Archive for the ‘Youth Development’ Category

B Strong, Find Your Community

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

I Zigga Zumba?

Last night, the Boston Red Sox won the 2013 World Series.  The media celebrates the Cinderella “From Worst to First” baseball story; the players celebrate the fans and the city; and the Team Manager, John Farrell, celebrates the players.

The Boston Marathon bombing was tragic and terrifying, yet the story that has unfolded as the Red Sox moved toward the pennant was anything but.  Winning a world championship in America’s game with a motley crew of bearded dudes and players who hail from Aruba, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Japan, and all over the US sounds both incredible and a bit like Opening Day at Big Spring.

When it comes to describing the way the team worked together, the word that we keep hearing is “chemistry.”  I would argue that it should be “community.”  That is what these men have, and they have it because—from day one of spring training—they pushed themselves to be the best team they could be.  That is why they were incredibly fun to watch both during the season and in post-season play.  One could tell that they truly enjoyed each other.  From the beard pulling to the varied personnel executing key hits to the hilarious head butting on first base to their individual passion for the game, these men created community through tradition, ritual, irreverence, hard work, and their collective desire to support one another.  It was this community which carried them through mishaps, errors, and challenges into first place in the American League…and now, into history as the 2013 World Series champions.

Why, as a nation, are we so enamored?  Why do we love this 95-years-in-the-making story so much?

Because, at our cores, we understand that community and a sense of belonging makes us more responsible and caring.  Because we understand that supporting one another when times are tough, or tragic, is more important than our individual day-to-day stressors.  Because we understand that community can, and should, include people from all over the world who are invested in a common purpose.  Because we need to see grit and quality character modeled regularly so we can internalize and realize our own authentic selves.  Because we love the inside jokes, the fun, the joy, and the playfulness of people who don’t take themselves too seriously and simply love the game.  Because we appreciate giving, respectful, model leaders who have the class to recognize and applaud the fierce strength of their opponents before the press corps can ask a single question about their victory.  Because we want to see perseverance, effort, trust and unselfish teamwork be rewarded.  And all of this because we want to root for the underdog.

At one point in our lives, each of us was an underdog.  And many of us were, and are, fortunate enough to have a community of unique individuals that celebrated our mundane, sublime, monumental and ridiculous accomplishments.  We often find ourselves at our most “underdog” moments when we feel powerless, voiceless, unmoored and lost.  For some, that might have been in middle school, for others—right now.  Yet, when we found—or find– “our people” “our community” “our place”—suddenly we had and have the support to be more confident, strong and directed.

Community.  That is both the lesson and legacy of the 2013 Boston Red Sox and the realized vision of Laura and Sandy Sanborn: when we can come together, connect face-to-face, overcome obstacles and simply play…amazing things will happen.

Congratulations, Boston.  Thanks for modeling one heck-of-a-fun sense of community.

~Ariella Rogge

Disclaimer:  The opinions (and overt team support) expressed in this blog post belong to the author who wrote the blog post and don’t necessarily reflect the views (or preferred team/teams) of the organization and its members(We love you, too, St. Louis)

Why You Can’t Always Believe What You Read

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

In a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled “10 Things….Summer Camps Won’t Tell You,” and I was struck by the odd contrast between the title and the actual content of the article.  The “10 Things” were all apparent quotes about the camp experience that had neither context nor sources. Beyond this issue, I realized that the Colorado Springs’ Gazette’s version was incredibly abbreviated.  The full story is here: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-things-summer-camps-wont-tell-you-2013-05-03 I am not sure why the content was completely butchered, but the story was awful to read and completely misleading to our local Colorado readers.

Perplexing structure and writing aside, I want to examine the source-less “quotes” as potential societal trends impacting the camp community, and perpetuated by this sort of poor journalism.  By looking at each of the “Top 10” with a more balanced and fair perspective, I think we can see that the Gazette (and Ms. Wieczner) missed an opportunity to present the ever-changing summer camp experience as what it truly is:  A fluid, agile environment of youth development professionals who are committed to excellent client and customer service and who, quite frankly, have a better understanding of what children need today than most other youth serving organizations.

