In 2020, countless summer camps across the country were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, as coronavirus-related restrictions start to be lifted and a sense of normalcy begins to return to the US, summer camp is an even more important option than ever for young people.
Summer camp opportunities are important because it offers an environment that continues to contribute to their development while school is out, and extracurricular activities are on break. Summer camps are great places for personal and academic growth; kids who attend camp have the chance to become more independent and self-confident, while socializing, making new friends, learning new skills, and competing ideas. As summer camp begins making a comeback, here are a few of the benefits students will get from attending.
Summer camp provides a break from technology. This is important, especially in this day and age when screen time has trumped time spent physically present with others. There has been a major rise in screen time as technology has become a more central component of work, education, and personal communication; but scientific studies have shown that screen time has negative impacts such as interference with everything from sleep to creativity. Using screens as a way to stay connected, especially during the lockdowns and social distancing of the pandemic, means it is more important than ever to “strategically and consciously create space for young people to move their bodies, be outside, and connect face-to-face with peers. Camps are one of the only contexts that provide this pivotal combination for extended amounts of time: authentic connection with others in an outdoor, technology-free context,” according to licensed clinical mental health counselor associate and camp director Catherine Menendez. This benefit is extremely important for the health of young people today.
A summer camp also offers an environment where imagination and creativity are fostered. A summer camp is an escape from the increasingly structured activities of everyday life, where young people can participate in the imaginative, free activity and thought that is vital for their development. It is a place for practicing teamwork and collaboration, important skills that help people learn how to work toward shared goals, discuss their ideas and perspectives with others, and build stronger communication skills. It is a place for learning more about who they are, while making choices and becoming more responsible for themselves. It is a place for building independence and growing into contributing members of society as they engage with their environment and with one another. That is a benefit to each camper, as well as to the wider community.
Another benefit of summer camp is the sense of community that is built. Young people build community together in school and extracurricular activities in a normal year; but during 2020, that sense of community decreased in response to the pandemic and the isolation that many young people have experienced. At summer camps, young people will be exposed to people from a variety of other demographics, cultures, school settings, etc. They will be able to engage with new and different people and find common ground with others outside of their usual circles, which will help them learn to appreciate differences. People who attend camp together often forge strong friendships based on their shared experiences. Maintaining these friendships is key in terms of psychosocial development. Summer camps are some of the few places where a sense of community is developed and encouraged regardless of things that might divide people outside of the camp setting. This is critical in this time where there sometimes seems to be more divisiveness than unity in our society.
Summer camps can also positively impact academics: attendance can help prevent summer learning loss, often referred to as the summer slide. It can help keep young people from falling behind academically and keep them from struggling as much when it comes to keeping pace with their peers when school starts again in the fall. How? Attending a summer camp can help keep young people’s minds engaged to fend off the summer slide. It helps stop such learning loss by providing varied instructional methods during activities, so each child is taught according to their own learning style; this helps with maintaining memory skills. Attending a summer camp also allows young people to apply academic skills learned in the classroom in real-world scenarios and allow them to further develop their problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
One other benefit of summer camps is that attendees get the chance to gain experience and practice skills associated with their interests. Summer camps continue to be centered around a variety of sports, outdoor activities, and other hobbies. There is also growth predicted by some in the summer camp industry in the area of skills-based or trade-focused camps, where campers will learn and practice different marketable skills that could help them attain future careers in specific fields; some anticipate a great deal of growth in these types of camps—especially this year and then through the next decade, as more and more young people choose to enter the workforce before or concurrently with college. No matter what, summer camps are places where attendees explore and engage in ways that will help them to thrive in college, in their future careers, and in every aspect of their lives.
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