Summer Camps 2014

Free school vacation camp planned for military kids

Vermont military kids can look forward to a fun-filled week, April 21-25, at Camp Johnson in Colchester.

The Vermont National Guard Family and Youth Program and various partners of Operation: Military Kids (OMK), a program of University of Vermont (UVM) Extension 4-H, are co-sponsoring the Partners of OMK April Vacation Camp. It is open to all youths in Grades 4-8 with a parent, guardian or loved one in the military.

Although the camp headquarters will be at Camp Johnson, a number of field trips and other fun activities are planned throughout the week at other locations. Campers will visit the Hulbert Outdoor Center in Fairlee to do their ropes course and take a tour of the Vermont Air National Guard facility with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6689.

They also will spend time at Lake Champlain with UVM’s Watershed Alliance to learn about water ecology and do hands-on science activities with staff from the Greater Burlington YMCA. Vermont 4-H will host an afternoon of “Minute to Win It” games and activities. Other fun outings are planned by the Vermont National Guard Child and Youth Program.

Although there is no cost to attend, registration is required by April 17. To register, go to To request a disability-related accommodation, please contact Stephanie Atwood, OMK coordinator, at (802) 656-0346 or by April 11.

Parents may drop children off between 8 and 8:30 a.m. Pick-up time is 3:30 p.m. Campers are asked to bring a bagged lunch and drink with them each day. Snacks will be provided.

For more information about the camp or Vermont OMK, visit the Vermont OMK web site ( or Facebook page (


Camp trends

National Data and Statistics*

Camps are a $15 billion dollar industry (2012 ACA Business Operations Report)

More than 12,000 day and resident camps exist in the U.S., 7,000 are resident (overnight) and 5,000 are day camps. (2011 ACA Sites, Facilities, Programs Report)

Since 2002, the number of ACA day camps has increased by 69% and resident camps have increased by 21%. (CRM Camp Statistics Report, June 2013)

Each year more than 11 million children and adults attend camp in the U.S. (2010 ACA Camp Compensation and Benefits Report)

Nonprofit groups including youth agencies and religious organizations operate approximately 9,500 camps, and 2,500 are privately owned independent for-profit operators. (2011 ACA Sites, Facilities, Programs Report)

Camps employ more than 1,500,000 adults to work in various camp positions. (2010 ACA Camp Compensation and Benefits Report)

In the past 10 years, there has been an increase in the use of international staff to expose campers to different cultures. Nearly 20% of staff are from other countries. (2010 ACA Camp Compensation and Benefits Report)

Benefits of camp

The camp experience enriches lives and changes the world.

Camp provides children with a community of caring adults, who nurture experiential education that results in self-respect and appreciation for human value. All of the outcomes — self-identity, self-worth, self-esteem, leadership and self-respect — build personal competencies. These personal competencies are reflected in the four “C’s” 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.

Children are at less risk at camp where they have a sense of community, develop intergenerational relationships and learn through first-hand experiences. Trained, caring adult role models help children feel loved, capable and included. Camp provides children with a safe, supervised, positive environment, which helps children grow.

Benefits and anticipated outcomes of the camp experience:

  • Social Skills Development
  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Participation
  • Self-respect and Character Building
  • Responsibility
  • Resourcefulness
  • Resilience
  • Community Living/Service Skills
  • Caring
  • Fairness
  • Citizenship
  • Trustworthiness

Reprinted from by permission of the American Camp Association © 2014 American Camping Association, Inc.

Packing for camp: Tips to make sure your child is prepared

A day at camp is filled with endless possibilities: swimming, hiking, playing sports — the list goes on and on. With all of these different activities in mind (not to mention changes in weather), making sure you pack the right thing for your child’s every camp experience can be a challenge. Luckily, there are some tried-and-true items that you can send to camp with your child to ensure they are prepared for almost anything. The American Camp Association (ACA) offers this head-to-toe summer camp packing list:

Headgear — This includes items like scarves, bandannas, baseball caps, eyeglasses, sunglasses, and swimming goggles.

Clothing — T-shirts/tank tops, shorts, long pants, a jacket, a swimsuit, pajamas and robe, and of course, underwear should be included.

Footwear — Consider items such as boots, tennis shoes, sandals, dress shoes and socks.