True, as a camp director I have a particularly acute bias, but I am also a parent of a camp-aged child who—like most of his peers—NEEDS the camp experience every summer, and I am a certified secondary educator who sees the woefully paralyzed state of our nation’s public school system post-NCLB and knows that, for many, a camp experience will provide necessary character and values development that no longer exists in most educational curriculum.

As an editorial response to Jen Wieczner and the Gazette’s re-working of her article, I would simply point out—like we do at camp when we are mediating situations that arise in the unique, respectful community we create each and every summer—there are two sides to every story.  To equate the joy of making and eating s’mores around a campfire (gluten-free graham crackers provided) with friends with whom you have made authentic, real friendships (grounded in healthy risk-taking and shared, fun experiences) far trumps any access to cellphones.  As parents, we know (deep down) that these independent experiences with support from young adult counselors develop character and self-efficacy in our children in a way that we cannot replicate at home.

Because of cultural trends, summer camp is more important to whole-child development today than ever before in history, and our professional accrediting body, the American Camp Association does a brilliant job providing not only a body of research to support that claim, but also shares a great deal of non-biased information about accredited camps all across the nation.  Being an accredited camp means holding ourselves to standards that are above and beyond national and societal expectations.  Camp gives kids a world of good in a world of social and cultural stressors…so let’s see if we can answer the question Ms. Wieczner asks: “will campers have any fun?”

1.  “It’s called camp, but it feels more and more like school.” Unlike the mass-consumption, Hollywood image that equates a child’s summer camp experience to the movie “Red Hot American Summer,” camp has ALWAYS been about education.  Beyond the emotional intelligence camp develops in campers through community life and opportunities for free play, many camps have made the choice to offer campers more specialized study AND play in fields that interest them.  This trend is far more representative of the desires of both campers and parents to be able to “specialize” in something while at camp.  This specialized focus may be for future college prospects or it might simply be to honor a child’s own interests…a key way to help children enjoy the camp experience.  If a camper has helped pick which camp he attends, his ownership of the experience will be that much higher.

2. “There’s not enough bug spray in the world to protect you from these pests.” Nature.  As Woody Allen so eloquently said, “I love nature.  I just don’t want to get any of it on me.”  There are bugs in the woods, there are sometimes mice in the cabins, and there are even porcupines munching loudly (and quite rudely) in the trees above your tent while you are trying to sleep.  Critters and bugs can be a bit icky for some, and bedbugs are undoubtedly a concern, but—for some reason—I am much more concerned about sleeping in a hotel near a bustling airport than sleeping in a bunk at camp.  Plus interactions in the outdoors are typically memorable and create an ongoing sense of wonder, and a stewardship of and connection to the natural world.

3.  “PB&J and ice cream?  Not anymore.” Look.  Let’s be real. Going out to eat with my four and eight year old sons is an exercise in limited options.  Most camps have policies and procedures surrounding food allergies and dietary restrictions.  Some camps are completely nut free, some are not.  Some actively limit the amount of sugar, some do not.  Some provide daily vegetarian or vegan options, some do not.  Just like choosing a restaurant, you can choose a camp that will accommodate the nutritional needs of your child.  Yet, just like at a restaurant, you can’t make them sit at the table indefinitely if they refuse to eat…but you can take away dessert.

4.  “Your kid has a cellphone, but that doesn’t mean you can talk to him.” Exactly.  That’s the point.  How often do you try and get your child OFF of her phone?  Unstructured time in the outdoors, away from technology gives children the opportunity to develop authentic friendship, teamwork and leadership skills with REAL people…who, more often than not, are actually REAL friends, too.  As for not being able to talk to your kids while they are at camp, just think of it as a vacation for your kids…plus letter writing is a skill they will use for the rest of their lives.

5.  “Homesickness?  Try I-miss-my-kid sickness.” A tool we use at camp when campers are homesick is to help them understand feeling that way is normal and then we try and get them excited about all of their upcoming trips and activities.  Let’s try it for parents:  Being kidsick is normal.  Lots of other parents feel the same way.  Let’s look at your calendar for the month and see what exciting things you have planned.  Ohhh, look!  You have a dentist appointment next Monday, and this Thursday you are hosting your book club and you haven’t read the chosen book (Cloud Atlas) yet.  Then, the following week you have a waxing appointment and have to take your visiting sister-in-law (she has horse teeth, really?) to lunch. (No wonder you are kidsick.  Just know that blubbering about your 10 year old leaving for a few weeks is more understandable than sobbing uncontrollably when your 19 year old leaves for college.)

