With so many typical summer activities on hold or canceled, families are looking for ways to keep their Scouts engaged in fun, rewarding and (shhh!) even educational experiences all summer long.
Thankfully, BSA local council camps are stepping up in a big way.
This summer, councils from coast to coast are offering virtual camps, delivering many of the best parts of summer camp right to your home. Virtual camps focus not just on what the Scout can learn — and earn — but also on the chance to interact with other Scouts from across the country.
“Young people are so hungry for social engagement and see a virtual camp as a chance to do that,” says Andrea Watson, who heads up the BSA’s Camping Services team. “Many of our virtual camps are working hard to include key summer camp experiences like peer-to-peer interaction, special ceremonies, campwide games and more — all from home.”
We’ve seen councils innovate as they redefine what a camping experience might look like online. You can see a complete list here, but check out a few cool examples:
- In Georgia, a Cub Scout virtual day camp in July will feature a dinosaur theme as Cub Scouts can enjoy five days of live “Jurassic Adventure” activities from home.
- In Rhode Island, the Yawgoog Network offers eight weeks of campfires, scavenger hunts, trivia contests, nature videos and more. All eight weeks of content are available to anyone who subscribes.
- In Ohio, Cybertoc: Manatoc Scout Reservation will send a box to each participant including a T-shirt, patch and cinch backpack. Scouts can complete rank advancement and earn up to six merit badges during their week at virtual camp.
- In Arkansas, Mystery Camp will transform each Scout into “Tenderfoot Holmes” as they try to solve a mystery that will require them to get outside and look for clues in their neighborhood.
- In California, Cyber Film Camp will challenge Scouts to create their own movie for the first-ever Verdugo Hills Council All-Day Film Festival on Aug. 2. Scouts can earn three merit badges and talk to filmmakers who have worked on TV shows like Friends and movies like Cast Away.
The list goes on and on.
“I am so thankful that Scouts can continue to connect to outdoor programs in innovative, new ways,” Watson says. “In a year where many Scouts would completely miss key Scouting experiences, these new virtual programs give each of them a chance to continue.”
But what if you can’t decide on just one from the list of more than 100 Cub Scout and Scouts BSA virtual camps?
You don’t have to. While a pack or troop typically chooses one camp per summer (usually in their local council), there’s no limit to how many virtual camps a Scout can attend.
How to get started
Work with the other adults in your pack or den to identify a virtual camp that might work for everyone in your unit. I recommend checking with your local council first to see what they’re offering.
You might have a better experience if everyone in your den attends the same virtual camp, though this is not required.
Scouts BSA or Venturing
As with everything in these programs for older youth, troops and crews should leave the decision-making process to the young people themselves. Ask them to explore the list of virtual camps and identify some favorites. Encourage them to see what your local council is offering first.
With some finalists in mind, suggest that they put it to a vote.
If there’s no consensus among the Scouts or Venturers, no worries. You can attend more than one virtual camp — all without having to worry about gas, airfare or who decided to eat Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in your car.
Why a virtual camp this summer
Scouts know that summer camp is a great time to form friendships, try new things and knock out a few merit badges or adventure loops. Virtual camps can carry that baton until in-person camps reopen.
“These virtual camps keep them connected to advancement programs, including merit badges that might not normally be offered at camp,” Watson says.
And if you’ve ever been to summer camp, you know that the staffers play a vital role. They’re creative, dedicated, talented … and more than a little bit silly. Virtual camps give participants the opportunity to interact with those staffers throughout the week.
What else you should know
- Combo packages: Many virtual camps are offering a combo package where Scouts can participate in virtual camp programs this summer and then enjoy an in-person camping experience in the future, once COVID-19 physical distancing requirements have eased. That’s a great way to ensure your Scouts have a plan for completing requirements like swimming, climbing, archery and other activities that are tougher to accomplish at home.
- Camping without limits: During a normal summer, it would be somewhat rare for a Scout to attend more than one camp, but it could become commonplace this year if Scouts are looking for unique opportunities and more chances for earning merit badges and fulfilling requirements. If your Scout ends up doing a double, triple, quadruple (or more!) virtual camp experience this summer, be sure to leave a comment below to tell us all about it. Will we see a Scout claim they attended the most virtual camps in 2020? Game on.
- Advancement is a go: Scouts BSA members will get to select and complete merit badges — just like they do at summer camp. Cub Scouts can complete adventures, too! Any requirements met at virtual camp count the same as requirements met at in-person camps.