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Summer Camps

An open letter to parents from child psychologist Dr. Christopher Thurber

Dear Parent,

Wow! What an amazing opportunity you have to help your child grow! Only camp can promote your child’s development by providing fun, friendship, and leadership in a supportive community away from home. Parents have known this for nearly 150 years, but only now can they hold in their hands so much valuable information about camp. The American Camp Association has brought together the top professionals in camping to share their wisdom, insights, and advice on their new Web site dedicated to families: For parents looking to maximize their child’s fun and growth, this is indeed the place to start.

Speaking of starts, do you know how youth camping got its start in America? William Frederick Gunn and his wife Abigail are said to be the originators of organized overnight camping. The Gunns were headmasters of the Gunnery school, a private school in Connecticut. In the summer of 1861, they took a group of students into the wilderness along Long Island Sound for two weeks. At this original summer camp, activities included hiking, boating, fishing, and sailing. A quaint start to an idea that now captures tens of millions of imaginations each summer.

Today, there are more than 6,000 overnight camps in America and more than 12,000 day camps. What accounts for such growth and popularity? The fact that camp provides — just as it did in 1861 — a wholesome escape from the pressures of school and vices of urban sprawl. Camp is a wonderful change of pace, environment, and context. At camp, young people can shed their old reputations and feel free to be the person they know they are. At camp, young people can relax and learn life skills — such as making friends and playing fair — that will serve them and the people whose lives they touch. At camp, young people bond with positive adult role models whose integrity and leadership-by-example tower over those of celebrities or sports "heroes." High quality camps are places where young people not only realize their potential in athletic or artistic pursuits; they realize their potential to do good in the world.

Dr. Christopher Thurber is a board-certified clinical psychologist with more than twenty-five years of camping experience. He is the co-author of numerous scholarly articles on homesickness, as well as the critically acclaimed Summer Camp Handbook, the premier preparatory resource for campers and their families.

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Inside Camp: What Research Tells Us about the Lives of Children

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"The Weight Is Over"

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American Camp Association
5000 State Road 67 North
IN 46151-7902
Tel: 765 342 8456
Click here for more information

National Association For Gifted Children
1707 L Street,
N.W. - Suite 550
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202 785 4268
Click here for more information

Village Camps
Village Camps
14 Rue de la Morâche
1260 Nyon
Tel: +4122 990 9400
Click here for more information
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