59. What schools can learn from summer camp in a pandemic with Ross McIntyre

How can we as educators learn from the experience our students had this past summer at camp? Today on the show I am joined by Ross McIntyre, The Director of Community Initiatives at Camp Couchiching

You know how at the start of the school year, we as teachers will sit down with the teachers who taught our students last year and share notes, strategies, and insights to start the year ahead on a proactive note? Those meetings are often really helpful, right? So I thought for the first episode back after the summer break (hi again, by the way), we should hear from summer camp to hear how our students did over the summer. 

Now I get that not all our students go to summer camp. And I get that summer camp is an immensely privileged experience–especially this summer–that doesn’t really speak for all our learners (more on that in the episode). But for those young people that did go to day or overnight camps, I wanted to hear how they did. Was summer camp the restorative experience that so many of us hoped for? Were students able to undo some of the challenges and even trauma of this past year? How might schools bring a little camp into their pandemic pedagogy? 

So enter Ross McIntyre who will be speaking for all camps everywhere. I’m joking. But his insights about what worked about his camp this summer and how the campers at his camp fared I think tells us some important things about young people and provides some hope for the road ahead. 

Ross and I went to high school together and was a significant part of my own journey through school, so it is such an honour to get talk about many things that matter with him: young people, camp, wellness, learning joy, and of course hope. 

Click on the Soundcloud link to hear the full conversation with Ross!


Take Aways from the Show:

Listening to this show, I am struck by three things that Ross touched on about his experience with Covid camp: we can’t attend to all needs in a crisis. For Ross’s camp this meant that less kids got to come to camp and pausing their focus on “camperships”. Not ideal. But neither is a pandemic. I think it’s a good reminder that we can only do so much when trying to do camp or school or family or anything in a pandemic. The second is that young people are capable of doing hard things, especially when they understand the benefit and payoff will be worth it. And finally, create opportunities for joy: go outside with your students, find moments to laugh, bring magic and whimsy to your classroom, pack candy in your adult lunch to help you get through the day, play music that you and your students all love. It seems obvious, but we’ve all been there in those tough moments of school that just feel like a grind. If creating joy is a practice for those us that make school happen, it will get easier and more natural for us. 

Listener Survey

If you have been listening to the show for a little while, you might have noticed that I took a little pause during the summer months. I am very happy to be feeling more refreshed than at the end of this past school year and I’m now starting some new adventures, specifically my PhD at The University of Toronto in the curriculum and pedagogy program. More on that to come in a future episode, but part of stepping into a new thing is that I will be changing up a few things about the podcast.


To help with what to change and what to keep, I am getting input from you! If you have been listening to the show a few times, a little while, or are a loyal listener I want to hear from you by filling out a very quick and very useful listener survey. It will take about 7 minutes and you can enter to win an Indigo or Starbucks gift card. Link to the survey is right here. I haven’t done one of these since we launched in 2018, so I am very happy and grateful to you for sharing your thoughts on the show to make it even better. 

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