A New Idea in Summer Camps
Eventually, Says Matt Werner of St. Louis, an Authority on Camp Life, the Public School System Will Send Its Pupils to the Woods, Lakes and Mountains as Part of Its General Program of Education, and Without Cost. How This Man, Who Refused to Go to College, Found His Life Work in Boys.
St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat
Sunday Morning, April 21, 1935
By Edna Warren
That free summer camps for children will some day become an integral part of every city school system is prophesied by Matt Werner, 5515 Cates avenue, chairman of the St. Louis Community Council Camp Conference and private camp owner and director. They will be developed to utilize the long summer school vacation, which is an antiquated inheritance from Colonial days, when schools were dismissed in the summer so children could help with the farm work, he explains. Under totally different social and industrial conditions, it not only is wasted time, but often a real menace to turn children loose in cities for three months with nothing to occupy their time and with little or no provision for their mental, physical or recreational advancement, he declares.
Private summer camps for children whose parents can afford to pay, which have sprung up almost as if by magic during the last decade by almost every lakeside and mountain, are the forerunners of public summer camps which will be free to all children, he believes, just as private schools furnished educational advantages before the state recognized its responsibility in affording the same privileges for all children.
The vision of the St. Louis public schools operating free summer camps for all school children is no more of an educational innovation than that of Susan Blow more than half a century ago. Starting “babies” to school, insists Werner, a daring young St. Louis educator who never went to college. It is not unbelievable that an energetic, original young man, who in a dozen years has made himself one of the outstanding private summer camp experts in the country, may be able to introduce his progressive educational theories on camping as part of the public school curriculum. American kindergartens started in St. Louis, and now some say why not public school camping?
Werner’s book, “My Child and Camp,” recently published by the Clark-Sprague Company, has been appraised as one of the most practical contributions to literature on camp work. Written primarily for parents interested in camping for their ______ and for camp directors, it is being used as a textbook throughout the country by Scout and “Y” leaders, as well as those directly interested in progressive education.
As a member of the National Camp Directors’ Association, which has about 500 members composed of camp owners and directors, Werner is taking the initiative in establishing some kind of standards and requirements for camps that will help the public in judging their value, much as schools have set up group standards for themselves for their own improvement and the public’s information. The development of summer camping has been so rapid, and is so often carried on by persons without training or experience, that standard for evaluating individual camps are sorely needed, Werner says. He believes such work should be accomplished by the operators themselves.