Q: [School-Age] My wife and I are on the fence; how can our son benefit from a summer camp during his summer break?
A: During the traditional academic year there is limited opportunity within the school day for students to explore concepts and activities outside of the standard curriculum. Also, as district budgets are tightened, students have fewer opportunities to pursue their own interests through extracurricular activities and clubs. Summer camp gives children the chance to devote days or weeks to experiencing or studying subjects that interest them. No matter what your child is interested in, there is a summer camp where they can explore that specific topic in a much deeper way than they could ever do at school. From a Hollywood Stunt Camp in Running Springs to a camp for aspiring marine archeologists at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, even the most obscure interests, hobbies, and passions can be investigated at summer camp.
Camp selection is key. If a child is put into a setting that they are unprepared for, afraid of, or actively disinterested in, then the chances of them getting anything positive out of the experience are slim to none. If you are pushing them to try something new, consider finding a camp that combines existing interests with the new ones you are pushing them towards. For example, parents of a child who is primarily interested in technology might want them to spend more time outside and therefore choose a camp like Sea Tech at the Ocean Institute which features underwater robotics and has considerable time spent outdoors, combing the student’s interest and the parents desires for them.
Camp also often forces children to disconnect from technology and social media, giving them the chance to practice in-person social skills with their peers. Many developmental psychologists are concerned about the effect that virtual interactions will have on the development of social skills in children, so giving them the chance to be away from technology may be even more beneficial than we know. In the camp setting, learners often have more unstructured time than they do at school and can spend more time socializing. These authentic interactions that students have with their peers can be both positive and negative, but have the potential to teach long-lasting lessons. Problem solving, conflict management and resolution, and compromise are all learned skills and summer camp is a wonderful place to master them.
Nathan Taxel has been a camp professional for over 10 years and worked at the Ocean Institute since 2013. He lives in Rancho Santa Margarita with his wife and their 2-year-old son. Visit ocean-institute.org for more info.