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The Secret to Summer Camp

What are your kids doing this summer? If the answer is summer camp on a college campus, then you might just be also giving them a leg up on their college years.

Camps are awesome for helping kids develop independence while having fun and exploring different interests. Ones on college campuses have some added perks too. Why? Read on.

Help Kids See College as a Place for Exploration

Experiences can play a major role in shaping a child’s development. When kids go to summer camp on a college campus, they experience the college environment in less formal, more exciting ways without the anxiety that comes with the first year of college. Instead of worrying about grades and majors, campers simply explore the campus.

Kristie Deschesne, associate director of campus recreation at the University of Maine in Orono, oversees camp programs like the Recreational Activity Day Camps (RAD), for kids entering grades kindergarten through fifth grade. “At our RAD summer camps, kids are doing all the typical camp activities, but by the end of the summer they will have spent time in every part of the college campus,” Deschesne said.

For those on the UMaine campus, that means visiting a botanical garden, a planetarium, a dining hall, a science lab and even a theatre with live music and acting. For kids who attend UMaine’s Young Authors Camp, the experience is more focused — they do what real writers do in an authentic writing workshop. In addition to writing, they also eat in the dining hall and learn from writers on a college campus.

Dispel the Mystery of

Campus Life

A college campus is a microcosm of life. Sending your child to camp on campus opens up their world while also helping them see that a college campus as an accessible place. Instead of feeling like college is elite and insular, they’ll see how they can fit right in no matter who they are.

“Our on-campus camps are positioned to help kids feel what a campus is like and who their instructors might be,” said Mark Nason, Direction of Communications at Husson University. “This helps them feel confident about applying for these programs. Best case scenario is that the camp experience amplifies a kid’s passion.”

Another unintended effect of on-campus camps is that if kids don’t like something, they start to figure out what they do like. This may be the first time kids start to understand how to make choices about their life-path.

Ease College Anxiety

According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is the top area of mental health concern for today’s students. Getting kids used to the college experience early on can help this. At Husson University’s New England School of Communications, hosts Maine Media Camp every summer for high school kids who are interested in TV and radio.

Monica Valli is a 20-year-old audio-engineering student at Husson who grew up in Massachusetts. She’d never been at sleep away camp before attending Maine Media Camp as a high schooler. While at camp, she lived in the dorms and ate lunch with professors and students.

“By the time I left, I felt like Husson was home,” Valli said. “When I returned as a college student, I wasted no time figuring out the campus. I could get right to work and I even knew a couple people on campus who had gone to camp with me.”

Giving your child the chance to explore college before it becomes about commitment and life’s decisions can make the pathway easier. There’s also nothing better than feeling like you belong. When kids go to camps, even for just one week, they leave feeling like a part of a team filled with accomplishments and secret jokes. Equating that great feeling with a college campus experience is a parenting home run.

Kimberley Moran is a Hampden-based education and parenting writer and a senior digital editor at WeAreTeachers.com. She is also author of Hacking Parenthood: 10 Mantras You Can Use Daily to Reduce the Stress of Parenting.

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