Authors: Jen Baillie and Jeff Willis
Children have been immersing themselves in nature through summer camps in Canada for over a century. A traditional Canadian camp experience has a profound effect on children’s ability to connect to nature, build independence, foster social relationships and develop a much deeper understanding of the environment.
In 2011, Dr. Troy Glover and his team from the University of Waterloo completed a six-year study that investigated the benefits of camp. In partnership with the Canadian Camping Association, the team observed camps across Canada and conducted interviews with directors and hundreds of campers. They found that campers showed significant improvements in many aspects of their lives including environmental awareness, self-confidence, emotional intelligence and attitudes toward physical activity.
This study adds to the growing body of research on the benefits of spending time in nature. It’s become clear that time outdoors is essential for the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual development of children.
It’s not surprising, then, that the David Suzuki Foundation is using camp to cultivate greater outdoor connections. Children and young adults who go to camp become compassionate, active and engaged citizens who lead environmental stewardship solutions. David Suzuki himself talks about the benefits for children of spending time playing, exploring and engaging in the natural world. It was part of his own childhood and one he brought to his children and grandchildren.
Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound takes places on Gambier Island — just a short boat ride away from the mainland of Vancouver, British Columbia — this summer. This is where children and young adults have an opportunity to learn not just about their environmental surroundings, but also all the learnings inherent in an immersive camp experience.
This innovative camp runs in partnership with the Squamish First Nation and includes lessons on Squamish language and culture woven into the programming. In addition to cultivating First Nations traditional knowledge, campers also leave understanding the role of conservation leadership, climate change awareness, sustainable living and the right to a healthy environment.
As parents or grandparents, we share a responsibility to provide experiences that help shape and mould our children and grandchildren into strong leaders and stewards of our natural environment. Theirs are the generations that will live with many of the decisions we make today — they need to be prepared to negotiate challenging times. Camp is a great Canadian tradition that has now taken a new, updated environmental twist. We’re looking to keep this tradition going strong and look forward to you joining us.
For more information about Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound and to register, please visit www.campsuzuki.org.