Camp Is More Essential Than Ever

This article was adapted for length and content. The full article can be read here.

Camp teaches really well. So well, in fact, that kids have no idea they are learning. Camp is a kid-tested and parent-approved classroom with a curriculum that delivers daily lessons in resilience, diversity, problem-solving, collaboration, communication, flexible thinking and so much more. Camp builds an inclusive community where kids can be confident that they belong, that they will be respected and that they are among friends.

Here are some more lessons that kids learn during camp, that they might not even realize:

Community and Connection

Camp creates a sense of community. It’s the kind of community that is not defined solely by proximity with one another, but rather by genuine connection, shared interests and experiences, a common sense of purpose and respect among its members.

Despite our best efforts, the sense of community and genuine connection that our kids have been able to derive from things like school, religious organizations and sports teams has been greatly diminished in recent months, if not altogether eliminated.

This has left a significant gap in an area that is fundamental to our kids’ sense of social-emotional health and overall wellbeing. At camp, a sense of community and connection is the primary goal. The other learning and social-emotional outcomes of camp are then able to follow organically and seamlessly.

A Sense of Belonging

Think about that feeling in your stomach when you walk into a situation where you just know you don’t belong. If you are like most people, this feeling did not make you want to try something new, openly share something personal, or engage in just about anything that would resemble a pro-social behavior. A sense of belonging is a basic human need and of vital importance during our kids’ developmental years.

When this need is met for our campers, they are more likely to:

  • Have the confidence to try new things
  • Display resilience in the face of adversity
  • Be comfortable being themselves and demonstrate respect for others doing the same
  • Show empathy toward their peers
  • Act selflessly to support the goals and needs of the group

For young people, a sense of belonging is even more important during periods of transition. Ensuring that our campers feel a sense of belonging is foundational to the camp experience.

Camp staff model and reinforce behaviors that support inclusivity, kindness to others, respect for our differences and empathy toward others.

At camp, not only will your child be made to feel like they belong, but they will be given the tools and opportunity to practice the skills necessary to make others feel the same.

A Growth Mindset

“Love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.”
— Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University

This quote is the basis for what Carol Dweck and others refer to as a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset believe that their talents, abilities and intelligence can all be developed through effort, persistence and learning. Camp is a perfect environment for supporting and developing a growth mindset.

Campers are encouraged to stretch themselves outside of their comfort zones, be comfortable making mistakes, persevere when things don’t go their way and celebrate the success of others. Through the camp experience, kids learn that things don’t always go your way, failures are a normal part of life and learning, being resilient leads to success, and it is smart to ask for help from others.

We have all experienced setbacks and challenges over the past few months. Chances are, the next few months may include more of the same. A growth mindset can help our kids better manage the emotional toll that this can have and come out stronger on the other side.

Reprinted from Camping Magazine by permission of the American Camp Association; ©2021 by the American Camping Association, Inc. This article was shortened for length and content, and the full article can be read at acacamps.org/campers-families/parent-blog/camp-more-essential-ever

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