My Domain

In support of Residential Summer Camps

Winter is gone and spring is well under way. It's time to think about signing up for summer camp. Participation in a residential camp program opens up wonderful opportunities for children of all ages. As a child growing up in Waterloo during the 70's and 80's I attended the YWCA Camp Wahpeton (just outside of Janesville) and Girl Scout Camp Tahigwa (near Decorah) multiple times between ages 5 and 17. The major benefit of being a young camper was the adventure of being out in the world 'on my own'. The camp staff and other campers provided a community that allowed me to build self-reliance within a safe environment. While I was in upper elementary school the major draw of camp changed. Camp was a place where I could meet people from outside my small at home community. For the first time I had friends that I had to write to in order to keep in touch with. This was also the time I first recognized that there was a progression to camp. As a third and fourth year camper, opportunities were available to me that had not been before. In 3 rd grade the most exciting thing I did at camp was sleep under the stars on just a plastic tarp. In 5th grade I was able to rappel down the side of a 30ft high tower! The progression of activities that are available at camp throughout one week or over a number of years helps to build self-esteem. After climbing down a building using just a rope, everything else is within reach! About fifth grade was also the year I realized just how special camp counselors are. Once I asked a counselor how much money she made over the summer. She answered, "Enough to buy my books for the Fall semester and 1 pair of socks." Years later I found out that what she said was just about right. Most camp counselors are college students who are working towards degrees in education, social work, leisure services, etc. All the camp counselors I ever had or worked with could have made more money working at McDonalds. They do the job because they want experience working with children; because they want to help children have a fun and safe summer vacation. It is a great match because there is almost nothing cooler for a child than to have a young adult want to spend time with them. My last summers as a camper were all spend in pursuit of becoming just like the counselors I admired most. It all worked out well. I was able to work at Camp Tahigwa for 5 full summers while pursuing my degree. Even now I rely heavily upon my resident camp roots. The first program I designed as state coordinator for the GLOBE program, a science professional development program for teachers, was a 7 day residential 'camp' for K-12 teachers. So as the tulips bloom and before school ends, I encourage you to make plans for the children in your family to participate in a residential camp experience. Choose a camp that offers activities that sound like a great adventure and ask all the questions you need to feel comfortable sending your child (staff from a quality camp will want you to feel confident about their program). Selecting a camp with American Camping Association (ACA) Accreditation or that is sponsored by an organization you trust can provide an extra level of comfort to parents. And lastly, plan something fun for the parents to do while the children are away, why should they have all the fun?

submitted as an editorial to the waterloo courier 2005, all rights reserved.

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