Jason Kunzman on May 9, 2018
One of the steepest learning curves in my 16 months as the JCC’s Chief Program Officer has been in the area of summer camp. I grew up with only limited exposure to a day camp that was run out of my local high school in Rockland County, New York, and while I am a parent of two campers, I did not fully appreciate the impact a high-quality summer camp experience could have on campers, staff and the local community. I had a lot to learn.
Just about every article from the American Camp Association and the Foundation for Jewish Camp refers to the benefits of camp including physical activity, increased confidence/independence, problem solving skills and lifelong friendships. Colleagues from the JCC and from across the country often extolled the importance of camper care, differentiated and progressive programming, consistent communication with families, and adequate camper choice. I needed to synthesize all this information and get specific to our JCC camps.
Over time things came into focus and the power of camp – the value of our JCC camps – became clear: Our camps prepare children for life’s journeys through connections, values, growth and fun.
Whether at an engineering specialty camp or at J&R Day Camp, our campers and our staff form various types of connections – with one another, with a favorite activity, with a special place at camp, with Judaism, with community. Free from the social expectations pressuring them at school, camp encourages our campers and staff to relax and make connections more easily. In fact, our decision to go screen-free at camp this summer helps ensure that there are no artificial barriers to important summertime connections forming.
While our kids might think that camp is only about being away from school and having a good time, we believe camp is really about helping kids discover how they would like to be. Staff and campers explore new ways to incorporate relevant values into daily activities. From “courage” to “respect” to “kindness” to “gratitude,” our camps provide a roadmap through experiential learning on how one can live a good and meaningful life.
We know that the activities at camp supplement some of the most formative years in the lives of our campers and staff. In fact, camp is the perfect place for kids and young adults to practice making decisions for themselves without parents and teachers guiding their every move. Increased confidence and resilience, improved self-esteem and greater independence are the building blocks for campers and staff to achieve their goals in life and to play an active role in their local communities. Numerous employers have even cited summer camp as the best management training program in which essential job competencies and life skills such as accountability, trustworthiness, strong work ethic, diplomacy, creativity and collaboration are formally harnessed.
Free from the highly-structured, overly-scheduled routines of home and school, camp provides much needed free time to just play. Camp is a slice of carefree living where campers and staff can relax, laugh and be silly all day long. Appreciating the value of fun not only helps keep things in their proper perspective but is an important skill for successful business and community leaders.
Learn more about JCC Camps: