KEEPING BOREDOM AT BAY
Updated: Aug 1, 2020
The switch to distance learning this spring blurred the boundary between the end of school and the start of summer vacation, causing an early outbreak of the seasonal syndrome known as I’m Bored.
There is no permanent cure for I’m Bored, but the symptoms can be managed. Over the years Summer at Seabury has helped hundreds and hundreds of kids successfully cope with I’m Bored as they wait to rejoin their friends at school in the fall.
This year is no different – except it is. Summer at Seabury normally consists of eight or so weekly day camps – each with a different intellectually engaging theme – that take place on one or the other of our two campuses. This year we offered four camps – all conducted remotely.
The first two were held last week, another wrapped up this week and the final one takes place next week. Although enrollment is down to around 10 kids per camp from the usual 20-plus, enthusiasm remains high.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how engaged almost all of the students have been in the activities and how much fun they’ve had,” said Anna Dudley, a public school paraeducator with a master's in education who has been one of our camp leaders for the last four years.
Last week Anna led students on a voyage into The Deep Dark Sea, which explored the strange creatures and environment of the ocean floor. This week she led Pangolins and Unicorns, a journey into the lives of strange and wonderful creatures – real and imaginary.
We structured our camps around work-at-home projects supported by daily Zoom meetings. The half-hour meetings introduced each day’s project, allowed students to talk about the previous day’s experience and engaged them in other activities such as playing a related game and watching a related video.
Kits containing all the materials and instructions needed to complete the projects – collected and shipped by Seabury teacher and Summer at Seabury coordinator Jennifer Meads – were mailed to students ahead of time.
“The stuff we sent was pretty cool,” Jennifer said. “If we added a little more background information, we could probably sell the kits.”
Some kits traveled a long ways. Although our camps have always been open to the public, putting the camps online attracted kids from as far away as Texas, Virginia and Hawaii.
The Pangolins and Unicorns kit included clay to create imaginary monsters. Guthrie said his monster has “big bulging-out eyes and flippers and it can also shoot spines out” – the better to eat prey “like corn on the cob.”
Using a platform called Flipgrid, kids could also share videos of themselves working on their projects and comment on each other’s work. “Most of the kids who made videos were really jazzed,” Anna said.
Rediscovering the Renaissance was led by two of our middle school teachers, Jared Mackenzie and Dr. David Muller.
“We planned some activities, but we wanted them to be able to use their ingenuity and inventiveness and creativity and so some of it was a little bit open ended in a way,” Jared said.
Campers built cardboard fortresses and wooden cannons and tested the design of their strongholds by bombarding them with their rubber-band powered artillery.
“One of the wow moments was when we made a camera obscura,” Jared said, referring to a precursor to the photographic camera. “When you see that image appear on your piece of paper, that’s pretty amazing.”
The projects opened the door to discussing what the Renaissance was all about.
“We gave them a lot of history of the Renaissance and talked about unexpected people from the Renaissance and how other cultures had their enlightenment a long time before Europe,” Jared said.
Besides co-leading a camp, Jared also led two Seabury clubs this summer -- a Dungeon and Dragons club and a horror book club – while other staff members hosted various online play dates.
“Kids were really hungry for something to do – to get back into thinking academically but also have fun with other kids,” Jared said.