Also consider these areas for packing:

Bed and Bath — towels, as well as a blanket, pillow, pillow cases, sheets, sleeping bag, laundry bag, and mattress pad.

Bathroom Kit —a brush and comb, shampoo, soap and soap container, toothbrush and holder, toothpaste, deodorant, insect repellent, feminine products, sun block, shaving gear, and lip balm with sun block in it.

Other items — books and magazines, flashlights and batteries, frisbees or other toys, a water bottle, and writing materials. When considering electronics, musical instruments, and other special gear, check with the camp about policies.

Reprinted from by permission of the American Camp Association © 2014 American Camping Association, Inc.

How to safely light and extinguish a campfire

A roaring campfire is often a staple of the camping experience. A campfire to cook food or keep warm is an asset at any campground, and in the evening hours, a fire can provide a sense of security against inquisitive forest animals. A burning fire can also illuminate a campsite, which makes maneuvering around the site easier.

Although there are many benefits to having a campfire, it’s important to note that fires, especially in very dry conditions, can be dangerous. It is essential to check a particular campsite or park’s posting about drought conditions to avoid an accident. In the wrong conditions, a cozy fire for toasting marshmallows can grow into an out-of-control wildfire in a matter of seconds.


Starting a fire

When you are ready to start a fire it is important to keep safety in mind.

  • Pick a safe spot to light the fire. Many campfires have fire rings for campers to use. If you are selecting a fire location on your own, choose an area away from brush or other easily ignitable material. Make a ring with large rocks to keep the fire from spreading. Keep the fire several feet away from your tent.
  • Gather materials during the day so you will not be scrambling for them after dark. You will need both tinder and kindling to light a fire and keep it roaring. Tinder is any small, highly flammable material that can light and burn quickly. Fibrous plant material, small twigs and newspaper make good tinder. Kindling is small pieces of wood that will burn long enough to catch larger logs of wood on fire. Finally, you will need a few logs of thicker wood that will sustain the fire. Have plenty of material on hand to be able to continue the fire, or you may find yourself foraging in the darkness when the fire goes out.
  • Create a teepee or X pattern for a well-burning fire. Layer your tinder as the first level of the fire. Stack a few pieces of kindling on top of the tinder in an X or teepee shape. Ensure there is enough air to move freely through the fire to make ignition easier. Light the tinder from four compass points to get it all to light. Slowly blow air into the fire to allow it to burn hot enough to catch the kindling. Continue to add small pieces of kindling until you have a nicely sized fire. Then you can add larger pieces of dry wood for a big blaze.
  • Do not use accelerants when starting a fire or keeping it going. Avoid the use of chemicals, including lighter fluid and other accelerants in your campfire. Do not use chemically treated paper or plastic materials in kindling, as they can produce noxious fumes and smoke. Accelerants can cause the fire to burn out of control. Keep the fire contained to what you can manage, and always keep a watchful eye on the fire.

Maintaining the Fire

You may need to fiddle with the fire from time to time to vent it and allow for equal burning. Having an ample amount of wood on hand will enable you to feed the fire easily. It’s much easier to keep a fire going than start from scratch once it has burned out, especially in the dark.

Be mindful of embers that drift in windy conditions. Also, do not put your face or body directly over a fire. If the wood pops, you could be burned. Children should be carefully supervised when around a campfire.

Extinguishing the Fire

After building your campfire, completely put it out when you are done. Thousands of acres of wilderness are burnt from carelessness with regard to campfires.

  • Put out the fire a half hour to an hour before you plan to leave the campground. There should be mostly ash and few chunks of coal left if you have planned accordingly and started to wind down the fire before extinguishing it.
  • Use a stick to stir up the wood and ash and distribute the burning coals and embers. This is to extinguish any remaining flames as much as you can.
  • Pour water over the hot ashes to drown all embers. It’s not just the red embers you have to worry about. Pour water until all the hissing sounds stop. Avoid standing directly above the fire when you pour the water because it will generate a lot of steam and smoke. If you do not have water on hand, mix dirt or sand with the embers to smother the flames. Continue to do so until the material is cool.
  • Stir the ashes again with a shovel or stick to further  ensure the fire is not still burning.
  • Make sure everything is wet and cold to the touch before you leave the campsite. If the fire area is too hot to the touch, it’s too hot to leave it because a fire may reignite.
  • Once you feel that everything is cool, you can scoop the coals and ash into a bag and carry it out of the woods for disposal.

