Camp —A good place ... for all of us

11/19/2010  |  LARRY HANCOCK
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Camp gives kids a world of good! This is a slogan often used by the American Camp Association (ACA). Most of us agree that “the camp experience” is universally recognized as important in a child’s overall development. Research by the ACA (2005) showed several desirable outcomes of the camp experience:

  • Positive identity: Self-esteem and Independence
  • Social skills: Leadership, Friendship Skills, Social Comfort and Peer Relationships
  • Physical and thinking skills: Adventure and Exploration
  • Positive values and spirituality: Values and Decisions and Spirituality

Have you ever stopped to think, “If camp is so good for kids — how about those of us a little older?” All of us want to keep “the child in us alive and happy.”

There is no better place to nurture the child in us than at camp. Camps and Conference Centers are located where they are for a reason — they know the value of being in a desirable, quiet, secluded spot that evokes a sense of peace and calm. Most of us probably recall those happy feelings upon arrival at camp and the sense of knowing that “this place is special.”

“Our children are the first generation to be raised without meaningful contact with the natural world,” according to Richard Louv in his best-selling book: Last Child in the Woods. Each of us needs to do our part to see that everyone, especially our youth, experience the awe and amazement of nature. Experiences at camp provide that direct link with nature. All of us can benefit from taking risks that lead to increased self-confidence in the controlled setting of a camp. All of us long to unplug and allow our senses to be stimulated by nature, to breathe air refreshed by a pine forest and to experience the calm we feel beside a lake or a bubbling brook.

Each of us, young and older alike, can benefit richly from choosing to do “things” in nature — at a camp or conference center. Do you realize that there are many camps within a short drive of where you live? Almost all of them are open in the “shoulder seasons” — spring and fall. Many, especially conference centers, are open year-round. All have cabins or cottages, dining halls and places to meet that can get you and your group away from the hustle and bustle of your world.

Camps and conference centers are well suited to handle a variety of groups. Some can even provide programming such as team building, nature walks, campfires, and astronomy or canoeing. They routinely serve groups such as corporate retreats, family reunions, weddings, church outings, associations AND clubs events, fraternity AND sorority weekends and school groups. Many offer approved out-of-classroom experiences in environmental education or the sciences.

Need to know where a camp is located in your area? Go to http://acacamps.org/. Click on the “Find a Camp” link. The link allows you to locate a camp by location (zip code), camp name or by state. Once you have chosen the camp you would like to use, just give them a call and tell them about your group and when you would like to come. Many have web links that allow you to fill out your groups request on-line.

Need an added incentive to use a camp or conference center? You will find most charge less that other places that your group has traditionally used. Even if it turns out to be a little more, you will see the value from the quality experience your group will have.

So, the next time a group you belong to is planning an event — think camps! You will discover that camp is “the real world” . . .  a very special place where you feel safe and included. You will return from your event refreshed, happier and glad that you went. And just maybe, the kid iN you will say “thank you!”

Larry Hancock is the Extension 4-H Specialist for North Carolina State University.

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