It's time for Summer camp, and I just got a chance to visit Camp Quest Minnesota!!
Camp Quest is a week-long secular camp for kids, full of friendship, fun, and learning -- this year's Minnesota theme is the ocean, especially the deep sea! The Chaplain wrote a good post explaining what Camp Quest is all about, so to avoid repeating what she wrote, I'll mention a few points I learned on the tour I got from the director Jeannette (who, BTW, was kind enough to mention that she read and liked my book):
Camp Quest Minnesota is one of the first Camp Quest locations. They get campers from all over North America, but lately a higher proportion are local since more camps have been opening. Nonetheless, the Minnesota chapter just keeps expanding -- this year they had more than 50 campers, essentially filling the camp to capacity.
I asked if they'd perhaps move to a bigger location, but they're happy with the current facility, the Voyageur Environmental Center (which runs its own camp for kids for the rest of the Summer). Instead, they'll probably expand to offer two separate weeks of camp.
Now, you may have heard that "Camp Quest was specifically designed for children of Unitarians, atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, humanists, or whatever terms might be applied to those who maintain a naturalistic, not supernaturalistic, world view." Jeannette mentioned her pet peeve is that the press constantly labels it an "atheist camp" (which probably causes some people to imagine it is some sort of indoctrination camp, parallel to Jesus Camp).
However, it is not an atheist camp, it is a secular camp -- which means the kids are encouraged to choose their own labels or choose not to label themselves as they see fit. They are encouraged to develop critical thinking skills and also develop respect and friendship for people they may not entirely agree with. The bottom line is curiosity -- encouraging young minds to explore!!
My kids liked it too -- I may be sending them here in a couple of years.
Opening up these sorts of camps around the country (plus some international) isn't free -- there are big start-up costs in addition to the standard operating costs. That's why we're having a fund-raising competition again this year -- PZ Myers vs. the horde!!
Last year the horde won -- and as part of the bet, I was supposed to get my Mormon relatives to sing some select tunes from The Book of Mormon (the musical) during our big family reunion.
Unfortunately, it didn't work out because we didn't have the community center rented long enough to do a sing-along after the talent show. So, my apologies for not following through -- and I hope to make up for it by helping raise some more money for Camp Quest this year. Please consider making a donation!