Summer camp. It’s a time that many of us as adults look back on fondly. We remember the thrill of building a fire with flint and steel for the first time, or the carefree afternoons spent hiking or watercoloring under the sun. It’s the place where many of us made lifelong friends and one that likely had profound impacts on who we are as adults. For many, camp was not just a way to spend summer break. Camp was the place where we grew, explored, gained independence, learned about other people and the world around us, and of course, had an absolute blast.
So, what is it like to go to summer camp?
The camp experience is different for everyone. Depending on whether your child is sleeping over or attending day camp, the experience can provide a variety of opportunities. Here at Teton Science Schools, we offer both kinds of summer camp experiences, although we’re not your traditional sleep-away camp. Depending on their age, students can join us for two types of programs:
- Day Camps: Day camps are weekday programs where kids, Preschool – 6th grade, are dropped off in the morning and picked up in the afternoon. A few of the “day” camps for 5th-6th grades include a one- or two-night camping trip during the week.
- Overnight Camps: Overnight camps are for 7th-12th graders and range in length from ten days to four weeks. Depending on the program, students reside in bunk houses on one of our Jackson Hole campuses or venture out into the wilderness to hike and camp.
Typical programs are themed, exploring topics like scat and tracks, outdoor survival skills, animal adaptations, water, leadership and nature art. For younger students, a typical day might include a hike around one of our campuses, searching for macroinvertebrates in creeks, sketching or watercoloring their findings and performing skits to sum up their day’s learning. For older students, a typical day might include a teambuilding activity on the Doug Walker Challenge Course followed by a challenge hike in Grand Teton National Park or service project with one of our many community partners.
Alongside themed activities, our programs also give students the opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills, grow as individuals and play. And this, we believe, is why summer camp is so important.
We’ve rounded up six reasons why we think camp is beneficial for students of all ages.
Develops Lifelong Skills
During summer programs, students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities, many of which might be new. Not only can those new activities encourage students to step outside of their typical comfort zone, but they can also promote teamwork, creative problem solving and communication with other students, many of whom they will just have met.
At camp, students get to experience a day or perhaps a few days away from their parents. While our educators are always on hand to ensure the safety and wellbeing of each student, they also make sure to provide time for unstructured exploration — a time when students explore their own interests and determine how to spend their day. Students learn to be more self-reliant and more self-sufficient when given time to trust their decision making instead of relying on the guidance of a parent or teacher.
Makes Time for Play
Even though all of our summer programs are themed, we make sure that each provides the opportunity for unstructured play or exploration. Play is essential to the development of children and youth because it contributes to their “cognitive, physical, social and emotional wellbeing.” When we give students the opportunity and a safe space to play and explore freely, we’re also giving them the chance to learn and interact with the world around them, flex their imaginations and perhaps make a few new friends, too.
At camp, students get to meet and spend time with others who share similar interests, but also with those who come from completely different backgrounds. They have the opportunity to bond over the challenges they face during the camp experience, to share inside jokes and simply have fun without the distractions of screens.
Encourages a Connection with Nature
Developing a strong connection with nature is powerful in so many ways. Nature allows students to experience the world with all of their senses. They get to see, touch, hear, smell and sometimes even taste their place. When they’re out in nature, students also have the opportunity to move their bodies through activities like hiking, canoeing, running and skipping. Oh and let’s not forget the simple pleasure of breathing in the fresh mountain air!
One of the biggest opportunities that summer camp provides is the opportunity for students to try new things — step outside of their comfort zone — and develop new skills in the process. Maybe it’s stepping on to a high ropes element on our Doug Walker Challenge Course, maybe it’s being challenged to start a fire using two sticks or maybe it’s striking up a conversation with a new person. Whatever it is, the experience is sure to help students get a better idea of what they love (and don’t love), discover their strengths and build a stronger sense of self-awareness and identity.
Join us in 2020 for a summer full of outdoor adventure, hands-on learning and fun.