December 15, 2022

Age Group Changes

In 2023, we’re shifting our age groups to provide campers a more engaging and developmentally targeted camp experiences including hikes, skill based activities, games, environmental education, and more.

We work year-round to plan activities that are engaging for all ages in a camp group, but we don’t always hit a homerun. If your camper has ever come home from camp thinking something was either too easy or too hard, we get it, and we’re making a major change to improve their experience.

Our new age groups are:

  • 5 and 6 year olds
  • 7 through 9 year olds
  • 10 through 12 year olds


Why are we making these changes?

Though development for many children follows a fairly predictable path, each child is unique and grows and develops at their own pace. With the help of parents, other caring adults, and kids across a variety of settings, they acquire the knowledge, skills, and behaviors they need.

During the pandemic, children missed out on a lot of normal developmental opportunities. We’re definitely seeing the impacts on our campers, CITs, and Junior Counselors. Anecdotally, we’ve noticed a change in some young people’s abilities to develop relationships, get along with others, and solve problems. This past year they’ve needed even more patience, mentoring, and explicit instructions. 

By narrowing age groups, we’re more able to meet campers where they are. Any organization that works with kids knows the challenge of creating an activity that isn’t too challenging for some kids and too easy for others. By having a smaller range of ages, we’ll also have a smaller range of developmental stages, interests, hiking-distance-enjoyment, riddle solving ability, and crawdad catching skills. More importantly, we’ll also be able to have campers together who have a more similar understanding of feelings, fairness, executive function, language and communication skills, fine and gross motor skills, and community agreements. Whether your 5 year old is joining us for the first time or your 11 year old is a veteran Schoolhouse camper, this summer has some of the best themes and activities we’ve ever offered. Mark your calendars for January 10, 2023 to register for our exciting new line-up of camps!


What about Growth Rings?

One of the biggest questions that came up in our community conversations around this change was about Growth Rings. Growth Rings are four topic areas where campers can work to improve their knowledge and skill (Fire Building, Plant Identification, Whittling, and Snake Identification and Handling). Previously, a camper could only earn a Growth Ring if they were 8 years old or older. Beginning in 2023, Growth Rings will extend to the 7-9 year old camps, allowing any camper who is 7 years old or older to more formally work on expanding their knowledge base, physical skills, and communication skills to earn Growth Rings. This also means campers 7 years old or older will be able to use pocket knives with parent permission.


What about sibling or friend groups that span ages?

We’ve always had a little flexibility when it comes to campers who aren’t quite the age for a camp they want to attend. When registering, campers who are within one month of being 5, 7, or 10 at the start of the camp week will be able to register for the 5-6, 7-9 and 10-12 year old groups respectively. Parents of campers who are more than one month from their fifth birthday at the start of the camp week can reach out to us directly to talk through what camp is like for our youngest kiddos and determine if it’s worth a try. As always, if you have an unusual situation and are looking for an exception, we’re happy to talk through it and see if we can make an accommodation.


What about the 10-12 year olds, are there any specific changes for them?

Yes! We’re so excited about this change for our oldest campers. It feels like a door is opening to an expanded world of possibility and adventure. Campers in these groups can expect to hike to brand new locations, try their hand at more skilled activities, play Schoolhouse games a little more intensely, and be invited to our Durham and Orange overnight camps. For years, our staff have brainstormed ways to fit these more challenging activities into camp and have been a bit stumped. We’re excited to introduce our oldest campers to new levels of adventure – whittling and woodworking projects, projectiles, traditional crafts, and new base camps.


Want to read about our other improvements?