The nine children in education non-profit Bend Science Station’s summer day camp remained 6 feet away from each other for the entire week. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t have fun while learning about physics.
The kids, split into two groups Wednesday, were learning about the force of inertia by swinging a bucket filled with water around their bodies, to show that the water wouldn’t fall out.
Naturally, a couple kids couldn’t quite complete the rotation and dumped water everywhere, as everyone cackled with laughter.
During this experiment, students stood inside Hula-Hoops on the pavement outside Bend Science Station’s southeast Bend building. These hoops — which kept the kids 6 feet apart from each other — are one of many steps the nonprofit has taken to keep day campers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re really serious about maintaining distance, keeping everything clean, and following the Oregon Health Authority protocols,” said Lisa Bermudez, development and marketing director for Bend Science Station.
The list of adjustments Bend Science Station staff have made to prevent spreading COVID-19 amongst their campers — all of which can be found on the non-profit’s website — are vast.
Parents can’t leave their cars when they drop off kids. Stools in the labs have designated spots marked with tape on the floor, all 6 feet apart. Campers eat lunch outdoors, sitting inside Hula-Hoops spaced 6 feet apart.
One of the social distancing measures doubles as a mini-science lesson. To avoid sharing materials like scissors, LEGO bricks and tape, each student received their own container. These containers each have the name of a famous scientist on them, such as Marie Curie, Issac Newton or Jane Goodall, and every item in the container has a tag with that scientist’s last name initial on it.
Not only does this keep students from mixing around glue sticks and pencils, but it also prompts students to ask who these scientists are, said David Bermudez, executive director of Bend Science Station.
Bend Science Station’s day camps, which mainly serve older elementary and younger middle school students, had to reduce capacity to only 10 kids for most camps this summer so every student could be guaranteed 6 feet of space, Lisa Bermudez said. But the nonprofit also had to hire more high school students as staff this summer, so frequently touched objects could be cleaned and labs could be set up, she said.
One of those teen staffers is Kent Koehler, an incoming senior at Summit High School. Koehler, who’s volunteered for the nonprofit for a few years, said this summer’s camps presented unique challenges, such as going through a gallon of hand sanitizer a week, and having to stay farther away from students.
“In past years, a big part of being an instructor is getting up close and personal with kids, and working with them hands-on,” he said. “This year, we can’t get right next to them — you’ve got to instruct them from a distance.”
Bend Science Station staff had nothing but praise for the young students, who have easily adapted to the COVID guidelines, they said. Koehler said he was surprised by how many of the elementary-age students were aware of the pandemic.
“I didn’t anticipate kids so young having such a worldly understanding of what’s going on,” he said. “They’ve completely surprised me in all the best ways.”
One of the students, 10-year-old Ethan Kritzer, wasn’t phased by all the social distancing and cleaning measures.
When asked if he felt odd staying 6 feet away from his classmates and frequently using hand sanitizer, the incoming fifth grader deadpanned, “Eh, I don’t really care.”