheart.org.
For information on Quiet Heart's COVID-19 protocols: http://www.quietheart.org/coronavirus.