When I think about my own experience with camp, one particular summer comes to mind. I was about 10 years old when my mom threw the idea out there and it was very exciting. Leading up to camp, I remember feeling both nervous and excited. I was about to spend a whole week with people I didn't know, doing something I wasn't familiar with. But, in hindsight, I didn't realize that this was exactly what I had in common with everyone else. And for that, I'm grateful. By the time camp was over, I knew I could connect with others who were different from me, with a few commonalities. This had a much deeper impact than the actual skills learned at camp (although I still cherish those!). This community building helped prepare me for adulthood. All of this came back to me recently when I stumbled upon an American Camp Association article about how child development experts endorse the concept of camp as 'community' for children.
According to the article "noted experts in child development have expressed their thoughts on summer camp as a valuable resource for giving children the value of belonging to a community of their own. This position is being forwarded by the American Camp Association, which believes that the critically important sense of community for children is rooted in enabling and empowering children to be belonging, cooperating, contributing, and caring citizens.
Bruce Muchnick, licensed psychologist who works extensively with day and resident camps, said, "Each summer at camp a unique setting is created, a community is constructed that allows participants to get in touch with a sense of life that is larger than one's self. The camp community seeks to satisfy children's basic need for connectedness, affiliation, belonging, acceptance, safety, and feelings of acceptance and appreciation."
Bob Ditter, licensed clinical social worker specializing in child and adolescent treatment, added, "It is in the crucible of this community that children gain self-esteem with humility, overcome their inflated sense of self, and develop a lifelong sense of grace and wonder."
Michael Brandwein, noted speaker and consultant to the camp profession, continued, "What makes camp a special community is its focus on celebrating effort. In this less pressured atmosphere, children learn more readily what positive things to say and do when they make mistakes and face challenges. Brandwein also said, "The traditions and customs of each different camp are like a secret code that allows those who know it to feel embraced by something unique and special."
Read the full article here.