Every year around this time we ask ourselves, “what can we do this year that the kids will love? Is there something new, exciting and innovative that we can do or create to get new kids to camp? What adventurous programming is missing from our camp experience?” I love dreaming like this, and as we dream this year of balancing our classic activities with these new trends, please consider the following point of view:
There’s a reason we all do Archery at camp and Arts and Crafts, they’re time tested and approved. But what about them makes them so successful year in and year out? They continue to serve the mission in straightforward ways. Archery builds unique physical skills like aiming and body awareness but more importantly it builds character through persistence, goal setting and accepting feedback. Arts and Crafts kicks ass because it also has character building aspects by way of creating without judgement (and often encouragement from a cool young adult counselor) as well as a resourcefulness to create something from nothing but an idea.
These activities are classic but are they fundamental to the camping experience? I think not. Camping Fundamentals get the very heart of why we are here… activities like archery and camp craft are how we teach those fundamentals.
At the end of the day every experience and activity should serve our mission because summer camp is more than recess, more than play, more than childcare. It’s a chance to use the activities of recess, play and childcare to create meaningful moments and conversations. You can do archery at recess, seriously, some schools do (sign me up) but what is it about summer camp that makes it special. Is it the outdoors? The staff? The kids? It’s how it all comes together to create something bigger than the activity. It’s the idea that we use these activities to create meaning.
These activities create connection. Connection to others, connection to nature and connection to ourselves.
When we focus on fundamentals like connection we create meaningful experiences by way of classic and innovative activities. And that is what I’d advocate for as we plan for 2022. Kids need connection so badly these days, in fact we all need connection badly these days. No matter what activity or program you offer, be it classic or innovative, please focus on the ability it has to make a meaningful difference in a child’s life. Remember your why. Good Luck!
(And when you need new program or activity ideas please reach out. I’d love to tell you all about SPLAT Ball.)