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The Right Camp Makes A Difference

November 2009

The Right Camp Makes A Difference

It is being lost! Today less and less children are getting to go to summer camp. The wonderful experience of summer camp has been a way of life for generations of American children. Sleeping away from home and making new friends is a time of increased independence and maturity.For others who did not get the opportunity to go to Outdoor Camp they just don’t understand the importance.

In many books and movies summer camp has been the scene. To name a few, “The Parent Trap” and “Indian Summer”. Yet, the majority of these movies and books are not realistic. Either they sugar coat the camp experience or they make it just horrible. Summercamp!, the documentary is one of the most realistic true stories about kids at summer camp. Filmed at Swift Nature Camp in Wisconsin, it truly shows how the kids interact and what makes camp so special. During the filming over 300 hours of film was shot to make this charming 90 minute feature. This documentary shows camp like it really is, this is no glossy brochure or promotional DVD, it just shows kids living life with new friends and in new situations.

These days parents heavily schedule their children making it more difficult to plan for summer camp. In addition, we parents, have given much more importance to technology than nature. After all the boogie man outside rarely comes in to harm your child. Thus making the world of mature unsafe. It is estimated that most children spend nearly 6 hours a day in front of some sort of screen.

Famed author Richard Louv, of Last Child in the Woods: is alarmed by this untouching of nature. He calls it Nature-deficit disorder and sad situation in child development. He feels there is a link between lack of outdoor play and increase in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.

Summer Camp is just one place that can help children learn to appreciate nature as well as teach children independence and friendship. Connection with nature and other children are important in raising a generation that sees the importance in protecting this planet. Most camps today are specialized in sports, acting or math. So, how do we find a traditional camp that encourages good values and a focus for nature?

Ask yourself these questions before selecting your child’s summer Camp:

1.) What about technology? All electronics can take away from the true camp experience. Ipods and cell phones allow children to hide in their electronics rather than participate with the cabin. Louv says that tent mates with video games or text messaging can easily distract your child. At first most campers are not so keen on this idea but after a few days at camp they see a reason to take a break.

2.) Does the camp have an Outdoor Focus? Louv suggests some camps are trying to be all things to all people. No longer are camps seen as a traditional time in the woods. Historically, summer camps used their natural settings, and encouraged children to play in a outdoor environment. Today this is no longer true, many camps take place on college campuses.

3.) Can children play without direction in Nature? Nature-deficit disorder is nearly always due to parents over scheduling kids. Louv suggests this gives kids less time and energy to explore their natural world on their own. Summer camps have figured this out and design structured and non structured play. When children play on their own, they have to figure it out and work together, what a wonderful learning experience.

4.) Is there Environmental Education? Does camp schedule time where nature can be explored and discovered? These times should be hands on and not like school. Does a theme of the outdoors run within all activities? Are “WOW” moments created that highlight the wonders of nature? Does the summer camp try to reduce its environmental footprint? Does it compost and recycle?

5.) Kids eat 3 times a day. So the food has got to be good. For years children’s summer camps have had a poor reputation for their meals. This has changed at many camps. More vegetarians have caused this change. Ask about fried foods? Is there a salad bar with fruits and yogurt? Can the camp cope with your child’s food allergy? Still meals must taste good and be kid friendly.

Written by Jeff Lorenz, Owner/Director of Swift Nature Camp