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Did you go to summer camp this year? What happened?
--From Subha, 13

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Summer Camp: Why Go To Camp?

Kids and camp counselor

Topics on Summer Camp:
Take Chances,
    Make Memories
Why Go To Camp?
Choosing A Camp
Get Ready, Get Packed
Making Friends
Homesickness
I'm Worried About...
Casey's Story
From the Mentors
Did you know that over TEN MILLION American kids go to camp every summer? Whoa!

Summer camp has been a U.S. tradition for over 150 years. Back then, before air conditioning was invented, hot city summers were miserable and even unhealthy for children, so escaping to the country for a few weeks became a popular trend. Today, kids have different reasons for making camp a part of their lives, such as:

To Meet New People
Camp might give you a chance to be with people from different states, or even different countries. It's a great way to make cool new friends and learn about different places and cultures. Michiko, 13, puts it like this:

"I loved camp. I met this girl named Manny who lives in New York (I live in New Jersey) and she is cool. She speaks Spanish and I speak Japanese. We taught each other words. We liked to swim in the pool a lot. She was a really nice girl. We are going to camp again this summer."

To Try New Things
Most camps offer games and activities that you probably can't do in your backyard or even your neighborhood. You might try archery, sailing, pottery, dance, obstacle courses, and a hundred other cool things! Staying home and doing "the same-old same-old" can be boring, and camp can let you mix things up.

Girl paddling in canoeTo Challenge Yourself
Not all the things that kids do at camp are easy-they're not supposed to be! Fresh challenges -- like trying new sports, learning new crafts and games, or pushing yourself to achieve something -- can be very rewarding. Take it from Arabella, 13, who told us:

"I went to summer camp and I passed my swimming test! I can barely swim, so it was a big accomplishment. I felt great afterwards."

To Appreciate Nature
There's a great big natural world out there, and going to camp helps you learn how beautiful and important it really is. Without trees, soil, water, and wildlife, the Earth (and all the people on it) couldn't survive, and getting out into the woods or mountains can give you a better understanding of how the web of life works.

To Get a Change of Scenery
Sometimes it's important to get away from familiar territory and find a "new place" for yourself. Camp offers the perfect opportunity to make a fresh start, see and experience a variety of things, and find out how you think, feel, and act outside of your normal surroundings. It can even be great to get away from your family and friends for a while and just be you.

To Learn New Skills
All the activities and instruction at camp are great opportunities to learn something new -- such as pottery, sailing, or tap dancing -- that could end up being your favorite hobby. Camp can also help you develop important life skills like independence, self-reliance, and confidence. Since you'll be living with a whole group of people, it's also a great way to learn about cooperation, compromise, and tolerance.

To Get Healthy
With all the fun, games, and physical activity, going to camp can be a great way to get exercise and fresh air. Swimming, hiking, and playing sports are a much healthier alternative to hanging around at home all summer.

To Have FUN!
When you get right down to it, going to camp is all about having a good time. Check out some of these awesome programs and activities offered at camps across the country:

  • A co-ed camp in Virginia offers a "challenge course" where kids play field games, climb under and over obstacles, walk across a high wire, and scale a 44-foot climbing tower! We bet you can't do that at home!

  • A performing arts camp in New York has five fully equipped theaters where campers put on Broadway-style productions. The camp offers instruction in acting, makeup, mime, improvisation, puppetry, direction, scriptwriting and video production, and kids can take part in musicals that include a full orchestra!

  • A boys' and girls' camp in Pennsylvania has an inline skating and skateboarding park complete with grinding rails, half pipes, wedge ramps, and jumps! The camp also offers ten mountain boarding trails on two mountains!

  • A North Carolina boys' camp holds wilderness trips where students go out on foot or by horse, bike, canoe, kayak, or sailboat and use survival skills to live in the beautiful, rugged landscape. Campers can also go rock climbing, whitewater canoeing, or spend hours just exploring nature!

  • A California co-ed camp focuses on performing arts and the circus. Campers learn how to be clowns, juggle, unicycle, walk tightropes, perform trapeze acts, be magicians, and master dozens of other wild and crazy skills! At the end of the session, kids get to perform in front of an audience made up of parents!

Now that we've given you lots of reasons WHY you might want to go to camp, we'll talk about WHERE you might want to go, in our next section: Choosing the Right Camp.

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