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2020 in Review: These Summer-Camp Sessions Helped Students Prepare for Year of Learning Amid the Pandemic

As we wind down 2020 and reflect on the year, we have many accomplishments to be proud of in these challenging times. Here’s a look at one such accomplishment, authored by Grand Erie’s Mental Health and Well-Bring team.

Grand Erie Summer School Transition Camps

Piyali Bagchee, Mental Health & Wellness Lead

At the end of August, and for the first time, Grand Erie ran Summer School Transition Camp to help address the unique times in which we’re learning. The purpose of these summer sessions which was to help Kindergarten-to-Grade-3 students learn the skills to positively and confidently return to school during the pandemic. A total of 138 students attended these in-person camps in 16 schools throughout Grand Erie.

xmasimage.jpgThe camps focused on teaching self-regulation skills, social skills, and health and safety protocols in a fun, interactive manner. Each day, students participated in a Superhero Self-Regulation program, which included naming feelings, talking about returning to school, identifying how the body feels when it is calm or stressed, and learning different calming techniques including the Super Breathe and Super Stretch techniques. There were also children’s books to complement the self-regulation activities such as When Worry Takes Hold, Listening to My Body and In My Heart: A Book of Feelings. Students also made feeling rings, coping kits and stress balls that they could take to school and use in their classrooms.

Within the Social Skills portion of the program, educators, DECEs and EAs taught skills such as whole body listening, taking turns, taking “no” for an answer, learning to wait, and social thinking. To prepare for school during the COVID-19 pandemic, students learned and practiced social distancing, the 2-meter rule, alternatives to handshakes, and how to wear a mask. During the week, teachers, DECEs and EAs talked about how excited the students were to come to camp and participate in the various activities. Following a survey, 86 per cent of families felt their child was more prepared for school after attending the Summer School Transition Camp.

In the fall, the Superhero Self-Regulation program was promoted as one of the ways that students could have a mentally healthy return to school. The program was run by Child and Youth Workers in an additional 105 elementary classrooms. Teachers, DECEs and EAs continued to use the Summer School Transition binder to find resources and activities for their classrooms. This has allowed numerous primary students to learn invaluable self-regulation and social-emotional skills that will help them feel more comfortable, more engaged and more successful in their return to school.

Below is feedback from Kindergarten teacher Michelle Spencer, who participated in a Summer School Camp:

"I just wanted to thank you for putting together the programming for the Summer School Transition Program! I used a lot of the ideas from the camp in our Kindergarten class. The personal calming kits have been so great. Having them always available to students means they are using them so much more. We usually have a calm-down area with similar things for the whole class to access, but COVID changed that. It has always been an area our kids used a lot, and I wasn't sure how to build that in with the new COVID rules – and then I did the camp! So, thanks again for all the great ideas. I wanted to share a video with you to show you how we built the ideas into our program at school."

~ Michelle Spencer, Kindergarten Teacher
 

Photos by Grand Erie Communications

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