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Summer camp is a supervised program for children and/or teenagers conducted (usually) during the summer months in some countries. Children and adolescents who attend summer camp are known as campers.

The traditional view of a summer camp as a woodsy place with hiking, canoeing, and campfires is evolving, with greater acceptance of newer summer camps that offer a wide variety of specialized activities. For example, there are camps for the performing arts, rock music, magic, computers, children with special needs, and weight loss. In fact, the American Camp Association reports that in 2006, 75 percent of camps added new programs. This is largely to counter a trend in decreasing enrollment in summer camps, brought about by smaller family sizes, the growth in supplemental educational programs and the popularity of electronic media, all of which have made keeping children inside and occupied much easier than in previous generations.

The primary purpose of most camps is to provide parents with a break from their children for a few weeks of the year. The secondary purpose of many camps is educational or cultural development. Despite this, many camps and parents claim that they send their children away to participate in "a positive youth development environment". Camp may provide youth with the opportunity to learn life skills and subject matter skills in what might be a physically and emotionally safe setting while interacting with caring adults.


In most camps, the adult supervisors are called counselors. In many camps, counselors are assigned to smaller groups of campers, called "bunks", "huts", "cabins", or "units", who participate in activities as a group. Counselors often share living accommodations with their bunk or other counselors. Most counselors are in their late teens or early twenties, as high school or college students on their summer break are frequently recruited.

At some camps, all campers stay overnight, and at some camps, so called day camps, the campers go home each night. Some other camps allow both day and overnight campers. Summer camp is often the first time that children spend an extended period of time away from home.

Summer camp around the world[]


Summer camp is the continuation of a tradition since the mid-1800s. Frederick W. Gunn founded the first camp in 1861.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Gunn and his wife Abigail operated a home school for boys in Washington, Connecticut, and took the school on a two-week hiking trip. The Gunns operated the Gunnery Camp for twelve more years. Camp Dudley was founded in 1885 and is currently the oldest continually running boys camp in America.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

The American Camp Association (ACA) reports that 10 million children attend camp annually, and there are approximately 12,000 camps nationwide. ACA has also seen a steady increase in camp enrollment in previous years.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

The ACA is the only national organization in the USA that accredits camps. Currently the ACA accredits over 2,400 camps, which represents approximately 25 percent of the camp industry.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Camps include both religious, for-profit, nonprofit, and government camps. In the US, youth organizations, like the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, the YMCA, Camp Fire USA, and several religiously-affiliated groups are known for having many camps and integrating them with their own local organizations. According to recent statistics from the ACA, those three organizations operated more than 440 ACA-accredited camps in the US (approximately 20% of all ACA-accredited camps in the US). [How to reference and link to summary or text].

In addition there are numerous international summer camps in the United States which bring students and staff together from around the world to live and learn together. In fact, the American Camp Association reports that they have seen a 59 percent increase in travel camp programs between 2000 and 2007.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Founded in 1961,[1] Interlocken International Summer Camp was the first United Nations affiliated summer camp with many students hailing from UN families.


In Canada, summer camps are very popular. Similar to US camps about 70% of Canadian camps tend to be affiliated with organizations, the rest of Canadian camps would be private.

Summer camp fairs are held throughout the United States and Canada, usually during the winter months. Parents and children can meet camp directors and collect information about summer camps. Admission to these fairs is typically free.


In the USSR, the first summer camps were created shortly after its establishment and were called Young Pioneer camps during the Soviet Union's existence. Their number grew throughout the history of the Soviet Union and they numbered more than forty thousand in 1973, with 9,300,000 children attending them during their vacation every year. After the breakup of the USSR, the number of Young Pioneer camps greatly declined. However, many of the major camps still exist. There are 2,726 Residential camps (with 2,000,000 children), and more 40,000 Day camps (3,500,0000 children) in Russia (2006). Most of them was united by All-Russian Camp Association "Deti Plus" (Children Plus) in 1994.[How to reference and link to summary or text] St.Petersburg was the capital of International Congress of International Camping Fellowship in 1997.


In France they are called colonie de vacances or more recently centre de vacances. According to the French administration,[2] more than 25% of French children attend this kind of "collective holiday" each year.


Most of the summer camps are sponsored by the educational bureau. However, nowadays, there are more privately-held camp programs. The traditional camps are only open to the selected students within individual school district. In the recent years, programs have started that are open to kids from different background and different regions. There are also programs tailored for international students who are interested in learning Chinese and culture.[How to reference and link to summary or text]


Many Finnish non-governmental organizations arrange summer camps for children in a wide variety of age brackets. Major organizers of summer camps are the scouts, sport teams and the orthodox and evangelic-Lutheran churches. The concept of summer camps arose with the rapid post-WWII urbanization and industrialization Finland experienced. The reason behind this was that Finnish pedagogues of that period, influenced by the values of the largely agrarian pre-WWII society, were convinced that an urban lifestyle was harmful for the development of children. The idea behind summer camps was to ensure that children had experiences of the countryside, experiences that would aid in development into a decent citizen.

