April 12, 2021

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the Virginia Department of Health have issued Forward Virginia guidelines and requirements under Executive Order 72 for operation of overnight summer camps in 2021.  These requirements are available here (those pertaining to summer camps begin on page 33) and on a special summer camp page on the Department of Health’s website.  Below are details about how these guidelines and requirements will be implemented at Nature Camp this summer.  Our COVID protocols and procedures are subject to further refinement and revision as new information is obtained or additional guidance issued, and we will share updates as warranted this spring.  Nature Camp will also continue to monitor recommendations from the American Camp Association, the Association of Camp Nursing, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID Testing

All campers and staff will be required to submit a negative molecular (PCR) test for coronavirus the week before coming to camp.  In addition, Nature Camp may conduct rapid antigen testing of campers upon arrival.  Nature Camp will take care of the logistics and cost of testing, and we will let all camp families know well in advance what you will need to do and when you will need to do it.

Campers who do not (or whose families do not) consent to testing or who present with a positive test result will not be permitted to attend camp.  (Any sample that yields a positive result will subsequently be retested to confirm that it is not a false positive.)  In either event, families will be offered a full refund of any fees paid to date.

Cohorts

Prior to the release of reopening guidelines for camps in Virginia, Nature Camp had decided to limit capacity in each session to no more than 50 campers.  This number happens to be twice the maximum allowable number of campers in a cohort, which is treated as a family unit for the duration of each session.  The use of cohorts helps to limit the spread of any illness (including COVID-19); facilitates contract tracing and isolation in the event of a positive or suspected positive case or coronavirus; and provides the campers with more freedom and opportunities for close interaction with one another.  All campers and staff who live together will be in the same cohort, but each cohort does not have to be limited only to those campers who share living space.

Each session will comprise two coed cohorts, each containing campers from one wing of the Girls’ Bunkhouse and one wing of the Boys’ Bunkhouse.  Campers will do most activities within their cohort, including eating meals, attending class, engaging in recreational activities, and sitting together for evening programs.  Within a cohort, campers do not necessarily need to maintain minimum social distancing or wear masks.  When in the presence or potential presence of members of the other cohort, however, all participants will be expected to wear masks and to maintain at least six feet of physical distance.

Facemasks

Participants will be expected to carry facemasks with them at all times; cloth masks with at least two layers are strongly recommended.  As a general rule, everyone should wear a mask when entering or leaving a building and when walking around camp.  When in the presence only of other campers within one’s own cohort, campers may be permitted to remove masks at the discretion and direction of the staff.  All campers should bring a sufficient number of facemasks with them to last an entire 10-day session (ideally at least one per day); laundering of masks will be available only under extreme circumstances.

Daily Wellness Checks and COVID Response Plan

Upon each camper’s arrival at camp and on each morning of a session, staff will conduct wellness checks for each camper.  These screenings will include checks for fever; sore throat; new cough; shortness of breath; diarrhea, vomiting, and stomachache; and onset of headache.  Any camper who presents with symptoms of COVID-19 will be immediately isolated, and diagnostic testing and contact tracing will be initiated as warranted.  If there is a suspected case of COVID-19, families of all campers within the participant’s cohort will be notified; if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19, families of all campers will be notified, and the family of the participant who tests positive will be asked to pick up their camper as soon as possible.

Hand Hygiene

This spring Nature Camp will be installing new soap dispensers in the bathhouses (“T-houses”) and sand sanitizer dispensers on porches and in buildings throughout camp.  In addition, signage will remind campers of the importance of proper hand hygiene and coughing and sneezing etiquette.  Before all meals, staff will escort campers by cohort to the T-houses to supervise hand washing.

Check-in

Nature Camp will implement a streamlined check-in procedure this summer.  Each arriving vehicle will be met by a staff member, who will conduct a brief health screening, take any medications and funds for a camper’s canteen account, and gather any additional information that is needed.  There will be an opportunity to discuss needs and issues with camp’s health center personnel and dietary restrictions with kitchen staff.  Only campers will be permitted to leave a vehicle.  Unlike in years past, no numbers will be available in advance, and there will no advantage to arriving early.  In addition, Nature Camp will likely try to arrange for staggered arrival times to expedite traffic flow and expedite the check-in process.  More information will be forthcoming, and we plan to produce a short video later this spring to illustrate just what the check-in procedure will look like.

Miscellaneous

Health history forms will be mailed to all registered campers later in April.  This year’s form will include a place to indicate if a camper has received one or both doses of a COVID vaccine.

We will schedule at least one webinar in May to explain our COVID procedures and protocols in more detail and provide an opportunity for parents and guardians to ask questions.  Please stay tuned for an announcement of the date and time.  In the meantime please do not hesitate to reach out to director Philip Coulling (director@naturecamp.net; 540-460-7897) with any questions or concerns.

Nature Camp is committed to safeguarding the well-being and welfare of all our participants, especially during this pandemic.  We look forward to reopening our doors and to providing an enriching, unforgettable, and safe camp experience for every camper this summer.

January 11, 2021

Nature Camp remains cautiously optimistic that we will be able to resume on-site sessions for the summer of 2021. Although Phase 3 guidelines for Virginia’s Plan for Reopening have not yet been amended to permit overnight summer camps to operate this year, we have been informed that we can begin planning for safe reopening this summer.

That said, it is almost certain that the COVID-19 pandemic will still be ongoing for most if not all of 2021, even if widespread vaccination occurs. Therefore, Nature Camp will be implementing a number of changes to our standard procedures, protocols, and schedules in an effort to safeguard the health and well-being of all participants.

