Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Place of the Comprehensive Summer Camp in the Education of Youngsters Today

This was an article published by Vincent/Curtis Educational Register in 1980. The author is John J. Leach, the father of John and Dave who currently own and run the camp. This paper is almost 30 years old, but many of the messages still hold true. Enjoy!

Part I

The education system in each of our fifty states is unique in many respects, but there is an even larger degree of commonness in our individual state controlled systems. Some our basic concepts in modern education are derived from the school systems of the European countries from which the majority of our early settlers came. However, as early as 1916 Dr. Charles W. Eliot, former president of Harvard University, said, “The organized comprehensive summer camp is the most significant contribution to Education that America has given to the world”.

Camping is a way of life that began with man. His mode of living included the sky as his roof, the earth as his bed, and he learned to live with the wildlife about him. The natural environment seemed to be limitless in scope and little or no degree of environmental education or conservation education was taught or practiced other than the basic skills of survival. In more modern times, camping has become a back-to-nature, educational and recreational movement wherein man gains knowledge, understanding, and enjoyment through the use and preservation of nature and its resources.

Organized camping varies country to country in extent, type, and sponsorship. Camping for school children under the term of “outdoor education” is prevalent in Australia, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, India, Japan, New Zealand, and South Africa. These countries have camps which are sponsored by the schools, subsidized by the government, and the regular teachers are given special training for their camping responsibilities.

France has a large national camping program, called Vacation Colonies, which are sponsored and financed by government and industry. The Soviet Union maintains an extensive government program of camping for youth, whereas Sweden has camps for youth and adults operated by municipalities.

The United States, Canada and Great Britain have led the organized comprehensive camping movement for more than a century and the type of camp with which we are most familiar and to which Dr. Eliot of Harvard referred is uniquely American, Canadian, and British in its founding and continued success in operation.

The first private comprehensive camp was formed in 1876 and the oldest existing camp is Camp Dudley which continues to function as a comprehensive camp in Northern New York State. Gradually many youth service agencies formed fine camps. However, it is the private, longer term, comprehensive camp with which this writer is most familiar and in which he believes intensely to be the best type of organization to accomplish the many educational and recreational goals toward which ever good camp should strive.

Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, many camp Directors formed an association to share ideas, establish standards, and help to arrange for a system of continued qualified leadership. As with many similar well intentioned organizations, some of the original members believed that the emphasis changed from those goals which provided the best experience for youngsters to those of a more economic nature. Parents searching for the best camp for their children should make a personal contact if possible by a visit to the camp, or request a visit in their home with a member of the camp leadership or present or former camper. The goals, philosophy, and concepts along with the type of leadership are more important than the location, although the natural assets and facilities can certainly not be minimized and make the achievement of these goals much more certain and more enjoyable for the camper.

Good Camp facilities may include tents as well as buildings of a more permanent nature such as sleeping cabins, dining halls, lodges, infirmary and administrative offices.

The activities of a camp are usually adapted to the geographical location to include special emphasis on canoeing, mountaineering, back packing trips (on trails as well as bush whacking), rock climbing, rappelling, extended hiking, survival techniques, or other activities in keeping with the environment. Learning skills in camp craft, woodcraft, nature lore as well as outdoor physical conditioning and other activities not commonly practiced in urban areas usually are the central theme of the organized comprehensive camping program.

The well organized comprehensive camp should have a strong “in camp” program of crafts (wood, leather, metal, ceramics, photography. Entomology, taxidermy, fly tying, nature study, textiles, etc.) what front activities (individual skills as well as life saving, etc.), athletics (team sports as well as life time individual sports), riflery, archery, animal husbandry, social skills (table manners, amenities, etc.), a library to serve all ages of campers and staff and a museum type collection for reference purposes. The camper and his parents should have a degree of input into those activities on which he or she desires to devote a greater amount of time. The camp leadership, however, must assume responsibility to insure exposure of each camper to as great a variety of the “in camp” activities as possible. The “in camp” program assists the less aggressive camper to gradually become involved in more vigorous activities while continuing to learn, recreate his way of life and achieve many of the goals desired. The program also provides a constructive, educational, experience for those campers whose natural tendencies and life’s direction lead them into these fields. The “in camp” program provides a constructive, educational experience for the true “woodsman” during his preparation time for a more vigorous experience or during his “lay over” between vigorous experiences while at the same time providing the exposure for a possible latent interest and/or skill in some other area.

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