CANTON, Ohio — A summer camp for middle school students, designed to get them involved within their community, is going virtual.
Camp What If is being renamed this summer to Camp What If @Home. The three week camp, which usually takes place in-person, is being held for students online starting July 6.
The camp is hosted by nonprofit organization TomTod Ideas, founded in 2012. TomTod stands for Tomorrow Ideas Today, according to Joel Harris, the executive dreamer for TomTod.
"There's a tomorrow and today strategy to all of our programming," Harris said. "We think middle schoolers want to do real things starting right now and not just be told to wait until someday off in the future. And so camp is really about that. It's about helping them explore their community right now and create ideas that would help our community to be able to move forward and move forward together as an entire community."
The virtual experience for middle school students who attend Canton City Schools and Akron Public Schools is free, thanks to their respective local governments. Usually, students would pay about $150 for the camp.
Harris said with everything moving online this year, the board of directors had to shift their approach.
Prior to the start of camp, each student enrolled will receive a box of learning materials and activities.
"We wanted to make sure that it wasn't just camp that lived on a screen, but that the kids actually had some kind of physical interaction with camp as well," Harris said.
Then each day during the three-week camp, students will log online and learn about their local community through institutions and leaders. At the end of the three weeks, the hope is for students to come up with ideas on how they can improve the world around them.
"Campers are going to come up with some really exciting really innovative ideas that then they can partner with us. They can partner with their school, they can partner with their community to put an emotion in real time," he said. "We love working with middle schoolers is because their brains are limited to a specific arena realm but they come up with all kinds of things all over the map."
In years past, students have launched a bike share program, art installations and anti-bullying curriculum within their schools.
Harris said students in grades 5-8 are perfect for this camp because they are in a developmentally pivotal time and they're more likely to ask, 'why not?' when new ideas are presented.
"We want to create experiences that lean into where they're at developmentally and help meet them where they're at and then help them take those skill sets that they have and transform the world around them."
Students have until June 25 to sign up for Camp What If @ Home. There is a $25 fee to hold a spot in the camp, however it will be refunded once the camp has concluded.
Click here to sign up.