Hunger Games Camp Causes Controversy



A Hunger Games-themed Summer camp that culminates in a tournament at which children fight to the "death" (not literally, of course) opened in early August in Florida. The camp hosted by the Country Day School in Largo was inspired by Suzanne Collins' popular novel "The Hunger Games" in which officials in the brutal and repressive "Capitol" force young people from the nation's 12 districts to kill one another in a televised tournament.

The camp is causing some outrage and controversy after a report in the Tampa Bay Times that quoted several kids from 10 to 14 years, "that they were going to kill the other campers by stabbing or shooting them." But camp representatives maintain the kids were misquoted, and the Hunger Games-themed program doesn't feature any violence. They insist that they are using the book as a structure for the campers, without the violent aspects. The camp contains a mix of theatre, arts, academic competitions, and outdoor physical challenges.

Here’s a look at the activities... The camp started off by re-created the opening ceremony from the book with people dressed in costumes. The kids then became part of districts and were made tributes, following the lingo of the book. They learned how to work from the land and build their own crossbows, and to shoot at targets, not each other. They spent the week training and learning about their ancestors.

The camp also featured "mud games" in which the kids play dodgeball, tug-of-war, and did an Outward Bound-like course in the mud.

Organizers of the camp chose to use the book as a theme in part due to its popularity, noting there are "many redeeming subplots." They wanted to engage the kids by using the games to teach about team sports and interaction.

The did however make some changes in response to concerns that "killing" sounded too violent, so instructors altered one of the games. Instead of "killing" each other, the campers would instead "collect lives."  Fortunately, the campers used captured flags instead of weapons.

Despite the controversy, organizers say they plan to hold the "Hunger Games" camp again in the future, and noted they did receive full support from the school children’s parents. The 26 camp slots offered by the school were filled within days as excited boys and girls relished the thought of emulating the film's star Jennifer Lawrence.

Clinical psychologist Susan Toler told the NY Daily News that the very idea of such a camp was "unthinkable." When children read the books or watch the movie they're observers and removed from the killing, she said. "But when ‘they start thinking and owning and adopting and assuming the roles, it becomes closer to them. The violence becomes less egregious."

For more information on the camp visit: www.countrydaylargo.com.

Would you immerse your kids in an environment where they are able to 'act out' or imagine themselves fighting to the death like the characters in this best-selling novel and hit-movie franchise? Even though the camp has toned down the violence in its activities, what kind of message does this send to the children? Would you send your kid to this camp? Sound off below!

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