During Montreal’s short summer months, swimming pools, parks and movie theatres are filled with young kids and teens, many of them attending summer camps. Not all summer camps are about racing, swimming, water-gun fighting or junk-food eating, but they are nonetheless valuable to kids in many different ways.

Summer camps are vital to children, at least according to Cassandra Rose, the Director of the Tamaracouta Scout Reserve, especially because in this day in age, kids are so devoted to their computers, phones and tablets.

“The ability to interact on a personal level, have the natural ‘screen saver’, (stars, wind in the leaves on the trees, water running over rocks or lapping at the shores) at their fingertips, having their senses bombarded with various sensations is an essential part of growing up,” Rose said. “We are looking at […] youth that are unable to interact with their fellow human beings without a piece of technology between those interactions. Summer camps help to remove the technology, help to encourage personal interactions, personal development, skill development, personal empowerment, and an appreciation of personal leadership and skill sets.”

As Rose pointed out, the camp also is beneficial to kids because “it is the first step to going off on [their] own.”

“It teaches you to be able to live with other people,” she added. “Sometimes your best friend is not someone that you can ‘live’ with (you may be messy and them a ‘neat freak’), though you can still be best friends. Sometimes you learn about yourself, who you are, and what your strengths are, without the parental influence… nobody knows you, you are who you want to be for that period of time, and everyone respects you for who you are… not who you ‘should’ be.”

According to Natalie Morin, the owner of the 4Cats art studio in Vimont, camps that specify in certain things, like art, are a good way to get the kids to develop that skill during the summer months.

“I think camps are important because they keep them active,” she said. “If they have special interests, they can focus on exploring those interests during the summer. If they have interests in doing these things or learning a new instrument or learning how to paint, to draw, this is a chance for them to do it. So it strengthens their skills or develops news skills.”

Avelino Morais, owner of the Montreal Robotics Camp, agreed. “The kids are learning to program [in Robotics camp],” he said. “They’re improving their LEGO building skills or their constructive skills in a sense that once they’ve built a model out of LEGO, they have to make it move a certain way, autonomously… this eventually will lead to real coding and programming that perhaps they might be interested in when they get into the high school level.”

Like Rose, Morin and Morais believe that summer camps give kids the chance to interact with one another.

“They also have the opportunity for socialization, to make new friends outside of their usual school friends or neighbourhood friends,” Morin said. “It fosters their independence, they learn how to do things on their own, without their parents or their teachers around.”

“We’d like to think that by the end of the week, they made new friends in the classroom,” Morais said. “They’re always interacting in the class, and perhaps learning from each other or talking with each other and in the end they hopefully come out with a few friends that they will communicate with beyond summer camp.”

In the end, for Rose, summer camps are important because the kids can learn a lot about themselves.

“They learn about their potential, their limits and how far they are willing to go,” Rose said. “They learn that even someone they may not like or get along with has skills that will help them get through something. They learn about other people, how to live with them, how to work together, and how to share their skills for the sake of the ‘team.’"