With the recent announcement that all official camping and trek activities will be suspended, leaders for the youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are wondering how to take the experience online. Each ward and branch is different and should adapt to their local circumstances and restrictions, but here are ten ideas to help you get started. We hope they’ll help you create memorable experiences your youth will enjoy and be inspired by.
Set Up Tents at Home
Nothing says camping like tents and sleeping bags. Encourage sleeping in tents in the backyard or building a tent in a living room or bedroom. Even sleeping bags on the floor underneath some twinkle lights can feel special. You can help quorums or groups feel connected by asking them to pick a symbol, name, or mascot they can all put on a sign outside their tents. Be aware of those who might not have the means for tents. Ask local ward members to help pitch in.
Tell Campfire Stories
Gather around a virtual campfire and tell campfire stories. Have everyone keep the lights low. Play crackling campfire sounds and go around telling stories. Have the person speaking hold a flashlight near their face. You can create fake campfires with videos online or with red, orange, and yellow glowsticks. Because you’re telling stories through technology, you can have some master storytellers join you. If applicable, award prizes for the best stories, such as the funniest, the most spooky, the best telling, etc.
Provide Care Packages
Try to provide any equipment or supplies your youth won’t be able to get on their own. This can include activity packets, craft supplies, journaling tools, and treat ingredients. You’ll also want to include a full itinerary, passwords for digital meetings, and instructions for all activities. If possible, decorate the care package and include a hand-written note to the youth.
Recreate Photos of Pioneers
In quarantine, many art galleries and museums have challenged people to recreate famous pieces of artwork with the things they have at home. Teach youth about Church history and important Church figures by having them recreate old photographs or paintings of people such as Joseph Smith or Eliza R. Snow. Have each person show their photo and teach the group about the person. This can also be done with scriptural figures. It’s important to remember to show reverence and respect in these recreations, as fun as it may be.
Watch a Nature Documentary
Use online platforms to watch a nature documentary together. Learn about stargazing, astrology, or different parts of our wide world. Make sure to have a virtual discussion after it’s over to discuss what you learned and any goals you want to set to be better stewards over the earth. You can also watch Church historical films or other documentaries on topics related to your youth.
Document Your COVID-19 Experience
Relate how grateful we are to have the records of the pioneers to our need to record our family history today. Help youth document their COVID-19 experience for future generations. You can teach them how to record and edit a video they can save for later. You can give them specific questions to ask to help prompt journal entries. Make sure you provide time for them to write down these thoughts and share them together as they feel comfortable. Here are a few questions they can ask:
- How has your daily life changed because of COVID-19?
- What have you learned about staying connected to others?
- How has this experience impacted your relationship with Jesus Christ? How can it?
Square Dancing Activity
Depending on the size of your group, consider hosting this special square dancing activity! In the Church parking lot, draw as many squares as you need that are at least 6 feet apart with sidewalk chalk. Have the youth stand in the squares while you play music. Let them dance as much as they’d like. Be sure to follow all regulations and restrictions in your local area.
Find a large open area at nighttime and play flashlight tag. Youth will have to keep six feet apart as they move, but if they get “hit” by a beam of light from the flashlight, they’re out. This is a great activity for smaller groups and can also be played by individual families as an activity if you’re not able to meet together.
Make Some Swag
Unify everyone with the traditional swag they’d normally get at a camping experience. Lanyards, t-shirts, or bandanas are all great options. Here’s a website that does bulk and group discounts on Latter-day Saint gear for activities, including personalized gifts.
Virtual Devotionals & Performances
At the heart of any activity is the spirit of Jesus Christ. Hold virtual devotionals and music performances designed to invite the spirit. Invite other ward members or reach out to speakers and authors who may be willing to join your virtual camping experience. Ask your youth questions about what they’d most like to learn about. You can have your ward leaders hold an anonymous Q&A session and teach lessons. Youth can bear their testimonies, perform musical numbers, and share what they’ve learned. By sincerely striving to have Jesus Christ at the center of the experience, your youth will be impacted even if they can’t meet together in the traditional ways.
What other ideas do you have for virtual camps & treks? Let us know in the comments below.