Letter: Camps cater to alternative interestsDana Milbank wrote his nostalgic lament (June 5) that the old ways of summer camp have been replaced by the emergence and popularity of specialty camps. He recalled “eating ice cream with wooden spoons, playing pickup basketball on cracked asphalt … and passing the test so I could swim in the deep end.”
Dana Milbank wrote his nostalgic lament (June 5) that the old ways of summer camp have been replaced by the emergence and popularity of specialty camps. He recalled “eating ice cream with wooden spoons, playing pickup basketball on cracked asphalt … and passing the test so I could swim in the deep end.”
From my perspective as the owner of a summer program with nine types of specialty camps near Philadelphia, I suspect Milbank’s rose-colored memories probably don’t include much about kids who were always on the sideline of that basketball court — but that he didn’t notice. The kids who were picked last, not good at sports and didn’t want to take their shirts off to get into the pool at all.
One mother wrote to me last summer, “My son doesn’t shine on the sports field, but he was great at robotics. He felt really included and made friends. Thank you for running this camp.” Specialty camps — including the programs we’ve developed in culinary arts, robotics and video game design, and even our new salon-based program — give kids with alternative interests equally happy, rosy memories to take into adulthood.
A specialty camp is not, by definition, a competitive environment for vocational grooming. Often it’s the most relaxing setting for children who select a program where they can deeply explore a personal interest not taught in school, surrounded by other kids and, frequently, instructors who relate to them.
Most of today’s “conventional” open-air camps don’t match up with the writer’s memory of unstructured time. With seven activity “periods” in a day, even though there are typically a couple of electives, there’s not much opportunity for too much free play.
As for the competitive energy he cites, whenever we pick up that vibe at our camps, it almost always originates with a parent’s expectations. So if Milbank’s column gets parents to question their own definitions of what makes a worthwhile summer, we agree that’s a good thing.
The Cynwyd Club
Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
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