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I believe in the power of summer camp. There, I said it. My name is Nathan Brant and I am a summer camp believer.
I may, however, be part of a dwindling number of believers. In this era of specialization, the value of a traditional summer camp experience with archery, canoeing, campfires, nature walks, horseback rides and rock climbing is more difficult to explain to perspective families, foundations, and educators. Traditional Day & Resident Camps are like liberal arts colleges. We teach behavior before skill – we teach how learn and interact successfully in groups. More and more, society seems to turn away from the notion of liberal arts and the well-rounded individual. We are witnessing an unprecedented growth in technical or magnate schools at all levels, and the same thing is happening with summer camps.
Now everyone has gotten in on the Camp Game. Museums, churches, schools, YMCAs, YWCAs, Scouts, community foundations, state parks, and conservancy groups are all running camps. We have soccer camp, art camp, dance camp, eco-camp, robotics camp, swim camp, lacrosse camp, and many more. Each of these programs teaches a skill. They teach kids to be a better soccer player, a better inventor, a better artist, or a better swimmer. Meanwhile, traditional summer camp programs continue with their less glamorous work – teaching kids how to be better people.
In my summer camps, Bynden Wood YMCA Day Camp & YMCA Camp Conrad Weiser (www.smymca.org), we strive to help our campers develop into successful adults. Regardless of the camp activity, we teach our kids the lessons of leadership. Whether on horseback, the archery ranges, or the climbing tower, we intentionally work to improve a young person’s communication skills, we focus on the development of interpersonal trust, and we provide opportunities for problem-solving. When a young person leaves our program, we know he or she is better prepared to serve as a leader, or be a responsible member of a group being led.
Being a great soccer player may be important through high school or college. Being a great leader is important for life.
My name is Nathan Brant, and I am a summer camp believer. Perhaps there is a support group for people like me . . . .
We’ll see you at Camp!
For more information on the relevance of summer camp, check out the American Camp Association’s article, “An American Tradition – Camp,” at http://www.campparents.org/American-Tradition.