​Bringing Parks to the People: City Recreation Programs Adapt to the Pandemic

Jul 15, 2020

The beginning of July usually kicks off National Parks and Recreation month, however summer during a pandemic is tough on everyone, especially children and working parents. Fortunately, many city parks and recreation departments quickly adapted in-person camps so children could participate in hands-on activities in small clusters. With cities throughout the state facing various stay-at-home orders, parks and recreation departments are offering a series of creative virtual camps and programs, keeping kids active, engaged, and educated over the summer. 

In San Francisco, the city offered several in-person camps including “Art in the Park,” a fun and crafty camp that featured instruction in stained and fused glass, ceramics, fine arts, jewelry making, and metalworking. They also had a series of outdoor recreation and sports camps including “Bows N Boards Camp” where kids learned archery and skateboarding skills. Budding gardeners could participate in the city’s “Urban Farm Summer Camp” where they learned about the important role decomposers, producers, and consumers play in sustaining a healthy farm and balanced ecosystem. 

Kids at home in Benicia had many different opportunities to engage virtually with other children and participate in fun educational activities. The description of the city’s online LEGO® camp said kids could “tap into your imagination from the comfort of your own home with the guidance of an experience Play-Well instructor and simple pieces from your own LEGO® collection—all while connecting virtually with other young LEGO® engineers!”  

The Benicia parks and recreation department also held “Little Medical School” virtual camps. The program, which was designed by experienced educators, board-certified physicians and trained healthcare professionals, “inspires young minds by sharing our passion for learning, health and careers in medicine.” Weekly themes included sports medicine and public health, veterinary medicine, and wilderness medicine.

The City of El Cajon brought their “Rec Squad” online providing a series of videos to keep kids entertained including arts and crafts lessons, cooking instruction, sports, camp games, and nature activities.
In a message to residents El Cajon’s Parks & Recreation Director Frank Carson said, “Your parks and recreation staff have been working every day maintaining parks and engaging the community in a variety of ways. We launched our #RecSquad this spring in response to the Stay-At-Home order where we bring the parks to you. This summer, following current public health guidelines, we are planning two options for programming, in-person classes and camps and virtual classes and camps. We have worked with regional, state and national leaders to bring you the best and safest possible programming available.”  

Recognizing this summer would be very different than normal, city parks and recreation staff are delivering on their commitment to provide quality in-person and virtual programs to ensure children have creative and exciting activities to keep them entertained and active.