6. “There’s a bully born every minute.” One of the key differentiators between bullies and “upstanders” (peers who speak up when they witness bullying) is that most bullies lack empathy.  Teaching children friendship skills, and providing environments where individuals are respected for who they are is a key component of camp.  Pranks and cabin raids are more typical in Hollywood portrayals of camp than in camp itself.  Parent Trap is over 50 years old, and to think that our campers continue to both look and act like Hayley Mills in the film is cultural hyperbole.

7.  “It’s a dangerous world; we’re just camping in it.” Right.  Better to be camping in the outdoors than texting and driving, experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex, and away from the fear saturated media.  Camp provides an incredibly safe place where kids can be kids, and—in all honesty—one of the overarching goals of camp is to actually give campers life and relational skills that will eventually make the world a safer place because kids who come to camp understand our shared humanity.

8. “You think getting your kids into college will be hard?  Try getting them into camp.” There are THOUSANDS of camps.  If the camp you are waitlisted for doesn’t give you other ideas for similar camps in the region that have similar programs or goals, then that camp doesn’t recognize the importance of capital C “Camp” for childhood/youth development.  And, as a parent, if you buy into the hype that there is only “one” camp for your child—then you are denying your child the opportunity to have a new and unique camp experience.

9.  “Our camp feels more like a reality show.” One of the most prolific and outstanding speakers at American Camp Associations across the country is family therapist Bob Ditter.  During training sessions, Mr. Ditter talks about “getting on the same train” as your campers—meaning, that in order to completely connect with kids, we need to know and understand (and even read or listen to) THEIR worlds.   So yes, we offer Katniss Everdeen archery competitions,  Zombie Apocalypse hikes, and Superhero horseback rides—not because these are culturally cool—but because these types of activities echo what our campers are into, relate to, and plus they are great springboards for even more innovative and creative programming.

10.  “Some counselors have to be taught to keep their hands to themselves.” Ah, just in case Ms. Wieczner readers hadn’t been scared effectively enough after noting summer camps’ apparent limited  fun, bugs, lack of communication, bullies, mass shootings, the threat of social isolation, and the ever-present and insidious nature of cultural trends spread through technology (which makes the whole cell-phone thing even more hypocritical), now we can also worry about our kids being abused at camp.  Yet Ms. Wieczner is correct when she says “assaults and abuse are rare at camp.”

Though there is plenty to take issue with, in the end I think Ms. Wieczner’s title brings up a very good point:  as parents, we have to be responsible adults, do research and ask camp directors hard questions about the nature of their staff training, the goals and objectives of the program, the mission and philosophy of the camp, and we also have to ask those “boogeyman” type questions too, just to allay our fears (many of which are spurred on by articles like Ms. Wieczner’s and liberties taken by subsidiary editors).

Camps that are worth their salt will be open and transparent about their policies and practices, and we (camp directors) like it when parents are thoughtful enough to ask:  “tell me about your hiring process” or “what sort of emergency/crisis management plans do you have in place?” or “why can’t I talk to my child when he is at camp?” or “how do you handle homesickness…and if I need to call or email you for reassurance, is that okay?”

When we are practicing and modeling the skills required to eventually let our children go and become successful, functional adults, our children will grow too.  If we have confidence in the leadership at our chosen summer camps and are even brave enough to consider sending our child to camp in the first place, our children will not only have fun at camp—they will flourish.

~Ariella Rogge~

Winter Is Here…What Do We Do?

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Fly-tying during Stalking Education in the Wild 2012

There are two questions a camp director dreads: 1. Why does toilet in Kinnikinnik look like a Yellowstone geyser? 2. What do you DO in the winter?

