Fridays with Franky: What’s So Special About Camp?
Hi friends, it’s me Franky, the Camp WeHaKee dog! I want to talk about getting even more kids to go to camp! Several years ago, the America Camp Association (ACA), our accrediting body and professional resource organization, embarked on a commitment to serve 20 million children by the year 2020. As active members of ACA, we are strong supporters and advocates of the mission and vision of this organization, but with all due respect, we must ask ‘why just 20 million children?’ There are nearly 75 million children in this country today and that number is expected to rise to over 80 million by 2020. Shouldn’t we be setting our sights on serving all children and youth?
We are being a bit facetious and certainly understand that the ACA has set an attainable, yet challenging goal in reaching 20 million by 2020. The real point is that with all of the diverse and remarkable camps (WeHaKee included!) throughout this country, why are there more than 60 million children not being served by camping? Why is the camp experience such a well-kept secret?
Well, if you’re reading this, it is likely you have experienced camp as a camper, staff member or parent OR you are exploring the possibility of a camp experience (Good for you!!). The camp experience is a very personal experience, one we often want to hold close to our heart and perhaps never share. There in lies the challenge! We NEED to share the power of the camp experience. We NEED to advocate how the camp experience in positive and remarkable ways. We NEED to encourage more people to embrace the camp experience. And we NEED to do this now!
Camp is more than s’mores & silly songs. Now more than ever, it is a community experience that helps children and young adults learn to live effectively among others, to confidently embrace a sense of independence, to appreciate our differences and what we have in common.
But why would any self-respecting parent choose to send their child away from them during the summer? It may on the surface seem a crazy idea to do so, but examine what really happens at camp and you’ll see why it can be the wisest choice a parent can ever make for their child! To help better understand the value of the camp experience, Peg Smith, ACA Executive Director penned a wonderful article on the merits of a camp experience, The Case for Camp — Why Kids Need It Now More Than Ever. Here is an excerpt from her excellent article:
CAMP PROMOTES COMMUNITY. It creates this great space that shows kids how to live together and care for one another. There are norms and negotiation of boundaries; there are rules. Camp is a place where kids can “practice” growing up stretching their social, emotional, physical, and cognitive muscles outside the context of their immediate family. This is what childhood is supposed to provide.
CAMP TEACHES CRITICAL THINKING. We need to remember how important it is to be actively involved in the learning process, and camp affords that. We’re going to need really strong problem solvers in the next century. We need the science, math, and biology, but without the ability to relate, connect, empathize, or inspire innovation, how will our kids be able to make a difference in the challenges now facing us?
THE CAMP EXPERIENCE EMBRACES THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT. While children have fewer and fewer opportunities to be outdoors, the camp experience advances the outdoor learning environment. As we become more concerned about saving the planet, we run out and make DVDs and videos about it. But the environment needs to be experienced to be appreciated. Kids need to catch tadpoles in the creek, wander among the trees, and feel the sun on their faces to understand the importance of those things. What happens to a generation that may grow up not seeing stars in the dark of the night?
CAMP CREATES FUTURE LEADERS. The camp experience offers kids a close-up look at compassionate leadership through the camp director, counselors, resident nutritionist, and other camp personnel. And kids get loads of opportunities to practice being a leader themselves — song leader, lunch table leader, team captain, the list goes on and on.
CAMP IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY LIFE CHANGER. It addresses universal childhood needs not specific to a particular racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic group. Nobody is left out. It’s all about childhood development.
CAMP HAS A LASTING IMPACT. One of the greatest gifts you can give a child is a sense of success and achievement. Camp teaches kids how to be active participants, ask questions, ask for help, and try new things. They leave understanding that it’s okay to feel a little uncomfortable sometimes, because that’s generally what happens when you’re getting ready to learn something. The camp experience translates back in real-world experience — in an “I can” attitude.
Thanks for joining me this week. Please go out and spread the word about the power of camp and have a great weekend!