By Paula Ebben

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) – Faced with an uncertain summer, many camps found themselves scrambling to reimagine the experience they would provide for kids. At Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, it’s now summer camp with a twist.

“This year is very different. We don’t have kids on campus this year, we chose to actually have everything go virtual,” explained Emma O’Loughlin, Co-Director of Extended Year Services at the school.

While it won’t feel exactly the same, camp leaders are determined to give campers a great summer experience.

“We wanted to make sure that this camp experience was different for them and they were really being able to experience that magic of camp, even in their homes,” Activities Manager Abbie DeMagistris said.

That meant it had to feel different than the virtual school they’ve been attending the last couple months. Forget those Zoom classes. BB&N is using a platform called Clickto.Camp to make sure the summer experience is unique.

“Even though we’re not all together we can make everything interactive so that the kids can do things all together,” explained camp Office Manager Cristina Defabritiis.

Counselors are in each virtual camp room to interact with campers. (WBZ-TV)

Each day campers click their personal link and are greeted by their counselors, online. Each child has their own program of activities throughout the day, with counselors leading them in each virtual camp room.

One of the most fun, and challenging, tasks for camp leaders this year was creating the personalized activity boxes sent to each camper.

“They’re excited to open their boxes. It’s like the birthday morning or Christmas morning. They have all these different little bags of kits and activities for then to do,” O’Loughlin described. “We’ve gotten some really positive feedback from parents, which is great seeing as how it’s our first year of doing something like this.”

Arts & Crafts are still a daily part of camp. (WBZ-TV)

The staff worked hard to bring plenty of classic camp experiences to the virtual platform. There are still arts and crafts and gimp, and those beloved themed days.

“We have Theme Thursdays,” manager Ryan McCarthy said. “Last week was neon week, so everybody was all decked out it 80s neon gear.”

Friday is Fun Friday, when the campers and counselors come together for a virtual show at the end of the day, like last week’s animal experience.

“Tarantulas and cockroaches and different types of snakes. It was really effective on the camera because the creatures were getting real close,” McCarthy described.

The camp acknowledges this is a tough time for many, and it’s hoping to help kids cope.

“Community Building is new this year. They are creating and doing stuff for their neighborhood community,” O’Loughlin said. “Then they have Community Circles where the kids discuss how they’re feeling about certain topics and things that are going on within their world.”

At the end of the day, while kids and staff are enjoying this new camp experience, nothing quite replaces the real thing.

“I miss the kids the most,” O’Loughlin admitted. “One of my favorite parts about the job is the children.”

Paula Ebben

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