“But I want to go home!” A qualitative exploration of the experience of summer camp from two contrasting perspectives
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The mention of the term “summer camp” often brings to mind cabins nestled in the woods, cool lakes, warm campfires and children having fun as they swim, paddle and play. At traditional residential camps children are imagined to revel in their freedom, overcome challenges, make long lasting friendships and develop into skilled and competent young people. How much of this imagery, however, is based upon a societal discourse constructed by adult values? How often do the actual experiences match these ideals? This study explores the issue of adult driven discourses surrounding the experience of camp by comparing the perspective of camp directors with the description of one of the author’s own childhood experiences. Using narrative techniques, the author composed two distinct descriptions of the camp experience including programmatic, social and emotional elements. The comparison of these two narratives revealed the possibility for distinct differences between the adult perception of the experience and how it may actually be experienced by a child. The areas of difference centred around both social and programming elements of camp participation which, when considered together, suggest the need for children to adjust to a distinctly different social setting in order to achieve the positive experiences reflected in our cultural conceptualization of summer camp.