Right now, parents of prospective summer campers should begin to consider their options for summer 1980, as most camps will soon be fully enrolled. Theresa Phinney, executive director of the New England Branch of the American Camping Association (ACA), explains, "In terms of enrollment, this year should prove an excellent one for summer camps. If parents have not yet begun the selection process, they should do so immediately.
Every summer, more than 2 million American youngsters migrate to thousands of residential camps located throughout the country.
After the rigorous pressures of an academic year, camps provide a welcome outlet for physical exertion, which can rejuvenate a child. However, Mrs. Phinney states, "There is more to camp than fun and games. The development of a child's personality is enhanced by a summer at camp."
Throughout the school year a teacher works with a student to make him a functioning member of a group, guided by an adult other than a parent. At camp, this demand for unselfish group living is heightened as the child is removed from the security of his home. Still, the presence of friendly counselors and new-found buddies make for fine times.
Another benefit of summer camps is that children are judged from a whole new set of standards. Each child starts with a clean slate at the beginning of the summer session. Mrs. Phinney maintains: "Summer camps may well be the last bastion of true democracy. Special privileges are unheard of, and all campers are created equal." This may be what Charles William Eliot, a former president of Harvard University, had in mind when he said that residential camps were America's most original contribution to education.
However, these benefits are available only if parents choose a camp that is right for their child. A hasty choice can mean a miserable summer for any child. To make a fruitful decision, parents need to consider the safety, the program, and the personnel of a camp.
The activities provided are another important criterion in choosing a camp. The goals of most camps are similar -- to give campers new skills and confidence -- but there are differences between the thousands of programs. The basic "nature experience" is still available, but most camps have become specialized.
Programs abound in riding, swimming, music, and arts and crafts. Mrs. Phinney says, "In order to choose the most suitable camp for their child, parents must pay considerable attention to the programs different camps provide."
William Schmidt, director of Camp Dudley, oldest camp for boys in the United States, asserts, "Since exposure to strong leadership can be so valuable in a child's growth, make certain that camp directors and counselors are duly qualified."
When parents choose a camp they invest in a summer residence for their child which must provide high safety standards, recreational pleasure, educational leadership, and a healthy social environment. The job of finding such a place is made easier by the American Camping Association (ACA).
The ACA is the only agency that observes and accredits all types of camp programs on a national basis. The organization set up safety standards and minimum counselor-to-camper ratios.
There are approximately 3,000 accredited camps in the United States, and the list might well serve as the starting point for the parents of prospective campers."The Parents' Guide to Accredited Camps," compiled by the ACA, is available from the American Camping Association, 29 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Mass. 02116.
This guide lists the ACA accredited camps, where they are located, tuition for the summer session, and whom to contact for information. Also, the guide describes the various programs offered by the camps.
Through a process of elimination, parents and children can choose the four or five camps that most interest them and write directly for further information. Most camps will provide a list of nearby campers; that is, names of parents and children who know firsthand about the camp and can answer the questions that the brochure does not.