One of the all-time great coming of age films has got to be Summercamp!, a 2006 documentary about 90 kids thrust together in a northern Wisconsin nature camp. Managing nearly a hundred adolescents and pre-teens in a confined space—yes, at camp even a hundred acres of the great outdoors can be a confined space—is a challenge that most adults would run from.
At their best, kids, with their doubts and boredom and self-centeredness and insecurities, can be hard to handle. Worse, they can be like adults, with their doubts and boredom and . . . .
That’s what is so cool about the film. You see how kids bring every aspect of their lives to a place where they don’t know everyone else. And you watch them learn to deal with one another and understand themselves.
We see the antics of one disruptive kid who can’t seem to fit in. Later we learn this particular kid is grieving the pending loss of a parent. And you get an uncomfortable feeling watching an especially awkward kid fail time and again—then find yourself cheering when she achieves something tough.
There’s something about being on “the island” with other kids that helps kids grow a little. Everyone brings their baggage, of course, but they are out of the foxhole of school and the internet for several hours or days, away from the externalities that sometimes get in the way of personal growth.
At those time, just making a new friend on one’s own, without having to endure the vetting process of a peer group, seems to make a difference for some kids. For creative kids, arts-related camps can be the first time they feel like there are other people out there like themselves. For some science and math kids, it’s cool to find it’s alright to be a geek.
So, here’s a quick shout out to the counselors, organizers, teachers, and volunteers who help make summertime an opportunity to learn, grow, and have great fun.
There some terrific summer camps in and around Clarke County, geared to an array of interests and budgets. We offer a listing of some of the area camps in this edition, beginning on page 14.