Dear Camp Staff:
I would like to congratulate and thank you for your decision to invest your time and energy this summer into leading and caring for children and youth at camp. There has never been a more important time for all school-aged young people to participate in educationally and developmentally vital camp experiences. With your encouragement, they will strengthen their social-emotional skills and improve their physical health and well-being, fostering resilience and emotional regulation. Under your leadership, they will learn how to contribute to society and participate in healthy communities. They will learn and practice 21st-century, crucial, in-person skills, such as listening, critical thinking, and collaborative problem-solving.
Summer camp is just what young people need. They are stressed, lonely, and struggling to manage their emotions and stay grounded. Recently, a young teen expressed his frustration and concerns to me. From his perspective, adults today are saddling Gen Zers and Gen Alphas with a slew of generational challenges: war and potential nuclear conflict, the climate crisis, racial injustice, economic inequality, increasing political divisiveness, and a mental health crisis for their generations. He said many of these challenges have been amplified by social media, artificial intelligence, and technology. These are complicated and difficult times indeed, and young people are seeking courage and opportunities to create lasting, positive change.
Camps provide an inspiring and hopeful environment in which children, teens, and young adults can practice being in and building community — and envisioning a better world where they belong and can successfully contribute. In emotionally and physically safe camp experiences, children and teens learn to express their feelings, discuss their ideas, and how to appreciate differences. We help them discover their ability to make a difference, and, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” However, their feelings of frustration still can be overwhelming and difficult for them to manage.
As camp staff, you can help campers by validating their feelings and by creating a safe and reassuring structured environment that provides predictable, regular routines. Help them improve their emotional regulation by providing opportunities for healthy eating, rigorous physical activity, safe risk-taking, and mindfulness practices. Encourage acceptance, trust, and belonging.
"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims." — Buckminster Fuller
Immersive camp experiences connect young people with each other emotionally and socially and provide opportunities for nourishing, lasting friendships and healthy identity formation. Through your leadership at camp this summer, you will inspire innovation, collaboration, positive risk-taking, and learning from mistakes in a new generation of hopeful inventors, creative thinkers, and doers. Please enjoy this Staff Training Issue of Camping Magazine, which is chock-full of useful tools and information for you. Thank you for all you do for children and youth everywhere.
Wishing you a very happy and healthy camp season!