While teenagers may be dreaming of the lie-ins, laziness, and freedom that the summer holidays afford, many parents of teens might not find the same joy in considering how to keep their teenager sufficiently occupied and stimulated for weeks on end during the long summer break - which can extend to as much as 10 weeks or more in some European countries.
Explorer Camps Slovenia – “More than just a camp, a home away from home”
Enter Explorer Camps, the leading teen camp in Europe. Explorer have been running technology-free camps in the great outdoors since 2016, and they continue to get bigger and better every year. Based in Slovenia, a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike, ideally located in the heart of Europe, Explorer camps offer an incredible outdoor experience for teenagers aged up to 17 years old. Based in the comfort of a traditional family-run hotel on the banks of the stunning Kolpa River, teens have the opportunity to try out a variety of outdoor adventure activities daily, including rafting, sailing, scuba-diving, the adventure park, climbing and paintball. Other activities include horse-riding, archery, hiking, swimming in the on-site pool, and a range of exciting whole-camp evening events and activities arranged by the counsellors.
With the camp very much child-centred, focussing on the needs and development of each camper as an individual, the real value of the camp goes far beyond the endless activities and opportunities for adventure on offer. The camps intend to inspire and empower teenagers, challenging them in a variety of ways and helping prepare them for real life. Teens become immersed into an incredibly caring environment with a very personal touch. All staff undertake an extensive camp training programme, and unlike many other camp environments, the majority of counsellors are professionally trained teachers, allowing them to use their wealth of experience and knowledge of child development to guide teenagers on their camp journey. With an extremely high staff-camper ratio of 1:4, the Explorer team also includes dedicated nurses to ensure the highest levels of care, and a camp photographer to help capture the memories and share teens’ experiences with parents daily while the teenagers are away at camp.
Underpinning all the activities are the core camp values of respect, responsibility, care, honesty and adventure. With the help of teenagers’ mentors, these values are reinforced through both daily reflection sessions and the Explorer reward and recognition programme, which received great feedback from both campers and parents following its introduction in 2021.
Explorer camps have a ‘family feeling’ with the directors and counsellors offering a highly individualised approach. Parents are included throughout the camp journey, starting with extensive contact with the camper and their family well before the start of camp, and continuing afterwards, with parents receiving a report post-camp detailing their teenagers’ progress while away. With the camp forming a tight-knit community with a real sense of belonging, a large proportion of campers return year after year. As such the Explorer team like to think of themselves as more than just a camp, but rather ‘a home away from home’. New for 2022 will be the introduction of monthly ‘virtual camps’, so that the close bonds and friendships formed during the summer can continue throughout the year.
TEEN CAMPS EUROPE
Explorer Teen camps are split into age-based groups, with 13 to 14 year-olds forming the ‘Trailblazers’ group & 15 to 17 year-olds the ‘Pathfinders’. Explorer promotes teens’ independence by offering a separate hotel building dedicated solely to the teen groups, while teenagers are given added freedom through the opportunity to plan and schedule their entire week. With an incredible choice of different activities to pick and choose from on a daily basis, every teenager is sure to find something for them.
Teenagers are treated as young adults and given both additional freedom and obligations in an effort to promote responsibility and develop their independence and maturity, while specially designed 'Teens only' activities have been created to push teenagers to step outside of their comfort zone, helping them develop their teamwork skills, decision-making ability, self-confidence and resilience.
TEEN LEADERSHIP EUROPE
With Explorer building on the camp programme year on year, brand new for 2022 is the addition of a Teen Leadership Programme to the European summer camp programme. The first such teen leadership programme launched on camps in Europe is designed for 13 to 17 year-olds who want to develop leadership skills and be better prepared for life. Teens are challenged to create, plan and lead activities within the camp environment. The programme gives teenagers an opportunity to develop practical leadership skills while making new friends and having fun, and teen leaders become role models for other campers.
