For 93 years, Rick Littlefield, and his father before him, have directed Robin Hood Camp – Maine, re-nowned globally, for boys and girls ages 7-16. Their program has evolved to become a destination for discriminating families looking for a multi-cultural experience to broaden their childrens’ minds and for them to become increasingly adaptive and aware that there is far more to the world than just home experiences. With Robin Hood attracting families from 40 countries this past season, no other camp program in the world offers this degree of diversity.
A strict “English only” speaking policy has been instrumental to the program’s success. As a condition for acceptance, every camper and their parents must sign a contract promising to speak English at all times, and also be fully committed to interacting with and inclusive of campers from different nationalities. Campers found speaking in a language other than English are immediately sent to English class for an hour instead of participating in their chosen sport or activity. Parents are sent an email informing them that their child has violated the English language contract and asking for their support. Parents are then charged for the mandatory English class.The system works and maximizes inclusivity and minimizes the formation of cultural cliques. European camps with campers from many cultures are notorious for the children to perpetually speak in their native language and interact mostly with peers from their home country. This behavior defeats the greatest benefit of an international experience. Robin Hood’s approach and policies creates a far more successful international model and experience.
Says Rick Littlefield. “We’ve always strived to be inclusive in everything that we offer, and we have recruited children from around the world to spend their summers making new friends, living with an incredibly diverse group of people, trying new activities, challenging them to get out of their comfort zones. Comfortability is much overrated. Children, and adults, learn and grow far more when they reach outside their comfort zones. It’s a beautiful experience to watch the entire community grow and evolve as the weeks go by.”
Interviewing campers before acceptance is a critical element of the recruiting process, and a key to Robin Hood’s sustained success It is an admissions requirement for every camper candidate to be interviewed personally by Rick Littlefield and also submit two strong positive teacher recommendations. Each year, the Littlefields travel to more than twenty different countries to interview potential campers. “No other summer camps go to such extreme measures to ensure diversity in their programs,and to ensure the good citizenship, positive attitude, and behavior of their campers. This is our trademark.”
The global community experience and selectivity of the camper community impress prospective Robin Hood parents. Rick Littlefield adds, “However, kids just want to have fun, play, and feel free from the oppression of the highly competitive educational demands put on them. Most of our campers go to the best, most rigorous schools in their area, and are under intense pressure to perform. Escaping to a place that values joyfulness and fun helps to remind children that life can, and should be, a joyful experience to be looked forward to. Their batteries get re-charged at Robin Hood Camp so that when they return home they are in a better mindset to take on the rigors of academics feeling less crushed.
Each camper gets to build and create their own personalized program and choose exactly what they want to participate in and at what level of competition. No camper is told “sorry we don’t have room in that activity today or sorry you were too late to sign up for that specific activity, or sorry you aren’t skilled enough for that activity.” Making their own choices, without adult interference gives children empowerment, let’s them know that their opinions and choices matter and are respected, gives them a feeling of freedom children value tremendously. and gives them independence and increased self-confidence. There are many wins to the Robin Hood Camp approach and philosophy.
Not to be lost in the shuffle or under-valued, the Robin Hood Activities & Trips programs are unprecedented in their wide range of opportunities. Plus, the coaching in many of the sports and activities are World Class, not something found in traditional summer camps..
“We’ve created a truly inviting, dynamic and developmentally rich summer camp program in one of the most beautiful places on earth,” says Rick Littlefield. “It wouldn’t be right to share Robin Hood with only children from the U.S.”