Summer Camp - Bob Geier




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Subject: Merits of Summer Camp
From: Bob Geier ()
Date: 16:46, May 17 2004

Marcel started quite a discussion with comments that new troops should avoid BSA summer camp until they have developed a stable "troop and patrol identity" which can resist the tendency of centrally-administered camps to break it down.

My experiences have been similar to the ones he's cited. Most of the camps I've been to in 16 years of scouting have, in general, taken responsibility away from the troop & the troop's youth leaders, at least when compared with "regular" troop-run outings. That's OK in some ways, since they're providing other resources, but it does erode the "core mission" a fair bit.

Here are a few additional thoughts:

1) Several folks commented on retention. I agree with them. For any boy who is emotionally mature enough not to get seriously homesick, being "away with the guys" for a week and experiencing some successes is a great way to get them to "buy in" for the longer haul. However, I've found this to be more true of any troop-run "long term campout." It isn't the BSA camp that's the draw, it's being out with the guys for a week doing something that's cool and has some success. We get 80% retention or so from summer camp participation, perhaps a bit higher. We get nearly 100% retention plus much higher participation levels every time we do an in-troop long-term campout, even though we might have less options/resources than at a BSA camp.

2) Some folks commented on how BSA camps were meant to be "troop campouts with flexible added resources." I think this, too, is true... but only for savvy adults. The kids don't see it... they see Camp Directors and Waterfront Directors and lots of rules, rules, schedules, rules, etc. It's kid activities locked into an adult-run matrix. New adults don't see the flexibility, either, because without some experience they just see BSA camp as a program run without them... "I just get the kids into MB classes and to each scheduled event." A new leader in particular is going to use up most of his/her brain cells just trying to figure out the camp's "system" the first year. Forget trying to be independent.

3) Marcel and others commented on how summer camp fractures patrol and troop structure. I agree with this. The MB emphasis, T-2-1 programs, cornucopia of varied event stations, etc. all make the "norm" to have kids running off to program areas as individuals, not as patrol/troop members. The lack of patrol campsites and general "densepack" camping also work to break this down. Our leadership kids have commented repeatedly on how summer camp "is nothing like what we really do."

So, yep... for troops that are pretty strong internally and are willing to push to be independent, summer camp can work fine. For troops that are more adult-run, summer camp probably fits right in as "normal," except the kids get a bit more independence in choosing where to go during the day. And, yeah, for troops that otherwise wouldn't consider doing anything more than an overnight on their own, it gets the kids to experience a long-term outing. But with those (and other) strong "upsides," there are also some real "downsides" to be considered, especially if your focus is on the mission rather than the methods.

Yours in Scouting,

Bob Geier






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