Children spend less time outdoors today than at any other time in human history. This change in children’s lifestyles has contributed to increasing health risks as children display more obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure than in previous generations. However, besides the health benefits of playing outside, the social-emotional impact can almost be more impressive. Kids imagine more. They become more creative as they develop games and activities that a video game cannot allow. Young children also learn through their senses. Experiencing the wind blowing, the wetness of rain drops and a cool breeze before a storm, can teach kids more about our environment than any TV could. The outdoor light stimulates the pineal gland, the part of the brain which regulates the “biological clock.” This gland also serves a vital function for the immune system and generally makes us feel happier.
Summer camps such as Echo Hill are designed to embrace the outdoors, some more so than others. Seeing children leave camp with a new found appreciation for the outdoors is one of the great benefits of our job. The best part is they discover this appreciation on their own, we just provide the environment for them to explore.
At summer camp, not only do campers get the opportunity to participate in new physical experiences such as Sailing or Water Skiing, but what is often overlooked are the new social experiences in which they will be immersed. From living with bunk mates, to making friends, summer camp is an opportunity that is hard to replicate. The campers they will meet come from different socioeconomic backgrounds and cultures and they will quickly learn that though on the surface there may be some distinct differences; at the core they are very similar.
In such a structured environment, children interact with positive role models who have time to listen, talk, relax, and reflect. They learn to work together, make choices, take responsibility, develop creative skills, build independence and self-reliance and gain confidence. Older campers are some of the best positive role models we have. They learn the benefits of being in this role from the campers that have come before them. At summer camp, there is an added "coolness" to being responsible. To send your child to camp it can be inferred that you trust them to make good decisions. We help foster that inner responsibility and hope that campers carry this understanding with them for the rest of their life.