The teen leadership program comprises three separate, but complementary programmes, categorised according to age, starting with the Junior Leaders-in-Training (JLITs), for teens aged 13-14, on to Leaders-in-Training (LITs) for 15-16 year olds, and progressing to Counsellors-in-Training (CITs) for the oldest teenagers on camp (17 year olds). This offers a comprehensive leadership program for older teenagers, while also providing opportunities for younger teenagers on camp to begin their leadership journey and develop their skills over a period of up to 5 years. Every teenager receives personal mentorship from an experienced Explorer counsellor, who guides, supports and teaches the young leaders throughout their two-week journey. Regular on-camp workshops are in place to develop teens' practical experience, using a mix of theory and hands-on sessions.
The teen leadership program is exclusively available for teenagers who stay on the European camp for two weeks. Teenagers remain a regular part of their group throughout the daily activity sessions, but, with the support of senior counsellors they are given additional opportunities during the camp to develop their leadership, organisation and communication skills. A variety of methods are used in the programme including daily mentoring, practical workshops, and hands-on leadership experience with other campers.
The leadership programme builds on the core values of the camp, and, regardless of their age or stage in the journey, campers joining the leadership programme are expected to start with the core camp leadership values, meaning they should be reliable, hard-working, committed, and motivated. The programme seeks to build on these by developing a number of key leadership qualities, including decision-making, self-awareness, interpersonal skills, planning and organisation, and creativity. These skills can be developed year on year, with new modules added at each stage of the programme such that a teenager can build on their leadership abilities as they grow.
In addition to the programme-specific modules, campers on the teen leadership programme learn new practical and life skills through participation in a 2-week community service project, and further have the opportunity to become certified in other key skills (emergency first response and mental health first aid training will both be offered in 2022, for example). These are ‘life’ programs that give teenagers the opportunity to develop strong leadership skills, self-confidence and maturity within the fun and safety of a camp setting. These skills are not only useful to teen leaders during the camp, but will help teenagers throughout their lives as they support and lead the groups and communities they become a part of.
THE EXPLORER FACTOR
Are you thinking of sending your teenager to camp this summer? Here are 5 great reasons for your teen to choose Explorer camps:
- Explorer camps allow your teenager to take a complete break from technology and the digital world as there is a strict no-screen policy with all devices being removed from teenagers on arrival. Instead teenagers reconnect with nature and the great outdoors, enjoying a stunning remote location between a river and mountains in the awesome natural beauty of Slovenia.
- Explorer camps awaken your teenager’s spirit of adventure – with more than 35 activities to choose from and teenagers enjoying 2-3 activities every day, Explorer offers an action-packed itinerary which is sure not to disappoint. Activities include rafting, paintballing, scuba-diving, sailing and horse-riding, and teens can pick and choose activities to make an itinerary to suit themself.
- Explorer is more than just a camp, it is a comprehensive educational programme. Camp values form the foundation of the camp and counsellors have a highly individualised approach to teenagers, paying great attention to the personal development of each and every camper.
- Explorer fosters teenagers’ sense of independence, and helps them grow in maturity and self-confidence. Teens learn a whole host of life skills while at camp, and an additional leadership programme is available for any teenagers wishing to step up to the next level
- Explorer camps allow teenagers to make lifelong friends from all around the world, having welcomed campers from more than 47 different countries to date. For many campers this also provides a great opportunity to practice English outside the classroom, in a real-world environment. The strong friendships formed help give the camp that strong ‘family feel’, and is one of the big reasons that 70% of campers return year after year.
In 2022 Explorer are running five teen summer camps across July and August. Priced at 699 euros for a 7-day camp, the package includes hotel accommodation, all meals and activities and 24/7 supervision with a 4:1 student: staff ratio. Entry to the teen leadership programme is by application only, beginning with a short letter of application to outline why you would like to join the programme. Further details can be found on the website www.explorercamps.com/summer-camps/ or check out Explorer’s ninety 5-star reviews on Google.