Our short answer is that a three week session is a much more complete camp experience, and we recommend the three week option over the one week option. To understand why we make this recommendation, please read on!
The Challenge of One Week
The appeal of the one week session is also its challenge: It’s just a week!
By the time a camper becomes fully comfortable in the camp community, the one-week experience is already nearing its conclusion. Here’s what we mean: For all campers, the first day can be a bit awkward. We organize countless ice-breakers and group bonding activities, but campers still arrive without knowing anyone, and they have to take a big step out of their comfort zones to meet new people and establish their first friendships. Of course, learning to overcome challenges is part of the value of camp!
By the second day of camp, they start to form bonds with their bunkmates and begin learning the camp routines, such as where things are located, the words to camp songs, our many traditions, and the names of their favorite staff members. It’s only by day three or four that kids get into a rhythm and start to feel truly comfortable in their new environment. Just as things become really fun and campers first glimpse the magic of camp, it’s almost time to go home.
Three Days of Joy for Every One Day of Transition/Packing
Three week sessions are often harder on parents, but they are much better for campers. When campers stay for a three week session, they spend a much larger percentage of their time being fully immersed in camp. The first days of transition become distant memories that are replaced by deepening friendships, new experiences, “secret” cookie raids, campfires, and lots of camp songs and traditions. The experience is then capped off with color war, lazy day, many of the most popular all-camp programs, and finally, a beautiful, song-filled banquet as a final send-off for the campers. The kids go home at the same time as everyone else, they immediately engage with friends after camp, and the experience lives on after the summer. Campers who stay for a shorter time tend to be among among the only ones to leave early, which can also be an isolating experience for them.
As one camp expert, Steve Baskin, puts it: “A camper in a one-week session is only fully integrated for a couple days of the seven (roughly one-fourth) versus 15-16 out of 21 (three-fourths) of three week session.” This is why three week campers are more likely to gain the most from camp; they simply have more fully-integrated days of the camp experience. As Baskin explains, “I like for campers to have three days of joy and comfort for every one day of disorientation/packing, which is essentially assured in a three week session.”