Both questions require thoughtful responses (but the first question might also require a plunger and a biohazard suit).  Beyond hiring the 120 broadly talented seasonal staff members, recruiting 600 unique and fantastic campers, connecting with our alums, designing new programs like the Sanborn Semester, organizing mission-centric educational opportunities like Stalking Education in the Wild or our annual No Child Left Inside Family Fun Day, hosting the ACA Rocky Mountain Section regional conference, sending birthday cards (over 10,000 annually), and operating The Nature Place and High Trails Outdoor Education Center, we are committed leaders and educators in the field of youth development and in the camp profession.

As the culture shifts, camp is taking its rightful role as an important component in the year round education of every child.  COEC Board Member Rod Lucero said in a recent article in Camping Magazine, “One concept that emerges from most every camp activity schedule is the idea of “fun.” While “fun for fun’s sake” is a worthy goal, I would contend that fun with an articulated focus on education transcends the camp experience and extends to the pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade classrooms.”  Sandy and Laura Sanborn believed in “fun and adventure with a purpose.” And we, like Rod, believe that “the purpose is education, and as the camp has evolved and grown, this mantra has remained fundamental to every aspect of the good work being done there.”

One of the 101 Nature Activities: Find a Tree Hike

Everything begins at home and we are committed to professional development of our year round and seasonal staff.  Through conferences, training sessions, and skill development workshops, our staff not only represents a seasoned group of camp professionals, we actually lead, teach, and design many training sessions for others in the camp community.

The National Convention of the American Camp Association was held in Atlanta in mid-February, and we participated in full force.  Executive Director, Jane Sanborn, was the program chairperson for this year’s conference (as well as for the upcoming 2013 National Conference in Dallas, TX) and worked on an outstanding educational program for many months.  Chris, Elizabeth, and Ariella led educational sessions at the conference. Mike, as President of the Rocky Mountain Region of the American Camp Association, participated in all of the leadership events held at the conference. COEC Board member Rod Lucero presented one of the keynote addresses, and Julie, David, and Carlotta attended the conference.

Additionally, Jane, Elizabeth, and Ariella have written curricula and participated as webinar panel experts for the ACA’s e-Institute.  The ACA just released a 15 hour online Certificate of Added Qualification for Middle Managers, and Ariella was one of the four writers of the curriculum.  Jane is the chair of the ACA’s Children, Nature and Camps Committee and co-authored the best-selling, “101 Nature Activities for Kids” with Elizabeth.

Then there is the hard skill training: BC is a AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association) Certified Top and Bottom Managers and supervise our rock-climbing staff; we train using the most current ACCT Ropes Course certification model; all of our summer trip leaders have WMI/NOLS Wilderness First Aid certification; we have an on-site Red Cross Lifeguard course; we require our peer supervisors (ridge leaders, wranglers, kitchen coordinators) to attend a specialized Supervisor Workshop; and all of our trip leaders go through a comprehensive Trip Leader and 15 Passenger Van Driver Training…plus all staff are certified in CPR and Standard First Aid and participate in our 10 day Staff Week training. This training includes everything from the latest in youth development research to experiential teaching techniques.  Whew!

Winter=Time to Turn Our BIG Dreams into Reality!

We are invested in the experience and our own continued growth and development.  We are actively involved in building a more professional camp and educational experience for ALL children through our staff development and the variety of outreach and educational sessions we lead.

This is a big part of our “purpose” and it is one we take pride in.   And with Jane repeating as program chair for the 2013 American Camp Association National Conference, we will continue to take a professional lead in the camping and youth development industry.

So we actually do work in the wintertime…maybe that is why summer is so darn incredible!

Adventure: Summer Camp

Friday, October 19th, 2012

A REAL Adventure

La Plata, Ouray, Huron, Democrat, Massive, Elbert, Oxford, Belford, Princeton, Antero, Sherman, Silver Heels, Quandary, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Buffalo Peaks, Pikes Peak, Shavano, Tabaguache. Campers from across the country and the world climbed these 13,000 and 14,000 foot peaks when they came to camp looking for adventure last summer. Boys and girls age 8-16 stood on top of the world; saw a landscape covered in a sea of snow and rock; and relished an achievement that was uniquely their own and one that will change the trajectory of their lives.

