Posted by: ketheredge | August 5, 2010

Kids Kamp: Sharing Child Care So Teachers Can Prepare for the Opening of School Without Breaking the Bank

school   It is hard to believe, but today faculty will return to school for the opening of the 2010-2011 academic year.  School will open in the usual way:  attending a myriad of meetings, working in our classrooms, creating syllabi and other resources for our students.  Something possibly unusual for the opening of school, however, is that we will bring our children with us.  Although our children will not begin school for a week and a half, they will be on campus attending “kids kamp", playing games, creating arts & crafts, going to the gym, and getting back into the routine of getting up early and being engaged with their peers for seven to eight hours.

This idea was borne a few years ago.  Because my daughter was about to begin pre-kindergarten at my school, she was no longer in day care, and faculty workdays for the start of school were around the corner.  She, however, was not beginning school for another two weeks, and I dreaded the cost of a babysitter for such an extended period of time.  Additionally, I could not hire a high school student for all of the faculty days because our high school opened four days before the lower school.  Many of my colleagues were in the same position, and, of course, we were asking the same young adults to care for our children.  The idea of kids kamp was then born – Why not share babysitters? 

I went to our headmaster and asked if I could explore the idea.  We needed a location for the camp, and I wanted to see if we could use high school volunteers for the days that high schoolers were still out of school.  He was on-board, and I began organizing the first Faculty Kids Kamp.

It has been four years now, and every year faculty members say that it is one of the most helpful things offered to them at the opening of school.  Faculty are now able to focus on their meetings and opening responsibilities without the worry of what their child is doing and how quickly they can get home to save on childcare costs.  The children also enjoy the camp.  They look forward to seeing their friends and playing at school before “real school” begins.  The activities provided are fun and varied so that they never feel bored during the day.  As an added bonus, they adjust to their school schedule gradually rather than the abrupt shift from summer to school.  The camp is a benefit to all who use it.

The concept became so popular that two years ago, we extended kids kamp to all faculty workdays.  Now, at every faculty workday, we are able to provide childcare for faculty children at an affordable rate.

Would you like to replicate this at your school?  Here are the organization details:

Where is the camp located?  For the last two years, we have been fortunate that the church who we are affiliated with (and where our lower school is located) has allowed us to use their undercroft area for the children.  However, during the school year and in years past, we have used the school gym, part of the cafeteria, the foyer to our theater, part of the library, and a classroom that someone offered.  Essentially, think about your school, and try to find a place that faculty will not need to use frequently those opening days – that will be the perfect place for the camp.

How many children attend the camp?  Every year we have between 25 and 30 school-aged children attend the camp.

How do you entertain them?  We have a set schedule every day:

8:00 – 8:30

Meet & Greet

8:30 – 9:30

Outside play

9:30-9:45

snack time

9:45-11:00

Arts & Crafts

11:00 – 12:30

video

12:00 – 12:30

lunch

12:30 – 2:00

gym play

2:00 – 3:00

arts & board games & cards*

During arts & crafts time, children create different items to take home at the end of the day: a rocket made out of paper towel tubes, a mobile, etc.  We even have a t-shirt decorating day where children bring a t-shirt and they paint it with fabric paint. 

How do you get the supplies for the activities?  Faculty donate supplies.  Faculty who have children attending the camp will bring arts & crafts supplies for everyone to share.  (I even receive donations from teachers who don’t have children in the camp on occasions.)  Additionally, faculty send videos and board games and cards for the kids to share during the camp.  Everything is then returned to its owner at the end of the camp.

Who works the camp?  It is a combination of college-aged young adults and high school students.  This year, for example, faculty return today and the high school returns next Wednesday.  Therefore, for the first four faculty days, we have a “supervisor” of the camp, who is college-aged.  We then also have a second young-adult to help.  Then, we have high school volunteers who work the camp as well.  The high school students receive community service hours for working the camp.  (Note:  you do not want too many high-school students working; otherwise, they become bored because they don’t have a group of kids to work with and then the supervisor spends most of her time managing the older children, making sure they are not on their cell phone, etc., and the younger children are not managed properly.)  When the high school opens next Wednesday, we will then have a third young adult working with the other two for the last three days of camp.

How much does it cost?  It depends on how many children attend each day.  However, this year, if a child attends all seven days of camp, the total cost is $48.  (If a teacher only needs childcare for the last three day of the camp, then she only pays for those three days.)  I know some of you are shocked; it is not a typo. Here is the break down:  Our school graciously pays for the supervisor the first four days.  Therefore, the only cost for the first four days is the second worker.  When you divide one babysitter’s cost between twenty children, the cost is only $4 a day.  For the last three days, faculty pay for all three workers; however, again, the cost of three babysitters divided among twenty to twenty-five children is only $11 a day. 

How do you organize everything?  I use an Excel spreadsheet.  I include the children’s names, grades, and dates they will attend.  I also include high school volunteer’s names and the days they will work the camp.  I can then calculate costs per day and totals for each child within the spreadsheet.  I have a sign-in/out sheet for every day for both children and volunteers, and parents sign a permission form so that the counselors have a contact number in case they need to contact a parent at any time during the day. 

That’s it – kids kamp in a nutshell.  The great thing to me about the camp it is one more testament to the power of collaboration.  We hear a lot of talk about collaboration and team work for faculty; the discussion usually revolves around curriculum and tech integration, I know, but here is another example of how a faculty can come together to help each other and all the while provide themselves more time to work effectively and efficiently to improve the lives of their students.

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