Why King Day Camp is Technology-Free
May 19, 2017 by
Camp Q&A: Kelly Mathews, camp director at King Day Camp.
Q: How long have you been the director of King Day Camp?
This is going to be my sixth summer.
Q: What is your favourite part of your job?
My favourite part of the job, I think, is dealing with the unexpected. It makes every day very interesting.
Q: And what does it take to deal with the unexpected? What kinds of qualities does it take to be a camp director or counsellor?
Number one – sense of humour. Without a doubt. Flexible. Problem-solving skills. Be able to make sure you’re managing the big picture and everyone’s interests while also making sure that you’re meeting the needs of the individual as well.
Q: What is the best thing a parent or guardian can do to prepare their child for their first camp experience?
Definitely visit the property. The first time you visit a new venue without your parents can be very nerve-racking. It’s a great opportunity to meet the camp director. If you can meet the staff, that would be fabulous, but definitely see the site. And then the parents and the child can talk about it: “Remember what we saw? Remember what you’re going to get to do?” And they can actually picture it in their mind and start planning for success at that venue instead of having it just be this big unknown.
Q: How can children learn or benefit from a positive camp experience?
Well, certainly I think that most camp opportunities allow the children to foster a sense of independence. It’s even different from school. There’s less structure to some degree, but children have more of an opportunity for decision-making and I think that’s something that children of all ages benefit from. Also, I think most camp programs really help give children an appreciation for nature and the environment and their role within it.
Q: What can camps do to prevent bullying and/or exclusion?
At King Day Camp, we have a saying and that is that “we treat other people the way we want to be treated”. And that’s just something that’s very simple, very go-to. Children even as young as four understand what that means. “Treat other people the way you want to be treated” is not confusing and it’s something that even a child can explain to you. So, you need to have a clear policy. You need to make sure that you are setting the kids up for success, so that means you’re fostering good relationships, you’re creating opportunities for children to make new friendships, you’re focusing on each other’s differences as being a positive to group development versus looking at our differences as being limitations.
Q: In your years as director have you had to adjust your “business model” at all to suit changing needs?
Society today would like people to be able to have their phones with them 24/7, have access to technological devices. These are things that we don’t permit at King Day Camp. We’re a technology-free camp. We don’t allow phones or photos to be taken. When you come to camp, you are completely unplugged. We know technology is a big part of their social lives and their education lives, so we give them an environment where that is not a part of it. We definitely see that more people are expecting to be able to have access to those resources, but we find that our families, once they get to understand our reasoning, really appreciate it. So, that’s one of the things that has changed and evolved. Also, now we’re considering many different unique requirements that somebody might need for success. Twenty-five years ago when I was in camp, it was: a camp does A and if you can do A, you can go to that camp. That’s changed significantly, which is amazing. We can make so many different accommodations to allow children with any ability to participate in our programs.
Q: Is there any camper or instance you remember that really exemplified the power or spirit of camp?
We have a child in our program who’s part of our integration program. Integration just means that in order to be successful at camp, you require one-on-one support. He’s been a camper with us for years and he’s in the high schools system now. And the high school where he’s in school said that he’s not ready for a work experience, that he’s just not there yet. …And he just had his second shift with us yesterday. And he has been excelling and it makes us so proud that we have the time and patience and resources to create opportunities for children that might not have existed before. It’s so rewarding and he is blowing us away with the skills that he brings to us that we never knew he had. Camp, if you do it right, is not just 60 days of the summer, there’s an opportunity to develop and foster relationships that last all year long.