I bet this title got your attention!
Remember this is a blog about camps and outdoor experiences so it is all above board.
I have been a watcher of and participator in our industry for the past 40 years and I have seen some amazing and not so amazing changes. 20 years ago there were 300 plus camps in Victoria, there are now less than 270 operating (don’t hang me if my numbers are wrong because I tend to make up statistics). Where have they gone? Well, some have closed, some have been re-purposed and some have just disappeared. At the same time the number of schools and students have increased dramatically AND they all go on camps. I only did maths to year 11 but I know this does not add up.
When I investigated this further there was even more confusion, when I found that there are a lot more school camps going to residential facilities and on bus tours to places like Canberra. Leaving bus tours aside, how has the industry accommodated this increase while at the same time the number of camps have reduced? I found part of the solution when I looked at the direction some camps are going. It appears we are heading in the direction of the European and American models of having mega-camps. These are camps that take multiple groups at the same time. These are camps that can accommodate 300, 400, 500 and even in excess of 600 students at the one time. Which brings me to the title of this blog.
I want to say from the outset that I am not being critical of the mega-camp model because I am sure it suits some people really well. For others it suits them in the same way as meals from a fast food restaurant like the one with red signs and yellow letters, it is an easy option. There is no question that this model can provide reliability, regularity and consistency and it is all the same for everyone. It is at this point I need to declare my conflict as I run camps that are generally sole occupancy as I believe that this gives students and schools the best individual experience.
As a teacher, I always focused on providing the best possible learning experience for the students. This experience, where possible was unique to the needs of the students and the community from where they came. I continued this view into my running of camps. I could not see how it could be possible to be true to this philosophy when you are being distracted by 599 other students from 4 other schools.
Hocus/pocus bit… I can best explain this by telling the story of Charnwood. This is a camp in the middle of the bush, the grounds are magnificent and the activities are out there, You cant actually see them when you arrive but you just know they are there. As students get off the buses and move into the site they bring an energy, atmosphere and spirit to the site, every group brings something different so it is a unique experience for them. To quote in Daryl Kerrigan “The Castle” It is about the vibe. This is what is important about a camp this is why we are a sole occupancy operator.
It is also interesting to meet up with small groups trekking, paddling and travelling on journeys, small groups doing there own thing separate from the rest. Why not do this as one big group? Because it does not work!
Any educator should be looking at the experience they want to provide for their students. In doing this they need to look at the time of the year they want to go away on camp, consider things like the activities they want the student exposed to, the appropriateness of the style of experience, the emotions they want to elicit from the students, the environment they want to create, the relationships they want to foster, the educational and social outcomes and the uniqueness of the overall experience that the students can take home and and talk/boast about.
So if you are going to a mega-camp and are happy with the outcomes that is great. If you fit into our title… are you single… and want to remain so or with someone and don’t want to be or want to be single but are with someone else then perhaps you should look around. There are plenty of us who are happy to help you provide an exclusive and an amazing experience for your students.