The Authors of The Summer Camp Handbook are:
I grew up in Vermont and started day camp there when I was about seven. I don't remember much about the experience except the bus rides to camp, feeling nervous about changing in the pool locker room, and singing the "Titanic" song ("It was sad when the gray ship went down. Kerplunk. It sunk. Now it's nothin' but junk!"). I must have enjoyed it though, because I graduated to overnight camp at age nine. I remember a few things from those first two summers at overnight camp: taking the swim check, getting sick, and witnessing raids on younger cabins by older cabins. My parents eventually realized that they could find someplace better.
The next year, we chose a camp where some of my friends went, and where my Cub Scout den mother sent her own children. I still remember driving up to my cabin and meeting my first leader, Jim. That summer is filled with wonderful memories and the pleasant realization that all camps are not the same. After four years as a camper there, I was asked to join the leadership. I felt privileged to be part of such a qualified group of people. After a two-year training program, I became a full-fledged cabin leader and later a senior staff member. Twenty years after my first summer there, I'm still on the staff. I've held positions as a Senior Staff member, Division Head, and Program Director. This variety has given me a valuable range of experience with campers, cabin leaders, and administrative staff. I see and experience camp from many different angles.
During four years as an undergraduate at Georgetown University and four years in graduate school at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, I spent my summers at camp. In graduate school I was working on a Ph.D. in behavioral geography, so it seemed natural to focus my doctoral dissertation on children's place preferences at overnight camp. This research made me realize that, even during a short stay at camp, children can develop strong ties with camp places, and that children use those places to deal with both the good times and the bad. I am now a professor of geography at a major college. My years at camp have been a life-changing journey. Next to my parents, overnight camp is the single most positive thing in my life. As Chris once said, "I've got the best job in the world: I live on a baseball field."
I grew up in Maine and started day camp there at age six. I remember on rainy days we'd play with toys inside, and on sunny days we'd go to the beach. I loved it. A couple years later, I switched to a different day camp that employed an incompetent crew who failed to intervene when the "big kids" harassed me. Suddenly, I hated camp. I stopped going.
After a few years in the Cub Scouts, my curiosity about overnight camp grew. There must be some good camps out there, I thought, but two weeks is a long time to be away from home. Only after considerable encouragement from one my best friends, did I finally try overnight camp at the age of 12. I fell in love with camp again. My cabin leader was fantastic, and I met some really nice kids, including Jon. When my parents came to pick me up, the first words out of my mouth were, "Next summer, I want to come for four weeks!"
At 15, I served as a junior leader, and at 16, a leader-in-training. After my first summer as a full-fledged cabin leader, I wrote all my college application essays about how much camp meant to me. I knew then that I wanted to spend the rest of my life working with kids. I spent several years as a cabin leader, and then served as Division Head and Waterfront Director. With my increased responsibility came more complex leadership issues and more difficult camper problems. Ultimately, these challenges led me to change my major at Harvard from government to psychology, and then to pursue my Ph.D. in clinical child psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
As an academic psychologist, I've spent most of my career researching the causes, consequences, and best ways to deal with homesickness. I've published a dozen articles on the topic, and collaborated with Jon on several studies of children's favorite places at camp. I've also had the privilege of sharing my research with hundreds of psychologists and camping professionals across the country. Like every clinical psychologist, I strive to engender positive changes in people's lives. Camp's influence on my personal and professional development is immeasurable, so it feels good to give something back to camp.
As you can see, we have similar backgrounds in camping and academics. It's no wonder that our friendship has lasted so long. It is sort of funny, though, that it took us so long to think of writing this book. We've been telling each other for years that parents and kids would enjoy camping more if they knew more. Now that research has helped us find solutions to some of the most common questions and problems that parents and kids have concerning selecting, packing, and preparing for overnight camp, families can be much better prepared. By reading The Summer Camp Handbook, you can greatly increase the chances that you and your child will choose a camp wisely and then enjoy the whole experience.
We often think back to a particularly humbling moment during the summer of 1985. We were both proud first-year cabin leaders. On the way back to our cabins one afternoon, we came across a teary-eyed boy sitting at the foot of a tall white pine. "Can you help me?" he sobbed, "I'm really homesick." We assured him that we could help, and took turns offering him comforting advice, but deep down neither of us was as confident as we sounded. Suddenly, we didn't feel so proud. What could we do, really?
Fortunately, we now know what makes young people homesick and what makes them feel better when it hurts. We also know much more about how kids interact with the environment at camp and what places and activities make them happy. We don't have all the answers, but everything we do know about helping children enjoy camp is in this book, for you.