Dear Governor Phil Murphy,
A recent news report summed it up in its headline: “Summer camps are more important than ever. But are they possible during coronavirus pandemic?”
The answer is unequivocal.
Summer day camps are indeed “more important than ever.”
They’ve never been more vital, in fact, which is why we must do all we can to ensure that day camps for children of all ages will be allowed to operate in New Jersey for summer 2020.
For starters, children look forward to day camp all year. It’s what keeps them going, what keeps them motivated. Veteran educators have observed that many children gain more academically and socially during the summer than during the entire school year. The importance of day camp for the emotional, social and academic wellbeing of our youth cannot be overstated. And for children to have a successful school year come September, it is crucial that they be able to unwind, relax and grow in a camp setting.
After months cooped up in their homes due to the COVID-19 lockdown, unable to see friends or attend school, children will need the release of summer day camp more than ever, say education experts, psychologists and sociologists.
Next are these children’s parents. If parents are ever going to go back to work and the economy is going to rebound, children have to be able to go to day camp. Come late June, if day camps are closed, the ramifications will be unspeakably damaging. For many families, summer day camp isn’t just enrichment for the kids. It’s childcare for working parents and a needed relief for those same overstressed, overwhelmed and overworked parents.
We must not forget about the teenagers who work as counselors and staff members in these day camps. Without day camp, tens of thousands of these teens will be roaming the streets for months, with nothing constructive to do and nothing to fill their day. Day camp is a crucial source of work for these teens and other young adults. For some, it’s their only job all year, and they depend on money from day camp counseling to fund the rest of their year. In many day camps, the majority of staff are high schoolers and college students.
While COVID-19 has caused the cancellation of mass gatherings, day camps must be permitted to open with proper guidelines in place. These guidelines would be finalized by independent experts, including specialists in pediatric and camp medicine, epidemiology and infectious disease management. Some recommendations could include screening campers when they get dropped off, smaller groups, increased hand sanitizing, staggering meal times, and canceling all field trips and inter-group events.
Likewise, the day camps can restrict nonessential visitors, space out seating, close communal use spaces, serve meals in classrooms, avoid sharing electronic devices, and implement health checks.
According to research done by Psychology Today, day camp makes kids resilient to daily life stresses and helps develop other positive traits in children.
“A summer day camp experience is so much more than learning to canoe or singing songs around the campfire,” says Hugh Haller, President/CEO of the Camping and Education Foundation. “The lifelong impact that a camp experience can have on a child is monumental. Skills like social interaction, self-confidence, a love and respect for nature, healthy living choices – all of these can be learned and cemented at camp. It is truly a priceless experience and one every child should have a chance to enjoy.”
Day camp pushes children out of their comfort zone and exposes them to new activities and experiences that they may not be familiar with. Campers get the opportunity to try out different things and discover new hobbies or passions. By exploring various types of activities, children have a greater chance of finding something that they excel at or that makes them happy.
Day camps helps children unplug from technology. When kids take a break from cell phones and the internet, they rediscover their creative powers and engage the real world – real people, real activities, and real emotions.
Day camp is the perfect place for kids to practice making decisions for themselves without parents and teachers guiding every move. Managing their daily choices in the safe, caring environment of camp, children welcome this as a freedom to blossom in new directions.
On top of making new friends, campers also develop an appreciation for the qualities required to cultivate and strengthen these relationships. Day camp provides children with the core values of a strong, moral individual by teaching them about ethics, honesty, caring, respect and responsibility. Parents frequently report that after Day camp, their children are more kind, understand the importance of giving, are more equipped to stand up for what they know is right, and are willing to be more responsible.
In short, Day camp is not a luxury.
It is not optional.
It is absolutely necessary.
The Residents of New Jersey