Plast’s LSML summer program: a resounding success

Andriy Mychalchyshyn, Chair of the LSML Committee, Plast Canada.

For members of Plast, summer camps, “tabory”, are where the most important and meaningful traditions of the scouting organization take place. It is the highlight of our program and where the scouting, nature and lifelong memories become one.

Planning for summer camps is a large part of the annual programming and much of the work in Plast is geared towards preparing the children for outdoor adventures in July and August. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it became apparent that Plast’s 2020 summer camps would be cancelled. In response, a group of Plast scouts from across Canada began planning alternatives to ensure that the summer of 2020 would not be a summer without Plast activities.

The organizers were guided by a simple but essential principle: “There are no bad ideas.” This spawned many creative ideas and concepts. A wide variety of ideas for summer activities were proposed and the primary challenge became creating a cohesive plan that would be fun, achievable and meaningful to a broad cross section of our scouts.

Realizing the camp experience could never be solely recreated online, the organizers focused on two goals. Firstly, providing participants an opportunity to experience the most essential and memorable parts of Plast camps online, and secondly, to do so with small groups of family and friends. Most important was being able to do so safely.

From this, the project ‘Любимо Сонце, Рух, Життя’ (We Love Sun, Being In Motion and Life) was born. The name is derived from the lyrics of the Plast hymn and epitomizes the relationship of the organization with nature, and why summer camps are pivotal for our youth. Members of Plast share a special bond with nature and truly love being in the sun, being active and living a full life.

Participants in the summer activity were able to earn a badge by completing self-directed activities listed online on the website www.lito2020.com. They could complete these tasks on their own, or with others, and an online ‘jamboree’ was organized to add a sense of community and to facilitate bonding moments over the course of a week in August.

The content was structured around 4 categories of projects centred around a main theme. In the ‘Love’ category, projects were designed to encourage participants to help others, create and sustain meaningful friendships, take part in acts of kindness and reflect on one’s own wellbeing and mental health. The ‘Sun’ category was geared to outdoor activity and getting away from their screens, and included an activity aimed of going 24 hours without digital technology! There was a photo scavenger hunt, a campfire sing-along and several gardening activities. The ‘Motion’ category focused on physical activity and projects encouraging people to learn a new sport, being active daily, hiking or trekking in nature and committing to a daily exercise program. Finally, the ‘Life’ category bundled all the other aspects of Plast that don’t fit neatly into a category but are rewarding parts of summer camp life. Participants were encouraged to learn a new life skill, build things, make maps, cook, learn new recipes and to get the most out of their summer lives!

Depending on how many activities they completed, participants received a badge and certificate of achievement. The minimum requirement was 4 projects and many people completed all 16 projects over the course of the summer, which, was truly amazing! The online jamboree was also a great success and featured many memorable moments. Every day from August 19-25th participants could go to www.lito2020.com and find 2 new cooking and physical fitness videos. They would be able to learn a new recipe and try some new exercises to keep themselves active. All content was created by Plast instructors from across Canada and showed just how creative young people can be! There was yoga, fancy Ramen noodles, frittatas, a dance party, campfire pizza and many high intensity and fun exercises for all ages. There was also a shared online activity for each night of the jamboree. Throughout the week there was storytelling, sing-alongs, a quiz game and on the final day of the online jamboree Father Michael Loza livestreamed a mass from St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Church in Oakville, Ontario.

The jamboree component allowed people to chat and share stories with each other and also enabled them to share their experiences of the summer. While nothing could ever recreate a summer camp it was a lot of fun, created new bonds and rekindled old friendships through shared experiences.

Plast’s LSML summer program was a resounding success. We adapted to the temporary reality of life in a global pandemic and demonstrated resilience in the face of a crisis. Members of Plast love summers because they are full of adventure and this project allowed participants to experience many of the benefits despite not being able to physically be together. The LSML project demonstrated how online content can complement self-directed activities and bring people together and proving that organizations must, and can, adapt effectively to deal with the ongoing pandemic.