Someone Has Managed to Make Summer Camp Even Nerdier

By Rob Bricken in Nerdery
Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 11:19 am
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From Boston.com:

At Wizards & Warriors day camp in Burlington, though, taking up foam swords and crossbows against a sea of troublesome villains - human and otherwise - is all in a day's work. And play.

Thus, on a recent afternoon that brought the camp's first week to its epic finale, two dozen costumed players, some as young as 7, girded themselves for combat. The action was intense, the rebel forces victorious. In the end, order was restored to the fictional realm of Sidleterra.

Afterward, several campers indicated they'd be returning the next week to pick up where their characters had left off. Others looked forward to attending a two-week overnight camp later this month, where the storyline and fantasy setting promised to be even more elaborate.

"It's like experiencing the past but in your own way,'' said Duncan Sharp, 12, who had modeled his game character on a figure from the card game Magic: The Gathering. Nearby, Liam Johansson, 10, exclaimed: "You get to fight with swords. How much better could a camp get?''

...

"In most games, dying is a big deal, because you may not get back into the game,'' adds Gardner. "We made dying cheap. At our residential camp, you have a chat with Death, who's in full costume, and negotiate your way back into the adventure. In gym class, you might stand on the sidelines for the rest of the game. Here, because there's no winning or losing, kids are more likely to take risks - and that's what we're trying to teach them to do.''

Twenty percent have a high-functioning form of autism, according to Gardner, who says the camp was not specifically designed for special-needs kids but evolved instead from swordsmanship and martial arts classes she's been offering to kids for the past 10 years.

...

According to counselor director Christopher Wiley, the biggest beneficiary is a child with an active imagination but underdeveloped social skills. "Most of our kids are kind of introverted in general,'' Wiley says. "But they become extroverts once they get out there waving swords and bumping into each other.''

Boys outnumber girls about 3 to 1, but that gap is narrowing, say staff members. Gwen Wilbert, 12, was among the handful of girls attending camp's first week. She got interested in the camp after taking swordsmanship classes at Guard Up. "I like doing this more in real life than in a computer game,'' Wilbert said. "It's more interactive, more spur of the moment. You don't choose from a set of things to say and get a canned response.''

I was all set to crack a few jokes -- probably something about there's being a class on how to minimize damage when getting beaten up by the football team -- but this sounds too damned awesome for even me to make fun of. Not only does it sound like an incredibly amount of nerdy fun, not only does it sound like a safe place for young nerdlings to let their freak flags fly, but it sounds genuinely useful and helpful. Right the hell on. Obviously, I only posted a few clips; if you're interested, you should read the whole article here. Even if you don't have a nerdy kid in your life, it's pretty heartwarming. Much thanks to SeltzerKing for the tip.

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