  • Sessions will be capped at a maximum capacity of 50 campers each (approximately 23 boys and 27 girls) in order to reduce density in the bunkhouses and allow for safe, physical distancing between campers.
  • Sessions will be shortened from 14 days to 10 days to permit more sessions to be scheduled during the summer and thus increase the number of campers who can attend camp.
  • Campers and staff will be required to wear masks when indoors (except when eating, sleeping, and bathing) and when sufficient physical distancing cannot be maintained outdoors.
  • All participants will perform daily wellness checks to minimize the risk of transmission of any communicable illness and so that any unwell persons may be quickly identified and isolated from the rest of the camp population.
  • All participants will be expected to wash their hands frequently and regularly throughout the day or to apply hand sanitizer when washing is not feasible; additional soap and sanitizer dispensers will be installed throughout the camp grounds.
  • Visitors will not permitted during camp sessions.

These procedures are subject to revision and expansion, and additional measures will likely be adopted based on guidance and recommendations from the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This page will be updated regularly throughout the winter and spring to reflect any such changes. We will also share important details about these protocols and any necessary modifications to our standard operating procedures via e-mail, in print communications, and on our social media pages.

The website also includes a page of Frequently Asked COVID Questions that addresses questions and concerns about the unusual circumstances of 2021 and Nature Camp’s response to them.

Please direct any questions to Executive Director Philip Coulling (director@naturecamp.net or 540-460-7897). Thank you for your patience and understanding as we all navigate these difficult and uncertain times.

Although Nature Camp is an educational camp that seeks to promote greater appreciation for the natural world and a lifelong love of learning, our foremost responsibility will always be the safety and welfare of our participants, and we are humbled and grateful for the trust you have placed in us to take care of your campers.  Nature Camp will not operate unless we can be confident that we can maintain a safe and healthy environment for our campers, staff, and visitors.

Please stay well and safe, and we fervently hope to see you this summer.

Here we’re taught not only to appreciate things as they naturally are, but also to see the opportunity in what we do, and let the world slow down at the same time. This, I believe, is our constant, and the most powerful one of all: the ability to approach the world with refreshed positivism.

Will D., Gloucester, VA
Will D.Gloucester, VA

At a place with such a variety of people, much of what you learn is through conversation and not necessarily what you set out to absorb. I come back each year for an experience impossible to comprehend if not here. I come back to learn how to pursue the commitment we have to better lives for ourselves, our planet, and generations to come. I come back to spend time with some of my favorite people in the world. I come back because I don’t know what my life would be like without Camp.

Maggie J., Fredericksburg, VA
Maggie J.Fredericksburg, VA

Going to Nature Camp is no longer just a want. It is a necessity, an essential part of my summer. It holds a very special place in my heart, and it always will. I always leave with a sense of balance and well-being, having totally soaked in all the wonders and virtues and lessons and friends and learning and nature.

Emily G., Durham, NC
Emily G.Durham, NC

Going to Nature Camp has taught me many things. When I first went to Nature Camp, I could not tell the difference between a death angel mushroom and an oyster mushroom. I also could not have told you the difference between quartzite and limestone. Since going to Nature Camp, I can tell you these things and many more. Nature Camp is truly a wonderful place. From my first day to my last, I have the most fun I will have all summer.

Phoebe W., Fredericksburg, VA
Phoebe W.Fredericksburg, VA

Nature Camp is a true chance for immersion learning. My family has been amazed how many times the academic learning at Nature Camp has been connected to my school and home life.

Josh C., Williamsburg, VA
Josh C.Williamsburg, VA

I feel that there could never be any words to explain my feelings for Nature Camp. It’s a different world there: no TV, radio, cell phone, or anything from the real world. Nature Camp has changed my life forever. I believe that when people cross that tiny bridge going into camp, they become their true selves. They take their masks off and have a break from everything in the world.

Hannah S., Mount Jackson, VA
Hannah S.Mount Jackson, VA

There is just something special about Nature Camp. Maybe it’s the smell of being outdoors, the freedom of being away from your parents, or that you are at a summer for two weeks. I do not think those are the reasons why Nature Camp is so special. I think it’s the people you meet, the science things you learn about, and the pride and confidence you walk away with at the end of the session.

Kelsey G., Fredericksburg, VA
Kelsey G.Fredericksburg, VA

I have attended Nature Camp for four years and have never had a more rewarding experience. Nature Camp has taught me what one person who cares can do to make a difference. The hikes to Table Rock, the salamander searches at Buttermilk Springs, the breathtaking view from Lookout Rock, and of course the Sunday hikes to undiscovered mountain peaks are experiences one cannot have anyone else, and experiences I will remember forever. I have made friendships at Nature Camp that promise to last a lifetime.

Lucy A., Ruckersville, VA
Lucy A.Ruckersville, VA

There is a coveted two weeks in the heart of the summer that is called Nature Camp. It is the best thing that I do all year and is what I most look forward to. I grow mentally there more in two weeks than I do in the rest of the year.

Buck T., Fredericksburg, VA
Buck T.Fredericksburg, VA

For the past three years I have attended Nature Camp and loved it. Most four-year-olds, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, say a fireman, a ballerina, or an astronaut. When people asked me what I wanted to be, I replied confidently, “A nature scientist. I want to save the land.” Ten years later my answer still hasn’t changed.

Veronica P., Williamsburg, VA, Camper
Veronica P.Williamsburg, VA, Camper