Climbing a mountain is a real accomplishment and an exciting adventure. To crawl out of a warm sleeping bag before dawn and face the brisk morning temperatures is an act of courage in itself. The long climb upward, step-by-step, requires perseverance, commitment, and teamwork. With each step, a child asks himself, “Can I do this?” Perhaps there is deep doubt, but he keeps going. He keeps going because, somewhere, deep down, he WANTS to climb a mountain. He climbs not only because “it is there” but because he innately seeks experiences which help him grow and learn.

The Alpine tundra is beautiful, dotted by tiny forget-me-nots and other flowers. Often we are fortunate enough to spot marmots, ptarmigans and other mountain wildlife. The best moment of all, though, is stepping onto the summit and catching a first glimpse of the spectacular vistas. Climbers always gain a well-deserved feeling of pride, and the self-confidence that comes from “making it to the top”.

Overcoming Fear, Building True Self-Confidence

The best part of this self-confidence? It is completely self-generated. Sure, the counselors and trip leaders encouraged you and the rest of the group…but no one carried you up that mountain…you did it yourself. You overcame your fear, your doubt, and your insecurities—and you climbed a REAL mountain! As a 2012 parent said about her son, “He has learned to live and survive on his own and learned to “figure it out” vs. waiting for someone to do it for him. As a result, he’s much more worldly, self-sufficient, and confident in everything he does.”

Climbing a mountain provides so many benefits for young people. Youth development research tells us that young people need challenging and engaging activities and learning experiences in order to grow into confident, happy adults. Reaching the summit requires hard work, determination and a lot of self-discipline. Mountain climbing stretches perspectives as well as legs, and it takes place in some of the most stunningly beautiful places on Earth.

Unforgettable triumph!

There were many additional adventures and challenges in camp over the summer, and other groups reached their own summits by spending four or five days in the saddle on long horse trips; still others backpacked for four-days in the stunning Tarryall Mountains or traversed ridge after ridge on both the Colorado Trail and Wheeler Trails. Some stretched themselves by camping out, by saddling a horse, or by rock scrambling to the top of a high crag.

We are looking forward to another summer of adventure, challenge, success and growth. We hope you will join us.

Sanborn Summer Staff: True Professionals

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Mentor, Leader, Youth Development Professional

There has been quite a bit of buzz about camps recently. The New York Times ran a number of articles in its Motherlode parenting blog over the weekend. In one, Dan Fleshler doubts the resume building value of working as a camp counselor, and in the other, Michael Thompson extolls the benefits of having college-aged camp counselors who can “out-parent” parents. Finally, KJ Dell’Antonia struggles as a new-to-camp, first-time camp parent who wonders, “Is It Too Late to Send Myself to Camp?

All of these articles speak to the education and human development that occurs at camp. The campers grow, the staff grow. The American Camp Association has detailed the 13 Core Competencies that camp staff members will develop while they work at camp.

As a camp counselor, you will gain professional skills that are applicable to many future careers. Staff learn skills that enhance Youth and Adult Growth and Development. They are exposed to and design different Learning Environments and Curricula. Program Planning allows counselors room for creativity, innovation, and developing advanced organization and teaching skills. Counselors learn how to Observe, Assess, and Evaluate the efficacy of their teaching and counseling skills. They develop Professionalism and Leadership by working with career camp staffers who truly understand the larger place of camp in the “whole education” of every child. Young counselors recognize the value of Health and Wellness for both themselves, campers and within the creation of work/life balance. Staff members practice Risk Management–in urban, rural and extreme outdoor environments. Cultural Competence allows staff to develop respect for, an understanding of and for ALL people, no matter what their background. Counselors make connections with Families and Communities that provide the opportunity to expand their own networks as well as help them see the positive impact of their job. Children and adults who have positive experiences with Nature and Environment are happier, healthier and smarter…and ALL of our camp counselors are nature counselors. Sanborn has incredibly progressive Business Management and Practices and policies, and many senior staff have the opportunity to manage other staff members and receive professional training on business leadership and management. At camp, Human Resources Management doesn’t stop after counselors are hired…counselors are given regular formal and informal feedback about their strengths, weaknesses, and areas of improvement so they can improve immediately and transfer those improvements to the campers. Camp staff also engage in Site and Facilities Management while they are responsible for the upkeep and care of expensive camping equipment, camp vehicles, and the overall care of the facilities…plus they are teaching campers how to care for those things, too.

