How to Revamp Your Camp

By Culpepper, Jeremy M. | Parks & Recreation, February 2007 | Go to article overview

How to Revamp Your Camp

Culpepper, Jeremy M., Parks & Recreation

Theme camps are today's answer for changing demands in summer programming.

Have you ever wanted to step out of the real world into a place that caters just to your interests? That's the opportunity that more and more children are having when they step out of school the last day before summer. Once seen as lazy months, the potential for children to remain active during June, July and August are now limited only by imagination.

Today's children demand variety. They have more entertainment options at home, such as video games, television and computers that limit their motivation to leave the home to participate in recreational activities. This requires programs to work harder to grab the attention of youth while many parents are seeking programs that will allow children to experience more than "virtual" recreation. Park and recreation programs have an unique opportunity to appeal to both parents and children. "Theme camps" can offer a non-traditional summer program that is both fun and educational.

The Theme Camp

Theme camps, also known as specialty camps, allow programs to change from week to week and can be used to target specific groups of youth. Though the possibilities for themes are nearly endless, most theme camps can be divided into four easily identifiable categories: academic camps, the arts, popular culture and sports camps.

One characteristic of a theme camp is the acquisition of tangible skills through participation. An academic camp focuses primarily on increasing knowledge in areas of academia, such as language, math, science and history. Science camps are very popular among park and recreation programs because a park's outdoor classroom provides an excellent opportunity for hands-on learning in sciences such as biology, archaeology, geology and environmental studies.

Language camps are also growing in popularity, especially sign language camps. American Sign Language is now offered at many schools as a language elective, increasing students' interest in learning American Sign Language.

Academic camps that focus on a part of history are often very successful. History as a subject allows participants to examine many aspects of a particular time or culture, such as dress, art, music, food, events and language. The Toledo Area Metroparks in Ohio offer a very unique themed camp every June. The wigwam theme camp favors mostly group participation, specifically family groups.

According to Kate Herring, a historical interpreter for the Toledo Area Metroparks, "Families can rent a fully furnished conical wigwam, sample Native American foods, take part in traditional crafts, and learn about the people that inhabited the region more than 200 years ago." Allowing participants to "time travel" not only exposes them to historical knowledge, but creates a dynamic environment in which culture and group learning can overlap.

Academic camps can be difficult to market as many children see summer as a break from the classroom. It is crucial that academic camps offer experiences not available in a traditional classroom, and serve as an academic enrichment. Many parents appreciate academic offerings as an option for children who struggle in certain subject areas or as a way to create year-long learning. Exciting, innovative academic camps can reel in the kids and please parents as well.

The characteristics of an art camp are very similar to those of an academic camp. However, instead of the primary focus being knowledge-based, participants learn hands-on skills, such as fine arts, dramatic arts, dance and music. Dance camp can easily be taught by a local dance instructor. A local instructor may help to increase enrollment, as instructors will encourage their current students to sign up for the dance camp. Dance camp can offer training in styles such as jazz, ballet, tap and more contemporary forms, such as hip-hop.

The Randolph Township Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department and the Brundage Park Playhouse in Randolph, N. …

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