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The Power of Summer Camp

“…camps help young people discover and explore their talents, interests, and values. Most schools don’t satisfy all these needs. Kids who have had these kinds of (camp) experiences end up being healthier and have less problems which concern us all.”
– Peter Scales, Ph.D., noted author/educator, and Senior Fellow, The Search Institute.

Like most kids, my parents enrolled me in local club sports while growing up.  Often I found myself  frustrated with these because I wasn’t very interested or skilled in them.  But when I started attending summer camps I discovered a world of outdoor activities that were fun and I was good at.

I don’t remember winning many softball or basketball games, but I do remember the first time I loaded my own muzzleloader; and the first time I caught a fish with a hook and line that I tied myself.  Both which happened at camp. I began to develop a sense of pride and self-confidence in my abilities.

Attending summer camps fueled my self-esteem, resilience, and overall connection with the natural world.  Several of my summer camp experiences introduced me to lifelong hobbies that I still do with friends and family including archery, hunting, hiking, fishing and camping.  My hobbies influenced my career and now I am an Environmental Educator at the Nebraska Outdoor Education Center where I get to introduce youth to unique summer camp experiences.

The Nebraska Outdoor Education Center, offers unique camp experiences for youth that challenge them in ways not often found in traditional sports, school, or after-school club settings.  For example our Learn to Hunt camp where campers climb a tree stand and shoot a bow at 3D targets below.  Some are hesitant to take that first step up, but soon all are competing for a next turn to do it again.

For some the chance to shoot a firearm is a new experience.  During our Wilderness Awareness camp, skilled instructors give campers the opportunity to shoot .22 rimfire rifles.  The campers learn hands-on about different sights, action-types, shooting positions and targets. All while gaining marksmanship and safe firearm handling skills. Many of these campers return to the Nebraska Outdoor Education Center with their friends and family members to hone their new marksmanship skills and teach friends about their sport.

This past summer the Education Center gained two Nebraska-native snakes for teaching and increasing awareness about our state’s snakes. As you can imagine several campers start out being afraid to touch or be close proximity to the snakes. But at the end, most are huddled shoulder to shoulder admiring the snakes and asking to hold them more.

Children from all backgrounds and experiences benefit from camp and walk away with new strengths, friendships, and discoveries.  Consider helping your child discover something new about themselves and the world around them this summer.

Written by Rachel Denniston
Outdoor Education Center Camp Assistant