More than Mementos

Journals and diaries are excellent places to record deep, dark secrets. But that’s not all they’re good for. Particularly during times of great adventure, travel and change — like those experienced at summer camp — journals represent a space to think and grow; a resting place for memories and photos; and an opportunity to explore the dreams and realities of daily life.

Many camp directors encourage campers and staff to keep journals or scrapbooks that chronicle their days at camp. Far from boring daily logs, these camp journals often include quotes from friends, drawings, poetic musings, photographs, cherished art projects and other personal mementos. The finished product is a tangible representation of the entire camp journey, from planning stages to post-camp correspondence.

To help your camper create a keepsake summer camp journal, we’ve assembled ideas from area camp directors. Use their tips and your own imagination to prepare your child for a great journaling experience.

Not only do we encourage campers to keep scrapbooks and journals of their camp days, we give them log books and suggestions of what to put in them. We have even had Sunday programs about recording our most memorable and happy camp experiences. We show ways they can acknowledge and be grateful for the friends and happy days they have had. During our Sunday Vespers, they share poems and prose writings about friendship, natural beauty and funny happenings at camp. Parents have told us how they treasure these youthful poetic endeavors. These recorded memories of camp (logs, poems, pictures and other scrapbook memorabilia) come back to us over the years. At our alumnae reunions every five years, we need many, many tables to display, by decades, their keepsakes from former happy camp summers. Some are more than 50 years old. The “remember whens” are inspiring and entertaining. And they perpetually underline the values of residential camping.

— Bunny Brown, director emeritus, Skyland Camp for Girls, Clyde, NC

We do encourage scrapbooks, but we shy away from the word “journal” because so many kids associate that with schoolwork. With disposable cameras being less expensive than they used to be, photo scrapbooks are getting more and more popular. Another idea we love is for campers to bring a “camp box” to keep all of their special things in. A shoebox or other small container is perfect for collecting the cameras, letters, craft projects and other items from their stay at camp. Opening it back at home to share with the family can be lots of fun.

— Ann Hertzberg, director, Camp Winding Gap, Lake Toxaway, NC

We sell blank journals in our camp store, and many of our staff members are into journaling and scrapbooking. They share their interests with the campers. We have a number of campers who create photo collages after the summer and send them to us. We put these up in our office.

— Kim Betts, associate director, Camp Horizons, Harrisonburg, VA

Your child’s camp journal can be as elaborate as he or she is willing to make it. You can help encourage creativity by sending appropriate supplies. Suggestions include a selection of fun pens, a blank book peppered with questions about camp (What is your favorite food at camp? Describe your best friends. Who is the funniest counselor? What did you learn about today?), an instant camera, craft scissors, tape, glue and so forth. Hang on to all of the letters your camper sends home so she can include them in her journal, too.

Summer camp is a unique time of discovery and maturation — a journal-worthy experience if ever there was one.