“Today we will be talking about the Coronavirus and it’s impacts on your life! Would anyone like to share?!” Crickets.
I expected the campers to be shy in the beginning and hesitant to share. I was not expecting 10 blank faces and 10 frozen profile pictures. The first couple sessions of my virtual summer camp were awkward to say the least. Judging by their response, the content that I had prepared for my students seemed to be falling on deaf ears. At least, that’s what I thought, until our third session, where we played a Kahoot. The sound of the classic Kahoot music was like a shot of caffeine. Suddenly, screens that previously held only the student’s names transformed into videos of energized kids. The game was very close from the beginning and the pressure mounted with each passing question. By the end of the game, almost every camera was on and every microphone was unmuted. Amongst the celebration of the winners and the groans of those who had lost, I had an epiphany. The students were listening, even when I thought they weren’t. This was evident because the questions of the Kahoot were drawn from the content of my presentations. Therefore, their prior lack of excitement was not because of the content but rather the way in which it was presented. Kids love interacting, competing, and exploring, not listening to someone lecture while staring at info packed slides. To subjugate them to the same conditions experienced by college students in lecture is just mean.
Having realized that, I changed how I planned my lessons to make them more interactive. I included games, riddles, simulations, and other interactive activities. In doing so I found my campers more willing to communicate, share, and trust each other. By breaking up how I presented new materials, I was able to make each session more relevant and interesting.
There is still a lot of room for growth. Despite trying to convey ideas in fun ways, I know that not every topic will be interesting to every child. However, I always encourage my campers to keep an open mind when learning about new things and approaching change. And they, conversely, inspire me to do the same. I never imagined that I would be directing a virtual camp this summer. Although it’s certainly a change, it’s also an opportunity to grow.