Taproot Nature Experience

 

Taproot's mission is to foster a generation of people who know, love, enjoy, and actively care for our earth and all of its citizens.

Taproot Kids are superheros, and Taproot is a superhero training camp!

COVID-19 Update August 4, 2020

There are still some important unknowns as to the who, what, when, and how of Fall 2020 Schools, but we have some pretty firm ideas about what Taproot will be doing.

If allowed by law, Taproot WILL offer daytime programming for elementary-age children. The most likely format will be a morning session and an afternoon session, Monday through Friday. We will plan to run this format through October, at which time we'll re-assess and decide what to do based on COVID19 conditions, school situation, Taproot participation, and other factors. 

Morning Taproot will run from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and Afternoon Taproot will be from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Kids will sign up by the session, for any combination of sessions. For example, a child might sign up for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, or Tuesday afternoons and Friday mornings, or Wednesday morning and afternoon and Thursday morning, etc. Theoretically, a kid could sign up for Monday-Friday morning and afternoons, but that would probably be too much.

We'll have a maximum of 12 children in each session, with two teachers. I'll be there each session, and Michele will teach with me for some of the days. The other teacher(s) are yet to be determined. 

We will use the Beluga bus for transportation. This will allow the children to space out more than in the other vans, and it has better ventilation. We'll minimize the time kids are in the bus, and will follow strict protocols similar to what we are currently doing at camp. We'll wipe down surfaces and seats and spray disinfectant (or some equivalent cleaning procedure) in between sessions. There will be a lot more COVID19-related safety details before we actually start up.

Since there are many details still to be determined, we are NOT taking reservations yet. I will make an announcement via e-newsletter, FB/social media, and on the Taproot website when we do open registration. I do appreciate hearing from parents about what you think you'll do with your kids in the fall; this feedback is very helpful for planning.

July 15, 2020

With the recent announcement from ICCSD that kids, teachers, and staff will not be returning to on-site school this fall, we are busy working out how Taproot can step in to help address some of the needs of our community.

We do plan to offer Taproot in the fall, likely focused on expanded daytime programming for elementary-age children. The week will likely be divided into different sessions, such as MWF and TTh, or morning and afternoon time slots, or some combination of both. We are studying the proposed ICCSD schedule to figure out a compatible way of doing Taproot.
 
We will likely drop our Sprouts program for this fall. Among other reasons, we are looking for the most effective ways to use Taproot's strengths and abilities to help the community. It seems like elementary-age children are where we can do the most good.
 
Our fall programming will be heavily dependent on good weather, because we will avoid indoor time at almost all cost. As we've done with our summer camp, we will cancel Taproot if severe weather is forecast. That's a big hassle--today the forecast called for strong storms all day and we canceled. But here we are, well past noon, and it has been a gentle drizzle all morning. We could have had a wonderful camp day. So that'll be part of our fall as well.
 

For what it's worth, I agree with the ICCSD decision. I'm not happy about it; it's going to be a very difficult fall for everyone--and for some much more than others. But we have to make some progress on this pandemic, and it is not the schools' fault that our state and federal leadership has utterly failed to respond appropriately, and has completely wasted our massive shutdown efforts from earlier in the year.

 

July 9, 2020 

We are almost done with our first week of summer camp in the time of COVID-19, and let me tell you, it feels AWESOME to be back. I guess I didn't know just how much I missed it until we were back in it.

With our new safety protocols and routines, and with our evolving understanding of this virus, things feel safe at camp. The kids have been so flexible and wonderful about the whole thing. None of us like having to wear buffs over our faces, but everybody realizes that's a small price to pay in order to be together exploring and playing in nature again.

The real test, of course, will be in a few weeks.

Here are photos of this week's Sapling Camp.

July 1, 2020

We are still on track with Sapling Camp starting Monday, July 6, and we're busily getting everything in order! Cambium and Seedling Camps will start the next week, on July 13.

Here is a narrated slide show detailing the changes and safety measures we're putting in place to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 at camp.

June 24, 2020

Our current plan is to open Sapling, Cambium, and Seedling Camps on Monday, July 13. Sadly, we have decided to cancel Sprouts Camp for the summer. Taproot Leadership Camp is also canceled.
 
I am soooo ready to be back out in nature, playing and exploring with Taproot Kids, and I hope, HOPE it happens. I can't pretend it's certain though. Nationwide, new COVID-19 cases are as high as ever and continuing to increase, as the country is enthusiastically relaxing infection control measures. But July 13 is what we are hoping for. I have an eye on the news and have several healthcare provider friends giving me their observations and advice, and I'll be posting weekly updates now. 
 
I'm also working on articulating the health safety protocols we'll need to implement, and how they will fit into camp--or how camp will be reshaped to fit into them. There is a lot to think about! My intent is to have a manual for you all, as well as a short video to watch before coming to camp.
 
I continue to process and send out June and Sprouts Camp refunds. I'm sorry it takes so long and I appreciate your patience.

