We are the only student travel organization that offers motivated teenagers this exciting international summer learning opportunity. Combining leadership training with cultural exchange, language exposure, service learning, and generous doses of outdoor fun, a Windsor Mountain Friendship Camp is the perfect way to experience a new culture.
Curious minds want to know—exactly what is a Friendship Camp?
We are so glad you asked! The short answer: during a Friendship Camp, our capable and talented Trip Leaders teach our students how to design and implement a week-long summer camp for the young children of our host community.
Great! I’m interested. Tell me more!
Our Friendship Camps are completely student centered. This means that our kids come up with the classes themselves, and then teach them, too. Each Windsor Mountain Group spends about a week in the host community getting to know the people, their culture, and their way of life. Then, based on what they have learned, our students design a mini summer specifically for the local kids.
That sounds like a pretty big task for a bunch of teenagers, don’t you think?
We aim high! We know that every one of our kids is up to the task, and don’t worry—they won’t be alone. Our experienced leaders will guide them through the entire camp planning process.
Can you tell me a little about that process?
After our Orientation week, we start out with brainstorming sessions. In a fun, informal environment, our leaders ask for activity suggestions from our students, and begin to piece together a workable plan.
I’m not so sure MY teenager would have any idea what kind of classes he/she would want to teach. I’m not even sure he/she CAN teach a real class.
That’s no problem. Everyone can teach!
Everyone who likes kids certainly can. Did we mention that these camps are mainly for little kids age 6-10? We get some older kids on occasion, but we really focus on the younger ones. This means that the ‘classes’ might be as simple as leading a game of “duck-duck-goose”, teaching a group of non-English speaking children the “Itsy bitsy Spider” song, or even playing a no-stress game of soccer, kickball, or Frisbee. The idea is to get the kids outside having fun in a safe, friendly, and nurturing environment.
OK, I get it. My kid can do that. Actually, that would be a fun leadership challenge!
We agree. Here’s one of the daily schedules our kids created for a Friendship Camp on the island of St. Vincent just last summer:
Banzai Bracelet Making
The Most Ultimate Frisbee Class
Run! Dodge! Ball!
All Camp Activity: Capture the Flag
That sounds amazing. I want to know even more. How long have you been doing camps like this?
For about 25 years, give or take. We ran our first Friendship Camp in China in 1982, our second in Israel in 1983, and our third in Russia in 1986. We are especially proud of the programs we ran in Cuba from 2003-2006, and we promise to get back to Cuba as soon as possible! For the 2010 summer season, we are excited to offer Friendship Camp programs in Southern Africa, Peru, Puerto Rico, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, and China.
What if my child gets there, makes it through the Orientation, planning process and everything just fine, and then when the kids arrive, finds that he/she is…overwhelmed?
That is something we can handle. The main thing is that your child won’t be alone. First, our leaders will always be right there to step in and support our students if things go off the track (but keep in mind that “off the track” in a water-balloon class, for instance, could be a GOOD thing). Second, our students always team-teach, and our leaders are very careful in the way they set things up. They always pair students with different levels of comfort/experience working with children together, so that no one feels lost at sea, and the students with a little less experience can learn from those with a little more. One more thing to keep in mind is that everyone is a little overwhelmed when a group of rambunctious kids shows up ready for fun.
That sounds a little nutty. Why would I want to sign up for that?
Because that’s exactly where these programs cross over from being just “fun in the sun with kids” to real leadership training opportunities. Once our students get over the shock of realizing that upwards of thirty children are looking to them to lead an hour of activities, they invariably step up their game, and pull off things they never imagined possible. And for our language-exposure programs, this is when the learning curve shoots right through the roof. Communicating with kids is an excellent way of learning a new language, because for the most part, children speak clearly, simply, and directly, and use language constructions that are easy to understand and emulate.
For more information and answers to your questions about FRIENDSHIP CAMPS, please contact Angus Whyte, Summer Travel Program Director, directly by email or phone at 404-549-9197.