There are so many good reasons to send a child to camp and I will make this piece short even thought I could write a novel on this topic.
When children go to camp, they are on their own, sometimes for the very first time in their lives. They have to decide what to wear, what to eat, which activities to participate in. Of course counsellors are deciding this with them, but in essence the campers soon learn that they can make decisions on their own and as a result they develop self confidence and become self-reliant.
As self-esteem develops from learning to be on their own, children continue to try new activities and also engage in one's that they are familiar. In school, children do not experience success in the same way and can often think of themselves in a lesser light. Camp can be a school without failure because just having fun makes you a success. Camp is summed up in two words “no grades”. Its amazing how children can blossom without a burden of constant evaluation. At camp achievement is rewarded based on effort and we celebrate a child's effort and teach them to learn from their mistakes.
Often parents call to say that they can not believe how their child's grades improved as a result of camp. Or how they now clear the table or help out more around the house. A well directed camp will focus on trying to make every camper experience a success and it is that feeling of success that translated into self-esteem. This is accomplished by hands on discovery or experimental learning whether in the cabin or at an activity.
And of course learning skills at each activity is a great benefit for campers. By being exposed to so many arts, sports and outdoor recreation programs campers have fun and develop self-esteem. They also learn skills that they can then pursue and enjoy for the rest of their lives. Because they have over 30 different activities to chose from, each and every camper can feel special enjoying a craft, sport or outdoor activity.
Camps like Manitou develop well rounded children because they offer a diverse community of people and a diverse choice of activities. A camper can participate in a host of activities and need not be an expert in any. Is there any other place that can offer such a wide range of recreational, dramatic, visual, musical, artistic, athletic, sports minded, and outdoor adventure activities? But just as important as these 34 activities is the special programming, colour wars and what we like to call the magic of spontaneous moments; that happen so much in a camp setting.
Of course one of the greatest benefits of a camp experience is that children develop social skills. One of life's most important skills is learning to get along with others and appreciating other people. In a camp setting, a good counselor will make sure that every camper is included in the activity and that each child interacts with the others in a positive way. They learn the give and take of group living, they learn how to work and even depend on others and more importantly that others will depend on them. Something as simple as clean-up, is not only there to get the cabin clean, but to foster a team atmosphere of working together which in turn results in friendships.
The obvious benefit of camp is that Campers make long lasting friendships. These friendships can often be more unique and extra special because campers are living with each other and see the true personalities. Because campers and staff come from all over the world, or even from a different school, children learn to see others from a different perspective. Children tend to be accepted for who they are and do not have to be as concerned with what they wear or what they are good at, or how they look. This is because in a camp setting, respect and caring ultimately win out over materialistic or short-sited objectives.
Now if you don’t believe us how much statistical evidence. Renowned psychologists have done numerous studies on camping and all have shown that the summer camp experience increases a child’s sense of self by 20-30% meaning that they feel more confident, successful and smart than they did before camp. That children’s peer to peer social skills are dramatically enhanced and of course that a child’s specific skills are substantially increased in an average of 2-6 activities. What is also interesting is that children that attend camp are 20% less likely to avoid drugs or other destructive behaviours. But maybe what is most compelling is that the reason camp staff are uniquely empowered to make this happen is because children look to adults as barometers of their progress. Much of what they think of themselves during this critical transition phase into adulthood is a direct reflection of how others perceive them. When that other is a trained young adult staff member who cares so much about them, that is the ultimate booster of a child’s self-esteem.
The Manitou community is one of inclusion where campers are urged to include everyone, where being positive and accepting is the norm. Campers are encouraged to reach out and make new friends and respect the differences in others. Demeaning comments and disrespect are not tolerated and the culture is one where it's “cool” to be respectful. The end goal is that campers not only make new friends but make new kinds of friends, friendships that will last a lifetime.
WHAT I DID DURING SUMMER VACATION
By Michael Eisner
Chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company