The rhythm of drums fills the room as campers play in unison, speeding up, slowing down and increasing volume at a leader’s direction. The drum circle is the culmination to a week of “Warrior Games” at CAMP IDS, a series of challenges such as obstacle courses, scavenger hunts and races that transform fifth- through eighth-grade students from a variety of schools into a team.
A few classrooms away, campers watch with excitement as video games they designed come to life on computer screens. In the cafeteria, young bakers huddle to discuss their team’s decorating strategy to wow judges in a cupcake competition. On stage, musical theatre campers are rehearsing choreography they learned just days earlier, laughing and joking with new friends who share their love of theatre.
Summer camp benefits students in many ways, keeping kids’ bodies and brains busy in the months before school starts up again. But attending camp helps students socially as well. Camp programs can build confidence, teach team-building and spark new friendships.
Ninety-six percent of students surveyed in an American Camp Association study said that camp helped them make new friends. Almost as many campers said camp helped them get to know students who were different from them. And 70 percent of parents said they noticed their children gained confidence at camp.
CAMP IDS annually draws more than 1,000 students from across the Tampa Bay area, which makes it likely that campers will meet new people whether they attend one week or all seven.
Though it is hosted at Corbett Prep – a private school for PreK3-8th grade – CAMP IDS attracts students from many different schools, including high schools. High school students enjoy the chance to delve deeper into their interests, learning volleyball from Olympian Keba Phipps, for example, or auditioning for challenging musicals such as Rent, Into the Woods or Pippin.
Many of the same families return year after year, and students look forward to reuniting with their “camp friends.” New students may experience first-day jitters but quickly find other like-minded friends, especially when their camps reflect their hobbies and interests. Enrolling in a Star Wars camp or Lego engineering immediately connects students to other campers who enjoy the same activities.
Camp provides students with the chance to work cooperatively with others to meet a common goal. Students learn how to balance responsibilities on projects and take turns demonstrating leadership, skills they will continue to draw from in school and the workplace.
In Claymation and Lego Movie-Making, for instance, campers divide into small teams to storyboard movie ideas, build characters and sets to film and edit short movies. Broadcasting, Newspaper and Teen Magazine camps split up important roles so all students contribute to the final product. Cooking camp creates a balanced menu each morning, and every camper assumes responsibility for a different portion of a gourmet lunch.
In sports and recreation camps, campers must balance their roles for the sake of their team or group – after all, if everyone tries to go separate ways in canoeing, they’ll only succeed in turning in circles.
Three-quarters of campers surveyed in the American Camp Association study said summer camp gave them the chance to try activities they were afraid to do at first. And 63 percent of parents said their children continued those activities after camp ended.
Camp can spark an interest in coding, fishing, painting, dancing and so much more. CAMP IDS offers different choices each week with the option to take full- or half-day camps for more variety. Under the guidance of experienced and supportive counselors, students see progress in a short time. They cheer their successful rocket launches, share books they write and illustrate, perform music mastered in band and display intricate figures designed and built in 3D printing.
Summer camp is an important place and time for kids to grow. Fun activities in a low-pressure environment give campers the chance to stretch as they form friendships and uncover new interests. Throughout the summer, they even wind up making discoveries about themselves.
Carmyn Samuel and Stephen Shoe are the directors of CAMP IDS, which offers more than 100 camps for students in PreK3 through high school. Corbett Prep founded the camp two decades ago and hosts about 1,000students each summer on its lakeside campus in North Tampa.