Through A Different Lens

Photos Courtesy Of Double H Ranch

Photos Courtesy Of Double H Ranch

Over the past several years, summer camps have reached a crossroads in the digital era where tradition meets technology. For the true-blue traditionalists, camp policy dictates that campers must not pack their beloved devices, untethering children from the fast-paced routine they endure at home in exchange for the opportunity to “plug in” to nature. Leading trust walks through the woods, these directors go to great lengths to steward their campers through the serene surroundings of camp. 

For the 21st-century pioneers, camp-wide wi-fi has been installed, and underutilized spaces at camp are converted to audio/video recording and editing suites complete with a variety of computers and equipment to produce high-quality reminders of their stay at camp while bluetooth speakers pump music into the dining hall from a thoughtfully planned playlist on the program director’s iPhone. 

As these belief systems barrel down the path towards your camp full speed for a head-on collision, an opportunity appears. Maybe, just maybe, there is a chance for coexistence, a symbiosis of nostalgia and innovation. In order for the digital and the natural to find agreement, an objective leader must emerge; one who can identify with campers and their desire to connect with the goods and the woods. 

During my years as a leader at camp, I witnessed the strategic implementation of traditional activities when many camps were leaning towards modern advances, and vice versa. A few summers back, we added archery to the menu of programs. Stepping back from this decision, many will say “don’t most camps have archery as an option?” For many camps, the answer is that they do. What they may have missed is how the program team incorporated technology and accessibility to bring this element of camping to today’s campers. 

At the archery range, you will find what one would come to expect. Targets are hung in a lean-to. A firing line is established in keeping with industry recommendations. A shed full of bows, arrows, and a first-aid kit is nearby. What you might not expect to see is what makes this program area so special. A photographer captures images of arrows in flight launched from adaptive bows, oriented horizontally in the lap of a child to allow for greater control and interaction. Moving targets led by pulleys and clotheslines increase the challenge for all. Archers are given the opportunity to take photographs, learn not only about the basics of the activity, but perhaps the proverbial ABCs of photography: aperture, back lighting, and color balance. 

This alteration to the norm allows this particular camper an opportunity to do something that they might not before have considered, as he has Muscular Dystrophy. His muscle tone is diminished and drawing a bow in the typical fashion proves difficult. With this creative intervention, he can now participate alongside his peers, building confidence and a new skill simultaneously while building on an already existing love for photography. 

The programming takeaway message here is to be an innovator and a constant evaluator. We must always assess and re-assess what makes a camp vital and engaging for campers.  

Clean Up The Clutter

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