I recently asked a camper who was new to Camp Blue Ridge, and summer camp in general, what they learned this past summer at camp. At first she was reluctant to answer, and after a few minutes of thinking, this is what she came up with. I thought I would share the purity behind what a child gains from summer camp.
She told me that she learned a lot of new skills that she would never have experienced if she had stayed home. She learned how to play lacrosse. She learned to fish and learned a lot of crazy songs that have been stuck in her head all summer. She learned how to get from one side of camp to the other in the shortest amount of time. She learned how to make the perfect S’more, and she learned how to paint. She told me it felt like she was learning something new every day.
A few days later, this new camper called me up and said she had more to share. She told me the things that she learned at sleep away camp were more about character than skill. Things that will help in life more than knowing the perfect ratio of chocolate to marshmallow on a S’more. When she had a disagreement with a friend at camp, she told me her counselors walked them through a communication plan that left both of them feeling heard, understood and that they walked away with the issue resolved. She learned how to recognize when someone was feeling left out or lonely, and how to bring them into the activity that was going on at the time. She learned how to interact with different people and learned to appreciate differences without judgment. She learned the importance of having true friends who are there for you no matter what, who accept you for who you are, and who are honest and real with you. She learned to live in close proximity with others and how to respect their personal space. She learned to compromise, to be flexible, and how to manage time.
She learned that she can function without her cell phone and that not everything fun has to have a screen involved. She learned that without a cell phone, she could focus more on the experiences rather than getting the perfect shot, choosing the best filter, and then waiting impatiently for her friends to “like” and “comment” on the picture through social media.
This new camper told me she learned a lot at camp. Some of the things are basic skills that are fun to know, while others are fundamental qualities that will set her up for better relationships and experiences for the rest of her life.
What a child gains from the summer camp experience will be with them for the rest of their lives.