Knowing how to safely light, maintain and extinguish a fire is an essential component of safe camping.

Summer camp — The social supplement for modern society

By Peg Smith & Andy Pritikin

What an amazing world we live in, with more information and connections at our fingertips than we could ever imagine. This brave new world has come with a price, though, as we’ve gradually replaced human interaction with technological interaction. We have many young people who are not fully equipped for college, the workforce or adult life. While the U.S. has the highest percentage of graduating seniors choosing to attend colleges or universities, we also have the highest percentage of first-year collegians that drop out. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a nonprofit comprised of the top corporations and forward-thinking educators, has done research showing a big gap in our education system between the “3 Rs” and what employers are truly looking for with their new hires.

Every parent wants what is best for his or her children, though. And the antidote to many of the issues created by modern society — a supplement to what kids learn in schools — might be found right down the road at camp.


Brain-Based Learning

According to “Bunks are good for brains: The neuroscience of sleepaway camp,” an article written for Camping Magazine, camp is an excellent place for children’s developing brains. The character traits that parents wish for their kids — independence, confidence, friendship-building, resilience, character, grit, etc. — are real outcomes for kids who have quality camp experiences. These traits come from the middle prefrontal cortex, which gives us the ability to do important things like regulate our body and emotions, have insight into ourselves and others, feel empathy, communicate in an attuned way, bounce back after failure, adapt to new situations, make thoughtful choices and overcome fear. That’s a pretty good list of what’s needed for a successful life with good emotional and mental health, meaningful relationships and the conscientiousness to make an impact on the world.

The brain grows and strengthens when it is used. So, when kids have camp experiences that require them to take risks, be flexible, handle their emotions (especially away from their parents), be persistent to master something, build relationships, and so on, it strengthens this important part of the brain for life. At camp, kids usually feel safe and secure, and the setting is so fun that kids are willing to work harder and tolerate more frustration and setbacks because they’re having such a good time doing it. This builds character, and helps them for the rest of their lives.


Nature and the Out-of-Doors Experience

Today’s youth suffer from an alarmingly limited access to or interest in the natural world. We can look at the 18 percent obesity rate of children alone and realize physical activity and access to the outdoors have been drastically altered.

Activity has also been modified by the number of hours young people spend in front of screens — an average of seven and a half hours a day. Sadly, our time spent out of doors has decreased by 50 percent in the last two decades, and the benefits of nature and the outdoors go well beyond physical well-being. Direct experience in nature is important to a child’s intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and physical development according to “Building for life: Designing and understanding the human-nature connection,” by S. Kellert.

Most traditional summer camps are based outside and require that children explore, enjoy and resiliently persevere in the elements. At Liberty Lake, when parents ask, “What do you do when it rains?” The first answer is that it is called “liquid sunshine,” and that often members of the camp actually sing, dance and jump in puddles in the rain. It’s good old-fashioned fun, which kids thoroughly enjoy.



This is not bad a four-letter word. Yet, modern society has severely marginalized play, which denies a rite of passage — childhood. We have unfortunately witnessed a 25 percent decline in play in our lifetime. Play is a normal developmental process. Children (and adults) who are not allowed or encouraged to play have less energy, less interest, and less enthusiasm about life. And we’re not talking about playing video games in the basement against friends sitting in their basements! We’re talking about hand-to-hand, face-to-face, old school, getting dirty, scraping your knee, hurting your feelings, real stuff that helped shape us into the adults that we are today.

Play at camp is a critical stage of learning. It is a learning process that is experiential and active. Play allows young people to practice “how” to survive and thrive in a community. It teaches young people “how” to learn, gaining the skills of persistence, grit, participation, failure, encouragement and perseverance.

Peg Smith is the chief executive officer of the American Camp Association (ACA). ACA is the champion of better tomorrows — providing resources, research, and support for developmentally appropriate camp experiences. Learn more at or

Andy Pritikin is the owner/director/founder of Liberty Lake Day Camp, in Columbus, New Jersey, and the incoming president of the American Camp Association, New York and New

Reprinted from by permission of the American Camp Association © 2014 American Camping Association, Inc.