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Ask a Local Expert: Summer Camps

By The Bridge Staff Writers

The Bridge asked Peter Burmeister, Associate Clinical Therapist at the Vermont Center for Wellness in Berlin, to weigh in on the importance of summer camp in a child’s development.

Do summer camps benefit a child’s development? If so, how?

There is no doubt that having children experience nature is beneficial to their development. Much of modern life is insulated from the natural environment; this is counter to our roots in what the ancients referred to as “the spiritus mundi,” which translates as “world spirit.” The poet William Butler Yeats wrote that it is “a universal memory and a ‘muse’ of sorts that provides inspiration.” Our young people need to experience that spirit and to be inspired in their interactions with the sun and the rain, the earth and the vegetation that it supports, the denizens of Vermont’s forests, fields, and streams. And not least, socializing while learning with other children, their adult counselors, and mentors is vital to healthy development and growth.

Why is it important for kids to have something to do during their school vacations? Or is it important? Why not just let them chill out in front of their computers and TV?

It is true that modern existence is stressful, and so people of all ages require a respite from the pressures of educational requirements and the urge to excel in their studies. But the contemporary obsession with looking at screens large and small removes us from our roots as sentient, flesh-and-blood human beings. The outdoors is the environment in which people survived for hundreds of thousands of years. It is a vital component of our history and its experience is hard-wired into our DNA. To grow and mature as both physically and mentally healthy human beings, it is vital for our children to experience what people have known since the earliest days of our history. How can we deny them these components? “And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. I would not change it.” (Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene 1)

Peter Burmeister (pburmeister@ippi.org) is Associate Clinical Therapist at the Vermont Center for Wellness in Berlin, a service of the Institute of Professional Practice. He offers analytic psychotherapy to people of all ages and backgrounds. Previously he was on the faculty of Norwich University and has also taught at Johnson State College, Champlain College, and New England Culinary Institute. In addition, he is a certified organic farmer and an advocate of regenerative agriculture.