Evolving Education: Rodrick Lucero & the Educational Landscape, Part Two

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

The following is the second part of Rodrick Lucero’s keynote speech from the 2012 ACA Conference:

The journey to being an educator has been repeated over and over again in the last 150 years as emerging teachers “cut their teeth” in the day camp and residential camp environments.  It is here that they learned the art of teaching…the way to apply content (relevance), the way to challenge students to think critically (rigor), and the way engage campers as members of a community (relationships).  Relevance, Rigor, and Relationship have become the new “three R’s”, as the former (Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic) cannot be effectively learned without the new “three R’s”.  Famed Psychologist, Abraham Maslow reminds us in his Hierarchy of human needs that if we as educators can take care of the human-ness of our students, their psychological safety, their physical safety, and their sense of belonging, then and only then will we be able to teach them, and learn beside them, and discover with them in ways that engage their learning.  There is some research out there that discusses the “summer dip”.  I’m not sure that I buy into much of this research, but I do know that there is no summer dip when kids are actively engaged in camp activities that encourage them to apply what they know…this is learning, and it is different than memorization.

It seems to me that schools do a great job of asking students to engage in the theoretical learning, learning that is taken at face value as valid.  Whereas camps ask students to apply the knowledge that they have learned in school, and use these learning in their explorations of the natural world.  One might read about the Milky Way, and its place in the cosmos in the context of their Environmental Science class.  They might even be able to identify constellations from a computer generated model…but it’s when they lay on grassy hill at night that the Milky Way becomes real, and the constellations jump from the computer screen and become material upon which to engage the imagination, Cephus the king, Cassiopeia, and Orion, indeed!

So, if we imagine schools as primarily engaged with rigor and camps primarily engaged with relevance then where do relationships fit? They belong in both.  The ability to make and maintain friendship is a condition of our human existence…Children learned this from their first years.  We need relationships.

So, then it is up to us in the schools and the camps to make sure our environments are filled with opportunities to make and maintain these human connections and friendships.  It’s in the eyes of others that we learn more about ourselves, and which becomes the “cement” or “glue” that holds us close to our most treasured learning experiences.  It is in the mirror of relationship that learning gains meaning and where it finds a context with which we can base our next learning.

So, we create the inescapable bond between traditional educational environments (schools), and less traditional educational environments (camps).  Much of what I have discussed thus far is about students and campers, but what about the camper directors, the principals, the counselors, and the teachers…those adults who have committed themselves to making the world a better place.  Those who realize that an investment in a child is the only way to insure a democracy and a future for the planet…maybe we need to send our politicians to camp???  I wonder what might happen if they were placed in a situation where they HAD to help each other climber that mountain, or cross that river?  Maybe some lessons could be learned…but I digress?

Camp personnel are every bit the teachers and leaders of schooling in America.  It is time for the camp community to take their rightful seat at the educational table, and partner, regularly!!  With schools…about innovations that are mutually beneficial…This is a way to do what we do well in our business models and business plans…Simultaneous Renewal!  As Camp Directors train their new crop of counselors are these counselors taught the fundamental importance of their work, in making the world a better place to live…do they understand that every day and every situation is a teachable moment.  How will they “teach” when the disagreement over a care package arises?  How will they teach when a camper is homesick?  How will they teach the appropriate knots that make rock climbing safer and more enjoyable?  How will they teach the beauty of quiet?  How will they teach the importance of genuine care and concern?

I think camp counselors are luckier than teachers, because we get to spend more concerted time with our charges.  We get to know them in an informal way that is often more deep, more human, more real.  We get to see the hurt, the fear, the confusion, the laughter, and the silliness, and we get to use the tools of our trade to help them overcome their vulnerabilities…they can do the high ropes course, they can take the hand of a younger camper to help them overcome the heavy back-pack, they can get outside of themselves and see the PURPOSE!  Camp Counselors get to engage students in the depth of their learning, while schools are adept at providing the breadth!  This is the simultaneous renewal that both entities bring to the table…what they bring to the education of every child.

