At the request of the Ottawa Parenting Times, Catherine Ross, Communications Officer for the CCA wrote this article for publication in their magazine. Directors may find the content useful for educating current or prospective parents on the proven benefits of the camp experience.
Children benefit greatly from going to camp. Camp directors have observed this since campers started attending Canadian camps over a hundred years ago. Parents discover this when their children return home at the end of their session. In wonder and appreciation, they frequently write letters to directors.
Camp is the place where our kids became aware of themselves, where their self-esteem blossomed, their hearts thumped wildly and their growth spurts happened…what did you feed them?
It is two weeks since the boys came home and every dinner conversation still revolves around camp! They both had such a positive experience.
Our daughter came home with many new skills. Not only did she learn more hard skills in canoeing, kayaking and sailing, but she learned a lot about how to be a leader and to work even better as a member of a team.
Even campers know it.
After two weeks of desperately trying to do kayak rolls, I finally accomplished it. It was the most amazing feeling.
I learned about patience, tolerance and don’t give up.
I learned that it takes team work to get through an activity because you can’t do everything by yourself.
At camp you feel free from all the stress of your life.
However, it is only recently that we acquired documented proof of these claims based on thorough, academic, research and analysis. In 2011, Dr. Troy Glover and his team from The University of Waterloo in co-operation with the Canadian Camping Association completed a six-year study. The research team based their conclusions on interviews with many directors and the observation and questioning of hundreds of campers in a variety of camps across Canada.
They discovered that campers showed improvement in five key areas: social integration and citizenship, environmental awareness, self confidence and personal development, emotional intelligence and attitudes towards physical activity.
The findings came as no surprise to camp leaders but were welcomed as concrete evidence of the value of the camp experience to assist parents when they are considering how best to invest their money and their child’s time.
At camp, children live, work and play with other campers, many of whom may be strangers on arrival day. Some may be from different faiths and cultures. In resident camps, they often come from other cities, provinces or countries. But by departure day, despite the differences, with the guidance of a caring, capable counselor, they have become close friends. Even at an all boys’ camp, I have witnessed tears streaming down young faces as they say their goodbyes till next year. And the wonderful thing is– many of these friendships that start and are nurtured at camp last a lifetime. Fifteen years ago, my daughter moved to British Columbia. On her annual visit home to Ontario, without exception, the friends she strives to connect with are all camp friends.
Camp friends are the best. Campers frequently comment that “at camp I can be myself”. “Everyone accepts me for who I am.” Living in close proximity, it is impossible to pretend to be what you are not for too long. At camp, emulating the role modeling of a well-trained counselor, children learn to be accepting and tolerant.
Living in the out of doors, campers are exposed to the wonders of nature, which develops into an appreciation, concern and caring for our environment. An added bonus is that current research proves that time spent out of doors is essential and beneficial to the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual development of children.
How is it possible that even in a short period at camp, children grow in confidence? First, because their parents have trusted them to try a little independence. Second because their counselor (a young leader who in a short time, they will respect, admire and choose to emulate) is there at all times to help, teach, encourage and guide them as they achieve small goals. At camp, learning is fun. Every success, large or small, is recognized and cheered, whether making a bed for the first time or swimming the length of the pool. When goals are not reached, an empathetic counselor will remind a disappointed camper that there are no failures as long as you try. In this child-centered, positive, environment, children blossom.
At camp, children play hard, eat well and sleep like logs. It is a healthy place to be. Also, campers often express how safe and secure they feel at camp, which contributes to their physical and emotional well being.
But before any of these benefits can be realized, parents and prospective campers have an important job. They need to research and choose among the many, great, options the one accredited camp that best meets their family’s needs and expectations. Good luck in the search. And be prepared, if you choose wisely, your new camper will want to return for years to come!
What does camp mean to you? Maybe it’s a week of fun in the sun, arts and crafts, and canoeing. Perhaps it’s a couple weeks of dipping toes in the water, finding a place at the chow table, feeling confident about mastering a new activity, and endless campfire stories and giggles.
To your child, a camp experience is all of that and more. At camp, your child is able to play and learn, take chances and try something new, and build friendships that last a lifetime. It’s an opportunity to foster important life skills such as problem solving, leadership and self-confidence. Most importantly, camp is where your children can feel free to be themselves.
Every child deserves to go to camp and the Our Kids Camp Expo can help you find an amazing summer camp by introducing you to directors and staff from many different types of camps across Ontario and Quebec all in one day. Explore day and overnight camps that specialize in a range of programs including arts, sports, technology, special needs or an overall traditional experience.
