AOA camps are back-country tent camps – no cabins and no campgrounds. The emphasis is on outdoor recreation, education, and healthy activities such as fishing, hiking, horseback riding, outdoor cooking, etc. AOA camps are limited to a maximum of ten children per camp so that no child is left out. Most importantly, AOA staff realize the importance of children knowing that there are adults who accept them, love them unconditionally, and want to assist them to make constructive choices in their lives.
Most, though not all children, come to AOA through established youth organizations such as Helping Hands Housing Services, The Neighborhood Center, Crossroads Youth Intervention, Creighton School Girls’ Clubs, etc. However, AOA will work with any organization that wants to provide a group of children the positive benefits of outdoor camping experiences and activities, especially children that do not have opportunities economically to access the outdoors.
There is an increasing number of children who are missing out on the benefits of outdoor experiences and the accompanying activities and learning that is an integral part of nature.
The need is great. “There’s little doubt a technological revolution is sweeping through children’s lives. The Entertainment Software Association reports that nearly a third of Americans who play computer and/or video games are under 18. A study of the cell phone industry found that up to 70% of 12 to 14-year-olds now have their own phones, as well as a significant number of 5 to 9-year-olds. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, American kids ages 8 to 18 average 44.5 hours per week in front of some kind of screen.” December, 2007 article, Arizona Republic, Reed Karaim. “…long-standing studies show a relationship between the absence, or inaccessibility, of parks and open space with high crime rates, depression, and other urban maladies.” Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods, Page 34.
AOA addresses this need by exposing children who do not have the same opportunities to be in the outdoors as other children do, to the peace and quiet of nature and healthy outdoor activities. “Although scientific studies of the effects of nature on chid development are still in their infancy, quite a few point to a distinctly positive role. Here’s how: Nature can be a stress reducer… Nature can make kids more focused…Nature can enhance a child’s emotional and social development.” November, 2007, USA Weekend
Most of the children attending AOA camps have never known what “nature” is, and time in the outdoors can translate into a new perspective, encouragement, and the opportunity to see a different, more positive side of life.
AOA is funded primarily through private contributions, grants and programs like United Way and eScrip (www.escrip.com).
No. AOA uses various primitive sites throughout National Forest land in the White Mountains of Arizona.
Generally, there are 2-3 adult chaperones that accompany 8-10 children plus AOA staff of one to two adults.
Children benefit experientially when they are exposed to the peace and calm of nature – standing in serene forest meadows, watching deer and elk in their natural habitat, listening to forest sounds through a tent wall, talking around a crackling, leaping campfire, snuggling in a warm sleep bag, hearing the patter of rain on a tent roof, gazing in awe at heaven’s stars never seen in city lights, and catching AND eating your own trout. Spending time away from the noise, heat and concrete of the city will enrich their lives and expand their perspective which can translate into positive changes and choices for their individual lives.
The hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and just the running and playing around camp gives them needed physical exercise which many studies have shown is a great need among America’s children.
AOA camps are primarily recreational, however, there are always informal times while hiking, sitting around a campfire, or fishing when children are more open and eager to talk about their school or family and this naturally leads to opportunities to encourage and teach them. AOA uses RC Cola during camps and has taken advantage of a drink that interests children to teach them about:
– Respect – for themselves and others
– Responsibility – for the outdoor environment
(AOA provides opportunity for children to spend a short time during one day of camp to assist the adults picking up trash along forest roads and other camp sites – teaching respect and responsibility for the forest and land.)
– Cooperation – with their family and others in authority
– Constructive Choices – making constructive, not destructive choices in their lives
A take home gift is given to each child at the end of their camp – a 6 X 8 drawstring, camouflage bag with a flashlight, compass, and an Arizona Outdoor Adventure coozie with a can of RC Cola. The words “Respect, Responsibility, Cooperation and Constructive Choices are printed on each coozie as well as the date of their particular camp with AOA. The can of RC Cola in each coozie is a visible reminder to remember and think about the “Rs” and the “Cs” they learned about while in camp.
AOA’s vision includes seeing year-round outdoor activities for children such as an afternoon hike in local parks, local lake fishing, target shooting and firearm safety, and various other activities that would connect children to the great outdoors and all it’s potential to positively benefit children’s lives.
The “off-season” is used primarily for fundraising, scheduling next season’s camps, meeting with youth organizations’ staff, equipment preparation and repairs, and a multitude of various paperwork etc.
The Fall season changes in the White Mountains is an absolutely beaufiful time – the bright yellows of the Aspen are a gorgeous contrast to the green pine trees. The fishing is actually better in the Fall and there is increased animal activity, especially the elk population, which translates to a rich experience for the children as they listen to and see more elk in their natural habitat. Very importantly, offering camps in September and October provide additional opportunities for more children to experience nature! Organizations can take advantage of this special time in the White Mountains because many schools now have a semi-year round schedule and have a fall break. Also, an organization can schedule a camp over a long week-end in September/October rather than during the week.