Tour The Camp

Sangamon began as part of the progressive education movement of the Twenties, and we’ve been teaching life skills since 1922. The camp’s unique mission and philosophy places the boys at the center of what we do, giving them tools they will use for the rest of their lives

We believe that independence, responsibility and decision-making are essential skills, and that children learn best by “doing”. We put campers in charge of their own time, give them a wide range of activity options, and let them design their day themselves. Given freedom and responsibility, boys discover who they are and where their talents lie. They try new things, polish previously known skills, and build self-confidence in all that they do. They concentrate on areas that interest them, and move on when they’ve accomplished what they set out to do. It’s a wonderful thing to see, and we’ve been seeing its success for generations.

We structure each day into four activity periods. Most of these periods offer between fifteen and twenty instructional activities for your son to choose from. There are also regular trips out of camp to take advantage of Vermont’s immense natural beauty and cultural opportunities.

So how does a boy choose from all these great options? At the end of each meal, Counselors enthusiastically announce and present their plans for the upcoming activity sessions. Following a cabin cleanup, our activity bell rings and the campers simply go to whatever activity they’ve chosen. Although many boys haven’t experienced this level of freedom and responsibility, most take to it immediately. Forget what’s on offer? Need some help choosing? There’s a board in the dining room outlining the day’s plans, and our various directorial staff in the building always welcome the chance to step out of the office and lend their wisdom to an uncertain camper.

The choices are all good, and the activities are all interesting, challenging, and well-taught. We require that boys go to an activity every period, but their specific choices are all their own.

Boys don’t sign up for much at Camp Sangamon, but our trips out of camp to go canoeing, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, sailing, caving, and mountain biking do need sign-ups for logistic reasons. Every boy may sign up for trips that interest him, and the trip staff create adventures appropriate to the age and skills of the boys who’ve opted in. A typical summer has 600 names in our trip log, an average of three trips per camper.

Every coin has two sides, and we believe in teaching responsibility as well as freedom and independence. All the campers and staff share in the daily chores that keep the camp running. If you’re looking for a camp where the counselors make your son’s bed, you’ve come to the wrong place. Every boy has an assigned age-appropriate cabin job in addition to responsibility for the upkeep of their personal space. Outside of the cabin, campers participate in the cleaning, dishwashing, re-cycling, kitchen, and dining room work. The end result is that boys develop a sense of pride and responsibility for their work, and ownership of our physical space. Most boys enjoy the role they play in helping the community function.

Cabin life is the crucible for developing social skills. Our cabins are simple, made of pine boards, and non-electrified. It feels a little like living in a tree house, in tune with the natural world. The people in each cabin quickly become like family, though, and the cabins themselves quickly become “home”. Cabin groups eat together, work together, and have group-specific time together each week. The campers learn each other’s differences- strengths, and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. A typical cabin group will have three counselors- one female and two males. All counselors go through our staff training each year, and the majority of the male counselors have bee through our multi-year leadership training program. We guide these groups with a light hand, giving them the opportunity to sort things out by themselves whenever possible. With three experienced staff in a cabin, though, we’re never far from the groups if our help is needed.

We pride ourselves on our diverse community. Camp Sangamon is a summer home to people of different races, religions, and nationalities. Campers and staff come from all over the world, and it’s normal for more than a dozen countries to be represented. Our staff is made up of both men and women with a multitude of talents. We don’t see skills as gender based at Sangamon- in any given summer you might find a female woodshop counselor or a male weaver or potter. Our counselors represent a range of ages, backgrounds, and experience. They are all role models with skills and values well worth emulating.

The impact of this experience is strong and long-lasting. Many older campers say that this is the one place where they can really be themselves, and that their camp friends are their best friends. The development of the internet and communications has allowed for the boys who meet at camp to be an ongoing part of each other’s daily lives. The Sangamon community is the closest knit group that we who are part of it have ever seen. We celebrate together, support each other when times are hard, and learn together all year round. Here are some of their own words, taken from applications for the counselor-in-training program.


The impact of this experience is strong and long-lasting

  • “Campers get a real sense of who they are. When they are at Sangamon, it is like a fresh start. They can do anything they want to do and not be ridiculed for it. They don’t have pressures of trying to fit in like they do at home. They are able to explore areas of their personality that they never knew they had. “

  • “Campers get a sense of togetherness and have a real sense of getting a choice in what they do. They benefit in learning teamwork skills and a knowledge of how to budget time.”

  • “Old Vermont Day was an important and meaningful experience for me. At first I really was dreading the work. Having to get up early and do labor was not exactly my idea of summer fun. But when we got into the whole experience, I had fun and this event created a real sense of teamwork between the campers and staff and a real appreciation of the original farmers and families of the old days. After the work we had the best breakfast of the whole time I was at camp.”

  • “I think campers gain a sense of independence, a sense that they CAN be on their own and that they WILL succeed.”

  • “Campers, like myself, have benefited from being at camp by learning how to make decisions. Independence is given to you, and you determine what you want to do. I got to do what I wanted to, not what someone else wanted. Sangamon has left me with friends and beautiful art work.”

