Summer Enrichment Camp Experiences and the Dual Pandemics of COVID-19 and Systematic Racism

Presenter(s): Martina Brazzolotto , Connie Phelps , Joyce Miller

In addition to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, educators worldwide viewed a series of horrific events of systemic racism marked with the murder of George Floyd in the United States. This session describes two virtual summer enrichment camps conducted during Summer 2020, and implications for those camps derived from a study conducted on the perceptions of college students before and after a Civil Rights tour conducted in the south of the United States. A three-week virtual enrichment camp conducted in North Italy included three levels of scientific explorations, creative writing, and philosophy camps for children ages 5-11 years. Campers met virtually with teachers to understand their potential and interest in their chosen camp content area. The enrichment camps intertwined knowledge and relationships with independent work assigned throughout the week. Concurrent meetings promoted reflection, conscious exploration, and critical thinking to promote future “thinking” citizens. Another virtual summer enrichment camp in the Midwest United States implemented the Renzulli Learning System (RLS) for three weeks with gifted children ages 5- 12. Campers met weekly with trained gifted facilitators to develop individualized mini-camps based on Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) Types I, II, III activities. Campers began individualized experiences by completing The Profiler to determine their individual interest and subject areas and preferred expression and learning styles. Teachers met weekly with one or two students to identify and complete enrichment activities based on their Profiler results. Type I activities began with virtual field trips in their interest area, advanced to activities requiring specific critical thinking or creative problem solving, and culminated with an in-depth passion project. The virtual enrichment camps in the North Italy and Midwest USA addressed a need for advanced and individualized learning created by lockdown orders imposed in those countries. However, while persons around the world coped with COVID-19 stay at home restrictions, they also viewed the brutality of systemic racism with the George Floyd murder. Although teachers adapted to the online COVID-19 teaching/learning environment, they found themselves ill prepared to address student perceptions of racism. Implications from a five-day Civil Rights tour conducted with an interracial group of Black/African American, White, and Latinix college students in United States assist enrichment teachers as they facilitate discussions of systemic racism. The intersection of dual pandemics extends virtual summer enrichment camps experiences by providing a safe environment for gifted children to express their feelings about systematic racism as they become future “thinking” global citizens.