It is very clear to me, that the most effective camp directors truly understand the magic of summer camp as well as anyone. They understand what makes the environment that we call camp so special, and how camp is so different from the other ten months of the year. They get it, that special ingredient, that magic that we speak of!
Recently, I read an article from the American Camp Associations Media Center entitled The Benefits of Camp. The article speaks clearly to what it called the four “C’s” of the camp experience: compassion, contribution, commitment, and character! We as camp owners and directors have been given such a wonderful opportunity to be major impact players in the lives of children. We are able to personally align the philosophy of our summer camps with our programs and facilities to offer those special teachable moments that leave indelible marks on the lives that we are so privileged to touch.
The core values that camps promote aren’t really very different from those of our school communities, or those that parents try to instill in their children. So, why is it that we in camping continue to hear from scores of parents each year about the measurable successes and personal gains that our campers achieve in a short four or eight week stay at camp?
Is it due to the fact that campers and their summer camp counselors have been put on an electronic diet, taken away from their obsession with digital screens to become an integral part of the bunk, the color-war team, the camp community? Is it that we have been somewhat isolated from the excessive commercialism of television? Or is it that kids simply act differently when they are separated from their everyday routines to live under a different set of rules and group values?
My best guess is that summer camp represents all that is real and genuine in life. Camp is a very real, hands-on, natural place where children are encouraged to branch out and try new things. Campers are allowed to participate in an environment that is free of failure as they are not graded on their results, only praised for giving it a try! Children are enveloped in a summer camp culture that stresses sportsmanship and strong citizenship skills, a very personal culture that promotes healthy activities, which in turn teach healthy habits in life. Very possibly, children experience degrees of independence and freedom as never before in their short lives. Camp surely helps children to build personal core competency skills moving forward.
I can tell you this… camp is unique! There’s no place like it!
It is a dynamic place where spirit soars and laughter roars. It is a safe place where children can take a break from the rigors of school and the competitive fast-paced lives that we all live. It is a time of the year that places greater value on the physical aspects of life, a time that allows us to truly concentrate on making and keeping friends, on growing our leadership skills while further developing our sense of self confidence and self sufficiency. Camp is a place that smiles!
Yes, camp is a magical place that comes around each summer and passes much too quickly. It seems to me that in this complex and often chaotic world, we could all learn a lot from being gathered around that camp fire singing songs, making new friends and having a few s’mores.