Summer Camp in the City

This week the calendar here in the Northwest says summer has arrived. On cue the rain has receded and the sun has returned for an extended stay.  The sky is bright blue, the birds are singing, and school is just a few days from being over for the summer. The school year will soon be a memory and a large variety of summer camps will begin the following Monday. What does the arrival of summer mean for your program?

Summer camps in the U.S. started gaining popularity in the early twentieth century. The camp movement was seen as an opportunity for children in the city to get back into nature and heal the damage done by living in cities. The camp movement has evolved over the last century. Some traditional camps still exist, but the movement has been slowly changing to include activities like computer camp, academic camp, and many sports related camps.

All of the camps I have participated in for the past 22 years have been in the city. The have been held in city parks, schools, colleges, and multipurpose community centers. These camps are and were an extension of the work we participated in during the school year. Summer camps are a chance to continue our work with old friends and to welcome new friends into the world to co-learning and project work.

Summer camps in the city feature time in nature, trips to various educational and local historical spots, fun places like waterparks, and cultural excursions like visits to museums and the children’s theatre.

In the city, do we get to sleep in a cabin, fight off mosquitoes, and try to keep the bears out of our trashcans? No! But there are many benefits to this time of year and I want to share a few.

Summer camp in the city gives us more time to work together with the children. In afterschool programs our work time is short. In summer we can have extended work periods inside and outside for children and educators to explore our wonderings with no pressure from the clock. This creates an environment of slower pacing, deeper thinking, and more detailed work that sometimes eludes us when school is in session.

Summer camp in the city brings children from different parts of the city together. In the city camps are collaborations between many schools and therefore bring children who have never met or worked together to one location. This creates new opportunities for social development and collaboration in work and play. Every summer I see new groups of children form friendships and learn new skills from children that live in another part of the city. This is a rich exchange of ideas that benefits the growth of the learning community.

Summer camp in the city also brings together educators from different locations and creates new opportunities for collaboration. When working in one school for a long period of time, we as educators may become comfortable in our methods and forget that other educators have different views and practices that vary from our own. During summer camp many educators come together for the first time and have the opportunity to learn new methods other educators use in their programs. This is a wonderful professional development opportunity and costs nothing extra except being open to new possibilities.

Summer is a time for renewal. It is when classroom teachers recharge and refuel their batteries for the upcoming year. For afterschool educators it is a time to enjoy the sunshine, spend more time outdoors, sing camp songs, create new connections with the children and colleagues, and get in water fight or two. It is the time of year when our work becomes more active and we experience longer days with the children. It is a chance to grow our potential and try new practices that in the long run benefit all of the members of the learning community. Have a great summer!

What is your favorite childhood memory of summer? Did it involve a summer camp?

What do you want to learn in your program during the long summer days?