The Camp Expo is the perfect place to discover your adventure and get your questions answered. Learn all about the benefits of camp, how to pay, how to prepare, what to pack, how camps deal with safety and homesickness, and more.
Be sure to bring the whole family to see live animal shows and participate in camp activities, games and crafts. There will be lots of prizes to be won, plus $2,500 in camp scholarships, and each attending family will receive a free 2015 OUR KIDS Camp Guide featuring 230+ programs to choose from.
In support of the Kids in Camp charity, which seeks to send underprivileged kids to camp, Our Kids will donate $1.00 on behalf of each attending person.
Sunday, February 22, 2015 from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Roy Thomson Hall: 60 Simcoe Street, Toronto, ON
Pre-register for FREE admission valid for a family of four at http://www.ourkids.net/campexpo/register.php
For additional information, please contact 1-877-272-1845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the recent Ontario Camps Association conference, an interesting discussion followed a presentation on technology and cell phones at camp. One traditional camp advocated for a zero tolerance policy on all technology at camp. The point (well taken) was that young people today live in such a wired world that it is essential to their personal and social growth that they learn to exist for a few weeks without any access to laptops, iPads, phones and – most importantly – social media.
The presenter agreed wholeheartedly with this. She pointed out that technology rules our lives. It invades our personal and recreational time, so that there is a higher prevalence of anxiety in young people than ever before. Many of us have begun to forget what we did with all the free time we had, prior to this onslaught. Remember? We talked with friends, played with our kids more, noticed what was going on around us, and actually made eye contact across the dining room table. The onslaught of technology has also contributed to the helicopter parent syndrome. Parents have become a crutch for their children because they are virtually present all the time. Children are growing up without the ability to solve small problems for themselves. This has an enormous impact on all camps. The presenter ended by saying that parents today are less willing to allow their kids to struggle and grow through experiences that may initially be tough; they have forgotten that it is sometimes the difficult circumstances in the young lives of our children that shape them in the most positive ways.
Our camp agrees with everything the presenter was saying… but not necessarily that a zero tolerance policy for technology is the solution… at least not for us. Firstly, we are not a wilderness camp. We run programs that depend upon technology. Our dance instructors keep their music on their smart phones. Sometimes, a counselor has their entire summer’s workshop plans and resources on a laptop they bring to camp. In Creative Writing, our campers sometimes prefer to write on their laptops and the instructor uses a laptop to collate their writing pieces into a ‘Zine’, or online writing publication. In Photography, campers often bring their own computer and software to manipulate their photographs. When technology so often contributes positively to the arts programming we offer, it would be hard to tell a camper they cannot use their smart phone to record a song they write, take artistic photos around camp, or share music in the dorm.
However, we absolutely agree that phone and web access should be limited at camp. It is simply true that if a camper was able to access friends and family at the press of a button, they would invest less effort in making camp friends, and find themselves constantly drawn, instead, into ongoing peer issues back home. If they had constant access to their smart phones, I can imagine some of our campers feeling obliged to post constantly on Instagram, and never fully interacting with camp friends. Our staff is trained to help a camper navigate and solve a difficult situation. Imagine, instead, if that camper was to call home in the instant they become upset, and demand a parent’s immediate intervention. The opportunity for guided learning and growth is lost, and the camper continues to be dependent upon their usual support system.
So what is our policy? We would prefer that all cell phones and any devices with online service, be left at home. However, if a teen is extremely unwilling to comply – then their device should be handed into the camp office. Campers are able to access their phones at scheduled phone times, twice weekly. They can check social media, call home, and do anything else they need at that time.
As technology is constantly changing, camps have to review their technology policies regularly, to ensure that they are enforceable and reasonable – in line with what campers and staff may need, and also with what parents and campers are willing to accept. It is already the case that some teens choose not to go to overnight camp because they are so technology-dependent … and that’s worrying. At Centauri, our technology policy is reviewed during pre-camp staff training every year. Last year, I was surprised at how many of our staff rely totally on e-readers. The time may come when it will be impossible to ‘ban’ technology at camp, unless we are also willing to ban reading!
When we first introduced our new cell phone policy at camp three years ago, we expected a lot of phones to turn up – that didn’t happen. Maybe 10% of our campers bring their phone with them – almost always the older teens. We also expected that campers who brought their phones would spend every minute of the allotted time using them. That didn’t happen, either. Campers usually call their parents, check social media quickly, then head back to their dorm.
Why? Because they are so invested in what is happening among their camp friends that they don’t want to miss a single thing.