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A View from the Woods.

I believe we have a developmental model for character-building evidenced by the camp experience. I listened to President George W. Bush give his inaugural speech stressing compassion and character. I have been hearing the proponents and opponents discussing the merits of year-round school while evaluating the education platform of the Bush administration. I ask myself, When will we share our voices? How will we be heard? What will we say?

I believe in the American Camping Association because I believe in the camp experience. I believe in the camp experience because I believe in children, youth, and families. It is as simple and as profound as that. As an advocate of the camp experience, I feel a moral responsibility to share the good that the camp experience offers all campers.

Camps that offer programs to preschoolers are helping children explore the developmental concept of "me," a primary outcome of which is self-identity. The discovery of self-identity is imperative to healthy development. Camps working with the very young advance this important concept.

Other camps serve young children who are actively seeking the meaning of "we." These children ask, "How do I take what I have learned about 'me' and add value to the 'we'?" Understanding self-worth is a direct outcome of such learning. The camp experience offers group living and shared responsibility opportunities that instill an appreciation for the added value of "we."

Still other camps serve pre-adolescents who, bubbling and tripping along with enthusiasm and zeal, are clamoring to figure out the concept of "us." Again, as an outcome of such growth, we witness the emerging beauty of self-esteem. The unity of "us" in a camp community, expressing family, trust, cooperation, and strength, provides valuable lifelong lessons.

Finally, the adolescent population many camps serve comes shrieking and giggling into the awareness of the beauty of "ours." The passion, purpose, principles, people, and power of the camp experience once again deliver yet another critical outcome for today's world -- leadership! The camp experience teaches the value of leading and following, resulting in "our" success.

Consider all of these developmental milestones in the context of the camp community, a community with caring adults nurturing experiential education that ultimately results in self-respect and appreciation for human value. All of the outcomes identified by this developmental model -- self-identity, self-worth, self-esteem, leadership, and self-respect -- build personal competencies. These personal competencies are reflected in the four Cs of the camp community: compassion, contribution, commitment, and character! For years, campers' parents have reported that when their children return home from camp they are more caring, understand the importance of giving, are more equipped to stand up for what they know is right, and are willing to be more responsible. These are the qualities that will help build a successful nation and a civil society. I ask you: When will we share our voices? How will we be heard? What will we say?

Peg L. Smith

ACA Executive Dorector
COPYRIGHT 2001 American Camping Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:camping as character-building experience for children and youth
Author:Smith, Peg L.
Publication:Camping Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2001
Previous Article:I Call Myself at Home.
Next Article:People Enjoying Great Outdoors.

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