Tuesday, July 29, 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 II

Some “camps” have extended the single objective athletic which was initially of a few days duration into an extended period of the same activity and refer to them as “camps”. Although, the clinics provide fine training in a single type of skill, they are not true camping in the commonly accepted definition. The poet, William Wadsworth, once wrote, “the child is father of the man”. This single line emphasizes his strong belief that the experience which a child has determines the kind of man or woman he or she will become. Since the time this line was written, specialists in the field of mental health and child development have discovered to a greater degree that the early formative years of a child’s life are of the utmost importance in developing the characteristics (favorable and unfavorable), which will follow him through his adult life.

Education, of which camps and camping are a very important part, stresses the importance or providing children with the opportunity to participate in worthwhile activities; in fact the “Golden Rule of Education” is often stated as the need to teach youngsters to do better the desirable things that they are likely to do anyway.”

Parents should expect their youngsters to return home from a good comprehensive camp with all or most of the following attributes improved over what they were when they left for camp.

a. a stronger feeling of independence, resourcefulness and self reliance
b. an improved self image and a greater degree of enthusiasm
c. a greater feeling of “inner peace” within themselves
d. a greater respect for the rights and thoughts of others
e. a strong feeling of loyalty to those leaders and principles which have governed their camp life
f. a better knowledge of and an acquisition of out-of-doors skills in camping, woodsmanship, craftsmanship, etc.
g. a stronger tie between parents and youngsters
h. a greater degree of sportsmanship and the ability to enjoy things “according to the rules”

The well organized comprehensive summer camp will provide the diversity to challenge each camper, and yet, the challenge must be reachable. By accepting these challenges and succeeding in most of them, a youngster gains confidence in himself. A youngster’s resourcefulness is improved by his being forced to call on that hidden or new reserve source of supply or support which he might never have realized he had within him. Once having accomplished a challenging task, it no longer holds any fear for him and he willingly faces a new challenge with enthusiasm. Well trained and indoctrinated leadership will know how to urge this extra effort; - they will also know the symptoms of homesickness and support the camper through a few “rough” days a very few might have until he or she gains the feeling of independence which they will need later in life when they leave the security of the home again. The writer believes that these attributes cannot be gained in a short term camp. Four weeks should be a minimum stay and hopefully the parent will be able to provide an eight week experience. An insecure camper can “fake” his independence and resourcefulness for a camp session of a few short days, but he really acquires the benefits when he is on his own for a four to eight week period.

The diversity of challenges must be such that each youngster has multiple success experiences, yet they must be difficult enough to force a near maximum effort. Success begets success and as each successful experience becomes part of the camper’s background, he or she gains in self image. By having greater impressions of himself, he or she is able to face new challenges with less doubt of success; or as one great camp director often admonished, “Hitch your wagon to a star. You may not reach it but you’ll be so much better off having tried”.

After spending a lifetime as a teacher and school administrator, the writer often saw the frustration in youngsters who put forth maximum effort in academics and/or athletics, music, and other co-curricular activities but never really achieving the success experience of being best at something. A great opportunity and responsibility of the comprehensive summer camp is to provide the diversity of activities and sensitive staff members which will insure the attainment of several success experiences for each camper. Each camper should complete his stay in camp with the knowledge that he is or was the best in one more categories of activities.

Nothing is more contagious than enthusiasm, and the parents seeking a camp for their youngsters should look for positive signs of this enthusiasm in those with whom they speak regarding camp, or better yet in a visit to the camp being considered. The positive, enthusiastic atmosphere is the only kind to which youngsters should be exposed at a good comprehensive summer camp.
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