There’s a certain manual character of life at camp. Given all of the activities we have going on simultaneously, the community living structuring our days, and the constant outdoor experience, camp is a setting where we use our hands constantly. We’re doing things, making things, and exploring things with our hands everyday. Sweeping the dining hall, tying a climbing rope, gripping a tennis racket, steadying a ball of clay on the potter’s wheel— all that and more can happen before breakfast! …not to mention, pulling back the string of a bow, tying embroidery floss into an intricate pattern, smacking a tetherball or gagaball, steering the reins of a horse. Camp life is defined by action, by direct inter-action with the physical— all five senses! —nature of the real world, and thereby provides almost limitless opportunities to engage things with our hands.
I think this is a significant benefit of camp because modern life, with its “conveniences” and “processing,” has made working with our hands less common and made hand skills less important. Perhaps, like spending time in nature, it’s good for us, and for our children, to do things with our hands. Maybe, this kind of “manual engagement” with the physical world is a core aspect of what makes us human, and it’s at great expense that we give it up.
If so, then that means our kids need chances to work with their hands. And I don’t mean pushing buttons or swiping the screen of a smart phone! Just the opposite; they need what camp provides— daily connections with the physical (and natural) world.
We might go so far as to say this manual character of camp helps explain why kids find life here so novel and fun. When their ordinary lives are limited by polished products, buffered by climate controlled spaces, and abstracted by technology, it feels really good, it —feels — refreshing to dig in with their hands. It probably means getting a little dirty, and maybe ending up with a couple of bruises and scrapes, but that’s simply part of living this fully. This is another way that camp differs from ordinarily living, and I would claim, another reason why it’s so gratifying.
Camp is a place for our hands. And, that’s really good stuff.