One Finnish tradition also arose soon after WWII, was confirmation camps. Confirmations camps, religious camps for 13-16 years old youths organized by the local churches, aimed to combine the traditional concept of confirmation school and the newer concept of summer camps in order to battle secularization of the society. The concept was successful enough to such an extent that today, 90% of all youths participate in confirmation camps. The camps' require their participants to learn certain religious texts, such as the catechism, and the Lord's prayer.

There are a number of non-religious alternatives for confirmation camps, such as the Prometheus Camps, which aim to generate a positive intellectual and social atmosphere for the participants of the camp without religious tuition.

United Kingdom[]

Summer camps are not a regular part of childhood in the United Kingdom, as they are in the United States. The term "summer camp" itself is not considered to be British English (the industry body is called the British Activity Holiday Association[3]). Accompanied school trips and specialist activity holidays for children and teenagers with a specific interest are both more common than general purpose U.S. style summer camps. Some religious groups, such as the Christadelphians, run well publicised and attended camps throughout the nation.


Thailand has camps run by schools and commercial companies. During Thailand's holiday months of months October and April, camps are fully booked.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Educational camps[]

In the United States there are numerous models of camp with an educational focus that cater to students with differing ages and academic interest.

College credit courses are camps that typically offer students the opportunity to explore a pre-college experience. Typically, students entering grades 10 through 12 stay in the college dormitories and attend summer classes run by college faculty. At the successful completion of a summer program, course credits are awarded, which in turn are accepted by most tertiary institutions. Typically, colleges in the United States offer these programs as it serves as an introduction to students to entice them to attend the college as a full time student based upon a memorable summer experience.

Non-college credit courses, such as CTY, are focused primarily on education or on educational-related activities, such as debate, history, or journalism. These camps are often run by colleges or universities, and are usually for children in junior or senior high school. Educational summer camps are different than summer schools as the summer camps often are not offered for school credit, and often have a significant focus on non-academic activities. Students for these programs are often invited or recruited.

Academic adventure camps provide high school students with the opportunity to study an academic topic or topics on a summer adventure travel program, typically in the wilderness or in a foreign country. Many include community service as a component of the course. Others also offer college credit with the successful completion of the program.

SAT Preparation courses, are also widely popular and offered in various camp programs as a mixture of academic learning with summer fun. Often the SAT preparation is offered as a full morning immersion while the afternoons and evenings are geared towards homework and recreational activities. These camp programs often outsource their SAT component from institutions like Princeton Review SAT Prep or Kaplan SAT Prep who provide the teachers and resources.

Enrichment courses are programs that offer a wide range of classes that may have little or no scholastic overlap; however, are taught with the purpose of broadening the student's conception and interest in many otherwise unknown areas of study. Students could typically explore subjects like Photography, Community Service, Drama, Magic, Scuba Diving, Video Production, Comic Book Design, Crime Scene Forensics, Cooking, Yoga et cetera.

Art and performing art camps[]

Other camps have become summer training grounds for a variety of arts. Many offer elective classes in a range of artistic and performing activities including visual art, music, theater, dance, circus arts, rock and roll, magic and other specialties. Some of these programs have a narrow focus in one particular area, while others offer a wide rage of programs. Due to the popularity of these activities, many traditional camps have added some elements of the visual and performing arts into their programs as well.

Some camps offer very high level instruction and performance opportunities; this is such that campers with previous experience and skill may be able to perform a solo in front of a symphony orchestra or create an artistic piece on their own. Most art and performing art summer camps also cater to beginners, offering children the opportunity to try a new art or learn a new skill.

Performing art camps often run 3 or 4 week sessions that culminate in some sort of performance that parents and families attend.

Famous examples are Buck's Rock Performing and Creative Arts Camp (founded 1942), French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts, Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, Litchfield Jazz Camp, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, Stagedoor Manor, Stanford Jazz Workshop, Meadowmount, and Interlochen Arts Camp.

Jewish Camps[]

Jewish summer camps enjoy a long history in the United States.[4] Many of them date to the decades surrounding World War II, as American Jewish community leaders attempted to create a prototypically American setting in which Jewish youth could be immersed in, and learn about, Jewish activities, celebrations, and the Hebrew language.[4]

Jewish educators and community leaders from across the spectrum began building and promoting Jewish summer camping during this era, most prominently the Conservative movement's Ramah camps and various camps begun under the auspices of the Reform movement.[4] Other Jewish groups, such as JCC (Jewish Community Center), Bnei Akiva and Young Israel soon did the same.

