The Value of Getting Outside in 2020

There is perceived comfort and safety to being inside. You can see from one wall to the next. The temperature can be regulated. There are fewer insects. You can avoid getting dirty. You can turn on and off the lights. There are soft things to sit on. And, yes, there are televisions, phones, computers, tablets, and the internet. Inside is great! We can curate and control our surroundings. 

One of the impacts of COVID-19 is that those who were inclined to stay at home and inside stay at home and inside, and those who are outdoorsy are more inclined to go out. I am outdoorsy, and I have been trying as best that I can to spend even more time outside. This impulse pushed me to expand my COVID-19 comfort zone and offer a limited Welty camp experience this summer.

( Welty day camp 2020: face coverings and 100% outdoors)

In many ways, this was the best year of summer camp

Summer camp was different in many ways. It was limited in size. It was limited in operation to weekdays, 9 to 11:30am. It required the wearing of face coverings, sitting distanced when eating snacks and drinking water, and repeated hand washings. And it was 100% outside. 

Being 100% outside took getting used to. Camp usually includes many crafts and time that allows for card games, board games, and building with blocks, activities that are inside out of the rain, heat, wind – away from the mosquitoes. But we found ways to embrace our time outside, knowing that the center was closed. Game pieces became sticks, stones, mud, sand, and leaves. We built shelters and designed landscapes. We explored forgotten trails and played hide and seek. We stopped to appreciate cool breezes and light rains.

…the focus was on nature. We were in it.

In many ways, this was the best year of summer camp that I have experienced. The focus was on nature. We were in it. Between all of the exploring and building, we studied relationships and interaction. A highlight of this was looking at how Canada Goldenrod supports local insects and birds. We watched pollinators use the golden flowers. We cut open galls to see gall fly larvae or wasp larvae eating the gall fly larvae. We found old galls that had been pecked open by black capped chickadees. And we hid in the tall grass during hide and seek.  

This might not have been the summer camp that we had planned, but it reinforced for me that being outside can be just as comfortable, safe, and entertaining as being inside. I will use the experiences of this summer to inform future programs and next summer. Until then, I hope that you will get outside and go on an adventure. The trails at Big Hill Park are open and waiting for you.

Aaron WilsonAaron Wilson
Program Director, WEC