Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Power of Camp

Nature and the out-of-doors experience

Today’s youth suffer from an alarmingly limited access or interest to the natural world.We can look at the alarming 18 percent obesity rate of children alone and realize physical activity and access to the outdoors have been drastically altered (CDC, 2010). This change in activity has been precipitated by any number of things, including technology, food additives, and the fear most parents have of allowing their children to play outside unsupervised, due to the unlikely possibility of harm and abduction.
Activity has also been modified by the number of hours young people spend in front of screens — an average of seven and a half hours a day. Sadly, our time spent outdoors has decreased by 50 percent in the last two decades, and the benefits of nature and the outdoors go well beyond physical well-being. Nature supports cognitive, psychological, spiritual, and social well-being. (Keniger, Gaston, Irvine, Fuller, 2013.) Direct experience in nature is important to a child’s intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and physical development (Kellert, 2005). Most traditional summer camps are based outside, and require that children explore, enjoy, and resiliently persevere in the elements! At my camp, when parents ask,“What do you do when it rains?” I answer first that we call it “Liquid Sunshine,” and that often we’ll actually sing, dance, and jump in puddles in the rain — good old-fashioned fun, that kids thoroughly enjoy!

Friday, April 10, 2015


Play:  This is not a four-letter word.Yet, modern society has severely marginalized play, which denies a rite of passage — childhood! We have unfortunately witnessed a 25 percent decline in play in our lifetime. Play is a normal developmental process. To tinker with normal child development is a dangerous experiment. Children (and adults) who are not allowed, encouraged or choose not to play have less energy, less interest, and less enthusiasm about life.And we’re not talking about playing video games in the basement against friends sitting in their basements! We’re talking about hand-to-hand, face-to-face, old school, getting dirty, scraping your knee, hurting your feelings, real stuff that helped shape us into adults that we are today.
Play is a critical stage of learning. It is a learning process that is experiential and active. Play allows young people to practice “how” to survive and thrive in a community. It teaches young people “how” to learn, gaining the skills of persistence, grit, participation, failure, encouragement, and perseverance. Play is a process of experimenting and redefining important life lessons — a form of self-regulation. It sets a foundation for personal mastery.

People in this world that do great things for others, make this world awesome!