Each year, my boys, along with a couple of their friends, attend Culture Camp at our church. Culture Camp can easily be described as a concept in a few short sentences, but it’s hard to relate how much the kids actually learn in that same short way.

First, I suppose I should answer the obvious question. Think of Culture Camp as sort of the UUs’ answer to vacation Bible school. Culture Camp, and the related Peace Out camp for younger kids, is a study of peace and the people of the world. Each year, they “visit” three different countries, and the children learn about customs, language, food and art. This year, I believe the kids visited Costa Rica, Tibet (wonderfully appropriate choice this year!), and South Africa. The prevailing theme throughout, however, is peace.

I love this. I can’t convey how much I love it. Not only are the kids excited to learn about cultures different from our own, they’re learning at an early age how peace can influence us all. The best part is that the counselors don’t talk down to them. I don’t believe children need to be treated in the Victorian fashion…they are not miniature adults. However, neither are they stupid, and the difficulties of the world do not need to be completely hidden from them. By exposing them to what’s going on in the greater world at such a young age, I hope we’re raising young men who will be aware of the global culture and who will fight (peacefully) for what is Good and Right.

That’s not to say this camp is about what’s wrong with the world. On the contrary, it’s all about what’s right. It has opened up some great opportunities for discussion, though. It becomes easier to explain the political undercurrents surrounding the upcoming Olympic Games when they’ve already had a simple exposure to Tibet and China. When we see Nelson Mandela flash across the television screen, his complex life becomes something relatable when they’ve read stories of his homeland, listened to the music of his people, and chowed down on mealie pap they made themselves.

We are citizens of the world, a fact which too many people forget, and which others take for granted. I hope my boys will do neither.