This is the real purpose of camping–“something to do, something to think about, something to enjoy in the woods, with a view always to character-building” — this is the way Ernest Thompson-Seton, that master wood-craftsman, puts it. Character building! What a great objective! It challenges the best that is in a man or boy. Camping is an experience, not an institution…
A Full Chapter Excerpt From Camping for Boys: A Growing Up Great Guide for American Boys and for the Parents and Teachers Who Love Them, by H. W. Gibson
The Purpose of Camping
It is great fun to live in the glorious open air, fragrant with the smell of the woods and flowers; it is fun to swim and fish and hike it over the hills; it is fun to sit about the open fire and spin yarns, or watch in silence the glowing embers; but the greatest fun of all is to win the love and confidence of some boy who has been a trouble to himself and everybody else, and help him to become a man.
— H. M. Burr.
The summer time is a period of moral deterioration with most boys. Free from restraint of school and many times of home, boys wander during the vacation time into paths of wrongdoing largely because of a lack of directed play life and a natural outlet for the expenditure of their surplus energy. The vacation problem therefore becomes a serious one for both the boy and his parent. Camping offers a solution.
“A boy in the process of growing needs the outdoors. He needs room and range. He needs the tonic of the hills, the woods and streams. He needs to walk under the great sky, and commune with the stars. He needs to place himself where nature can speak to him. He ought to get close to the soil. He ought to be toughened by sun and wind, rain and cold. Nothing can take the place, for the boy, of stout physique, robust health, good blood, firm muscles, sound nerves, for these are the conditions of character and efficiency. The early teens are the most important years for the boy physically… Through the ages of thirteen and fifteen the more he can be in the open, free from social engagements and from continuous labor or study, the better. He should fish, swim, row and sail, roam the woods and the waters, get plenty of vigorous action, have interesting, healthful things to think about.”
–Prof. C. W. Votaw.
This is the real purpose of camping–“something to do, something to think about, something to enjoy in the woods, with a view always to character-building” — this is the way Ernest Thompson-Seton, that master wood-craftsman, puts it. Character building! What a great objective! It challenges the best that is in a man or boy. Camping is an experience, not an institution. It is an experience which every live, full-blooded, growing boy longs for, and happy the day of his realization. At the first sign of spring, back yards blossom forth with tents of endless variety. To sleep out, to cook food, to search for nature’s fascinating secrets, to make things–all are but the expression of that instinct for freedom of living in the great out-of-doors which God created within him.
Too Much House
“Too much house,” says Jacob Riis; “Civilization has been making of the world a hothouse. Man’s instinct of self-preservation rebels; hence the appeal for the return to the simple life that is growing loud.” Boys need to get away from the schoolroom and books, and may I say the martyrdom of examinations, high marks, promotions and exhibitions! Medical examinations of school children reveal some startling facts. Why should boys suffer from nerves? Are we sacrificing bodily vigor for abnormal intellectual growth? Have we been fighting against instead of cooperating with nature?
The tide is turning, however, and the people are living more and more in the open. Apostles of outdoor life like Henry D. Thoreau, John Burroughs, William Hamilton Gibson, Howard Henderson, Ernest Thompson-Seton, Frank Beard, Horace Kephart, Edward Breck, Charles Stedman Hanks, Stewart Edward White, “Nessmuck,” W. C. Gray, and a host of others, have, through their writings, arrested the thought of busy people long enough to have them see the error of their ways and are bringing them to repentance.
Camps for boys are springing up like mushrooms. Literally thousands of boys who have heretofore wasted the glorious summer time loafing on the city streets, or as disastrously at summer hotels or amusement places, are now living during the vacation time under nature’s canopy of blue with only enough covering for protection from rain and wind, and absorbing through the pores of their body that vitality which only pure air, sunshine, long hours of sleep, wholesome food, and reasonable discipline can supply.
In reading over scores of booklets and prospectuses of camps for boys, one is impressed with their unanimity of purpose–that of character building. These are a few quotations taken from a variety of camp booklets:
“The object of the camp is healthful recreation without temptation.”
