The University Fresh Air Camp
The University of Michigan Fresh Air Camp is situated twenty-four miles northwest of Ann Arbor, on Patterson Lake, which is one of a chain of seven small lakes near Pinckney, Michigan. The camp property comprises about three hundred acres of virgin hardwood adjacent to the George Reserve, in the Pinckney State Recreation Area near the state-owned Waterloo Recreational project. The camp is one of the best equipped of its type in the country. At present there are twenty-six permanent buildings, including a main lodge, women's dormitories, classrooms, cabins, a workshop, and a modern health unit. Boats, tents, and camping and sports equipment are available.
The camp serves a four-fold purpose: for children with behavior problems, a service to referral agencies, a training center for students, and a recreation camp for University students. For the camper it is a vacation camp. Every effort is made to give each boy all the fun that camping and outdoor life provide. Campers are selected on the basis of their need for the type of program offered. While the camping experience becomes a part of the boy's year-round socio-educational program he is never aware of the treatment aspects. The fundamental purpose of the Fresh Air Camp is to provide an outstanding camping experience for boys who, by reason of economic limitations and behavior aberrations, would not otherwise have a camping opportunity. The core of the program is the mental hygiene approach of utmost respect for the individual boy's personality.
About 240 boys between the ages of seven and fourteen come to camp each summer. Each boy is sent by one of some twenty-five co-operating school, social, and casework agencies. Each agency works with the boy before he comes to camp and selects him because of his need for specialized camping. The agency provides the camp with extensive material on the boy, his problems, and his background. When he goes home, the agency continues treatment, utilizing the record made of his camp behavior.
The boys themselves present a wide range of behavior problems. Some are having difficulties in school, some in the home, and some in the community at large. Occasionally, the camp represents merely the opportunity for the "regular boy" to be away from the pressures and stress of an unfortunate environment. Most often, however, the boys have already developed symptoms of maladjustment, sometimes severe and deeply rooted.
Some of the children come from institutional placement or foster homes. Many are the products of broken homes. Some have records as delinquents. As a consequence of their backgrounds, these boys present problematic behavior in a far higher incidence than would be true in the usual camp. Many times they are very difficult to manage. At all times they present a challenge to the insight and ingenuity of the adult. Of course, there are positive aspects. No counselor leaves camp without having experienced the satisfaction of seeing a boy respond favorably to healthful treatment and express his need for real affection. Often the attachment of a boy for camp and for counselor does not end with the close of the season, but continues for years.
Such boys give the student an opportunity Page 1600to telescope, into one brief summer, contact with a variety of personality types. Although the camp's therapeutic objective is to help the boy as much as possible, there is no expectation of complete treatment, yet on occasion surprising improvement takes place. The counselor must be tireless in his efforts to build a program which serves the need of the boys and must at all times relate to the boy in a nonpunitive fashion.
The Fresh Air Camp is, for the camper, a vacation camp. He comes for fun and expects to do the things which camp life offers. The diagnosis, study, or research carried on by the staff cannot interfere with his good time.
The camp serves the referral agencies and the campers, through the agencies, by submitting carefully compiled reports of a diagnostic nature on each camper.
As a training center the camp offers opportunities to fifty students for study of individual and group behavior on an undergraduate and graduate level. These students are able to earn as many as eight hours of credit for courses in sociology, education, psychology, social work, and physical education.
The instructional staff is constantly at hand to interpret and to help the counselor with behavior problems. The counselor is never alone. At every stage he works within a framework so that the situation will be one of learning and creativity. While much is compressed into the intense, brief period of nine weeks, it is done with plan and purpose for the student's advantage. The type of child attending the camp facilitates this learning. The staff's help and support make possible the student's rapid introduction to therapeutic relationships.
All staff members share the simple facilities of camp life. The men counselors sleep in cabins with the campers when on duty, and the women counselors are housed in separate dormitories. The counselors are responsible for sharing such work as may be necessary to keep the quarters and facilities in order.
The Fresh Air Camp is now in its thirty-fourth season. In 1921 a group of University students under the leadership of Lewis C. Reimann ('16) began a volunteer project to give city boys a camping opportunity. The University Summer Session in 1937, offered the counselors a series of graduate courses related to the camp program. The camp was officially accepted by the Board of Regents in June, 1944.
In January, 1946, the Fresh Air Camp was placed in the University's Institute for Human Adjustment in order that its program might be integrated with the other professional activities of that agency. The University provides the funds for the educational aspects of the camp. Other expenses such as food, equipment, and maintenance continue to be borne by social agencies and friends of the camp.
The directors since Mr. Reimann have included George G. Adler, F. N. Menefee, William C. Morse, and Edward J. Slezak. Control of the policies is vested in a University committee composed of representatives of such units as the School of Social Work. Various student groups are also represented.