April 2020

Camps Offer Unplugged Summers


Ahhhh, the freedom of summer! Every year I count down the days to my favorite season, where memories of worry-free, open-ended, play-filled times bring nostalgic feelings of warmth, peace, contentment, and joy. I picture myself lying on my back under a shaded redwood tree, gazing up into the wide blue expanse of limitless sky. I’m not sure if I actually ever did this, as my personal energy level has consistently been on the upward scale of “always moving,” but even if I never laid still under a tree, this is still my fondest memory of summer.
What I do remember most is freedom. Freedom from the structure of daily schedules. Freedom from the stress of the morning rush out the door. Freedom from the need to be indoors and plugged in. Freedom from the night sky creeping in too early and the daylight fun to end. Life was more relaxed and outdoor play became a priority where friendships formed with whomever was available in each moment, no matter their age or gender.
We didn’t rely on entertainment from mobile devices, nor did any electronic device dictate the rules of our games. We were challenged to be the creative thinkers we were meant to be. I was so fortunate to have grown up in the Los Gatos mountains with redwood trees in my backyard. What we found in the forest became the necessary supplies needed for our made-up games: sticks, branches, stumps, rocks, leaves, acorns, ferns, pinecones, feathers, moss, and even slimy banana slugs. Everything we did led us to new adventures and new rules and new games. Playing in and exploring our natural surroundings always seemed limitless, without fences, without boundaries. Our creativity and imaginations soared.
I wish I could return to that childhood time of unlimited creativity, curiosity, and outdoor adventures, the time before technology seemed to dictate my fast-paced life. Instead my attachment to mobile devices has me shackled to emails, texts, calls, alerts, and updates and continuously diverts my attention away from the present moment of what is happening in my world to the worries of unnecessary urgency in the digital realm. I am highly aware of this unhealthy habit, but haven’t found a cure to break the habit of constantly looking down at my phone instead of up at the big blue sky. What I really need is…summer camp in a redwood forest.

My ideal summer camp for children, when not forced to be sitting at a desk or in front of a computer, is to be “unplugged” and outdoors playing and creating adventures with other children of all ages. Their active, growing bodies need fresh air and outdoor exercise, just as their minds need empty space for creativity and imaginative play. We want our children to have meaningful and memorable experiences and the natural environment is the perfect backdrop to create these lasting memories. Fortunately we live in an area surrounded by redwood forests where these unique summer camps do exist. I wish all children get to experience an outdoor, unplugged summer making memories in the magic of the redwood forest.

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Kami Pacheco is the director of lower school and Mountain of Fun summer camps coordinator at Mount Madonna School. A former resident of the Los Gatos area, Kami now lives with her husband and animals in San Martin, enjoying more of a farm life. She continues to enjoy her daily commutes into the redwood forest.

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