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Camp: Positive Solutions for Today's Challenges

Helping kids connect to each other and the natural world

Camp: Positive Solutions for Today’s Challenges
February 2013

As I write this, recent world events and tragedies — some even right in our own communities — weigh heavily on my heart and mind. It seems achingly clear to me that our children today need strong, positive connections with others as well as nature. Inherently, Camp experiences have the power to provide these things to children — to transform their lives, ways of thinking and sense of self for the better. These lessons make me believe that our children and youth need camp experiences now more than ever.

Camp promotes community. Camp creates this great space that shows kids how to live together and care for one another. There are norms and negotiation of boundaries; there are rules. Kids are able to create positive human connections. Camp is a place where kids can "practice" growing up and stretching their social, emotional, physical and cognitive muscles outside the context of their immediate family. This is what childhood is supposed to provide.

Camp teaches critical thinking. We need to remember how important it is to be actively involved in the learning process, and camp affords that. We're going to need really strong problem solvers in the next century. We need the science, math, and biology, but without the ability to relate, connect, empathize, or inspire innovation, how will our kids be able to make a difference in the challenges now facing us?

The camp experience embraces the natural environment. While children have fewer and fewer opportunities to be outdoors, the camp experience advances the outdoor learning environment. As we become more concerned about saving the planet, we run out and make DVDs and videos about it. But the environment needs to be experienced to be appreciated. Kids need to catch tadpoles in the creek, wander among the trees and feel the sun on their faces to understand the importance of those things. What happens to a generation that may grow up not seeing stars in the dark of the night?

A quality camp experience provides children the opportunity to learn powerful lessons in community, character-building, skill development and healthy living — it is a meaningful, engaged and participatory environment. The camp experience translates back in real-world experience an "I can" attitude — which is something this generation of children and youth must have as they create positive solutions to today's challenges.

With nearly three decades of experience as a change agent in youth development and transformation, Peg L. Smith is the chief executive officer of the American Camp Association® (ACA). ACA is the champion of better tomorrows — providing resources, research, and support for developmentally appropriate camp experiences. Learn more at www.CampParents.org or www.ACAcamps.org. © 2013 American Camping Association, Inc.

Tags: Camp, In This Issue

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