  • “Kids gain experience in dealing with people because they must live and interact with people 24-7. Once you have been to camp, it becomes easier to deal with other kids because of the Sangamon experience.”

  • “Camp is a way of getting away from your regular life, it is like a family you see every summer. Everyone is so close and if you need help, someone is there to help you.”

  • “Every day at Sangamon has been an important experience to me. That’s because every day I learn something new. Campers become more independent, they learn how to live outdoors and how to work on many activities”.


    Tour The Camp

    Hello! You have found a very different kind of summer camp. Most camps talk about having the freedom to choose your activities each day, or each week. What they usually mean is you sign up for something you choose, and then you go to that activity and stay until it ends. It’s choice, but it’s limited. What if you go to something, and it turns out not to be what you’d thought or hoped for? What if you want to go somewhere else, and try something different? At Camp Sangamon we understand those feelings, and we want you to have the freedom to choose what you’re going to do, all day, every day. You’ll hear about activities after each meal, and then you’ll go to the one that sounds good to you. If it turns out you’d rather be somewhere else, you can head off whenever you like. Think you wanted to do one thing but see your friend somewhere else? Go ahead and join him. Your day is yours to plan, minute by minute.

    When it comes to choosing activities, you don’t even have to sign up!

    We’re a real camp. No cement here. We live in the woods, with our own lake, pastures, and forest. You’ll get a real sense of “camping out”. We live in summer cabins, we offer a lot of different kinds of activities, and we focus on life in the outdoors. We laugh and learn and play our way through the days. We teach all kinds of interesting things. We offer over fifteen different in-camp activities, in areas like sports, outdoor living skills, arts and crafts. We teach Archery, Horse Riding, Tennis, Mountain Biking, Swimming, Canoeing, Ropes Course, and Kayaking. We have a pioneer-style farm, with a milk cow, chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, ducks, rabbits, and kittens. We make things in Woodshop, Rocketry, Blacksmithing, Weaving, Pottery, Silk-Screening, and Arts & Crafts. We take trips hiking, swimming, backpacking, canoeing, sailing, rock climbing, and caving.

    How do you know what’s going on and where? You listen to announcements after meals, and when the bells ring, you just go where you want to. You can do something different each period, you can stay two periods, you can stay half a period, or you can go morning and afternoon. You can go one day and not the next, or go everyday. It’s all up to you!

    We live in pine board cabins, with a fireplace and lantern. You’ll share a space with eight to ten boys your age, and three staff. It’s different from home, but you’ll feel at home in our cabins.

    There are all kinds of people here. Lots of kids are from New England and New York, but others come from all over the U.S. and the world. We have different races, nationalities, and religions, and we respect them all. Everyone is welcome!

    Many of the staff grew up here as campers. They know the place well, and make sure you get to do what you want to do, and learn what you want to learn. They’re also good at helping you make friends and get along with other kids.

    Sangamon is half of a traditional brother/sister camp, a boy’s camp with a girl’s camp, Betsey Cox, right next door. Older campers who want to spend more time with the girls can go on co-ed trips, do projects, and socialize together several times each week. It’s a low-key social atmosphere, and it’s easy to make friends at both camps!

    This camp is VERY different.

    You can be an artist, or an athlete, or a craftsman, or a farmer. Everyone is valued, and you don’t have to try to fit in. Whoever you want to be fits here, as long as you’re respectful and kind to others. You can discover new things about yourself, and try things you’d never try back home without any fear of failure. People here will like you, and support you for who you are. That’s the end of our tour. If you want to explore more of what Sangamon has to offer, check out the links to the left. If you’re looking for info on specific activities, click the program button.

    Every Day Is Difference

    A Day at Sangamon

    • 7:50am

      Wake-up, optional dip at the lake, help cook breakfast
    • 8:30am

      Breakfast, morning chores, cabin clean-up
    • 9:45am & 10:45am

      Instructional activities and trip program
    • 11:15am

      Short free swim; instructional activities continue
    • 11:45am

      Free time, Competitive Tournaments
    • 12:15pm -

    • 1:30pm

      Rest hour: rest, read, quiet games at the cabin
    • 2:30pm - 4:30pm

      Instructional activities and trip program
    • 3:45pm

      Long free swim, soccer instruction at the field, activities continue
    • 4:30pm

      Free time, “Anyone plays” soccer game, Competitive Tournaments
    • 5:30pm

    • 6:30pm

      Evening program: pick-up team sports, crafts, quiet games, special events & all-camp games, Competitive Tournaments
    • Bedtime

      (time varies by age) - reading aloud, stories by firelight

    Betsey Cox

    Betsey Cox - Sangamon’s Sister Camp

    Betsey Cox and Sangamon share a pasture fence and a common belief in children and a self-structured program. Since its founding in 1953, Camp Betsey Cox has been a leader in girls’ camping. It continues in that role, offering young women the opportunity to develop self-confidence, initiative, and leadership in a single-gender setting. The brother-sister relationship between the camps emphasizes the creation of life-long friendships through shared projects and adventures rather than through more traditional social activities. The camps are run autonomously by different branches of one family and have a shared philosophy and history.

    For information on Betsey Cox

    For information on Betsey Cox