Camp Yale Epilogue

Camp Yale was quite a success. On days 4 and 5 we continued the positive momentum of the first three days with trampoline lessons, Roxaboxen house building in our creek bed, and more mosaic making, plus lots and lots of wild free play.

So, what’s the lasting legacy of Camp Yale 2010? I’ve identified two:
Stronger Neighborhood Friendships
My son Marco is now very tight with Andrew and Spencer. This is a very big deal for Marco. My wife and I decided to “redshirt” him from kindergarten last year because of his lack of interest in other kids his age, and his lack of social skills with them. At Camp Yale he achieved a new level of friendship that makes us feel like he’s really socially ready for kindergarten.

In addition, Zoe got to know Abby and Julia pretty well, so that now they’re pretty good friends. Yarden and Spencer planned a video game session on the last day of camp.

Sure, conventional summer camps result in friendships, too, but since the kids at these are from various places, how many of these friendships can be sustained after camp ends?

In the case of neighborhood summer camps like Camp Yale, kids who build bonds there can easily strengthen those bonds the rest of the year. They all live within a couple blocks of each other, and most Camp Yalers bike to the same public elementary school every day, starting this week. If they bike home together, they can even stop by their Camp Yale hangouts (see below) on the way home, further reinforcing their friendships and their attachment to the places of their neighborhood.

Deepened Attachment to Neighborhood Places
All kids at Camp Yale deepened their attachment to two places in our neighborhood: my yard (see articles on our front and back yards) and our creek. At our yard, some kids created imaginary role playing games involving our play house. Some got into playing street hockey there, or building Slotwood structures. Last, but certainly not least, my front fence will be home to a mosaic of the Roxaboxen-inspired village they’ve been building in our creek bed.

In the creek bed, they have their actual Roxaboxen-inspired village, which I hope they continue to develop in the coming years. Right now, they’ve created three stone-outlined houses, plus a multi-level tree fort. One boy talked about creating a “police station” there soon. At the ages they’re at now (2 to 8), they need some adult supervision down there, but within a few years, I dream that they will be building and running their own society of kids down there all on their own.

At conventional summer camps, kids also build attachments to places, but these attachments get wasted after the camp. Camp Yale kids will continue to visit my yard and our creek bed throughout the upcoming year, building on what they did last week.

Every time these kids return together to these places, they’ll “own” them a bit more. This combination of familiar places and familiar friends at Camp Yale 2010 was but one step, albeit an important one, in giving them a happy, memorable childhood.

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