Extension and Outreach day camp bags bring learning home

MUSCATINE, Iowa–From growing plants to investigating local wildlife, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Muscatine County’s summer day camps provide many opportunities each year for kids of all ages to learn, grow, and have fun. However, Dana Yerington, K-12 outreach educator knew things would need to look different this year. “When the COVID hit, it threw a wrench in our plans,” she shared. “We looked for a new way to offer day camps without being face to face.”

To solve this conundrum, Yerington and others with ISU Extension and Outreach developed day camps in a bag, a fun at-home program children could complete on their own that still engaged them in summer learning. ISU Extension and Outreach initially began the program with five different types of bags, Learn, Grow, Eat & Go! which explores gardening; Nature Investigations, which provides both indoor and outdoor activities; Space Explorers; Iowa Animals; and Science Investigations, which looks at states of matter.

Whichever camp a family selects, bags come fully stocked with a themed book (which kids can hear read aloud on ISU Extension and Outreach Muscatine County’s YouTube channel), five to eight activities and a suggested order for spreading them out throughout the week, and the supplies kids will need to complete each self-guided activity, based on a rigorous, evidence-based curriculum. “We wanted to make it as easy as possible for the parents, caregivers, and youth,” stressed Yerington.

To make the camps accessible to children of different ages, each comes in two different versions, one for students in first through third grade and one for students in fourth through sixth grade. However, Yerington believes that the day camps in a bag will appeal to both older and younger kids, so long as parents understand they would need to assist little ones more and that older children would find them a bit easy. “I had some adults preview them and say they even loved them,” reported Yerington.

Originally planned as activities for each week of June, ISU Extension and Outreach has decided to make the day camps in a bag available year round. They also hope to add additional offerings in July.

If you would like to get a day camp in a bag for your child, you may complete an order form online or contact Yerington at 563-263-5701 or [email protected]. Each bag costs $10. Once you have ordered a bag, you may arrange a time to pick it up, drive to the back of the Extension and Outreach Office at 1601 Plaza Place, Muscatine, next to the Muskie Early Learning Center.

As the day camp in a bag program takes off, Yerington would like to thank Bayer and Hy-Vee for their assistance in purchasing supplies for the kits. “We’ve been very fortunate Bayer and Hy-Vee on Second Street have donated some items,” she said. “We’re very happy to have them as co-sponsors this year.”