Summer Camps

April 30, 1998|By Kate Coleman

Whether it's a day or an overnight program, no child and no parent wants a summer camp experience like that of the kid in "Hello Muddah. Hello Faddah," the early 1960s song by comic Allan Sherman. "Don't leave me out in the forest, where I might get eaten by the bears," the child moaned.

Problems at camp can be avoided by planning and thinking about expectations.

Mary Ellen Waltemire, extension educator for 4-H and Youth, University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service, has been involved with 4-H camp for more than 20 years. She remembers only one child leaving resident camp because of homesickness.

Parents and prospective campers need to think carefully before choosing a camp. Waltemire provided some points to consider:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> What is the camp's philosophy? Make sure it compliments your parenting philosophy. Consider your child's personality and learning style as well.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> What are the safety and medical accommodations at the camp? Accreditation by American Camping Association is a commitment to an annual review of safety and health issues, Waltemire says.


HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> What is the ratio of counselors to campers? Depending on the age and ability of campers, a medium range is one staff member to every seven or eight campers.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> How does the staff handle homesickness, other adjustment issues and behavioral problems? Positive reinforcement, assertive role-modeling and a sense of fair play generally are regarded as key components.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> How much does camp cost and what do the costs include? Are any scholarships available?

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> If your child has special needs, can the camp accommodate them?

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Ask if you can visit the camp before enrolling your child.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Ask for names of camper families to contact for their impressions of the camp.

Camp can be more than just an alternative to watching television. Benefits include making new friends, building self-esteem and self-reliance and getting involved in the community, says Patricia Campbell, field executive for Shawnee Girl Scout Service Center in Hagerstown.

In her 22 years in Girl Scouting, Campbell says she doesn't think camping has changed too much. "We're always creative," she says. "And girls are girls."

Campbell says most of the girls coming to both day and residential camp come as individuals rather than in troops, but homesickness has not been a problem. Scouts choose sessions by their themes - water skills, learning about other countries, for example - so the kids are interested in the programs they attend. Also, with programs designed for campers who at least are in first grade, the girls know how to handle themselves, Campbell added.

Stacey Yingling was a 4-H camper from the time she was 8. For the past few years, the 18-year-old Hagerstown resident has served as a teen staff leader, and this year will be her first season as an adult staff member. She says she'll bring an extra teddy bear for potentially homesick campers.

Yingling says she's learned valuable skills, including canoeing, archery and rifle sports. She's also learned cooperation, patience and understanding and has had lots of fun.

For information on camp consideration, call Waltemire at 301-791-1404.


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