By Amanda Janik
Summer is peeking its head around the corner, and everyone knows that right along with summer comes…CAMP! Whether you’re a first-time camper at day camp, a counselor at sleep-away camp, or the hard-working trusted staff making the excitement happen all summer long, there are a million reasons to grab your sleeping bags and run for the cabins. For your convenience, here are ten of them:
Lifetime Friendships – nothing creates bonds faster or stronger than plopping a bunch of strangers together to meet, talk, share and play games together. Throw in some trust-building exercises and a few lazy hours to discover what makes each other tick, and you’ve got a unique bond that lasts long after the last notes of “Taps” have floated away.
Structured vs Unstructured Time – Which is better? Camp says: both. The structure of a daily schedule and planned activities provides campers and staff alike with a sense of safety and organization. But too much can be kind of a drag. Building in free time, choice time, and even some horizontal relaxation time lets campers casually choose how to spend these precious moments, while staff gets a much-needed recharge or time to prepare the Next Big Thing.
Positive Acceptance – At camp one can be who they truly want to be. It may be the first opportunity some have to really, as they say, let their freak flag fly…and probably come away with it having been embroidered in arts n’ crafts, tie-dyed during a special activity, and signed by new friends.
Tech Break – Ever lament the day technology became so accessible and common? Going to camp offers a rare opportunity to take a tech break, open those eyes, and really notice the beauty around. The chance to get the brain’s synapses firing in new and creative ways is an exciting reminder that the mind is a dynamic and capable tool for finding ways to kill time the old-fashioned way.
On Water or On Land – If you’ve never learned to do a T-Rescue while floating in a canoe in the middle of a lake, you really haven’t been living up to your full potential! Whether teaching or learning skills such as marksmanship and high-level safety during archery, team-building and troubleshooting while maneuvering the initiatives course, or how to paddle a canoe with a partner without spinning in a circle, both the attempts and mastery of many camp activities result in an abundance of opportunities for high-fives!
Independence – For some kids, camp is the first chance they get to make choices for themselves. Will they choose to write letters in the lodge, play basketball outside, or make a dreamcatcher in the arts cabin? Who could possibly choose?! They’re all so fun! Being presented with choices helps kids learn on their own what their likes and dislikes are, and to trust their instincts. Making good choices later in life starts right here in these little moments. Who knew?
Ghost Stories by Campfire – It’s dark out – way dark. Songs have been sung; skits have been laughed at. It’s time…for…GHOST STORIES!! There is a certain reverence at every camp for the person who can tell the best ghost story. The buildup, the false sense of ease, then at the last minute, the shock and the scare! The campers scream and squirm and then are sent out into the dark with their buddies for bedtime. Sweet dreams!
The Last Dance – Most camp sessions a week or longer end with a dance. When the younger campers are there, this is an opportunity for the staff to really ham it up and engage them in group dancing. For the older set, the last dance provides the much-anticipated opportunity to dance with the person you’ve been crushing on all week.
Keeping Traditions Alive – There aren’t many opportunities nowadays to learn the fancy footing of traditional folk dancing, how to master the order of the clap-stomp-shout of funny group songs, to at least attempt to harmonize while singing sweet old folk songs, or how to tell a really great story. Camp brings old-school traditions to today’s kids, who in turn keep the ball rolling.
Life Skills – When campers and staff learn to work together to make everything run smoothly and safely, they may not be aware that they’re learning lessons to carry through their whole lives. Camp is sneaky like that! From keeping cabins tidy for daily inspections, to troubleshooting when the details of special activities go awry; from keeping a sense of humor while preparing meals for hundreds of people, to showing respect, empathy and tolerance for your fellow campmates.
In a nutshell: Camp is The Best! So, grab your sturdiest bandana, slather on some bug spray, and get ready to change your whole world.
Find the Perfect Summer Camp: http://find.acacamps.org/