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!

Update September 13, 2020

Happy September! Our Fall Taproot Program starts tomorrow. We still have plenty of space in most mornings and afternoons, so if you're interested please go on-line and sign your Taproot Kid up.

Here is our current COVID-19 and general procedure document:

COVID-19 Considerations and General Procedures for Fall Taproot 

Last revised September 12, 2020        

These measures are in hopes of reducing the likelihood that Taproot Kids and Teachers will become infected or transmit COVID-19 at Taproot or bring the virus to their households. They are not a guarantee. Our safety practices at Taproot are important, but the level of risk depends on various factors, many of which are out of our control. Each family will need to weigh the benefits of attending Taproot this fall against the risks, and make their own decision. If, at any point, you change your mind or feel uncomfortable or unsafe, we encourage you to speak up to a Taproot Teacher. If a parent feels they need to withdraw their child from Taproot, we completely respect and support that decision.   

In the event that teachers, children, or any household members show symptoms, fall ill, or are worried they might have COVID-19, I will keep all Taproot families appropriately informed as I receive information so you can make your own decisions.   

Zac Wedemeyer—Director and Lead Teacher—319.325.0695 

Michele Thompson—Assistant Director and Teacher—319.530.7022 

Cecilia DeBoeck—Teacher—319.471.7505 

Laura Max—Teacher—319.383.7333 

 

Overview of COVID-19-related Changes 

  • Modified communication plan 

  • New drop-off and pick-up procedure and location 

  • Daily health screening and questions about student and household 

  • Minimized van time and new van procedures (loading, unloading)  

  • No Taproot-provided snack, changes to lunch and snack time 

  • No indoor activities  

  • In order to eliminate/minimize indoor time, we may need to shorten or cancel Taproot days due to inclement weather 

  • Changes to program payment and refund policies 

Camp Communication Plan 

  • Every evening, Sunday through Thursday, I will send you an email by 8:30 p.m. This email will include the weather forecast for the next day and the day’s tentative plan. If thunderstorms are predicted, we’ll address the possibility that the camp schedule might be affected. 

  • Every camp morning, Monday through Friday, I will send an email by 6:30 a.m. confirming the weather report and plan. This is where I’ll let you know if the day’s schedule needs to change.   

  • You can email me with questions or feedback any time. 

Drop-Off/Check-In Procedures 

  • This fall’s location is Upper City Park, to the west of City Park Pool 

  • Morning check-in between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.

  • Afternoon check-in between 1 and 1:15 p.m.
  • Park wherever and walk over near your child’s camp van and wait to be checked in. Keep spaced out from other people. 

Check-in includes: 

  • Health questions and camper temperature check. The child may not attend if temp reads 99.9°F or higher, or if the child or household member(s) have COVID-19 symptoms: Fever, cough, shortness of breath, severe body aches, or loss of taste or smell 

  • Confirm the child has required supplies 

  • Confirm contact numbers  

  • We will do the check-in with every child, every day. We will be strict. You can avoid an awkward or sad situation at Taproot if you also do this health screen at home before coming to Taproot.  

Pick-Up/Check-Out Procedure 

  • Pick up for Morning Taproot is at 12:30 p.m. Teachers will have a short time window and work to do before the next group comes, so it’s very important that you pick up your child on time. 

  • Pick up for Afternoon Taproot is between 5:00 and 5:15 p.m. 

  • Please be sure to verbally notify a Taproot teacher before leaving with your child

Again, our location this fall is the west side of Upper City Park, off Park Road.   

Here is the list of items your Taproot Kid needs each day. Please make sure you have all of these things before coming to Taproot!  

  1. Facemask  

We will be wearing masks at all times in the van, and frequently outside of the van. Kids will keep their mask with them all the time, except when fully swimming. Whenever they come close to others--such as working on a project, looking at a creature, etc—they will wear the mask. When spaced out, they can have the mask off.   

  1. Towel 

The towel will be used for drying off, of course, but will also be useful as the child’s snack, lunch, and resting spot, as well as occasionally serving as a yoga mat. 

  1. Sun hat, lightweight long sleeve sun shirt, and sunscreen stick 

To help reduce the need to apply sunscreen and touch the children. The added benefit is that it will protect better from the sun, as well as bugs and scratchy plants. It’ll take some getting used to, we know. The sunscreen stick is so that kids can easily apply sunscreen to their own face, ears, neck, hands, and other exposed spots.   

  1. Swimsuit with swim shirt  

Also to avoid having to apply sunscreen and touch the children. The swim shirt does not have to be anything special; a regular long or short sleeve t-shirt is fine. We will swim less as the weather cools, of course, but while it’s still warm we’ll swim a lot.   

