Camp matters! It makes a lasting difference in the lives of campers and staff, and we have evidence to back it up.
The American Camping Association is two years into a study called the Impact Study. The study is exploring the significance of camp in preparing young people for college and future careers. So far, research is telling us that when it comes to independence and success, camp does matter, big time! Camp is instrumental in developing skills that cannot be learned the same way in school or on sports teams. Studies suggest that these skills go beyond the camp years and help campers and staff in school, college, jobs, and in their communities.
And I would take this a step further and say that what Newfound-Owatonna offers that goes beyond the benefits of your typical summer camp is Christian Science. Yes, major life skills are being learned, but perhaps even more important is the character building that stems from living Christian Science on a daily basis. Witnessing prayer and healing in action is a learning experience that profoundly impacts every camper and counselor for life! The Christian Science experience at Camp never leaves us.
As I’ve pondered more deeply why the camp experience is so conducive to learning, something jumps out at me as particularly powerful. When the Impact Study group asked former campers what about camp helped them learn the skills they consider most important in their adult lives, the strongest response was: the people. This confirmed for me something I learned years ago as a Montessori teacher…children and young adults learn readily from each other. Not only do they love finding moments to be “the teacher,” but they also take on being each others’ “students.” And, it’s not just the student who benefits, but the teacher learns as well. Each role is important to the development of the whole person.
This peer to peer interaction, especially at Newfound and Owatonna where our identity begins with our relationship to God, explains why the people at Camp are integral to creating Camp’s distinct learning environment. When asked to describe a coach, mentor, teacher, or adult who has been influential in her life, an aspiring counselor responded, “My past summer’s counselor has been one of the most influential people in my life. She is the kindest, funniest, strongest, most loving person I know, and I hope to be as good a counselor as she was. She made everyone feel loved and listened to, and always seemed so genuinely interested to hear what we had to say. I would love to make everyone feel as good and comforted as she made me feel.”
Her response describes skills and qualities that Newfound and Owatonna not only help to develop, but that we celebrate everyday within our camp community. These skills stand out not just at college and in jobs, but in all walks of life.
Another up-and-coming counselor said to me, “There have been many outstanding women and men who I have looked up to throughout my life. My first year at Camp, I was so nervous and scared, especially because I didn’t know anyone and had never been away from home for so long. But, immediately after I met [my counselor] all of those fears of feeling lonely and out of place faded. She made everyone around her feel special, listened to, and unconditionally loved. She taught me the values of true friendship and how to love your neighbor as yourself. She is the type of counselor and friend I want to be, and she has inspired me to be a counselor this year at Newfound. I know that because of how poised, inclusive, and loving she was, I can reflect these qualities in my year at camp and into my future cabin.”
The qualities mentioned above not only inspired this young woman, but gave her direction in determining what kind of person she wants to be throughout her life. Hiring caring staff who will bond with different types of campers, who appreciate meaningful interactions with campers, and who model what it means to be a good person creates a camp culture that makes everyone feel valued and safe. When we feel valued and safe, we learn and thrive. The relationships built between campers and counselors cultivate skills that help them flourish as world citizens. Compassion, confidence, independence, focus, creativity, grit, and the ability to communicate face to face with others are skills that colleges and businesses are eager to find. These leadership skills are a distinct outcome specific to camp and are strengthened by having Christian Science at the core of who we are as an organization.
I am moved and touched by the quotes above. Not only is Camp teaching invaluable skills that ensure success, goodness, and joy in life, but Camp is imparting an understanding that God is at the helm. We are seeing generations of campers and counselors choose to return to Camp year after year to continue passing along these life skills and a deep love of God. They are choosing this path because they recognize the impact Camp is having in both their own lives as well as in the lives of others. Camp really matters! Camp guides campers and counselors in a way that no other institution does as they learn the skills and practices that will prove to be the most important of their lives. And that is really awesome!
Mary Rankin, Newfound Director