Children’s summer camps and wilderness programs for boys and girls in the United…

July 8, 2014

Summer camps capitalize on kids’ inherent idealism and energy

Applying summer camp lessons to schoolOnline youth magazine Tween Tribune recently featured outstanding adolescents making powerful contributions in their communities. David Albright, for example, has been baking muffins almost every week for five years for locals in-need at the Beth El Center in Connecticut. Despite his quiet humility, Albright garnered national attention as an honoree in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program in Washington, D.C.

Another young man, 14-year-old Hunter Gandee, completed a 40-mile hike in Michigan to raise awareness about Cerebral Palsy Swagger. The condition limits his brother’s ability to walk, which is why the seven-year-old rode on Gandee’s back for the trek.

Kids like David and Hunter are already having a significant impact in society. If they could participate in summer camps that complement their energy and idealism with tools in advocacy, community development, and other leadership skills, they could exponentially advance their abilities to galvanize change.

Tools from leadership summer camps will help kids influence policy and social practice

Gandee’s project drew attention and partnerships from rock stars, football teams, university research labs, and professionals. In a similar Tween Tribune story, over 2000 people – mostly students – in Katmandu, Nepal set the world record for tree hugging on World Environment Day. The initiative drew the attention of parliament members who praised the project and its significance.

Community stakeholders can indeed be influenced by youth movements. But in order to gain their respect rather than just a pat on the head, these kids need more formal training. Leadership summer camps and quality adventure camps offer opportunities for personal development to complement kids’ inherent social ingenuity.

What kind of world-saving skills can kids attain in summer camp?

Some summer camps are geared specifically towards capacity building for community organizing. Kids take part in leadership or conflict-resolution camps to learn about facilitating cross-cultural dialogue or creating an impactful campaign. There are even camps now that educate about social entrepreneurship – a program that both David Albright and Hunter Gandee might benefit from.

While these sorts of camps offer a boost into the world of advocacy and change making, that does not diminish the influence of traditional summer. Traditional summer camps and adventure camps that challenge teens in contexts like backpacking or ropes courses also encourage creative problem solving, critical reasoning, collaboration, personal responsibility, and leadership, simply through a different context.