  1. Change of clothing 

  1. Water bottle 

Refills will only be done by a teacher with freshly-sanitized hands, from a dedicated refill jug that will be thoroughly cleaned and filled each day. If you wish, you can send multiple bottles of water with your camper to reduce (though not eliminate) the need for refills.  

  1. Food 

Children will need to bring enough food to fuel them through the 4-hour Taproot period. We won’t have a specific snack or lunch time; rather, kids will be invited to listen to their bodies and eat when they are hungry. Please send simple, healthy snacks in a compact container (like a lunch bag) and aim for whole foods as much as possible. Do not send soda pop, and please minimize candy. NOTE: Kids who attend all day will need to bring more food. 

  1. Necessary Medications/Epi Pens 

Please only send medications they must have or take during their Taproot time period.

Weather Cancellation Policy 

The danger of COVID-19 transmission goes way up when you go indoors, so we are going to avoid indoor time at nearly all costs. This means that we will shorten the Taproot day or cancel altogether if harsh weather is predicted as likely. For example, if a thunderstorm is likely for the morning hours, we would cancel the morning period for that day. If a storm is predicted for the afternoon, we’d cancel the afternoon. If storms are predicted for much of the day, Taproot will be cancelled altogether.  

Over the summer this issue came up a few times, and it never worked the way we hoped—the forecast predicted storms and we cancelled, and the storms never materialized. OR, the forecast predicted clear weather and we all came to camp, and then an insane derecho bulldozed through. Still, it’s the best system we have so we’ll hold the course and continue with this policy. 

Of course, sometimes thunderstorms pop up unexpectedly, and at those times we’ll just do our best. Please believe me, I never want to cancel Taproot and we won’t take this decision lightly. And when I say “harsh weather” I’m not talking about just rain. Rain we can handle and have fun. I’m talking about strong thunderstorms with lots of lightning, high winds, and heavy rain, or thunderstorms that are predicted to last a long time. For light rain and short-lived, mild thunderstorms, we can go to a park shelter. We will have an outdoor rain shelter plan each day that rain is likely. 

If the uncertainty of this policy is a deal-breaker for you, that’s understandable and we're sorry.  

 Inside the Vans 

Gone are the days—at least gone for now—of the whole group joyfully storming the van and crowding into their seats, or tumbling out in a happy kid waterfall. Now, it will be a supervised, orderly process meant to minimize touching and reduce the risk of virus transmission.  

Kids will have assigned seats, which I’m hoping they can remember without labels. If your child has any special needs for seating—like if they get car sick in the back—please let me know. You can also let me know if your child wants to sit somewhere or by someone in particular, and we'll do our best.  

We’ll load from back to front, and unload from front to back, so campers don’t need to climb over each other.   

We’ll use hand sanitizer immediately before entering and after exiting the van.  

Everyone will wear a mask while in the van.  

We will keep windows and vents open to maximize ventilation.  

We’ve never allowed eating in the vans; now drinking will be out as well. Kids’ backpacks will stay closed and kids won’t access them in the van. 

Most van rides will be less than 15 minutes, and no van rides will exceed 30 minutes (provided things go as planned).

Payment and Refund Policies 

I’m asking a non-refundable deposit of $100 per morning or afternoon period to begin. This amounts to two weeks’ tuition. Full payment for the session is due on Sunday, September 27. After that, any refunds will be very limited. There will be no refunds for weather cancellations or if families choose to miss a day or need to miss days because of illness. If the remainder of the session is cancelled because of COVID-19 or some other calamity, I will address refunds depending on the situation.

These measures are intended to make Taproot safer, but they do not guarantee safety. There is still a significant risk that children and teachers will contract and spread COVID-19 as a result of attending Taproot.  


August 29, 2020

We will soon open registration for our Early Fall 2020 Taproot programming. It'll be morning and afternoon blocks, Monday through Friday, starting September 14 and ending October 30 (seven weeks). You can sign up for as many of the blocks as you want, but it will be consistent week to week. 

We're capping each block at 12 students. If the block you're interested in is full, you can put your child on the wait list. If there are enough children signed up, we will consider running a second group for that time block. 

I am working on the registration system now, and will send out an announcement when registration is open--hopefully yet this weekend. I am asking a $100 deposit for each time block, with full payment due the week of September 28. This will give you two weeks to decide if this arrangement will work for your family. After that time, no refunds will be issued. 

With everything going on, we have decided not to pick up children from school or run an after-school program this fall. We have also decided not to offer our Sprouts program for 3-5-year-olds. These are temporary measures, and we will re-start both Sprouts and ASP again when an effective vaccine has been developed and enough people have been vaccinated that COVID-19 is no longer a danger to us. 

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.