“Ben is bringing brownies, Chris is bringing cupcakes, Malcolm’s bringing marshmallows…”
Notice a trend? It’s the Picnic Game, and if you've played it, you know it’s one of many name games counselors use to get campers familiar with each other early in the summer. Everyone goes around in a circle and says a food with their name, then repeats everything everyone else said before them. Though it may sound a little boring, it helps establish one of the main reasons many campers enjoy their experience so much: community.
Only at summer camp can you meet people from all over the country, bond in a matter of hours, and leave as best friends. Doing everything together, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep, creates a special kind of relationship. It’s a surprising layer of depth that forms between a group that spends 24 hours a day in each other’s company. You move past the superficial small talk and soon know everyone else intimately, their motivations and dreams, what life is like back home, who they care about most…the list goes on.
Part of this stems from being around so many people in the same age range. The same effect can be observed on college campuses, where friendships form fast and run deep, simply because there’s a pre-established foundation. Similar majors stick together just like the group of campers taking woodcarving might play with each other outside of arts and crafts. Everyone is there for the same reason, and the shared experience makes a great starting point for conversation and relatability.
Understanding someone else in this way is rare, and the fact it occurs so quickly, yet is still genuine, is a testament to the power and influence of camp. However, this is only possible in a fostering, supportive environment. Summer camp should be a haven, and the staff behind it should be aware of the atmosphere they are trying to create. When done properly, the result is a place people are free to be open, be themselves, and appreciate others in ways seldom explored anywhere else.
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