'Hunger Games' Camp Head Denies Negative Image: We're Teaching Teamwork

3:19 PM PST 08/08/2013 by Hilary Lewis
A scene from the "Hunger Games" movie.

Ted Gillette, who runs the Florida institution, responds to widespread criticism in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, saying the book has "many redeeming subplots."

The concept of a Hunger Games camp may seem horrifying, if you imagine kids fighting to the death like the characters in the best-selling novels and hit-movie franchise.

But a camp run by Largo, Florida's Country Day School is using the book, minus its violent elements, to teach kids about team-building and self-esteem, among other things.

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The camp has generated controversy after a report in the Tampa Bay Times quoted several kids, ranging from 10 to 14, talking about how they're going to "kill" the other campers by stabbing or shooting them. But camp representatives say the kids were misquoted, and the Hunger Games-themed program doesn't feature any violence.

According to school head Ted Gillette, the camp contains a mix of theater, arts, academic competitions and outdoor physical challenges.

The camp re-creates the opening ceremony from the book with people dressed in costumes. The kids then become part of districts and are made tributes, following the vernacular of the book, Gillette explains, learning how to work from the land and build their own crossbows, to shoot at targets, not each other. They spend the week training and learning about their ancestors, he adds.

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

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Gillette says the camp chose to use the book as a theme in part due to its popularity, noting there are "many redeeming subplots."

The camp's PR rep, Nina Zapala says it is trying to engage the kids by using the games to teach about team sports and interaction.

She also notes there's been a groundswell of support from the kids' parents.

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