“It all starts with getting to know your community and what they’re looking for, not trying to be like everyone else because you are yourself, and you’re going to find your people.”
Are you thinking about offering classes this summer to increase year-round enrollments? Maybe you have an idea or passion that would be a lot of fun for learners. While in-person summer camps make be back in full swing, some learners live in areas where there may not be something readily available, or they may not offer the type of camp that only you could offer.
Learn how one educator implements strategies to build a successful summer camp and how you can apply these tools to your summer offerings.
If you want to know what the magic formula for summer camp is, all you have to do is ask Chelsea Kolenda.
Chelsea started her journey on Outschool when she and her husband moved to a small town in the interior of British Columbia. Knowing that she was going to be up there for the summer, Chelsea started looking for ways to get involved with local summer camps, something she had been doing for many years before in Vancouver. Without any options available, Chelsea started looking online and found Outschool.
“I found Outschool, and I was like, this really fits my values, my philosophy on education, and lots of things that would be really fun.”
But Chelsea didn’t wait for summer to start before offering her classes. Instead, she tested out a couple of one-time classes to get started and see what worked before launching her summer camps. Since that time, Chelsea has seen great success in her online teaching business focusing on drama summer camps.
We sat down to talk with her about what’s working and what can help you increase your summer enrollments. Here are her top tips for summer success.
6 Strategies for summer camp success
When putting together her ideas for summer camp, Chelsea focused on what she enjoys teaching the most, knowing that her enthusiasm would extend into the classroom.
Using Outschool’s Educator Insights is a great way to generate ideas and get started, but how do you stand apart from the crowd? Well, you want to focus on the things you know and interest you first. Chelsea uses these six strategies to keep learners coming back for more.
Chelsea reports that about 70% of her summer camp learners re-enroll in a second camp with her after they complete their first! Here are her top 6 tips to help you increase your re-enrollments.
1. Be unique
Can you imagine a summer camp that meets online for two hours each day? Chelsea can and does! Not only does she offer an online camp with a longer length of time than most online summer camps, but learners still ask her to stay longer at the end of meetings.
Offering longer hours helps set Chelsea apart from educators offering similar topics, but she focuses on spending time in class doing exciting things with learners based on a camp theme. Each class includes a hands-on activity, games, and time for social interaction.
At the end of each camp, Chelsea gives learners a certificate of completion. Better yet, she includes a coupon with her parent feedback messages that promote upcoming camps their learner may be interested in joining. Reaching out to families with positive feedback is good customer service. It may also help funnel current learners into future camps.
Need help with figuring out the best way to ask families for reviews? We’ve got you covered! Find out how to ask for parent feedback reviews to grow your online presence.
2. Focus on interaction
“Kids don’t sit and listen very well, nor should they, because that’s not a child’s mode of being, nor should it be. So, everything I do, I try to make as interactive as possible.”
With learners splitting their time between online and in-person activities, educators constantly create fresh ideas to keep learners engaged. Chelsea uses these questions to make sure that she’s engaging learners throughout each meeting:
- How do I make this interactive?
- How do I make it so that the kids connect?
- How do I structure the class so there is a final project or activity at the end of the camp? (For Chelsea, this might be a STEM project, performance, or other activity that learners work toward during the week.)
3. Take time to socialize
For some learners, your summer camp may be the only time they interact with kids their age. With this in mind, Chelsea recommends using extra time or transitions between activities to allow learners to chat and get to know each other.
Chelsea allows learners to spend the last 20 minutes of each day as a time for socialization. During this time, they can reflect on the camp and spend meaningful time together. Chelsea also shared that she recognizes something special about each learner at the end of class by showering them with praise on their accomplishments or behavior.
4. Don’t be afraid of some trial and error
Never made an online summer camp before? That’s okay. With a little practice and tweaking as you go, you may find that the key is not in what you teach but in how you teach.
As a brick-and-mortar educator, Chelsea had to adapt to an online learning environment when she first started.
“In Canada [when Covid started], we really pivoted and especially in my school district, we really, really pivoted. […] The first couple of weeks was teaching them [learners] how to be online because they didn’t know the etiquette. They didn’t know how to navigate things so it was a lot of trial and error for me. I had to teach them the whole curriculum online and also teach four different grade levels at once.”
For Chelsea, this is when she realized the secret to successful online classes is the learners themselves.
“I found something really, really wild that was unexpected had happened. You know, it was kind of like, get through it, give them an education, make sure that they’re feeling that they learned something but something really magical came out of it. And it was that they really bonded with each other, even though that was not an experience they’d had before.”
Seeing this occur, Chelsea started adding more collaborative projects and activities to her classes. Eventually, this led to increased engagement and a sense of community within the online classroom.
5. Use what you know
If you normally teach academic classes during the school year or at a brick-and-mortar school, coming up with new ideas may seem overwhelming. Instead of starting from scratch, think about the units or lesson plans your learners are most excited about.
Because Chelsea has high re-enrollment numbers for her summer camps, she is always thinking of new ideas and themes to offer.
“Some of [the camps] are things I’ve always wanted to teach. This upcoming summer, I’m teaching some Shakespeare drama camps, which I’ve always wanted to do with kids because that’s really amazing and magical and I know they’ll do fantastic with it.”
Chelsea also looks at what has worked for her in the past and reuses and updates that content for the summer. For example, Chelsea previously offered American Girl online camps focusing on historical dolls, which have been a huge success. Knowing this, she is switching it up this summer by changing the theme to the American Girl “Girl of the Year” dolls.
6. Follow your passion
As mentioned before, Chelsea offers online drama camps and online doll camps, among others. If you love the topic you’re teaching, that will shine through in your online classroom. Be brave and create a class covering a topic that you’re passionate about.
Whether gardening, hula hooping, or creating stop-motion videos, if there is a subject you can talk about all day, there is probably a learner out there looking for your class.
Amazing outcomes mean increased enrollment
In addition to following Chelsea’s blueprint for successful online summer camps, it’s important to remember that, as a business owner, implementing these ideas can potentially help increase enrollments. Chelsea’s re-enrollments for her online summer camps are extremely impressive.
“There are just some really amazing kids that I’ve had [in class] again and again and again and again. My experience has been most, I’d say like 70% of the kids re-enroll in a second camp after I’ve done a camp.”
The biggest takeaway? Don’t stop with one camp! Instead, use these tips for continuing enrollments throughout the summer.
Like Chelsea, you can create an end-of-camp completion certificate for each online summer camp. You can create individual certificates that focus on attributes such as “Most Creative,” “Bravest in Class,” etc. so that they are unique and highlight something special about each learner. Take it a step further and make different badges or stickers that learners can collect for each camp they attend.
After your online camp ends, consider sending feedback to families letting them know about your upcoming camps. Focus on what the learner did well and the benefits of your next camp. In the feedback, offer a coupon. Chelsea gives $10 or $15 discounts for learners who re-enroll, but you can pick an amount that works best for you.
Asking for reviews can be hard to do, but they help build your reputation and establish your expertise as an online educator. While she does occasionally share her camps on Facebook by marketing in Outschool groups, Chelsea’s success mainly comes from word of mouth. Having positive reviews visible for new families is beneficial to your long-term success as an online educator.
If you’re looking for even more ideas to help you start planning your summer camp, be sure to check out these articles on Outschool’s Educator Library: