Camp Does the World Good
April 27, 2015
Posted By: Shaunescy
ARTICLE AND PHOTOS SCOTT THRASHER ?
It’s likely that there are just as many reasons to love camp as there are campers. Camp provides an ever-changing environment,?a constant river flow of possibilities where there’s almost always something?for everyone. So, if you don’t like white- knuckle, high adventures on a ropes course or getting drenched in an icy cold river while ripping down a class V rapid; just wait until after lunch when there will be something new coming your way. Maybe you’ll make friendship bracelets under the shade of?a tall pine tree; build a fairy house in the woods; take a walk on a nature trail; play games in the field or spend some time in a cabin group discussing the day and other important things like, “Why don’t they just make mouse-flavored cat food?”
I’ve been involved in camping, outdoor ministry, experiential learning or play in some form or another for my entire life. While I love camp for all the fun and games, the learning opportunities, exploring, playing, crafts, songs, food and adventures; when I stop and consider what I truly love most, it’s not those “doing” things that top my list. No, it’s the simple, less tangible, and hard-to-market things that camp offers which inspire me and keep me staking out my tent at summer camp.
So please, indulge me the opportunity to wax on why this camp director loves summer camp and believes in its power to change the world:
1. At camp, you’ll see kids smile and laugh more. No school, no schedules, no pressure; just free, creative, authentic kid-play in the great outdoors.
2. With reduced pressure and more laughter, you soon discover an environment where you can be yourself and discover who you hope to be in the future.
3. Camp can be an opportunity to live together (albeit for a short while) in a community with others, sharing experiences, building friendships, learning and playing in a space of real freedom.
4. Camp unfolds the perfect canvas for experiential learning and witnessing the incredible magic in those simple teachable moments, which are so abundant at camp and in the outdoors.
5. At camp, there is no need for mirrors. You’ll get paint on your clothes, watermelon on your face, dirt on your hands, and mud in your toes and you just won’t care.
6. Sticks, stones, leaves and moss are better than a video game any day and are the perfect medium for nature play. Watch a kid using nothing more than whatever is present in nature to build a fort, whimsical artwork or a tiny, inspired, elaborately creative fairy house and you’ll see a whole new world built from imagination.
7. Summer camps take great care to create safe environments where kids might have the opportunity to attempt new things and explore abilities in themselves that they never knew existed. Spending an afternoon on a high ropes course, a climbing wall or hiking to a mountain peak can prove that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.
8. Get unplugged and disconnected. What could be better than a little time away from the phones, games, televisions, computers, GPS’s and iPods to stop and listen to your own thoughts? It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Christian or secular camp, this may very well be camp’s most valuable asset. It provides one of the last best places to step away from the noise and distractions of everyday life and reconnect with nature and each other in a safe place where kids can just be kids and do kid things.
OK, so you can call me “campy,” a sap and an idealist. Maybe I am, but I witness the transforming power and benefits of camp every single day. They might not always come with trumpets blowing and mountain top moments but rather with a gentler hand, which over time can nudge us toward being better individuals and a closer community.
In Montana, we’re lucky to have an abundance of summer camps and programs, each with their own specialties; providing parents a wide range of options for their children. So visit a camp fair, pick up a brochure and register for camp this summer and discover firsthand how camp changes lives. The American Camping Association’s slogan is, “Camp does kids a world of good,” which is certainly true but I’d assert that, “Camp does the whole world good,” and couldn’t we all use a little more camp in our lives?
Scott Thrasher is a storyteller, artist, game-player, chief mess-maker and the managing director at Rockhaven Camp and Retreat Center which is owned and operated by First Presbyterian Church in Bozeman, MT. For more information email scott@ rockhavencamp.org or visit rockhavencamp.org.