Benefits of Camp: Skill Development

How Parents View The Camp Experience

Why Is It Important To Send My Child To Camp?

Youth development experts agree that children need a variety of experiences in their lives to help them grow into healthy adolescents and adults. For children to develop positive behaviors, their experiences must produce:

· A sense of industry and competency
Do they develop skills? Do they learn to work for what is important? Are they successful at what they do?

· A feeling of connectedness to others and to society
Do they feel like they "fit"? Do they see a role they can play in their group, family, or community? Do they have friends?

· A belief in their ability to make decisions
Do they learn to make good choices? Do they see the results of their decisions?

· A stable identity
Are they learning what their skills are? Are they receiving positive feedback about themselves?

To help us understand what camp accomplishes, approximately 1,000 parents completed a survey after their children returned home from camp in the summer of 2000. On a scale of 1-5 (with 1 = strongly disagree and 5 = strongly agree), parents rated the top five outcomes of camp for their child as follows: (on a 5 point scale)

  1. My child felt successful at camp (Average score: 4.63)
  2. My child made new friends (Average score: 4.60)
  3. My child gained new skills (Average score: 4.39)
  4. Camp encouraged my child to get along better with others (Average score: 4.35)
  5. Camp helped my child have a better idea of what she or he is good at (Average Score: 4.20)

Camp can provide an excellent experience for your child to learn and develop. According to the Search Institute, young people have seven developmental needs:

  1. Physical Activity
  2. Competence and Achievement
  3. Self-Definition
  4. Creative Self-Expression
  5. Positive Social Interactions
  6. Structure and Clear Limits
  7. Meaningful Participation

The camp experience is uniquely positioned to provide all of these developmental needs for children. Consider camp as the perfect partner to family, school, and community youth activities in helping your child learn independence, decision-making, social and emotional skills, character building and values - all in an atmosphere of creativity and enrichment under the supervision of positive adult role models.

In today's pressure-oriented society, camp provides a non-threatening environment for America's youth to be active, to develop competence in life skills, to learn about and enhance their own abilities and to benefit from meaningful participation in a community designed just for them.

Yes, camp is for everyone! Don't let your child grow up without it!

Campers Speak: What is Camp All About?

During the summer of 2000, campers in approximately 20 different ACA-accredited camps were asked to respond to a questionnaire to track the impact of the camp experience. The following are the questions and answers they provided:

Can you think of things you learned and did at camp last summer that helped you in school this year?

"I was more confident, wanted to know everything, was excited to be in school and good grades in 7th grade." (12-year-old female)
"My experience helped me look at challenging situations differently and instead of giving up, finding a way around them." (14-year-old female)
"Last summer I learned a lot about how to control my anger." (13-year-old female)
"I learned better sportsmanship and listening skills that helped me bring up my grades in behavior." (11-year-old male)
"I learned how to be on my own without someone with me all the time." (12-year-old male)
"I learned to have more patience and to appreciate the things I have."(10-year-old female)
"I feel that I am better at interacting with friends and family. The people skills learned at camp affected me dramatically when I went home." (15-year-old male)
"Leadership, organization, water-skiing, make my bed, keep my stuff clean, to keep in touch with my friends, respect, how to handle pressure." (13-year-old female)

Do you feel different about yourself when you are at camp?

"I feel different because I feel like I am accomplishing something by being here." (13-year-old female)
"At school there are defined groups of people, but at camp, everyone feels wanted." (15-year-old female)
"Yes, because I'm with people my age and people who respect everyone." (11-year-old male)
"At camp I think that I can do more and be proud of myself." (13-year-old female)
"At camp I have a personality that is different from home. I'm less cautious to do fun or exciting things. I don't feel as alone as I sometimes do at home." (14-year-old male)
"When I'm at camp I feel that I can be more open with others and myself. I tell people things at camp I wouldn't speak of back home. I feel so much more in tune with myself here and I can discuss issues so much more openly." (15-year-old male)
"I don't have to be fake to anyone. Everyone here accepts me as I am, and I'm not judged or criticized." (15-year-old female)

If explaining camp to friends, what would you say you learn here?

"I learned to listen to what other people say." (10-year-old male)
"I learned a lot of team work skills." (13-year-old female)
"You learn how to relate to people on a level deeper than that of school or everyday life because you live together." (14-year-old female)
"I learn a lot about respect and my real values in life, what they really should be." (14-year-old female)
"Values like how to be responsible and respectful."(13-year-old female)
"You learn mostly how to interact with different kinds of people and are open to different ideas. You learn how to cooperate well with others who share and don't share the same opinions as you." (15-year-old female)
"I learned to have fun, be a leader, discipline, and most of all - respect." (12-year-old male)
"You learn how to make new friends, learn different sports, and learn that camp can be a very good part of summer! " (9-year-old female)

Campers Speak: What Did I Learn at Camp?

