Why Summer Camp?

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Summer camp seems like a ritual that is very much a part of many people’s experience.  My own upbringing included a mix of day camp and overnight camp experiences, and though I didn’t attend camp every year, the memories of when I did attend remain vivid.  Camp was where I first tried archery and found out that I wasn’t half-bad.  I did get homesick, but after a day or two, that subsided into excitement over canoeing, marshmallow roasting and campfire songs.

Some might think that summer camp is an extra, not needed when there are opportunities through school, sports and individual lessons.  However, the camp experience provides a unique growth experience for campers in a very short space of time, and enhances their skill levels in five key areas.

According to a study published in 2011 by University of Waterloo, The Canadian Summer Camp Research Project, children experience growth in social integration and citizenship, environmental awareness, self-confidence and personal development, and attitudes toward physical activity.  A total of 1,288 campers from 17 different camps from across Canada participated in the survey.  The ages ranged from 3 to 18 and almost evenly split between male and female.

Some key findings are:

  • New campers experienced the greatest growth in social integration by the end of camp. Children were observed befriending children different from themselves.
  • Returning campers grew even more from previous scores, which indicates that growth is retained after camp is over and social connections were retained from previous camps.
  • Male campers showed the greatest increase in positive attitudes toward physical activity.
  • 69% of campers showed development in the area of emotional intelligence:  that is, expressing themselves, coping with their own emotions and that of others.
  • 67% of all campers showed positive growth in self-confidence and independence.
  • Older campers (up to the age of 18) experience greater amounts of change in all five areas because they appear to build on maturity and previous experiences, though all age groups showed growth.
Swift and Ridwan Rahman Camp B. 2014

I’ve had the recent privilege of attending camp, being a volunteer for different age groups and experiencing what Camp Bonaventure is all about.  Certainly physical activity was a given every day with outdoor games, jumping on the Berry Bounce at Kayben Farms and horseback riding. Spontaneous chase games or dances could break out at any time.  I also observed children inviting other children to play, share secrets and comfort.  By the end of the day, they were tired and excited to see their parents and grandparents once again.

When done well, camp is a safe place where children can share or celebrate the unique persons that they already are and explore a world that has so much to offer.  Camp Bonaventure and Camp Fun’zAmust each have much to offer the growing camper and if you haven’t done so, I hope you will check them out.

— Cindy Neufeld – Fund Development & Communications Manager

The full report can be found here.

Glover, T., Chapeskie, A., Mock, S., Mannel, R., & Feldberg, H. (2011).  The Canadian Summer Camp Research Project.  University of Waterloo:  Waterloo, Ontario.

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