From Pop Culture To Camp Culture

Where else but at camp can one dress up as a favorite character and become part of an amazing event or story in a caring and safe environment? These types of activities and the use of one’s imagination are important parts of childhood, critical to development, which may often become lost in the hustle of modern times.

The contemporary world is immersed in screens of all types: iPods, laptops, tablets, computers, TVs, phones, and even cinema. One bonus of attending camp is being “unplugged,” leaving the world of mass media behind for a while … a rarity these days. Most staff members try to accomplish this unplugged version of life in programs that encourage campers to form face-to-face relationships with their cabinmates and counselors. Many parents still look for a camp environment that introduces their son or daughter to the natural world, and a place where they can develop self-confidence, awareness, and honest friendships.

But since technology has become such an important part of pop culture, it should not be ignored entirely. In fact, incorporating some pop-culture themes (near and dear to the hearts of camp-age youngsters) into programming offers the potential to create positive, intentional outcomes. Our staff’s weekend committee—spearheaded

CB0713_Starz_CampCulture1by the program director—designs and implements several Sunday afternoon all-camp activities based on popular reality-TV series and movies. Not only are these special activities fun, exciting, and extremely successful, but they reinforce skills that kids will use in the future at home, in high school and college, and in the working world.

Among the benefits:

  • Support each other to accomplish a goal or challenge.
  • Develop problem-solving skills.
  • Exert a willingness to take a controlled risk.
  • Emerge as a leader among peers.

Incorporating popular themes into programming can grab campers’ attention.

Harry Potter

Bring Harry Potter and all of the characters in J.K. Rowling’s popular books and movies to life, complete with the Sorting Hat, which assigns campers to individual houses/teams for a special day. Decorate the dining hall with white Christmas lights similar to the candles and stars of the Great Hall, and encourage campers and staff members to dress up as their favorite characters. Entertain campers by disguising counselors as Hogwart’s faculty and wizards. Include field games such as broom races, the invisible cloak race, and the camp version of Quidditch.


When reality-television shows became popular, the Eco-Challenge entertained viewers from 1995 to 2002. The multi-day, expedition-length adventure race had teams competing to reach a specific destination. Take this concept and mold it into a Sunday-afternoon special event that involves small teams of campers led by counselors-in-training. Make use of various camping skills while engaging teams in challenges such as trust walks, tent pitching, wall climbing, fire building, canoeing, and portaging. This encourages leadership among peers and develops problem-solving skills by campers working together toward a goal.

Amazing Race

Create teams of campers with leadership-program personnel as captains. Give clues to each team that will lead them to a country/destination on the camp property. Once the destination is reached, give campers information on an activity related to that country that must be completed as a team. Challenges may include a Wimbledon tennis relay, a Scottish wellie boot toss or a Scottish dance, a Tour de France bike race, South African necklace beading, an Australian kangaroo gunny-sack relay, a Mexican World Cup

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