So what is CampQuest? The mission of CampQuest is best described by CampQuest's own vision/mission statement as:
"Camp Quest envisions a world in which children grow up exploring, thinking for themselves, connecting with their communities, and acting to make the most of life for themselves and others. Camp Quest provides an educational adventure shaped by fun, friends and freethought, featuring science, natural wonder and humanist values."
The website goes on to say:
"Camp Quest is a place for fun, friends, and freethought for kids ages 8-17. Our camps provide a traditional sleepaway summer camp experience with a wide range of activities including sports, crafts, games, swimming, and campfires. In addition to our traditional summer camp activities, Camp Quest offers educational activities focused on critical thinking, ethics, scientific inquiry, philosophy, and comparative religion.
Camp Quest is open to all children and teenagers within the accepted age range, but it is particularly geared towards building a community for children from atheist, agnostic, humanist and other freethinking families. Our goal is to provide a place where children can explore their developing worldviews, ask questions, and make friends in an environment that is supportive of critical thinking and skepticism."
Too often this has been described by religious groups as a camp that teaches immoral, godless lessons to children. This is so far off base as to be labeled as beyond ridiculous. CampQuest is not anti-religion in any way. In fact, both when we dropped off and picked up our daughter, there was a table of free books that contained a great deal of religious materials across several religions. There were science books, a few books questioning aspects of religion, but many books with a pro-religion stance, including several children's books of biblical stories. CampQuest promotes critical thinking in ALL areas. If CampQuest takes any stance on religion, it is that it is each individual's choice to be religious or not, and they encourage everyone to investigate for themselves the different religions of the world. In fact, CampQuest's response to religion on their FAQ is:
ARE CAMPERS AT CAMP QUEST REQUIRED TO BE ATHEISTS?
No. Campers at Camp Quest are encouraged to think for themselves and are not required to hold any particular view. We firmly believe that children should not be labeled with worldview labels by adults, and instead should be encouraged to ask questions and explore different worldviews as they grow. We do present atheism and humanism as valid and reasonable options for an ethical and fulfilling life.
Yes. Campers at Camp Quest explore different worldviews, and many children have not yet formed their beliefs on the existence of God. Campers who believe in God may get a lot of interested questions from their fellow campers, but the camp environment fosters asking these questions in a spirit of dialogue and mutual respect. Campers who have expressed belief in God have had fun, made friends, and had a great Camp Quest experience.
I asked my daughter if the camp counselors ever discussed religion and her answer was no, the topic never came up. I asked her if any of the other campers discussed religion and again she said no. In other words, the campers were way too busy having fun with other activities to worry about who was religious and who wasn't religious!
Now that I've made it clear religion was not a part of this camp, what was part of this camp? At CampQuest my daughter reported canoeing (full day!), archery, swimming at the onsite pool everyday, soccer, 9-square (similar to 4 square but with 9 people), Ga-Ga (common game at schools, please don't ask me how to play because I don't know!), campfires, s'mores, Socrates' Cafe, arts/crafts, and science. Just hearing all of this I am super jealous I'm an adult and can't attend CampQuest as a camper! Socrates' Cafe is a round table discussion in which campers come up with deep thinking questions and provide responses/solutions. This is one of the activities at CampQuest that goes a long way in showing campers that everyone has different opinions on different issues but that it is important to respect differences in opinions, even if you don't agree with them.
My daughter reported several science activities that were hands-on. These included science experiments, as well as trips down to the on-site pond to observe and talk about nature. My daughter was very big on this. CampQuest had several activities going on at once so campers broke up into groups based on what they chose to do. My daughter chose to do several of the science activities and skipped Scorates' Cafe a few of the days. That's fine. I can see Socrates' Cafe being a bit more challenging to the younger campers and more appealing to older campers.
Campers stayed in cabins divided by self-defined gender. Girls' cabins were on one side of the camp and boys' cabins were on the other side. My daughter's cabin had 5 campers and 3 counselors. Each cabin had 3 counselors so there was plenty adult over-sight at this camp. Each set of cabins had a separate shower facility. Note I said self-defined gender above. CampQuest is very LGBTQ friendly. This camp is open to EVERYONE! Well, anyone aged 8 to 17. In fact, at the dining hall, there were signs over both of the bathroom doors, traditionally marked boys and girls. One sign said "This is a bathroom." The other sign on the second bathroom said "This is another bathroom." I love this! We focus far too much on gender in this country. A bathroom is a bathroom. As long as individual stalls are private, who cares who pees and poops in which bathroom!?!?!
I honestly have no criticisms of CampQuest. If I really thought about it, I suppose I could say that more pictures could have been posted to the private CampQuest families facebook page. Pictures were posted on 3 or 4 days. But the counselors are busy people during camp and downtime for them to post pictures is very limited! Although there could have been more pictures, I was very pleased with their efforts to post some pictures and keep parents in the loop. Communication prior to camp week was excellent as well. There was a phone meeting for first time parents of campers prior to camp and there was a great deal of information sent out ahead of time to help prepare your camper for camp.
To conclude (okay, maybe not as I went another several paragraphs), this was an absolutely amazing experience for my daughter and one I have absolutely no regrets. She really wants to go back next year. She made some wonderful friends. In fact, at pickup, I noticed several campers running around giving hugs to the friends they made and telling them they'll see them next year, prior to leaving. At this point I'd say there's a 99% chance of my daughter returning next year. I'll never say 100% as there are always things that could come up that prevent her from attending camp, but I do know this camp will be a scheduling priority for my daughter!
My 7 year old turns 8 next year and is eligible for camp as well. Although she could go, I'd put the odds of her attending at 80/20 against. At this point I really don't see her being ready to go away for a week, but you never know. A few months can result in great changes for a growing child. Unfortunately we don't have a full year to determine whether our youngest daughter will attend CampQuest next year. Camp registration typically opens in January/February prior to the summer camps. It all depends on camp location, but most of these camps fill up very quickly and have wait-lists. The camp at the location we attended filled up and started a wait-list around March 2017. I do know several of the kids on the wait-list made it, but it all depends on how many counselors a camp can secure and how many kids overall sign up. My suggestion is to investigate CampQuest early, pay attention to the release of camp dates, starting in early January, and make a commitment early.
For more information on camp locations, go here:
This site also lists the 2017 prices. For a full week camp, prices range from $400-700. Some locations have tiered pricing. Some do not. Some camps offer multiple weeks of camp. Others offer just one week. For a full week I feel the price to camp is very reasonable and on par with other week long camps. There is financial assistance available for lower income families unable to afford the full cost of the camp. CampQuest is also a growing camp. It started out in 1996 with one week of camp at one location only. It slowly grew over the next few years and then started to expand quickly, starting about 10 years ago. I'm trying to remember the numbers presented to me when I dropped off my daughter, but I believe total camper numbers across the current 16 locations (spread across the U.S.) was around 1600 in 2015. Numbers continue to go up, with projections of an increase in 100 campers each of the next few years.
To conclude (for real this time!), my daughter loved CampQuest! If you have any questions, please let me know through a comment. We asked other parents of their experiences and this was a big help in deciding to allow our daughter to attend. I am more than happy to share more of my experience or answer specific questions if you have them!