When Country Day School in Largo, Florida, named their summer camp The Hunger Games, they thought it would be a fun theme that was popular with kids. Instead, adults were chagrined by the excited, violent talk among the participants. Campers practiced for the big Friday tournament with flags representing their "life." But they talked about killing each other, just like in the movie The Hunger Games.
On Wednesday morning, the camp's head counselor, Lindsey Gillette, told the campers there would be a rule change to Friday's Hunger Games tournament. Instead of "killing" each other by taking flags, the campers would instead "collect lives." Whoever had the most flags would win.
Gillette told the campers she changed the rules so that no one would get out early and have to sit on the sidelines. But privately, she said the violence the kids had expressed was off-putting. She wanted the camp to focus on team-building activities.
And there were team-building activities, but the kids also learned strategy, conspiracy, and the art of the double-cross. You have to wonder what the camp officials were thinking when they announced the theme for this year's camp.
Susan Toler, a clinical psychologist specializing in children's issues and an assistant dean at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, called the camp idea "unthinkable."
When children read books or watch movies, they're observers, removed from the killing. "But when they start thinking and owning and adopting and assuming the roles, it becomes closer to them," Toler said. "The violence becomes less egregious."