There are other partners in our camp work that I have yet to discuss; the parent community.   How do we educate our parent community on the importance of camp at times of dwindling resources, and longer school years.

First of all we need to understand that the parent community is an important member of the team that educates their child.  It’s critical that we spend time building partnerships, formal and informal with our parent community.  How will they be renewed by sending their child to camp?  Just like their campers, are parents being engaged in the process…and if we were to look at Maslow as a framework, are we taking care of parents needs for physical safety, are we sharing with them how our staff is being trained for supervision at the pool, on the mountain, around the river, what kind of food is being served etc…for their psychological safety, are we sharing with them how our staff is being trained to handle bullying, homesickness, disagreements, etc.  How are we inviting parents to “belong” to the camp community?

This is obviously a difficult balance, as it’s important for parents to allow their children to explore their world, to become more independent.  I think that if all parents are involved in a non-intrusive way in the camp community, and if institutionalize their involvement there will be less need for “more” intrusion.

So, as I reflect upon my comments today, it’s clear that we have made an argument for the importance of camp in the educational life of every child…

If we can argue that camp is critical to the development of a child, then I believe that we, in this room, have to make it a priority to include access to the opportunity of camp to every student…this will cost us financially, but in a very real sense I don’t believe that we can afford, as a society, to have opportunities for some students and not for others…How can we make camp accessible to all children!

… How can this be done, I have no idea, but I enjoy the thought that at some point in our lifetimes, every child can go to camp, every child can have a mentor, and every child can challenge themselves as they figure out their place in the world.  If we can do this well, schools won’t feel the need to elongate their calendars, because their partners at camp will continue the educational enterprise in June, July and August…nothing will be lost, but a well-educated democracy of social justice focused citizens will continue to grow and flourish.

I am here because of each of you, the camp collective, the camp community.  I am here because of camp.  My life was forever changed thirty–one years ago on June 7th…the first day of the first staff-training I experienced, when a camp director told me that camp was about “fun and adventure, but with a purpose”…and on that day I went all in…and continue to engage in “fun and adventure, with an eye…always…on the purpose”.

On that day, I became a camp counselor and it was then that I began to grow beyond myself and it was then that I began to understand the responsibility of my privilege, and it was then that I began becoming a man.  Camp holds me accountable to every decision I make, to this day.  It’s strong hold on my integrity, and the ethical principles (that I have come to value) have made it impossible to sit back and watch injustice…it is camp that engages me to make the world a better place.

You see,

We are all camp,

We are united in the camp spirit,

and We are the future,

We are relevant

We WILL make our mark

We will engage every child in their own learning

We will continue to believe in our mission

We will not be deterred, failure is not an option…because failing our kids is not, nor will it ever be an option!

The answer is ….CAMP

We are camp…

And we are the answer!

Dr. Rodrick S. Lucero is an Associate Professor and Associate Director of the School of Teacher Education and Principal Preparation in the School of Education at Colorado State University and has 10 years’ experience as a camp staff member. He was a well-respected high school teacher and high school administrator for 21 years before moving to his current position. His educational career has been heavily influenced by the relevance inherent in a natural environment and he continually advocates for a myriad of learning environments in order to educate every student effectively. It is at this complex intersection that Rod has fused his passion for nature and his passion for educational opportunities for every child.

Evolving Education: Rodrick Lucero & the Educational Landscape, Part One

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

The following is taken from a keynote speech given by Rodrick Lucero during the 2012 ACA Conference in Atlanta, GA.

Get ready to be inspired.

… My discussion with you will focus on the relationship between what you provide to the education of every child and what schools provide.  My hope is that you will walk away from this keynote with

  • specifics to share with parents about our collective role in the education of every child.
  • a sense of how camp and schools are related in the 21st century
  • a description of skills that camps contribute to the schooling of every child
  • a little bit of research on the importance of camps
  • and renewed vigor in the important work that you do!

Campers:

In tears, a camper shares:  “Camp is such a big part of me…I grew up here; I found out who I am here; I have spent my childhood here; I figured out my values here; and now I know I can do anything!  I am more confident in school now.  I really want to take what camp has given me and share it with the world!”