May 23, 2020 (Michele's Birthday)

This corona virus is no joke, and even though all over the country--including Iowa--state and local governments are "opening up," the disease is still very much a risk factor. Because of this, we've canceled all Taproot Camps for the month of June. I am in the process of refunding all payments made for June camps. If you haven't received your refund yet, don't worry. It will take me awhile to get through all of them. Please consider donating part or all of your payment to Taproot to help us survive this pandemic. Taproot is a registered non-profit organization, so your donation is fully tax deductible. If I don't hear from you, I will assume you want a full refund.
 

FOR JULY and AUGUST CAMPS, we are currently thinking we will go ahead with them in some form. To be clear, we are NOT sure that this is the "right" decision, and it's subject to change depending on many factors. Our task is to find the sweet spot between risk and necessity. We have asked for advice from healthcare experts that we know, and we'll continue to ask in order to have the most current information. Obviously, there will be big changes in how Taproot Camp rolls, but we don't know those details yet. I will update y'all as I'm able.

May 7, 2020

Iowa and other states are talking about "opening up" again, and relaxing the extreme measures we've all taken to slow the spread of COVID-19. We've done this to support our front line health-care heros and to save the lives of our loved ones. Declarations that the worst is past and that we've overcome this illness seem very premature. New cases are still increasing in many places even if we're not hearing much about it. Most of us are still at risk of contracting the virus, and it's still a major health risk to lots of people.

Our most-comparable historical situation--the 1918 Flu Pandemic--gives another important piece: The "second wave" that occurred between October and December of that year is estimated to have killed around 10 times the number of people who died in the first wave. A factor in the severity of that second wave was the societal relaxing of aggressive disease-control measures. We want to learn from the past and do things differently to hopefully achieve a better result. 

Because of these things, we feel strongly that Taproot should stay closed. We are officially canceling our summer camps for the month of June. That includes Taproot Leadership Camp. We will stay tuned to pandemic developments to decide our actions beyond June, and we'll keep you informed as we're able. 

At first glance, it might seem that Taproot could continue to operate in a socially-distanced manner, but the reality is that Taproot is a fundamentally close-knit, human activity. It's doubtful that Taproot Teachers could enforce social distancing among Taproot Kids. If they did, it would be such a different experience as to not be Taproot anymore. So we feel that for now, the right choice is for Taproot to lay low and wait for safer conditions, regardless of what our elected officials say. 

I am prepared to issue refunds of Taproot payments, at any time, even though there's still some chance that camp will still happen this summer. However, Taproot is in a very tight spot, and I ask you to consider donating part or all of your payment to help keep us afloat. (We are a registered non-profit organization, which makes your donation tax deductible, if that makes a difference to you.) I understand that some families are also in a financially precarious position these days, and may not be able to afford to donate to Taproot. If you need a refund--for whatever reason--just let me know and I will process it right away. 

April 18, 2020

The pandemic continues--some places seem to be calming down, others are still ramping up, and a huge part of the country just seems to smolder, ready to burst into flames any time. The paucity of testing remains a major difficulty in controlling or even understanding the extent of this illness.

lowa Governor Kim Reynolds has announced that Iowa schools will remain closed through the end of the academic year, and Taproot will also remain closed until then. This is discouraging but not totally surprising, and will hopefully allow us all to safely come out of hiding sooner. 

Taproot has received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the $2.2T rescue package you've recently heard about. This loan will allow Taproot to pay our teachers' wages for April and May, and some or all of the loan will be forgivable, so it becomes a grant. It's helpful, certainly, but it is a minimal survival support. Beyond May, we will need to figure something else out!

It seems almost certain that Taproot Summer Camp will be affected--either delayed or canceled altogether. I am proceeding as if we will operate summer camp as usual--hiring teachers and making plans--even though that's unlikely. I don't want to just close it all down yet.

March 19, 2020

It's the official First Day of Spring, and actual spring is coming regardless of whether we humans have the emotional bandwidth to celebrate or even notice. All Taproot programs have been closed at least until April 13 to reflect the actions of the ICCSD, and it looks almost certain that the closure will extend to the end of the school year, possibly beyond.

Of course, we are concerned about keeping Taproot alive through this crisis, when it sounds like so many small businesses are in danger of going under. The more important concern is keeping people alive and well. We will continue to pay our amazing Taproot Teachers their normal wages at least through the end of the academic year, and hopefully we will be able to minimize expenditures and be ready to start up again when the time comes. Many of you have pre-paid for camp, and obviously that will be an issue if any summer camps end up being cancelled.

We believe in the importance of being connected to nature, and we hope that you will continue to get outside, walk in the woods, dig in the garden, climb trees, play in the creek, and do other outdoor stuff, even as you're self-isolating. Thankfully, all these things are still OK as long as we stay clear of others. 

Finally, many of our Taproot Parents are nurses, doctors, and other medical care providers. You are our superheros, now more than ever. As you already know, the coming weeks and months are going to be harder than anything most of us have ever experienced. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. We are grateful.