The summer camp. History and origins

Origin of the summer camp

Few can imagine the origin of the so-called “summer camp”, or colonies, which with its varied range of activities (immersion in English, introduction to the environment, sports, master chef, excursions …), destinations (England, USA, Malta, Spain …) and prices (from € 300 to € 1,900 and even more) can even be considered a “luxury holiday”. But the certain thing is that the summer coexistence in contact with the nature have an eminently social origin where it was looked for to correct serious educational deficiencies, although with time they have been adapted to the needs that the most modern societies have been demanding, until arriving at our renewed concept of summer camp.

Summer colonies and the Enlightenment

In that sense of “social origin” we find the first vestiges of summer colonies in the Enlightenment, back in 1800. Already Rousseau, along with his followers, realized the importance of education outside the context of schools , and the positive influence that direct contact with nature has on children and adolescents, as well as outdoor exercise helps good physical development. And all this within a context where the industrial revolution, with its effect called towards large cities, caused situations of overcrowding, lack of hygiene and basic deficiencies that nowadays seem normal to a large part of the population. That’s why today some summer camps still have that social character and often receive subsidies from city councils, and other agencies, so that less affluent pockets can also enjoy this magnificent educational experience.

The summer camp in Germany

In Germany, following this line of social thought, we created the movement called “Philanthropy” designed by Basedow, which advocated school trips and education outside the classroom and in contact with nature. This German pedagogue strongly influenced the reforms of the German school (and that despite his bad character and other bad habits). In France we find Louis Portier, a deputy of the French government who dared to express his ideas in the National Convention in front of his colleagues: “The purpose is to move the school to a seaport or to the countryside, a medium that would be excellent to develop the the moral and intellectual faculties of children, of forming their hearts, of fortifying their bodies. ” Here we have one of the first important proposals that wants to unite formal education and the environment.

However, this era of industrial revolution did not help much to these ideas to prosper, so that ultimately no summer camp could be completed, although, as is often the case, the theories were very interesting to enlightened scholars and spread to other countries of Europe, especially in England, Germany, Spain and Denmark where, as an experiment, many private activities of private initiative were carried out throughout the 19th century.

In the next post we will talk about what can be considered the first school colony, or the first summer camp in history.

To be continue…

Blas Cubells Villalba- Educador

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