Adventure Camp at Conner Prairie

Camper showing off his archery target

A look at the Social and Emotional Benefits of Summer Camp

Of all the fun activities that campers enjoy at Conner Prairie Adventure Camp, shooting archery is always among the most popular. Over a given summer, thousands of campers will send tens of thousands of arrows zipping towards a foam target. Of all those arrows, only a few will hit the bullseye. If so few kids get a perfect score, why is it so popular?

Maybe because with each arrow, the camper gets a little bit better and a little bit closer to the center of the target. Campers learn that with mindful practice, they can get better at anything.

Maybe it is popular because of the camp counselors and their peers that are rooting for them,  celebrating each arrow that lands anywhere on the target. Our campers have a support system who cares about them.

Campers doing archery

Maybe it is because camp is the only place where they get to shoot a bow and arrow and they feel comfortable trying new things here. We have created a healthy space where “failure” is okay.

Maybe it is because of the element of risk that comes with shooting archery; if practiced carelessly, someone could get hurt. Their personal responsibility grows as we trust them with a bow and arrow.

Camp counselor teaching camper how to aim a bow and arrow

At Conner Prairie, both within our summer camp program and beyond, we are intentional about creating opportunities for social skill-building. There are any number of things that we could do to make sure more campers hit the bullseye; we could use bigger targets or move the targets closer. The camp counselors could shoot the bow and arrow for each camper, instead of letting them do it themselves. But, any of those adjustments would diminish the growth that our campers routinely experience while shooting archery. Especially after a year of online classes and the associated social isolation, camp is more important than ever.

When a young person arrives at Adventure Camp, we don’t make any guarantees that they will end the week a better archer, paddler, equestrian, angler, or swimmer. They will experience those programs but we are not a skills training clinic like band camp or football camp. However, what we can promise is that they will have a safe and fun experience while becoming a part of a community. While only a few campers will hit a bullseye, every camper grows in ways that can’t be seen on a foam target.

Zach White, Senior Manager of Camps and Recreation at Conner Prairie.

About the Author

In his role as the Senior Manager of Camps and Recreation, Zach White oversees Adventure Camp and School Break camps, recreational opportunities including the We can Camp! family learn-to-camp program, and relationships with outdoor-interest community partners