Summer camp is more than just gathering by the fire, roasting marshmallows with friends and singing along to the sweet sounds of the guitar. Beyond mountain biking, horseback riding, waterskiing, canoeing and other fun outdoor activities, summer camp teaches valuable life skills that nurture independence and confidence. Pushed to try new things, campers break free from their comfort zones and learn to make their own decisions. On the quest to overcome obstacles, campers build a foundation to stand and grow for the rest of their lives. Year after year, summer camp paves the path to adulthood in five meaningful ways.
1. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
There is value in investing in others. Successful teamwork in sports, on the job and even in nature teaches the “’student” that the secret to empowering the individual lies in contributing to the success of the group. Rather than focus their attention inwardly (the “me, me, me” syndrome typical to children and adolescents), campers engaged in working together discover something greater than themselves: the team. The end result is a valuable lesson on investing in relationships: that strengthening individual relationships benefits the team as a whole. Summer camp is the perfect environment for children to learn how to trust others, work with others and build relationships: a recipe for success in adulthood.
2. Conquering “The Impossible”
Contributing to the success of the group is not the only path to empowerment in summer camp. Campers discover similar strength and power in building the resilience — and later, the confidence — to take on the challenging (and often team-building) activities typical to summer camp. Consider for example the tried and true rope-climbing challenge. What happens when campers undoubtedly fall off the rope? Simple: they get back up and try again. After perpetual defeat, the camper learns to give it another go. And when the camper finally reaches the top after repeated attempts? You guessed it: one valuable life lesson on the incredible power of resilience.
3. Learning to Make Decisions
Campers discover confidence in areas other than rope climbing. The good decision-making skills campers learn along the way — especially during the tough times — often leave a powerful and lasting impact. Summer camp is rich with opportunities to not only learn decision-making but also accept guidance from counselors and other older, wiser and more life-experienced adults. Rather than collect advice from TV, movies and peers, the young minds at camp learn to explore and build upon their own internal devices, booting their confidence to tackle adult life in the process.
4. A Chance to Try New Things
Aside from climbing ropes and overcoming obstacles, campers learn to live in a cabin, cook food and achieve all sorts of life accomplishments. Like working in teams, campers learn to focus on something bigger than themselves, building strength of character, courage and determination along the way. More than a place to try new things, summer camp is a chance for campers to grow from their comfort zones. Exposure to unpleasant or unfamiliar situations instills confidence, courage and flexibility, pushing campers to grow in life, especially those who only accept comfortable situations. Learning to push and grow creates an understanding of what it means to be a productive, independent adult.
5. The Fast Track to Maturity
More than just move campers out of their comfort zones, summer camp encourages children to grow up. We live in a culture motivated to avoid the unpleasant and seek out the enjoyable, which makes life easier but fails to help us grow, strengthen our values, build self-confidence and develop in times of adversity. Summer camp nudges campers in the right direction: away from their comfort zones and towards overcoming the obstacles that equip them for adulthood. The experiences that lead to maturity have to come from somewhere — and summer camp is as good a place as any for children to find them.