.“A camp where boys live close to nature, give themselves up to play, acquire skill in sports, eat plenty of wholesome food, and sleep long hours … and are taught high ideals for their own lives.”“
To give boys a delightful summer outing under favorable conditions, and to give them every opportunity to become familiar with camp life in all its phases. We believe this contributes much to the upbuilding of a boy’s character and enables him to get out of life much enjoyment that would not otherwise be possible.”
“A place where older boys, boys of the restless age, may live a happy, carefree, outdoor life, free from the artificialities and pernicious influences of the larger cities”; a place where “all the cravings of a real boy are satisfied”; a place “where constant association with agreeable companions and the influence of well-bred college men in a clean and healthy moral atmosphere make for noble manhood; a place where athletic sports harden the muscles, tan the skin, broaden the shoulders, brighten the eye, and send each lad back to his school work in the fall as brown as a berry and as hard as nails.”
“A camp of ideals, not a summer hotel nor a supplanter of the home. The principal reason for its existence is the providing of a safe place for parents to send their boys during the summer vacation, where, under the leadership of Christian men, they may be developed physically, mentally, socially, and morally.”
Whether the camp is conducted under church, settlement, Young Men’s Christian Association, or private auspices, the prime purpose of its existence should be that of character building.
Because of natural, physical, social, educational, moral, and religious conditions, the boy is taught those underlying principles which determine character. The harder things a boy does or endures, the stronger man he will become; the more unselfish and noble things he does, the better man he will become.
The day of the extreme “rough-house” camp has passed. Boys have discovered that real fun does not mean hurting or discomforting others, but consists in making others happy. The boy who gets the most out of camp is the boy who puts the most into camp.
Many camps build their program of camp activities around a motto such as:
“Each for All, and All for Each,”
“Help the Other Fellow,”
“Do Your Best,”
“Nothing Without Labor,”
“A Gentleman Always,”
“I Can and I Will.”
Endurance, self-control, self-reliance, and unselfishness are taught by the “Boy Scouts” through what is called the “Scout Law”:
(1) A Scout’s honor is to be trusted;
(2) Be loyal;
(3) Do a good turn to somebody every day;
(4) Be a friend to all;
(5) Be courteous;
(6) Be a friend to animals;
(7) Be obedient;
(8) Be cheerful;
(9) Be thrifty.
All these are valuable, because they contribute to the making of character.
In the conduct of a boys’ camp there must be a definite clear-cut purpose if satisfactory results are to be obtained. A go-as-you-please or do-as-you please camp will soon become a place of harm and moral deterioration.
Camping should give to the boy that self-reliance which is so essential in the making of a life, that faith in others which is the foundation of society, that spirit of altruism which will make him want to be of service in helping other fellows, that consciousness of God as evidenced in His handiwork which will give him a basis of morality, enduring and reasonable, and a spirit of reverence for things sacred and eternal. He ought to have a better appreciation of his home after a season away from what should be to him the sweetest place on earth.
The Purpose of Camping is a chapter from the Better Days Books release Camping for Boys: A Growing Up Great Guide for American Boys and for the Parents and Teachers Who Love Them. Find out more at www.BetterDaysBooks.com.
Originally published in 1913, Camping for Boys is a classic “… handbook of suggestions for those in charge of camps for boys and for boys who go camping…” based on H. W. Gibson’s 23 years of experience in the late 19th and early 20th Century “boys’ camp movement,” out of which arose such positive, character and culture-shaping organizations as the Boy Scouts of America. While aimed chiefly at leaders planning camp activities for groups of six to one hundred boys (especially Christian leaders hoping to build youthful character with an inspiring blend of outdoor fun, Bible study and Traditional moral instruction), Camping for Boys includes a treasure trove of exciting woodcraft lore sure to thrill every red-blooded American boy, with instructions for building tents and lean-to’s, making – and using! – real bows and arrows, etc., along with useful lessons in Camp Cooking, Personal Hygiene, First Aid, Athletics, Games, Nature Study, Weather Forecasting and much, much more!