Three effects of organized camps
When people think of camping, they often think of it as a leisure or recreational camp for family and friends, but camping has a history of development as part of education.
In fact, spending time and engaging in activities in a natural environment is not only fun and refreshing, but also allows for things that cannot be learned or experienced in a school classroom.
So-called educational camps for such purposes developed mainly in the United States. It is also called an organized camp because it has a clear purpose and intent, is organized for that purpose, and is run systematically by staff and leaders.
In Japan, it was started as a part of social education by groups such as Boy Scouts and YMCA.
In school education, forest schools and seaside schools have been held for a long time, and these nature experience classes are also similar to today’s concept of organized camps.
In this sense, it can be said that organized camps have developed in both social education and school education in Japan.
In recent years, research on camping has progressed to demonstrate the psychosocial benefits of camping. It comes down to three main aspects: self, others, and nature.
The aspect of self is to improve self-efficacy, self-esteem, and mental health.
In contrast to our modern life surrounded by electrical appliances, at a camp we cannot even have a meal without being proactively involved in our own lives, which in a sense is an inconvenience. And when we try it, it is surprisingly enjoyable. We have come to understand that when we experience these things, our self-esteem and confidence that we can do it increases, leading to a positive change of heart.
The aspect of others is to improve interpersonal relationships and communication skills.
By conducting camp activities in small groups, the group members cooperate with each other, whether for outdoor cooking or for programs such as mountain climbing. We also found that this would deepen communication skills and relationships with others, and create new relationships.
It is a great experience to know that such collaboration with others leads to a sense of accomplishment.
The aspect of nature is to know the environment with your own body.
While knowledge about the environment has been enriched by recent SDGs education and other programs, it is limited to knowledge and has not become our own business. However, nature experience activities allow us to learn about the wonders of actual nature, experience excitement, and develop a feeling of familiarity with nature.
This will lead to the realization that human activities are placing a burden on the natural environment as a real problem.
Organized camps are feeding back these findings for more effective program implementation.
This has proven to be supportive for children who are not attending school or who have disabilities, when they want to change or improve their current situation.
A valuable experience for children who are not attending school
There are different triggers for children to stop attending school, such as relationship problems including bullying, and loss of confidence due to poor grades. They can no longer trust their peers or increase their self-affirmation. Camping is also effective to improve that situation.
For example, a small group activity in a camp is an opportunity to gradually experiment with relationships. There, the experience of trusting and being trusted will help them realize that it is not so bad to be involved with others.
The survey results show that this leads to self-efficacy and self-confidence.
I myself was involved in an organized camp for junior high school students who refuse to go to school, and there are few children who come to the campsite and immediately make friends with the people around them. Some children are one step removed from the children around them, some engage with adult staff members but cannot talk to their peers, and everyone is different.
But unlike playing games alone at home, at a camp they have to do something together with others to make something happen.
By sharing roles and cooperating with each other in cooking rice, eating it together, and sleeping in the same tent at night, they naturally start to talk and get to know each other.
Of course, staff members also provide some instruction and support, but in camps, relationships are often naturally formed with others.
You can also spend time alone staring at a bonfire or a night sky full of stars, which seems to lead to introspection. The natural environment also has such power.
However, forcing a child who does not want to go to camp to attend just because it is effective can have the opposite effect. It is important that the person himself or herself wants to change his or her current situation.
Sometimes people need to be in a shell to protect themselves. At the same time, they know themselves that they should not stay that way. When that feeling grows, I think camps are a very effective way to give form to that feeling.
Ensure that children from poor families are able to participate
On the other hand, one challenge related to camps is the disparity in participation opportunities. This is not limited to camps, but is a disparity in educational and sports opportunities for children due to family poverty.
As mentioned earlier, the various benefits of camps have been proven, and recently public institutions and private organizations have begun to set up various support systems for camps.
For example, the Children’s Dream Fund of the National Institution For Youth Education is a grant system that supports grass-roots activities in the community. Several years ago, participation fees for children who participate in organized camps dealing with poverty became eligible for subsidies.
In addition, the Japan Outdoor Network (JON), a private nature school organization, has started a support program to subsidize the participation fees of children from single-parent families when they attend organized camps for children hosted by nature schools, with donations from outdoor manufacturers and other companies.
I myself use the Children’s Dream Fund to hold camps specifically for children from single-parent families.
In 2020, schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was a difficult time particularly for children from poor families, but we were able to hold the camp.
At that time, one of the children who participated in the camp said that without the camp, there would have been nothing fun during the summer vacation.
In fact, many children from poor families only know school and home because they do not have the opportunity to learn and other opportunities. If a school or school event is canceled, they will be trapped in a really small living area.
For the student, I think it was a very valuable experience to interact with children from other schools at the camp, to engage with and play with the university students on staff, and to have attention paid to him or her.
In recent years, not only organized camping but also recreational camping with family and friends has been popular, which has led to a camping boom.
For adults, camping in the great outdoors is said to reduce daily stress and make them feel positive. On the other hand, some people may find it stressful to spend time in a slightly inconvenient environment.
In that sense, having experienced camping since childhood and knowing how to appreciate and enjoy it will make it easier for adults to enjoy camping.
In recent years, there have been organized camps for parents and children, where they can learn how to cook rice outdoors and interact with nature.
While there are digital detox campgrounds that do not carry digital equipment, there are also campgrounds that provide an Internet environment for a comfortable workcation.
Some people enjoy resort-like glamping, others camp in a more primitive environment away from human habitation, and still others enjoy solo camping.
Camping is very diverse, so I think you can find and enjoy your own way of camping. I think that will lead to enriching your daily lives and refreshing yourself.
It is ideal to learn how to utilize the camp by having such experiences since childhood.
* The information contained herein is current as of September 2022.
* The contents of articles on Meiji.net are based on the personal ideas and opinions of the author and do not indicate the official opinion of Meiji University.
* I work to achieve SDGs related to the educational and research themes that I am currently engaged in.
Information noted in the articles and videos, such as positions and affiliations, are current at the time of production.