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Armchair Reader or Parent

Camp Guide will make you wish life imitated camp

       Reader, you, like me, are probably too old to go to the camps featured in our March 1 Early Bird Camp Guide. Your kids or grandkids probably aren’t, so their summer futures give you reason for reading. There are other good reasons, I promise you.
       Camps thrive — and make good armchair reading — because they take us outside our day-to-day experience.
       That’s why one of my favorites among the camps in this Guide is Jefferson Patterson Park’s Imagine If Camp. It starts very young kids — rising Ks and 1st-graders — imagining what it would be like to try being someone new: A sailor fighting in the War of 1812 … A farmer raising animals and tending crops … A pirate exploring the Patuxent River. Even an animal, like a bald eagle flying high in the sky or a tiny minnow swimming in a stream. 
       We can play Imagine If at any age; kids play it for fun and for keeps, opening up their own lives to the world’s infinite possibilities.
        Camps take us beyond our everyday experience in reality as well as imagination. Zip-lining, for example, is not part of my workweek. Even my grandkids don’t zip-line as part of ordinary reality. But for a week or two each summer, they need not be earth-bound. At camp they can fly.
       Or join a Junkyard Band, at Annmarie Garden.
       Or write a play, at Compass Rose Theater Camp.
       Or dance like a Sugar Plum Fairy, at Ballet Theater of Maryland Dance Camp. Or a break-dancer in hip-hop training at Calvert School of Dance.
       Camp-learned skills can become part of your life week in and week out. A kid who gets a thrill at sailing camp can change elements from land to water almost as easily as changing from work clothes into sailing gear. Horse camp can work that same way, making lifelong horsemen and horsewomen.
       Camps also let kids try out roles they might imagine playing in their lives. Archaeologist, for example. Lara Croft and Indiana Jones might inspire their dreams. A summer week of sifting dirt at archaeology camp will either thrill them — or suggest another dream.
       There can be a long, long way between imagination and reality, as I found out in my only camp experience. The small-screen movies showed at school so fired my nine-year-old imagination that I harangued my parents’ into sending me to its six-week session. Eight hundred miles from home, reality challenged imagination.
        That needn’t happen to the would-be campers in your life. As you’ll learn in this Guide, they can try sample camps on for size. Calvert Marine Museum offers a week of daylong camps for kids, depending on their age, to sample pirate life (far better in imagination than reality, I have no doubt) or paleontology.
        The charms of nights at camp sound irresistible. But some campers will discover the terrors of the night (and outdoor latrines). Daytime campers at Patuxent River 4-H — which invites all, not just 4-H-ers — to see if they’re the kid who thrives or shivers.
       There’s another reason to wish life imitated camp: You can walk a day or a week down a path before committing your life to it.
      Whatever your age, enjoy this week’s paper. It will fire your imagination.