In a world that is increasingly challenged by diversity and pluralism in all spheres of life, the summer camp experience can provide a fantastic educational opportunity to be exposed to new perspectives and realities…through meaningful social interaction between international counselors and American children and staff. The ICEP is devoted to facilitate this exchange between peoples. In the orientation meetings and training weekends conducted overseas each spring by the ICEP international staff, counselors are encouraged to bring with them to the USA some pictures, maps, coins, stamps, folk dance instructions, recorded folk music, costumes, color slides, and other items which may be helpful in making special contributions to the life of the camps in which they will serve. In some camps there are many opportunities for international contributions, while in others the camp director and program director may not be aware of what the counselor has brought, and what she or he can do to enlarge the intercultural horizons of the campers.
These are a few suggestions:
In every camp there are opportunities for brief presentations by international counselors in a camp assembly, around a camp fire and other situations where campers are gathered together. Such opportunities at the beginning of the camp period acquaint campers with the fact that international counselors are present, and that they are interesting people to know and talk with.
FOLK DANCE AND GAMES
While most camps have American specialists in charge of these group activities, opportunities can be made for international counselors to teach folk dances and games from their own countries. Some bring folk dance music on tapes or records, or in sheet music form. Some have regional costumes from their countries, or color pictures from which the campers can get ideas for making costumes of colored paper or cloth. Many folk dances are simple enough to be taught to large groups in a recreation period, while other, more intricate, dances can be presented by small groups of children after sufficient practice.
SPECIAL ONE-DAY OR EVENING PROGRAMS
Many camps have made it a regular practice to ask the international counselors to help organize an “international Day” or to plan a “Swedish Night”, “Russian Night”, “African Night”, etc. The typical approach for a special night is to plan in advance with the cook for special dishes, then following dinner to use folk songs of the country or ethnic group being recognized that evening. During the recreation period and evening program, special folk dances, children’s games, talks, slides, dramatizations and films can be used. With advance planning, the counselors can usually arrange to borrow films free of charge from their national tourist offices or embassies in New York. Sometimes an international day is combined with affair or bazaar to raise money for UNICEF or another project with international meaning for the children.
While some international counselors are better able to lead singing than others, most can teach simple songs from their own countries. Some camps arrange with the counselors at the beginning of the camp period to duplicate a page of words to various songs from the country represented, some in the original language. Children feel a sense of accomplishment in mastering even a few words of another language.
The international counselor can sometimes arrange an exhibit in a corner of the recreation hall or other place frequented by campers during free periods. The walls can be decorated with travel posters and photos, and below on tables the counselor can spread a collection of coins, stamps, maps, pictures, books, parts of folk costumes, etc. It may also be desirable to announce certain hours when the counselor will be present at the exhibit to answer questions and to explain some of the items exhibited (and to protect coins and other exhibit items from being carried away by small children who might be fascinated by them.)
International counselors look forward to meeting and talking with other young people their own age. Most after-hours discussions in the counselor lounge are unplanned and informal, but in some camps a program or discussion topic is set in advance for one or more evenings each week. Most international counselors would welcome invitations to contribute to such sessions, to share their ideas and perhaps to ask questions of the American counselors.