For the love of camp, stay home!

Let’s call a spade a spade: for many of our children, the school year is already over. Either because they will not physically be heading back to school during this academic calendar, or because they are not interested in distance learning and have checked out mentally. Whatever teachers post, Zoom or try to engage their students with after Spring Break, will most likely have to be retaught in September.

This really is sad, and I think we all feel for our children and all they have lost this year due to COVID-19.  They have lost those once-in-a-lifetime experiences like the Springtime rights of passage trips that your child has looked forward to since she watched her older siblings have the time of their lives and the most distressing of all, no, prom or graduation. However, there is one thing we can still do for our children, a rainbow at the end of this storm, to help them overcome this social distancing hurdle. And that is the gift of summer camp.

For the past 7 years, I have been the director of an overnight performing arts camp for Jewish girls. In that time, I’ve witnessed the transformative experience of camp countless times. Watching a previously shy camper shine on our stage at the end of camp in our final performance, is priceless. We need to maintain our social distancing rules for that camper.  So that she can have the opportunity to shine and, one day, rule the world.

There are 8 reasons why our children (and their parents) need camp this summer. Think of this as 8 reasons why we must maintain our social distancing rules. Because we all want to help our children heal from this traumatic time, right?

8 reasons to social distance now for camp later!

  1. Screen Detox: Before these days, we all had rules about how long our children are permitted to be on screens. At this point I think most of us have thrown these guidelines out the window for our children’s sanity and our own. Summer camp is the one place where children thrive without the use of any screen. Today most camps are screen-free and only allow MP3 devices to play music. Experiencing a screen-free summer will be critical for our children in helping them recalibrate themselves to form a new healthy relationship with screens and devices.
  2. Exercise and Fresh Air: As much as we try, we know that our children are not moving and exercising as much as they used to. For those of us in colder climates, we are not able to get outside every day and there simply have been too many rainy days. Our children need to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and the thrill of playing a friendly sports game with their peers.
  3. Magical Moments: Collectively schools have recognized a longtime camp secret; the beauty in weekly rituals and daily excitement and fun. For years Jewish camps have recognized that pre and post Shabbat activities unite the camp community through a religious ritual elevating the beauty of that weekly ritual. I was fascinated to see how more and more schools have been running activities after school sessions have ended for the day similar to camp night activities. Camp night activity time is typically the most creative and fun hour in camp uniting groups of campers in various ways and challenging them to step out of their comfort zones. These special activities are uniting school communities while everyone is able to maintain a healthy physical distance. Schools have been doing an excellent job with this, but let’s let the camp experts do what we do best and continue to create these magical moments in the summer.
  4. Social Anxiety: Reentering society after this pandemic subsides will be difficult for many children who have social anxieties. Us camp professionals have been working with children with social disorders for years and have programs and staffing in place to help children ease into social situations. Let us help your children make this transition back into their social world in our warm and loving environment.
  5. Soft Skills are Now Essential Skills: Through this pandemic we have learned that the skills we have often categorized as soft skills are essential skills when living during a pandemic. Camps specialize in teaching our children how to develop these skills such as empathy, perseverance, innovation and stepping out of our comfort zone.  This summer, our camps will be able to continue to help our children flex these vital muscles and be even more prepared to start school in the fall.
  6. Answering Difficult Philosophical Questions: Camp educators are experts in teaching meaningful concepts through experiential education. Our children have a lot of questions right now about why this happened. Offering our children an opportunity to ask their philosophical questions to camp educators in a natural and calming setting, allows them to explore the problems they are having with individuals who are prepared to hear these difficult questions.
  7. Giving Our College-Aged Staff Purpose: Currently colleges have closed for the semester. These students have also been working from home and have lost both freedom and motivation. Hiring these college students to work in camp and giving them an opportunity to heal while feeling valued for their work and contributions within the camp community. There is no better way to build someone’s self-confidence then by helping them become the coolest camp counselor ever.
  8. Parents Need Camp this Summer Too: When this is all said and done, we will all need a healthy reprieve from our children. Parents are working extra hard trying to maintain their jobs, their homes and manage their children’s remote learning. Parents deserve a much-needed break this summer, and the best way to do that is to be able to send their precious cargo to summer camps specifically designed to nurture and care for their children.

Each summer at my camp we incorporate a theme into our experiential education program. We were preparing to announce our Summer 2020 theme just as our lives were turned upside down, but decided to wait until things settled a bit. Five months ago, we chose the theme of “Gratitude to Greatness”, and it turns out that could not have been more spot on!

Many of us have lost people, items, experiences and more during this pandemic, yet we still have so much to be grateful for. As we all rebuild our lives this summer, what better message to instill into our hearts than the idea that gratitude leads to greatness. I urge all camps this summer to join us in our campaign of #gratitudetogreatness because through our gratitude we will rebuild and become the greatest versions of ourselves.

***An important note to campers. We are doing everything we can to make camp happen this summer. We may not have an answer for you just yet, but we are working on many different scenarios so that camp can take place this summer. We want camp to happen just as much as you do 🙂

About the Author
Sari Kahn lives in West Hempstead with her four children and is the director of NCSY Camp Maor, a performing arts overnight camp for Jewish girls. Ms. Kahn received her masters degree in Camping Administration and Leadership in 2018.
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