Summer camps fun, beneficial too
Wednesday, Jul 09, 2014 06:00 am
Youths who attend summer camp may be gaining more of an educational experience than they are aware of, even though the experience feels like child’s play.
A research project out of the University of Waterloo, called the Canadian Summer Camp Research Project, measured five areas of growth in kids who attended summer camp and found positive development in each area. The study found campers experienced changes in social integration, environmental awareness, self-confidence and personal development, emotional intelligence and in their attitude towards physical activities.
Those findings confirm what local camp councillors already know.
“For sure the kids learn an appreciation of nature, but they also learn teamwork and leadership skills. Camp gives kids a safe space to be who they are. It’s a place where often they are not with friends they know from school, so they don’t have to be who they are at school,” said Deanna Barker, from Birch Bay Ranch Summer Camp.
Barker went to Birch Bay herself as a youngster, then went on to be a summer camp leader and still works with the organization, which has camps for children aged eight to 12 and for teens aged 12 to 16.
“I’ve done everything here from being a camper, to volunteering on the rope course to teaching riding and now to communications. The biggest thing you see from an eight-year-old, who comes in shy, is the way they grow and come out of their shell,” Barker said.
Barker believes the camp gives children the opportunity to try new activities, without being afraid of being laughed at.
“They also benefit from being around good role models, since the majority of the leaders are university students, but they are still young enough the kids can relate to them,” she said.
Even children who attend day camps experience changes in emotional growth and self-confidence, said Sheila Chisholm, owner of Infinite Resources Inc., which offers year-round, all-inclusive camp experiences in St. Albert.
“All kids benefit socially from the camp experience. Our camps are all-inclusive, with children who may have problems with social anxiety, to those with Down syndrome and autism. We accommodate all kids and we don’t change kids to fit the program. We change the program to fit them,” said Chisholm.
Her campers enjoy occasional trips to the wave park along with indoor crafts and games.
Like Barker, Chisholm finds the biggest changes come because the children feel they are in a safe environment to try new things.
“That’s always our goal. This is summer camp after all. They have to have fun,” she said.
St. Albert Salvation Army Church offers week-long summer day camps and even in that short space of time, the kids change, said Marcia Berrisford, of the Salvation Army.
“Socially they learn through activities like games and sports and by playing they learn things like sharing and co-operation,” Berrisford said.
Berrisford maintains that the camp experience is different than school and must remain that way.
“At camp kids are away from home and family and away from school. The things you do at camp are apart from what you do in school or camping with your family. Hopefully, the memories are good and those memories stick with you,” she said.