Camp is ever evolving. I know I've written this in the past, but it's an incredibly important idea to grasp...

CAMP IS EVER EVOLVING. This means that camp = change. What a bizarre thought - especially for those of us who have worked at a camp. "There's no change, Pete! It's tradition!"

Yes, tradition. Of course... In fact, I've written about the importance of tradition. But that's not what I'm talking about...

Remember camp... when you were a kid? Yeah. It was 10,000 times different than today. Absolutely. Why? Because people have changed! Parents have changed! Children have changed!

In the past, we wouldn't think twice about having riflery as a specialty area... Nowadays it takes a good deal of thought and insurance.

Ok, I'll be concise for once. Is camp worse off today? Are we overly protective? Has camp been transformed into a glorified day care?

In the past, you could scrape a knee at camp or even break a leg - it was a commonality. Parents don't find that acceptable anymore. I can't get away with saying that your child was acting like a child and therefore got hurt - someone needs to be accountable on the micro-level. Some of this change is good. It prevents abuse where there was the possibility of abuse; it makes safety the priority where it may not have been number one in the past... Is there overkill, though?

Let's start at the definition of camp. I'm not talking about Websters, here, I'm referring to what made camp special back in the day. Camp represents freedom - the first time in a kids life that they are free to be whomever they want. Mom isn't dressing me in the morning and I'm not being evaluated at every turn... I'm not surrounded by the same group of schoolyard chums that I grew up with... I'm free.

This freedom came at a cost, though. The laws of camp used to be wide open. I'm not talking about conscious neglect, but having a late-night all-camp all-woods game of capture the flag was foolish on so many levels. It was... and there *were* broken legs as well as smoking, relations and other activities that were not parent approved. Some of those were character building - the summer romance, the triumphant victory and etc. But the cost to some campers was fairly horrific - beatings, bullying, being left out...

Of course, it was an incredibly BAD camp experience that got me involved in making good camp experiences...

Anyway, there was a price to pay with the lawlessness of the past. Now there are laws that we as a community cannot avoid whether we want to or not. Inspections need to be passed, parents pleased and the ever looming shadow of accountability and insurance cast down their intimidating shade from every branch. Our programs HAVE to be safety conscious - and that's a great thing. I don't want any kid to get hurt ever... except!!!

EXCEPT - children get hurt. We're not walking the halls of a school, we're roaming the woods. There is no such thing as a SAFE camp. We strive to be the safest possible, but there are dangers of being in the woods, playing on fields and hanging out with other campers (among other things).

Accidents happen. They happen everywhere and they happen often. We're not the camp of the past, where a kid may break their leg because of staff neglect, but that doesn't mean that kids won't break their legs. And I know I'm being a little extreme, but we need to show parents that we've evolved past the days of their youth while maintaining the important parts of our history. This being said, campers get dirty, they scrape their knees and every now and then something unfortunate happens.

This is a very important fight because if we don't stand up to the ever-growing over protectiveness of the world, we'll lose the essence of what makes camp important - RATHER what makes being a kid important.

To clarify my point - Safety is always going to be the priority above all else... I just want to insert a little realism into the minds of our customers.

We cannot keep everything bubble wrapped - and frankly, the only fun thing about bubble wrap is popping the bubbles.

My Sesame Street project launches on my birthday, October 10th. Expect much rejoicing!


Why We Sing Songs

Most camp people never need to ponder the necessity of camp songs. They're tradition... normal... "wouldn't be camp without them"

I have encountered the question several times outside of camp and when hiring new staff. In fact, I've even heard the phrase "I don't do camp songs" muttered by a potential staffer. My reply is always the same: "You will."

I always demand a great deal from my staff. One of my common requests is the occasional song. This can come at any time, whether the normal "camp spirit" time, during lunch, in the morning, during breaks or while walking on the path.

Is this unreasonable? Of course not! Anyone is capable of learning and leading a camp song... anyone. They do not require any musical ability, nor a loud voice, nor a completely ridiculous and outgoing person. In fact, I've encountered many a staffer who appeared shy and reserved every other moment of the day... except when singing.

There are also some solutions for those who are reluctant. For the "too cool for school" (generally) male staff members, I'd have them create chants and shouts. Those aren't as "corny" (blah) because the army does them... For the incredibly shy team members, there's always a camper who wants to be leader for the day.

ANYWAY, the best solution is to sing... and when you're done singing, sing some more. BUT WHY?!?

Well, the number 1 reason is that camp songs are fun. When everyone is singing loudly and participating, the FUN is contagious. This is an activity that no one loses, no one is left out and everyone wins!

Number 2? It's an excellent way to kill time... AW... I didn't mean that! Hehe. Seriously, though, singing camp songs can effectively use 5 - 10 - 15 minutes with any size group. Anyone that has run a camp experience can definitely understand how useful that is!

Number 3 is exercise. Most songs get kids out of their seat... and on some days, especially stormy ones, there are only sitting activities. These kids need to use that extra fuel in positive ways!

Number 4 is [related to number 3] ENERGY! If everyone is jumping around and singing, it really livens up the group... This can be used to pump them up before some big event or to wake them from the afternoon lull.

Number 5... they're social. If I am new and see everyone singing and having a good time, I really want to join in. Those butterflies disappear and I forget how much I miss my Mom. In addition, I'm more likely to interact with the others around me who are also singing.

Number 6....? It's contagious... in a good way. Songs show the right kind of spirit - no anger or negative fuel in this fire! We sing together, we feel closer together... Bonding... etc.

There are more than 6 (educational / storytelling aspects not even covered)... but work beckons! I promise to have more entries as soon as my Sesame Street work finishes (and I will keep you in the loop about seeing all of my hard labor sometime in October!)

Until then, keep singing!