Currently, the United States and Canada are home to a large number of Jewish summer camps. Jewish summer camps offer many of the same activities as regular summer camps (arts and crafts, ropes course, outdoor sports, singing, dancing, etc.), but also typically include Jewish educational components such as Shabbat, Havdallah, Israel education, and celebration of Jewish holidays.

Some Jewish summer camps take all the exciting elements of Judaism and create traveling programs that give Jewish youth a sense of pride as well as an element of excitement.

A number of Jewish summer camps have also included a focus on athletics and sports, and many of these are based in New York State's Catskill Mountains region, particularly Sullivan County. The Catskill Mountain area has been home to many coed, Jewish sleepaway camps for most of the 20th century. Typical memorable activities from these camps include inter-camp games, camp-outs, raids, Color War, and re-creations of Broadway shows.

Travel camps[]

Many camps also bring children of all ages around the world. Some camps are often called 'Adventure Camps' - often having a very specific theme. Many of these programs emphasize skill development and personal growth through the adventures offered.

The American Camp Association (ACA) has reported a 59 percent increase in travel camps between 2000 and 2007.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Sports camps[]

Summer camps can be found that offer intensive instruction in almost any sport imaginable, or that offer quality instruction and competition in a wide range of sports. Camps are split into groups of day camps and overnight camps.

In the United States overnight sports camps fall into two groups. The more traditional of these offer boys and girls the chance to learn and play many sports. Sessions are typically 3 to 8 weeks long, and some camps have multiple sessions. While many strong athletes attend these camps, a traditional sports camp program also serves the needs of less proficient athletes by having all campers compete on teams picked by ability - so all kids get a chance to contribute to their team's success in their daily competitions. Some of these camps have been operating for around 100 years. These camps generally focus, through the medium of team sports, on the development of the whole child - not just how they are as an athlete but also how they are as a person, a bunkmate, a teammate, and a friend. Many of these camps include a variety of non-sports programs as well for a more diverse experience.

Many sports camps are of the second type, which focuses almost exclusively on one particular sport. These camps generally focus on helping each camper acquire skills in a sport that help them gain confidence and improve their chances of making the team when they return to school. Indeed, some campers are helped to be nationally competitive by way of this kind of intensive summer training. These camps generally run week-long sessions, and some campers may attend more than one session even though the curriculum repeats each week. Some single-sport camps offer longer sessions (for example, J Robinson Intensive Camps have a wrestling intensive program that last up to 28 days). Many of the instructors at these camps are coaches of local teams - and thus many athletes get valuable extra time with the coach they play for during the school year (or the coach they hope to play for during the upcoming school year).

Both multi-sport and single-sport camps tend to be run by experienced teachers and coaches (who typically have summers off from their school responsibilities). Cabin staff, instructors, and counselors are typically college athletes. The best sports camps succeed at challenging aspiring athletes both mentally and physically. This is possible in part because many of the counselors attended as campers, and thus there is a vibrant "camp culture" that welcomes new campers into an extended camp family and establishes the high standards that incoming campers are encouraged to achieve.

The best sports camps do much more than just improve a camper's soccer, tennis, lacrosse, or wrestling skills - they help each child become a more skillful athlete, a more gracious competitor, a more committed team player, and a more confident person.

Weight loss camps[]

Main article: fat camp

Weight loss or "fat" camps are for overweight children and teens to learn about losing weight and keep it off while having a summer camp experience.

Camper Insurance[]

Camp tuition can be expensive. Similar to travel insurance, there are now insurance policies for families sending their children to camp to cover last minute cancellations, homesickness, medical and emergency evacuations. Often a family will give a deposit to enroll their child into camp months before camp will actually start. In the unfortunate event that something happens to the child or the family which will affect the ability of the child to attend camp, camp cancellation insurance can protect that investment. Summer camps have their own policies on cancellations: some camps will refund the deposit but most will not.

Camp Activities[]

Summer Camps typically have a wide range of activities and sports for campers to participate in. Some camps have set up a service were campers chose their daily activities. And while several camps have more modern and advanced activities, some camps tend to stick with the old-fashioned variety of sports and activities. These activities include a nightly campfire, camp songs and or handclapping patterns, athletic sports, and other old fashioned activities. Summer camps have several different groups of activities such as, Athletics, Water Sports, Adventure, hiking, Theater, Gymnastics, Arts, and Equestrian. Some camps are set on spending most of their time on one of the activity groups. For example, some camp may be just a theater camp, or an Athletic camp. This wide range of activities give campers a large selection of Summer camps to choose from.

See also[]


  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Sarna, Jonathan D. (2004). American Judaism: A History, 268, 285, New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Sarna" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Sarna" defined multiple times with different content

External links[]


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