SHOULD AMERICAN STYLE SUMMER CAMPS BE INTRODUCED IN AUSTRALIA
When I was a child, my parents moved me to the United States for 3 years. I was put into summer camps every year. The first year the camp of choice was basketball, another year it was tennis and the last was a traditional east coast camping trip with plenty of other kids my age. They were intended to get me out of the house and give my parents some time off during the long school summer holidays, but I also really enjoyed them.
WHAT CAMPS ARE ON OFFER?
American-style summer camps usually focus on a specific interest, like a sport, a band camp for musicians, educational camps for budding scientists and entrepreneurs and outdoorsy camps which teach survival and camping skills.
However, they can feel a little too much like school at times. The timetabled days and rigorous activity schedules definitely keep children occupied, but they also stifle creativity and prevent children from exploring their surroundings for themselves or coming up with their own activities.
The camps are designed to develop skills like teamwork, social skills and self-esteem while getting children trying new things outside their comfort zone. The children are exploring new sports and activities in a safe environment with their peers, away from their support systems of their family. In the US, the camp leaders are usually foreign, exposing the children to different cultures and beliefs at a young age.
The programs also always teach children something, whether that is a sport, skill or academic subject. Therefore, children continue learning, but in an enjoyable way, throughout their summer break. This can give kids an academic advantage on returning to school after the summer.
Community service is often undertaken as part of the summer camp’s program. These programs can benefit the local community and show kids the importance of giving back to their community.
I enjoy spending the summer holidays with my kids. With the rigours and pressures of school, it is difficult to spend quality time together while they are at school. But in the summer, we usually go away camping as a family. Sending them away to summer camp would eat into the time we usually spend together in the summer (and the holiday budget).
Which brings me to the second drawback, the cost. In the States, these residential summer camps cost a bomb. The kids who could benefit the most from them are usually priced out and only the more affluent families can afford them.
SHOULD WE HAVE THEM?
American residential camps are excellent at nurturing a specific skill or passion. My obsession with basketball as a young child in elementary school in the States meant that I loved my basketball summer camp and the following season I was a much better player for it. However, without a love for the sport, the camps can be a drag. Tennis camp felt like a prison, with the early roll calls and endless drills and no free down time.
If Australia were to introduce them, they certainly wouldn’t be for everyone, but there are some children who could really benefit and enjoy them. I’m just concerned they might take over and not be an option at all.
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