On a conservative day, my work “uniform” looks like jeans and printed shirts that hide the spills and thrills of many kids. Other days my uniforms consist of tutus, hippie and 80’s wear, and face paint. As we get closer to June, my office overflows with sport, science and art supplies, as well gallons of sunscreen. In our halls we have serious discussions about the benefits of making goop versus slime.
While working at camp often looks and sounds like a constant party, behind the costumes and games, camp is serious business. Our work is intent on nurturing children to develop independence, empathy, the ability to work as part of a team, connections to Israel and a broader world view.
The business of camp begins with the safety of our children. Safety and security are our number one priorities, bar none. We are audited by the American Camp Association (ACA) every three years, and accredited annually, which requires that we exceed over 300 health, safety, and program quality standards. We are so committed to the standards and ideals of the ACA accreditation process that we also serve on their review committee for other camps.
Safety is also about developing an environment where our campers explore and are given the guidance and independence to engage in social and emotional learning, to practice skills, and to build and maintain relationships. Camp provides opportunities for youth to wrestle with important processes and gain proficiencies and certain skills.
Camp uses intentional programming to create a balance of experiential learning opportunities that are intellectual, physical, emotional, and social. Each day is filled with culture, arts, STEM, and water play. Our campers explore activities like Ninja Warriors, gaga, sailing and scavenger hunts; they are busy, not watching, but learning by doing and running around all day with friends.
Our kids are constantly exposed to new experiences and challenges. They’re pushed to get outside their comfort zone and really engage. They flourish as they pursue goals, individually and as camp teams, learn and master new skills. Some kids arrive at camp with a specific goal: learning to paddle board or champion dodgeball. Others simply practice and enjoy camp activities like Israeli dancing and Lego master building. All of their progress and achievements—small and large—add to kids’ flourishing at camp.
In national, multi-year ACA research, parents, campers, and camp staff reported that camp positively impacts growth in self-confidence, independence, and making friends. Over 90% of campers in the national study said camp helped them to get to know kids who are different from them.
• Camp helped me make new friends. (96%)
• The people at camp helped me feel good about myself. (92%)
• At camp, I did things I was afraid to do at first. (74%)
AUDRA MARTIN HAS WORKED WITH CHILDREN IN THE JCC FIELD FOR OVER 20 YEARS, SHE IS THE DIRECTOR OF CHILDREN AND CAMP AT THE MERAGE JCC.
CONTACT AUDRA AT AUDRAM@JCCOC.ORG.