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The Greatest Strength of Camp


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Dec 24, 2008, 7:44 AM

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The importance of next year's summer camp experience is already a hot topic on the minds of many parents. With the troubled economy and impending change in administration, the question of how to plan summer schedules is more complex than in past years. Not surprisingly, several reoccurring concerns have surfaced and they deserve some discussion while parents are pondering summer options. The three most popular overlapping topics have been: economics, how activities are presented, and staffing.

Most camps are well established and are willing to work with families when it comes to creative payment plans. If the summer's tuition is too much for you to pay all at once (you would be in the majority here), please call the camp and ask for payment options. Do not hesitate to ask for help! Custom plans are common and most camps understand the need to work with tight family budgets.

The other two concerns are best answered by how each camp hires staff and teaches activities. In truth, what parents are really concerned about is how are staff/camper relationships cultivated and what does that mean for their child? These questions are best answered using a multilayered approach. Since each camp offers a unique approach to activities and their corresponding skill development, it is always best to talk to the camp director on how this transpires. The bigger and more complex issue is what are the lasting benefits of camp beyond scheduled activities?

In a child's mind happiness means many things and because it can change in a momentís notice, we must look at what will ultimately create a quality camp experience. The success of any child's time in camp lies in the strength of relationships he or she develops. In a recent American Camp Association (ACA) survey, 70% of campers experienced their highest level of support while at camp. This compares to an average of 40% in youth attending community based organizations and 15-20% in secondary schools.

When supportive staff/camper relationships are present, the immediate benefits for campers are both subtle and jaw dropping. In either case, the life lessons learned at camp are a critical component to each child's fundamental character. One mandatory characteristic of quality camps is the ability of a camp representative to talk you through each step of the summer camp process. In many cases the camp director will describe what the experience is like or, depending on the age of your child, you will often get a call back from his/her camp supervisor who will tell you all about the experience. You are listening for the intangibles which will help your child thrive in a community based environment while experiencing personal growth. This is the foundation by which the camp will impart institutional memories, fun, and lasting friendships. Now, more than ever, children need the life skills camp provides.

Camp professionals have long known the benefits of the camp experience. Specifically, quality programs offer an opportunity for children to: build self-confidence, strengthen social skills, increase cooperation, explore new activities, appreciate nature, interact with positive role models, have FUN, and most of all create lasting memories through friendships.

In addition to these critical experiences, campers work on some equally important developmental skills which manifest themselves in a positive direction as campers get older. Through their group living situation, aspiring young leaders work on goal setting, decision-making, effective communication, the importance of volunteering, and respect.

In a recent ACA research study of over 5000 families, parents and campers were asked to comment on positive identity and social skills. The campers said camp helped me: make new friends (96%), get to know other campers who were different than me (94%), feel good about myself (92%), and do things I was afraid to do at first (74%). Upon reflection of their child's camp experience, parents stated their child: gained self-confidence at camp (70%), continues to participate in activities learned at camp (63%), and remains in contact with friends made at camp (69%).

This data reaffirms the importance of the camp experience. While we talk about transportation, food service, and logistics, the greatest strength lies in the strength of relationships campers form through the magic of camp. Both campers and staff refer to their camp as "my camp" or just "camp" when talking to others. Because they have some ownership of experience, most camp veterans have a very personal opinion on the benefits of youth development. Most campers and staff look forward to returning to camp so they can be with their "camp family" because the unique relationships they develop each year are among the most important they will ever have.

In terms of economics, this is one of the best decisions you can ever make for your child. Each day, as campers learn how to cope in group oriented living environments, they gain valuable life skills which help them to excel in their chosen endeavors. By talking to the camp director, parents can work on creative tuition schedules, learn about activities, and gain valuable insight into the most important aspect of camp- supportive relationships.

Greg Cronin, CCD is the owner of Greg Cronin Training Solutions. He is a camp consultant who specializes is camp staff trainings and has over 30 years experience as an ACA board member, camp director, and staff member. For more information on Greg, please go to For training dates, workshops, and conferences, please contact Greg directly at [email protected] or call 703-395-6661.


(This post was edited by GregCronin on Dec 24, 2008, 7:52 AM)


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