Saturday, April 17, 2010

Why Camping is Necessary For Kids

Getting out into Nature, making new friends, exploring a new environment, self -discovery, independence. These are just a few of the things that come to mind for us all when we think about going to summer camp as a child. But there are so many more things that camp
provides for children and youth that new research shows us.

First, there is the opportunity to really become a part of nature as a human being. Children are literally being ‘nature deprived’ in urban environments where they listen to noises such as cars, planes, horns, sirens gunfire and the general bustle of the city.

Human beings ears were actually meant to listen to birds singing, the wind whipping through the trees, and the sound of water gurgling in a stream or going over a fall. Our feet were made to
walk on soft earth, not on concrete. Our eyes were made to see beauty in green plants and trees, blue sky, mountains, deserts, and ocean scenery. Yet we deprive most children to just seeing dirty streets, polluted brown smog in the sky, and school playgrounds that are devoid of grass or trees. If we cage any animal in this type of environment for too long, they turn to violence and become quite depressed. We as human animals react no differently.

Sending a child to camp gives them time to reflect on where they belong in the world. Camp gives them a time to also let nature heal their emotional wounds through belonging to a ‘Camp Family’ and having a young adult care for them and listen to their stories. Children are human beings in a developmental process of life and camp helps them to develop multiple skills simultaneously. Skills like trust, and leadership, good risk taking, and group work, problem solving, and self – expression, communicating and relationship building.

You see nature has a way of impacting a child’s growth in many positive ways. Exploring a new and exciting environment helps children develop independence from starting with fear of nature on their first day at camp to newfound confidence by their fourth day.

The tangible skills are many as well. From trying new activities like archery, nature crafts, low ropes course, orienteering (map and compass) acting or singing at campfire, swimming, hiking and learning about the outdoor environment from it’s geology to it’s animal and plant life.

Last and most importantly, camp teaches children and youth to celebrate diversity and value unity. Knowing that we are all human beings and that we need to work together to make our home and society peaceful, meaningful, and safe. That is what a well-run camp is and what a well run camp does.

With all of these multiple learning experiences and opportunities offered to a child in just one week up in the mountains, I would say camp is a wise investment for the future adults of our
world.

I look forward to working with the Pythian Youth Foundation to make the camping experience meaningful and memorable for the youth it serve.

In Peace and Friendship,

Bob Cabeza

Bob Cabeza, the Executive Director of the YMCA of Greater Long Beach Downtown Community Development Branch, who will provide our training, has been a veteran ACA Camp Director and youth developer for over 25 years. He has run camps in the United States, Switzerland and Austria for Village Camps, the YMCA, and the Foundation for the Junior Blind. He is an outdoor educator, avid hiker, skier, and climber. He lives in Long Beach California with his wife and ten year old son.

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