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A View from the Woods.

So often, I write about change. Yet, believe it or not, there are still things in this world that rarely change. Take what we know about child development. We understand that as children develop their world expands accordingly. In the beginning of their lives, children have an egocentric view of their world. It is an insulated and restricted world... all about "me." As that circle of influence expands, a child becomes aware of the family unit and his or her dependent relationship with family members. The child continues to mature and develop, discovering the larger community that surrounds his or her family with elements of interdependency and support. Connections and friendships emerge. Finally, through multiple experiences, the world and all of its mysteries become a part of the child's world of understanding. This linear sequence of discovery is fairly reliable... unchanging. We see it everyday in our own children and the campers we serve.

I see a parallel developmental process with the camp community. This process of discovery and understanding of ourselves in relationship to others is increasingly important for camps today. We have a camp, a camp that has boundaries that define and protect that camp community - a specifically identified environment that advances and encourages self-expression. Yet, in reality those defined boundaries are porous and increasingly intertwined with the family. The family's values and self-esteem are reflected in the campers and the programs observed in the camp community. A family's expectations and influence are evident on a daily basis. The camp family with its expressed tenets equally influences the camper's family. Parents and camps become partners. The boundaries continue to blur as the camp community intersects with the community-at-large. Elements of contribution, self-identity, and accountability to the community-at-large begin to surface. The camp community becomes a part of the solution that is illustr ated through meaningful relationships between the camp and the community. Ultimately, the camp recognizes its value to the world in relationship to the overall contributions the camp experience offers within its distinctive boundaries.

These two paths of parallel development between the camp and the child create an opportunity for service and citizenship that are highly unique. At any point in time, the camp and camper can intersect developmentally and experience growth. Citizens have been understood as "caring members of a moral community who share certain values and feel common responsibilities towards each other; and as practical agents of a civic world who work together in public ways and spaces to engage the tasks and try to solve the problems that they collectively face," wrote Harry C. Boyte and James Fan' in The Work of Citizenship and the Problem of Service - earning. Camps that have successfully reached into the surrounding community by participating in service projects enhance each camper's personal discovery and learning with these meaningful community relationships. Campers who work on environmental projects, housing and food projects, senior citizen projects, etc., recognize our unbounded reality. William Sullivan, co-author of the modern classics, Habits of the Heart and The Good Society, states that citizens in a good society "make an unlimited promise to show care and concern to each other." From my point of view ... what a great definition for the contributions made by camps all across the country.

Peg L. Smith

ACA Executive Director
COPYRIGHT 2001 American Camping Association
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Title Annotation:contribution of recreational camps to society's development
Publication:Camping Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2001
Previous Article:"You're My Favorite Counselor".
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