We asked campers what they learned at camp and received interesting answers, which may be used to enhance stories about the camp experience.

"I learned mostly about how to get along with my peers, but also I learned to take on more responsibilities like managing a schedule and helping to take care of younger campers." (14-year-old male, Netimus)
"One main thing I learned last year was to be more open to others. That especially helped me into my first year of high school. It helped me get to know more people and to not judge them by their physical appearance, but rather the person they really are." (15-year-old female, Lake Hastings YMCA)
"My experience helped me look at challenging situations differently and instead of giving up, finding a way around them." (14-year-old female, Netimus)
"At school there are defined groups of people, but at camp, everyone feels wanted." (15-year-old female, Campus Kids)
"I was more confident, wanted to know everything, was excited to be in school, and got good grades in the 7th grade." (12-year-old female, Morry's Camp)
"Last summer, I learned a lot about how to control my anger." (13-year-old female, Edwards)
"I've learned to have more patience and to appreciate the things I have." (10-year-old female, Camp Dean)
"Last year here at E-Club I read many books, and it helped me read more at home because before I did not really like to read." (11-year-old female, Morry's Camp)
"I learned to clean my room and to get along with others." (10-year-old male, Morry's Camp)
"I feel that I am better at interacting with friends and family. The people skills learned at camp affected me dramatically when I went home." (15-year-old male, Lake Hastings YMCA)
"When I am at camp I am totally at ease because of the constant fun, activities, and the emphasis on self-discovery. I feel totally comfortable." (14-year-old female, Netimus)
"I would tell my friends that you learn how to relate to people on a level deeper than that of school or everyday life - because you live together you really get to know each other." (14-year-old female, Netimus)
"You learn mostly how to interact with different kinds of people and are open to different ideas. You learn how to cooperate well with others who share and don't share the same opinions as you." (15-year-old female, Lake Hastings YMCA)

Staff

In a 1998 study of staff perceptions about the value of the camp staff experience, positive outcomes focused on relationships with other staff and campers, appreciation of diversity, teamwork, role modeling/mentoring, technical and administrative skill development, and interpersonal skills. It is important for camp directors to be able to articulate the values of working at camp when their salaries may not compete with other choices for employment.

More Than a Summer Job

Each spring, millions of college students are faced with the challenge of finding a great summer job. Many believe the only way to make money is to spend the summer in a routine office job, while others think that a thankless intern position is the only way to get career-related experience. However, there is an alternative that provides valuable transferable skills and the opportunity to save, all while in the great outdoors.

A camp job can prepare young adults for many challenges in life, including how to budget time and money, how to deal with all types of people, and how to become a stronger leader. Business executives often note that experience as a camp counselor translates into excellent management and personnel skills. Regardless of the college major, camp experiences allow students to learn and develop skills that will enhance job marketability.

There is a camp and a position that fits every personality. Camp directors are starting to look now for people from all over the country with a variety of ability levels and backgrounds. And, unlike so many jobs today, most camp positions for college students do not require prior experience.

There are four major categories of camp jobs available for college students:

  • Counselors interact personally with campers and lead them through activities. At resident camps, counselors live with campers. Day camps may require counselors to travel with the campers on a bus to and from camp.
  • Activity instructors teach specific activities, such as arts and crafts, archery, swimming, music, drama, horseback riding, radio/TV, computers, rock climbing, nature studies and more.
  • Lifeguards are responsible for the camp's swimming and boating areas. Job consideration is given to students with proper certifications, such as lifesaving.
  • Other jobs include food service directors and cooks, buildings and grounds keepers, drivers, trip leaders, and office assistants.

Some students worry that a camp job won't be as financially rewarding as an office job. However, salaries for counselors or comparable positions generally range from $1,000 to $3,000 for the camp season and up to $4,000 for persons who are certified in lifeguard training and other skilled positions. Since most resident camps provide room and board, students will not incur these added expenses. Other potential benefits include health and accident insurance and, in some cases, the opportunity to earn college credit.

"I'm impressed with how frequently and how much summer camp experiences have influenced young adults' lives," says Bruce Muchnick, Ed.D., a licensed psychologist who works extensively with day and resident camps. "Summer camp is a special place where young adults can master real-life problem-solving skills, have a significant and positive influence in the lives of children, and develop a network of peer relations."

Information about camp jobs is everywhere. On the Internet, job-seekers can check out; camp staff recruitment fairs, which are often held on college campuses and are a great opportunity to meet with camp professionals, receive a free listing of current job openings through Year-round Jobs @ Camp. Check with the college placement offices or ACA's listings of job fairs throughout the United States. Also visit ACA's Summer Jobs @ Camp. "Summer Jobs for Students" is another excellent resource and is available in bookstores and in libraries.

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