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Miller's meanderings: challenges for the new season.

Here it is again - May! This tends to be a time when most of you are up to the neck in alligators while remembering that your objective from last summer was to drain the swamp! Well, I can't help you drain the swamp, so I'll do the next best thing - give you a couple of additional challenges to think about.

I got a letter last week that really intrigued me. It called attention to an issue that I thought was so self-evident to people in camping that it needed little discussion. The letter was actually sent to compliment ACA on publishing articles about the environment and spirituality in the March/April issue of Camping Magazine.

I was particularly intrigued by the attention given to the articles on the environment. I have just assumed over the years that camps are de facto centers for environmental education and have been so for years. After all, the ACA National Board passed the following resolution way back in November of 1989:

Given...the rapid depletion of the earth's physical and biological capacity to support life, and

Given...organized camping's unique mission to nurture human growth and development with the natural setting indigenous to the camp experience;

We, the providers/administrators of the organized camp experience, resolve:

* to actively perpetuate the concept of human beings as caretakers of the natural world through our camp's operational practices and through dynamic educational programs which effectively impact the lifestyle practices of our camps and staff;

* to preserve the natural environment of the sites which we administer and use, and

* to support the preservation of open space, clean air, water and soil, and the conservation of plants and wildlife.

This to be adopted as an official statement of commitment by the American Camping Association.

In addition to this board-adopted official statement, we also have a component of our "Exemplary Ethical Practices for Camp Directors and Owners" that states:

I shall seek to instill in my staff and campers not only a reverence for the land and its waters and all living things, but also an ecological conscience which reflects the conviction of individual responsibility for the health of that environment.

With the heavy emphasis on the environment in official statements and principles of ethics for our members, I was under the assumption that our camps routinely offered environmental education as a major component of their summer programming. Well, I was not correct Fewer than 60 percent of accredited camps offer environmental education as part of their general programming and fewer than 5 percent offer specialized programming in environmental education. I was further amazed to find we currently have fewer than 300 Outdoor Living Skills instructors in our membership of 5,300.

My first major challenge to you is to make environmental education a significant component of the development opportunities we offer children each year. After all, if we truly have the commitment to the environment that our ethics and official organizational statements indicate we have, then that commitment should be reflected in our programming. Camps by their very nature should be environmental education centers, but without a commitment to programming in this area, the potential impact that camps could make will go unrealized.

My second challenge to camp directors and staff also centers around what you would have your camp be. In the March/April column, I wrote about a conference I attended on the use of nonschool hours by children. I have another quote from the book A Matter of Time - Risk and Opportunity in the Nonschool Hours. It is from a 10-year-old boy, who should have camp available during the summer:

I used to hang out with my friends after school. Most of the time, we just acted stupid on the comer, but that got dangerous and our moms said to quit and come right home. In this city, wear your hat the wrong way and you're dead. Now I go home and watch TV and sleep. I get scared all by myself, even though Mom says there's nothing to be afraid of in die day.

I would make a place for kids called My Fathers Home. It would be a love place where there's no killing. They'd have stuff for me to do. Lift weights, eat snacks, play games. I'd make it so all the boys in my neighborhood could go there any time, but no gangbangers or girls'd be allowed. I could ask someone to help me do my homework since I want straight A's this year. Nobody'd tease me 'cause I asked for help.

I'd have beds at My Father's Home, like in a dormitory. Kids could sleep there in the summer when people go crazy on the streets. Last year Mama and me slept on the floor, praying not to get shot...

At My Father's Home, ..I'd play one-on-one with the guys without feeling scared all of the time, like someone might shoot me by mistake.

I would challenge all camp directors to make their camps "My Father's Homes" for the children who will be in your care. The type of environment that the 10-year-old boy in the Carnegie study envisioned should be available in every camp. No matter what type of clientele your camp serves, the children need a safe, nurturing and challenging environment to grow in. I would especially challenge those camps who serve children who live in environments similar to one described by this 10-year-old to be sure that the camps program remains available to these children.

Have a great summer!
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Title Annotation:environmental curriculum at summer camps
Author:Miller, John A.
Publication:Camping Magazine
Article Type:Column
Date:May 1, 1993
Words:921
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