My name is Laura Bruce and I am in my fourth and final semester of the Early Childhood Education program at Georgian College in Orillia, Ontario. On April 5, I interviewed Ross McIntyre, who runs the Climbing Tree Tutoring initiative at Camp Couchiching. I learned a lot about the camp and the different things they do for the community.
Camp Couchiching is located outside Orillia, Ontario. This camp has been around since 1946. They offer a summer overnight camp, educational programs for schools as well as different community initiatives. The Climbing Tree Tutoring program is made up of Bachelor of Education students from Lakehead University; twelve are currently tutoring children. This initiative is a unique approach to tutoring with the vision that how students learn is just as important as what they learn. They saw a need for more tutoring for local children as well as more hands-on learning, play-based learning and outdoor activities. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tutoring program was run virtually. One benefit, they expanded their reach and had one student from outside Simcoe county.
This Fall they plan to operate an outdoor school program, hopefully in person, with virtual components. Camp Couchiching is an independent, not-for-profit organization and is not connected to bigger organizations. This brings both challenges and freedom; they are able to make decisions easier and do new things quickly. However, there may not be as much support or funding available. Last summer overnight camps were not able to operate in the province of Ontario, The camp has a big alumni community and has been successful with different grants, and mandated to carry out community-based programs during Covid, including tutoring as well as planting community gardens.
Camp Couchiching is focused on inclusivity and fostering youth development. They provide youth with many different opportunities. StandUP Orillia is a program that brings bullying awareness to schools and community groups. Camp Couchiching’s community leadership program for ages 13 -16 runs once a week and teaches about leadership and positive role modelling. It encourages the youth to volunteer with different organizations within the community. They also offer in-school programming at low cost covering leadership, problem solving and team building.
The camp balances being a social enterprise with making a profit. This is done by ensuring they are breaking even and slowly expanding and offering more programs. I look forward to keeping up with this organization and hopefully one day being a part of it. I wish them all the best in the future.