Meri Wicks on the Value of Summer Camp

Why Camp?

How many of you went to camp when you were younger? What did you do? Who did you meet? Or maybe, what did you learn? Now imagine if you didn’t have those amazing summers filled these opportunities.

I attended an all girls summer camp in Belgrade Lakes, Maine for 8 years as a camper. In less than a month I will be heading back to Camp Runoia for my third year as a counselor for a total of 11 summers overall. Camp had an extreme impact on my life and I can see it having the same impact on my younger campers.

Will your child go to camp? I hope to persuade all of you to understand that kids need camp even more than before to receive a sense of independence connecting with nature, and learning life long skills in a safe and kid friendly environment that can really help them thrive and succeed in their lives.

Unlike in the school setting where we had to learn what was mandatory and what was required to pass. Camp gave some of us our first taste of independence. Camp allows kids to choose activities they want to do. I remember I had a huge passion for sailing. While I know my mom would have wanted me to kayak all day or go on hikes, I choose to sail everyday. From a radio podcast done by CNN by a senior executive producer Michael Schuler, Schuler spoke with a summer camp advocate, physiologist and school consultant Michael Thompson about summer camps. Thompson explained camp as, “the closet thing to Hogwarts that kids are likely to get.  All of children’s literature knows that the adventures only begin when you’re away from your parents. Every great children’s story is driven by the child being away from parents, experiencing things on their own.” Later in the podcast, Thompson summarizers how kids gain independence and how camp can be the place to start that journey to independence he says, “Your parent has to open the door and let you walk out and find independence, experience it and become comfortable with it.” Camp gives you theses independence experiences from even a young age and can help you when you start looking for colleges or majors you want to study. Because at camp you became comfortable with your independence you can have a better idea of maybe what you want and what you think is best.

What if 20 years done the road no one talked face to face? Scary to think about, right? Today we already see it on a smaller scale. Look around. People are on their phones at restaurants instead of having small talk with the person across from them, or even at parties where it’s almost all about face-to-face communication. There is always a group of people sitting in the corner head knocked over and thumbs raptly going across the keyboard saying things like “I’m bored.” Of course you’re bored, you’re looking at a screen with pictures while a fun night is passing you by.

More and more kids are using social media and cellphones then ever before. In a survey done in 2012 by ORC International for the National Consumers League or (NCL) which is the nation’s oldest consumer organization. It shows that 10-11 age ranges is a “sweet spot” for pre-teens to receive a cell phone. Six out of 10 pre- teens were aged from 10-11 and then twenty percent of 8-9 year olds and 15% of 12 year olds received a cell phone. These age ranges are the same age of the girls I have camp and the percentages, we can assume jut keep going up each year. They use texting as a “cool thing” to do. They will text each other when they are right across from each other and think its funny. But this can become a potential problem. They use texting and the Internet as an alternative way to talk and they have developed poor communication skills because of it.

Camp allows these youngsters to unplug and reconnect with the nature and the world around them. At camps they don’t have access to cell phones or computers or any other technology really. This makes them talk face to face and realize that connections are the most personal when they are in the present moment. Countless times I remember girls coming in the first day practically crying when they gave their phones away thinking how will they survive? A few days into camp they realize they don’t need a phone to be complete. They have already made friends but just talking and having real time conversations. Camp is really the only place left that can do that.

At camp kids learn in a setting that is safe and nurturing. According to the ACA, parents trust camps because first and foremost they are kid centered places. What a camp does is all for a child. And camps make each camper feel special. While everything that goes on in the world especially with the increased social pressures kids have been burdened with, camp is a place to relieve them of these burdens. They can have a place to just be themselves. So that kid that didn’t have many friends at home because maybe his/her family isn’t as wealthy or maybe they are bullied at home because they are too short, too tall. Camp is a place that those kids can have a chance to grow. Camp can also helps kids succeed in something other than academics. Personally, I was not what people call an “excellent” student growing up, however, none of that mattered when I got to camp. I was passing leveling in archery, learning how to ride horses, and learning how to work well with others in a team. Camp did not judge me based on my school grades or based on anything for that matter. At camp kids can be whomever they want, and most of them choose to just be themselves for a change, and not have to worry about what they might be at home.

Recently, I asked my mom why she sent me to camp when it can cost a great deal to some. She said, “The cost didn’t matter to her. The cost was worth the experiences I got out of it. She knew I was having fun, and I looked forward to it each year. I made friends and each year, I’d come home more mature, and more knowledgeable about others and myself around me. That was something you couldn’t put a price tag on.” Going to summer camp has been a tradition in my family and others as well. I want to be able to send my children to camp in the future so they too can have these amazing opportunities and experiences. My fear though, is if parents do not understand that kids cannot learn everything in school and they need to have these outside encounters and have a chance to grow in a new environment. I hope this has persuaded all of you to understand how vital camp is to a child’s development and see how important that these kids have the chances to learn in new and unfamiliar environments.


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