Camp Urban Explorers: Bringing the Joy of Camp Directly to Patients’ Bedside

July 22, 2020

At Lurie Children’s, we value the importance of creative and educational outlets for our patients, their siblings and the entire family. In past summers, we have fostered this initiative through our hospital-based summer camp program, Camp Urban Explorers, sponsored by Slalom.  Although this summer is shaping up to be different than imagined, our School Services team has continued to create a supportive, engaging, and fun learning environment for children facing lengthy hospital stays. They had to adapt their program to find new ways to safely bring discovery and delight to our patients’ summers.

A safe space for hands-on learning

Since children are unable to visit the hospital classroom for weekly themed activities, our teachers and education liaisons now bring the fun directly to the patients’ cabins, their bedsides. This year, the School Services team has assigned each inpatient floor a specific camp day, so students, families, and care teams know when to expect a visit. On their scheduled day, campers are dressed in their camp t-shirts and ready for hands-on activities and exploration based on that week’s theme.

Campers participate in eight differently themed weeks including, Camp Kick-Off, Prehistoric Party, Outer Space, STEAM, Animals, Garden, Fine Arts, and Olympics.  Partnerships with community organizations have helped enhance the activities provided for our patients. The Chicago White Sox mascot, Southpaw, helped kick off camp with a virtual welcome video. And, campers got a behind-the-scenes look at all things dinosaur with a virtual tour of the University of Chicago’s Fossil Lab during Prehistoric Party week.

From gooey extraterrestrial sensory bags and galaxy themed tie-dye to a “Tricera-toss” game, every activity has brought joy and excitement to patients. They have been encouraged to think like scientists while constructing their own short circuit flashlights out of popsicle sticks and putting their engineering skills to the test while challenging counselors, parents, and care teams to see who could build the largest structure out of wooden blocks, cups and popsicle sticks. The best part? Each activity packet comes individually prepared packets, so students can take them home upon discharge.

Community support with Slalom

This is Slalom’s third year sponsoring camp, and repeat volunteers were passionate about ensuring that this year felt special. Volunteers typically help set up “camp,” design activities like STEAM week programming and support in-person. While working from home, Slalom team members and their families made virtual postcards filled with fun, positive messages that patients and families receive when they participate in camp.

“Many of our employees love camp based on their personal experiences as campers themselves, or through having had their family members receive care at Lurie Children’s,” shares Nina Cohen, a consultant at Slalom. “Camp is special every year, but we especially are glad to sponsor camp in a virtual environment and continue to be part of an initiative that is so meaningful to the Chicago community and our Slalom family.”

There are four weeks left this summer for Camp Urban Explorers, and the School Services team continues to bring energy, excitement and the joy of camp straight to our patients and families. Many families have shared that the one-on-one, bedside activities have been great for their camper, allowing them to explore new topics, discover new hobbies, and create lasting memories.

Want to learn more? Tune in for an interview with Teacher Scott and Teacher Katie!

Slalom's Alex Oplawski dives in with Lurie Children's Scott Zagalak and Katie Vautier, camp's passionate teachers, to discuss camp this year, their favorite activities, and more! You can watch the interview here.