Sunday Snippet: The Real World Of WeHaKee
There is a fallacy out there that needs to be addressed! Often when people leave the camp environment, they lament that they are returning to the ‘real world’ as if to suggest what they just experienced may not be real or significant. Nothing could be further from the truth! Camp is not a fantasyland. It is not a theme park dreamland where things – things that could never occur in our real-life communities – are manufactured for nothing more than our enjoyment and entertainment. Camp IS a real world experience that leaves a lifelong and profound impact on each individual.
When a camper enters a camp environment such as Camp WeHaKee, she begins by engaging a community of people similar and different from her. With the guidance of caring counselors who help her quickly gain a sense of belonging, she becomes empowered to explore things she has never done before and meet people she has never known before. Camp provides a place for healthy risk-taking physically, socially, and emotionally. And it is through taking risks and pushing one’s level of comfort that real learning and growth takes place.
Camp promotional materials often paint a picture of campers always smiling and laughing, suggesting that the camp experience is of one of happiness and never having to struggle. Truth is, campers are having a lot of fun and happiness every day at camp. But, in reality… that is not the complete picture. Growth and development comes when a camper faces a challenge or a struggle. Perhaps when a camper fails to accomplish a skill in an activity such as missing the target in archery, not getting up on waterskis, tumbling into the water while trying to stand on a paddleboard, having a clay bowl collapse on the potters wheel. Maybe when dealing with a social situation such as having a disagreement with another camper, choosing which friend to sit next to at a meal, or not wanting to do what another camper wants to do. These types of experiences may not bring happiness or laughter when they occur, but dealing with them allows the camper to grow. And when she finally overcomes the challenge, a deeper sense of satisfaction often leads to a more lasting sense of happiness!
A lot of physical skills are explored and developed at camp allowing campers to discover talents and gifts they may not otherwise have realized. But through the challenges of adjusting to life in a community (without the immediate care and protection from one’s parents), many social and emotional challenges and struggles are overcome leading to a great array of soft social skills that will help the camper achieve greater success later in life.
A recent NBC News post suggests just that in exploring how camp experiences help prepare kids for success at college. In Going to Sleepaway Camp As A Kid Might Prepare You Better for College, Allison Slater Tate visits with college administrators and current college students to explore the value of the overnight camp experience. What she finds is that going to overnight camp helps kids successfully live in a community, away from their parents and with people different from them.
“On top of forging friendships for a lifetime,
camp taught me how to be away from my parents,
interact with complete stranger, and become independent.”
quote from Going to Sleepaway Camp as a Kid Might
Prepare You Better for College, NBC News, March 31, 2016
But attending camp is much more than college prep! Campers grow in remarkable ways in a matter of days. Parents who embrace the camp experience for their children understand that it helps campers grow into responsible, compassionate, contributing, and happy adults. What is more ‘real world ‘ than that!
Thanks for reading today and have a great week everyone!