There are plenty of reasons you might send your child to summer camp: to help them make friends, for exercise and fresh air, to give them a break, to give yourself a break, because you heard good things about a particular program … and the list goes on.
But often, parents choose summer camp for the most basic reason: pure momentum. Your child went to summer camp last year, so it’s time to send them again this year. You don’t expect much more than that your child will have fun and that the camp will eat up otherwise-unscheduled time over the summer.
We’re here to tell you, you can raise your expectations for summer camp. You and your child have the basics down, now you’re ready to move up to the advanced level.
The right summer camp will change your child’s life.
Can Summer Camp Really Be Life-Changing?
It might seem as if a life-changing experience is too much to ask of a summer camp. But we witness it happening time and time again here at EXPLO.
In the life of a child or teen, summer is primetime for transformation. The school year is ruled by routine; students follow paths laid out for them by state standards, school administrators, and yes, even their parents.
Summer, on the other hand, has long been a time for exploration, for veering off carefully charted courses to follow curiosity wherever it may lead. Lives can change in those moments of summertime discovery — and the right summer camp can help make it happen.
4 Ways Summer Camp Can Change Your Child’s Life
Summer camp can be life-changing in many different ways. Here are some of the ways we’ve seen summer camp transform the lives of our campers at EXPLO:
1. Discovering an Academic Passion
Summer camp can be an opportunity to dive into a subject that gets glossed over in school or encounter something entirely new. It can also be a chance for students to break away from dry lectures and textbooks and experience a topic in the real world.
Experts say that students retain more information, and most importantly, are more enthusiastic about learning when their lessons are active, social, and meaningful.
A child who’s blasé about math, for example, might come home from summer camp excited to learn new formulas after working with friends to track down stolen artifacts by decoding messages and solving logic puzzles.
The human brain may seem merely theoretical to your teen — until they get to read real brain scans and work with a real MRI simulator.
2. Expanding Their Worldview
To a young person, the world can seem small, confined to the community where they’ve spent most of their lives. But there’s a whole world out there of people with different backgrounds, beliefs, and ways of life.
The right summer camp will help your child experience the universe outside their bubble. Here at EXPLO, for example, students from all 50 states and 90 different countries mix in our residence halls, collaborate in our courses, and compete in our games. Students are encouraged to share their perspectives and customs and learn to respect their differences.
It’s not uncommon for an EXPLO student to come home having made lifelong friends from multiple continents. Nathaniel, a camper from France, told us last year he met people from the U.S., China, India, and the U.K. during his three-week stay.
“In a way, I think EXPLO itself is like its own Model U.N. You have people from around the world who you can talk about anything with, and you learn about all these new ideas you’ve never really thought about before,” he said.
3. Experiencing Life in a World-Class City
The summer camps of your youth may have been all about canoeing and campfire, but a modern camper is just as likely to explore Midtown Manhattan as the woods upstate.
There is so much to experience in a city like New York, Boston, or Chicago, from the best museums in the world, to iconic sports franchises, to the sights, sounds, and flavors of diverse neighborhoods. A great summer camp can give your child the structure and supervision they need to explore a big city for the first time — with just the right amount of independence.
All of our EXPLO programs are located on the campuses of leading colleges or universities within a short drive of a dynamic metropolitan area. Not only does this provide for some exciting weekend programming, but it gives our students access to the top-notch professionals and facilities only a major city can offer.
4. Building Courage
You know your child is capable of so much more than they know. How do you get them to take that first, terrifying step? During the school year, your child is under constant pressure to succeed; they may be afraid to try new things because they perceive failure is not an option.
Summer camp can be a chance for your child to attempt something different, and in the process, learn something about themselves.
It starts with a supportive community, an environment where your child feels safe to step outside of their comfort zone, where your child doesn’t feel locked into one identity. A “jock” can try performing on stage; a “science-geek” can feel at home on the soccer field.
At EXPLO, stories about campers coming out of their shell abound. Daniel, a high school senior at the time, told us how he’s always been too nervous to perform in his school’s talent show. At EXPLO, he signs up for the talent show every year.
“Here, there’s never the thought about what would happen if I don’t do well,” he said. “Last year, the entire audience gave me a standing ovation. It felt absolutely amazing. If life could be like the EXPLO community, it would be an incredible place.”
Your Guide to a Life-Changing Summer
Get answers in our free guide for parents, “The Secret to a Transformational Summer Camp Experience for Your Teen.”