How to Choose A Summer Camp
By our friends at Trackers Earth Outdoor Education
It’s time to choose a summer camp for your child. So many questions! We know it can be a lot to figure out, even though it’s all for fun. When choosing a camp for your child, including a Trackers camp, we recognize that parents and guardians have a lot of important concerns. Here are some of the most common questions (and answers!) we get asked by parents sending their kiddos to Trackers Camps.
What is the camp focus?
Different camps have different focuses. The goal is to find a program that fits the interests of your child. Do they love being out in nature? Do they enjoy creating art? Are they budding actors who love the stage? Whatever your child’s passion, there is a summer camp out there that will give them a chance to shine. Summer camp is also a great opportunity to encourage your child to try something new! Why not learn to rock climb? Or try ceramics? Or even pitch a tent and camp out in the wilderness! If your kid learns how awesome it is to try something new at camp, that is a realization that can translate into the rest of their life. They might be more likely to try new foods, new things in school, even make new friends.
Camp is a low-stakes place for your child to learn new skills.
At Trackers, for example, we have camps for every kind of kid. Many of our camps focus on outdoor skills including wilderness survival, farm craft, and fishing. Our arts programs teach ceramics, photography, woodworking, and blacksmithing. We also have outdoor sports programs that teach rock climbing, kayaking, and biking. Beyond Trackers, the world of camps offer programs in dance, acting, STEM, and so much more. Camp is a low-stakes place for your child to learn new skills. There are no tests, there is no failure. It is just fun and learning for learning’s sake. We believe this is the best way for children to get excited about learning, whether that’s kayaking, ceramics, or science.
Campers learning to kayak at KEEN Kids Grantee Chicago Adventure Therapy
Maybe your child has done a number of day camps and they are ready for a new adventure. They might be ready for an overnight camp. Also called residential camps or sleepaway camps, these camps also come in all shapes and sizes. From the large-scale overnight camps with cabins, pools, and cafeterias, to the old-school backcountry camps where kids are immersed in a more rugged outdoor setting (our favorite at Trackers).
What are the staff qualifications?
At Trackers we have a high bar for our camp staff. Parents should have a high bar, too. Camp staff should have first aid training, as well as experience in and enthusiasm for the programs they are leading. Camps should require staff to pass a thorough background check and engage in a rigorous training course. Most importantly, staff should be excited to teach kids, create adventures, and collaborate with families. The best way to evaluate camp staff qualifications is to call them and ask. Most camps will be happy to discuss their training and staff requirements.
How do I know my child will be safe?
A good camp will focus on the safety and needs of all students. They should have guidelines for activities that focus on risk management, while also empowering kids to be active participants in their own well-being. A camp’s safety policies and procedures should be available for parents to read. And don’t hesitate to ask questions. Keeping your child safe should be a camp’s #1 priority.
What does a typical day or week of camp look like?
It’s good to find out what your child’s day will look like. At Trackers, a typical day at camp begins with check in, where parents and guardians can communicate with staff about the needs and interests of their child. Kids get to know each other in active games, and discuss goals and expectations with their team for the day and week. In the morning, campers engage in activities based on the camp theme and story. They work together as a team, building friendships and skills. When campers and Guides stop the action to share snacks and lunch together, they also share stories and get to know each other better. After an adventure-filled afternoon, campers wrap up by sharing stories of the day as they wait to be picked up. The camp ends after a week of fun challenges, epic stories about the adventure, and celebrations of new friends. Whatever camp you choose with your child, find out and share with them what a typical day will be. This will help them be ready when camp actually begins.
How does camp help kids connect and make friends?
Embarking on camp adventures together will certainly help your child form lasting friendships. At the heart of Trackers and every camp is a focus on building community with kids and with their families. This begins with welcoming kids to camp and helping them get to know their Guides and fellow campers. Camp staff should work with kids to overcome challenges and have fun. They should model care, respect and stewardship for kids to practice with one another and bring home to contribute to their families. At Trackers, we also encourage kids to develop empathy for nature and to experience the world as a web of connections. This insight helps campers connect with their human team, too.
How will my child learn at camp?
Camps have always been sanctuaries for progressive models of leadership, learning, and education. While in school, kids might learn and be challenged but they may do so with less connection to their friends. While hanging out with friends, kids might experience connection but less learning and challenge. Camp brings those two critical pieces together with models of experiential learning, community, and fun. Ask a prospective camp some questions about their teaching model. How do you develop new skills with kids? How much independence do you encourage in kids? What is your teaching philosophy and values? For many kids, camp is a welcome summer reprieve from models of learning and socialization that are often disconnected, but work better together.
Camp KEEN campers learning archery at Trackers Camp in Portland
The landscape of summer camps is vast and infinite. There are camps that will encourage and inspire every possible interest. Choosing a camp should be guided by the interests of your child, but don’t lose sight of the other camp fundamentals: safety, friends, and fun. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the camps you’re considering. Every camp, including Trackers, should be happy to talk with you about their philosophy, safety practices, and finding the best fit for you and your child before you register. Camps can and should be a very personal adventure for every kid and camp staff everywhere are thrilled to make that happen.
For over fifteen years, tens of thousands of families have Tracked experiences outdoors with Trackers Earth and their year-round Guides — in seasonal camp events, through outdoor sport, mentor and apprenticeship programs, and during after-school and school-day adventures. Their mission is to inspire kids and families outdoors, creating stories and memories — new friendships, wonder, and possibilities — within ourselves, between each other, and with the world around us.
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