The growth in camp attendance also reflects the ACAs efforts to stay relevant in a changing world. The association has accomplished this in two primary ways: by helping parents realize that a few weeks at camp is about much more than giving a child the chance to goof off with a bow and arrow and by diversifying the types of camp experiences available to young people, so as to broaden the very definition of camp itself.
The first effort has a lot to do with marketing, Baskin says. Camp Champions, for instance, redesigned its brochure to play up the potential for growth as well as the relationships that children can expect to build with each other and with their counselors, instead of merely listing activities offered at the camp.
We realized were not in the activity business; were in the youth-development business, Baskin says. So in parents minds, weve moved away from the part of the budget where they have cruise ships and Disney World and into the budget where they have Sylvan Learning Centers, music, and trips to the Smithsonian. Theyll beat a path to your door once they understand what camp is. Its not about archery. Its about role models.
Beyond that, there are now numerous opportunities for children who might not fancy a traditional camp setting. Emagination is a program offered in several major cities that combines technological skills with outdoor pursuits, according to director Craig Whiting. In this way, the camp can interest electronically inspired children with 3-D animation workshops, lessons on creating Flash games and iPhone apps, robot building, and C++ programming. But they also require that a portion of the experience involves getting unplugged.
They spend four and a half hours a day in a classroom, learning, and three hours in recreation swimming, soccer, tennis, basketball, or in outdoor camps, Whiting says. Many of our campers would like to be on a computer 24/7. We think its important that they not be.
There are also camps that focus on learning new languages, such as Concordia Language Villages, a camp in Minnesotas North Woods that uses immersion-style techniques to integrate language learning with an array of activities that emphasize culture as much as vocabulary.
Hannah Viroslav isnt the only one in her family who attends camp; her two siblings do too. That includes her 13-year-old sister, Olivia, who has a rare genetic disorder called Prader-Willi syndrome, which can have debilitating effects on diet, stamina, strength, and balance. She attends a camp that emphasizes less-strenuous outdoor activities.
She has a fabulous time, says the girls mother, Alice Viroslav. The same can be said for Hannah, who knows all too well that there are no wires in the wilderness. And thats a good thing.