Dakota City Heritage Village values its staff, volunteers and visitors to the village. For the past several months, we have all faced a new situation with a great deal of uncertainty and unease from day to day and week to week as the country has battled the COVID19 pandemic. From a complete state-wide shutdown to now starting to slowly return to our daily routines, we have been navigating the best ways to stay safe while being out in public. At the same time, those of us here at Dakota City Heritage Village have been researching how we might be able to carry on safely with our summer day camp programs and tours.
Camp is inherently a social experience; it is designed for children, youth and adults to interact together, play together, learn together and laugh together. Camp is a community based on hugs, pats on the back, high fives, making new friends, helping each other and socializing together. At Dakota City, what makes our day camps unique is that they are based on hands-on, interactive learning opportunities using historical artifacts and held in historic buildings. The same can be said for our tours.
Keeping our day camps and tours fun for the kids and focused on our mission of education can best be done utilizing our historic buildings and artifacts, while the volunteers help the kids learn chores, skills and games of 1900. Dressing in old-fashioned clothes; cooking in the Harris house; experiencing using the tools in the blacksmith, carpenter and print shops to make an item to take home; learning to be entertained without electronics; taking their family on a tour of the buildings they learned about, are all some of the highlights of our day camp for the kids. The tours also include hands-on learning in group situations. These activities and more are very interactive and social.
The safety and health of our campers, visitors, volunteers and staff should be our top priority. After much research into the compliance of the governor’s COVID19 Preparedness Plan, the American Camp Association, the Association of Camp Nursing, the Minnesota State Health Department, MNOSHA and the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, the best way at this time to stay healthy and prevent further spread of COVID19 is by personally distancing at least 6 feet from others, frequent hand washing, sanitizing all surfaces that have been touched after each use, and thorough daily cleaning of buildings and spaces used. Even with the governor allowing some businesses to reopen and people to be out, gatherings cannot be more than 10 people (our camps can run up to 24 or more, with tours even more), and the aforementioned requirements are still in place.
Kids are naturally curious, wanting to touch everything they can. Our camps and tours are set up to encourage touching-to-learn as much as possible without damaging artifacts. With these new requirements, volunteers would need to constantly be cleaning and sanitizing everything that is touched. Our Village is not equipped with modern bathroom facilities for easy hand washing, many of the artifacts will not withstand sanitizing after each camper has touched or used them, and it is not practical to have volunteers or staff spending hours each day thoroughly cleaning buildings after each use. It is impossible to teach some skills (sewing, printing, one-room school learning, etc) while staying 6 feet apart, and our small buildings do not allow enough space for groups to be inside to see and learn.
Volunteers are an important part of camp and our tours; without them we do not have enough staff to do the stations and activities. A large majority of Dakota City’s education volunteers are retired adults, who fall into the vulnerable adult category for COVID19. Others might live with a vulnerable adult. Whether a volunteer wants to come be part of camp/tours or not needs to also be taken into consideration. At this time, most of the adult education volunteers have said they prefer not to personally volunteer and mix with the public and we fully support that choice.
Our hands-on interactive learning structure to day camp and tours in our mostly small, historical buildings is incompatible with the requirements of the COVID19 Preparedness Plan outlined by the governor for businesses to return to work. If we try to move the camp, tours and events out of the buildings, keep distance from everyone, take away the hands-on activities and use more virtual learning, we take away the essence of our unique camp, tours and events. It is for these reasons, with great reluctance and sadness, that Dakota City Heritage Village has made the difficult decision to cancel day camp and tours this summer. We will miss seeing you for our camps and tours. We know it is so very disappointing, but we are hoping next year will be better.
For everyone’s health safety, only office staff are allowed in Ahlberg Hall at this time. Staff can be reached by phone (651-460-8050) during office hours, which are Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm or anytime by email (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com). All previously scheduled events, tours and programs are cancelled. Like and follow us on Facebook or check back here as updates become available. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this uncertain time. We hope to see you all at a later, safer time.