Camp Experience

Teaching interpersonal — as well as athletic -— skills

By Louise Rachlis

Grayson Burke, director of Cedar Ridge Camp in Bancroft, Ont., has had 13-year-olds show up and start crying because it was their first time away from home.

And he has had “six-year-olds happily wave goodbye without looking back.”

Camp is a learning experience, he says. “You always want sunshine and happiness all the time, but in some situations this is not the case. Depending on their cabin, a kid might have a fellow camper who is not as social, and a bit harder to get along with. Learning how to get along with all kinds of people is a huge benefit. Sometimes struggles can help a kid grow a lot.”

He says that whenever parents “make a deal with a kid — such as ‘if you don’t like it after a week, you can come home’ — the camper, whether having a great experience at camp or not, is still thinking about that, which can limit the camper’s experience. The majority do end up staying at camp and making the most of the experience.”

“Parents who send their kids to any kind of camp — from riding to dance — are aware of the benefits across the board,” says Burke, who runs a summer camp as well as a year-round outdoor education centre. “We fall into the category of a traditional, natural focus camp, teaching skills children don’t usually get a chance to learn.”

Getting outdoors and socializing at camp builds friendships that canlast a lifetime. Photo by Cedar Ridge.

Getting outdoors and socializing at camp builds friendships that can
last a lifetime. Photo by Cedar Ridge.

He is proud of the camp staff and culture, exemplified by the slogan, “a place where kids learn to live comfortably with each other in an outdoor environment.”

“Kids these days aren’t socializing the way kids used to,” he says. “There aren’t as many sleepover parties or get-togethers. When they get away from electronics and television, many kids have trouble with personal interaction.”

It’s extremely important for them to learn interpersonal and social skills at a young age, he says, such as being aware of bullying, and how their actions affect other people.

He feels the riding program at Cedar Ridge is “phenomenal.” “A lot of our campers just love having the horses around.”

As well as riding, Cedar Ridge offers canoeing, whitewater paddling, high ropes and climbing excursions. “Just getting a kid outdoors and socializing, there are so many benefits.”

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