Summer camps are for getting kids outdoors, but more frequent heat waves force changes

Summer camps are for getting kids outdoors, but more frequent heat waves force changes

SeattlePI.com

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OREGONIA, Ohio (AP) — At the end of their weeklong sleepaway camp, a hush falls over the boisterous kids at YMCA’s Camp Kern as they prepare for a treasured annual tradition: after songs and skits around a bonfire, they write down their favorite memories on slips of paper. Most years, they toss them into the flames, and the ash that rises and then falls over their heads is meant to symbolize the joy they shared.

But this year, it was too hot for a bonfire.

Even as the sun went down, on a day when the high hit 92 degrees Fahrenheit (33 Celsius) with oppressive humidity, kids wiped sweat from their foreheads, flocked to water coolers to refill bottles and fanned themselves to try to get a breeze going. At the end of the night, they burned their memory notes in a small bucket.

It's just one way American summer camps have had to adapt as climate change fuels extreme heat events that can start earlier in the season and keep heat lingering well into the night. Camp administrators, counselors and experts say such camps are a great way for kids to develop social skills, learn outside of the classroom and connect with nature. But running them is getting harder and more expensive as camps look for ways to better provide access to water and cooling and better prepare staff to take care of young people.

“Extreme heat is serious. We have to really focus on carefully and thoughtfully planning the program to adapt to these situations," said Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO of the American Camp Association, a nonprofit that provides research and resources to improve camps. He said the ACA has had climate change on its radar for many years as an issue that affects camp programming.

In 2011, for example, a dozen Girl Scouts were treated for heat-related illnesses at a camp in Connecticut. In 2015, two children were hospitalized with...

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