Gretchen, Kris, Dave and I were in Atlantic City, NJ- ok, an unlikely travel destination for four North Carolina camp directors, but we joined 2500 directors from all over the country for a terrific camp conference. We also caught up with former Illahee Associate Director Kim Wenzl who was a conference presenter for staff orientation training and how to “Jump-Start” camp programs. Getting great ideas and reconnecting with friends was a highlight of the three days.
We learned some interesting statistics: the average child now spends 71/2 hours each day in front of a “screen” and the average range of play has shrunk from a one mile radius (remember riding your bike all over the neighborhood after dinner….) to 550 feet (the fenced in backyard.) It’s a good thing our girls can come to Illahee to get “unplugged” and to roam the campus from activity to activity. This makes me value the time at camp after dinner when girls are getting ready for evening program and there is that sense of “neighborhood play in the community on each hill. Next door to our house on Pineview, the older girls play basketball and paint in our driveway or have impromptu dance parties until the counselors chase them into their cabins at Taps. Over and over during the conference, we were reminded of the relevance and necessity of camp experiences for today’s youth.
One of the most humorous and thought provoking speakers was columnist, Lenore Skenazy who has published the book Free Range Kids and posts a free range kids blog. I recommend looking at it. She comments about the fears that parents face today and many facets of our culture which put such pressure on us as parents to “get it right” in every aspect of parenting role. Because of the prevalence of media and how connected we are there is the perception that the world is a much more dangerous place, yet in many cases, statistics don’t support the perception. The level of freedom we had growing up is very different than for our children. She also commented that “Play is The Most critical thing for a child to develop.” Through play they develop skills in compromise and communication as well as self-esteem.
Not only did the four of us return to camp armed with terrific new ideas for staff orientation, for evening programs, and for cabin activities but we also returned even more committed to our mission here at Camp Illahee. Through camp’s warm and caring community, we are fostering character development, connection to the natural world around us, healthy activities that contribute to a long term active lifestyle and a respite from the electronic world- time for face to face activity and communication, rather than text to text. We are looking forward to welcoming campers back to the heavenly world in a few short weeks! Until then, we are going to head outside to play!