Another camper notes: School is more fun because of camp, because I figured out who I was, I was able to “find my voice”…and as a result I am more of an active participant in my life…I like school because I am part of the process, not just watching it from the outside looking in.  I have finally learned that when I challenge myself, I can be a better me.”

And yet another:  It’s better to be on a summit with a group, it’s a shared journey, shared worked, shared struggle, and shared rewards!

A staff member writes:  Being outside encourages skills that a classroom can’t touch; problem-solving that combines visceral engagement with intellectual development.  Kids use their bodies and their hands to interact with the world; they have more chances to grow emotionally and socially.   Camp is like school on steroids; I have freedom that spans the out of doors and my “classroom” encompasses whenever I can dream up…kids are more engaged, receptive in nature.  After this experience, I will always make sure that there in an outdoor component to everything I teach.  Here we teach emotional intelligence with every interaction…everyone here is an educator because everything we do is intentional.

So what have these campers and counselors captured?  They have eloquently stated why camp is part of their educational experience.  The have described the soft skills, otherwise known as the 21st century skills that guide every student through every learning event of their lives from the Biology lab, to learning the “J” stroke with a canoe, to playing in the band, to saddling a horse, to team sports in Physical Education, and to engaging in a reflective essay in English, or the genuine appreciation for a sunset.  It is the development of these soft skills…these 21st century skill…that camp does well and where schools struggle…As educators, it is incumbent upon us all to work collaboratively with our local, state, and national school communities and articulate what our important contributions, let them articulate what they provide and intentionally plan for a vision of educational excellence for every child.  We can no longer live in the safe isolation that has defined our relationships for over 150 years.  The camp community and the school community absolutely need one another if they are to continue to be relevant, to continue to prepare young people for active involvement in our democracy, engagement in the environmental crises we are facing, and shared responsibility for all others across the globe.

So much of what we hear about effective education calls for the reform of the system.  However, maybe “reform” isn’t the answer.  Maybe “renewal” captures our charge with more clarity.  It is my supposition that each entity, schools, and camps, do better because of the other, while they can (and often do) exist in isolation their collectives outcomes will dramatically improve the life of each child who benefit from the good work in both environments.

The work in which we engage is best understood by what John Goodlad has called “Simultaneous Renewal”.  It is not in reform that we find answers, but in continual growth.  It’s a “space” where we recognize what is good and we build upon it.  It’s also a “space” where we identify needed change; those elements that are barriers to our growth.  Reform, on the other hand, is a call for throwing out the good work that has been done, and constructing a new “world order”.  But as we look at how we learn, we begin from what we know…doesn’t renewal sounds like a more realistic way to provide ongoing, effective, instruction!  Reform is much about ideas that have no foundation, no place in practice, and are therefore relegated to existence in rhetoric without any manifestation in the reality of the educational environment.

“Renewal” is hopeful and resonates with the power of a joyful educational system that is always in process…always climbing, always meeting children where they are and taking them where they need to be…it speaks to the “camp” experience and its place in the education of every child. It is this commitment to personal growth that we remember in our own camp experience, it’s the memory of last summer’s “renewal” that brings a camper back the next year, and staff back for several seasons!  It is what we do!

Simultaneous Renewal is a realization that innovations, ideas, and creative endeavors are robust when they have a tangible benefit for participant.  In our daily camp activity schedules are we insuring that all participants;  campers, counselors, directors, vendors, parents, staff, etc. are involved in the mission and engaged in making the experience meaningful.   Every participant must be engaged in the mission, and therefore must be actively part of the culture.  All participants must “belong” to the camp environment if they are to create meaning within the day to day operations.  Are cooks invited to campfires? Are mechanics invited to an appreciation breakfast put on by campers? Are mail carriers greeted with “ant cookies” made especially for them? So, I would ask you, how is renewal built into your camp processes, staff training, activity dockets, letters home, etc.?

The synergy created when human beings engage in meaningful experiences together is palpable.  It is why we love camp, it’s why campers return year after year, and it’s how we retain staff beyond one season. This “renewal” happens when meaning is defined around a purpose.  In my camp experience the founders of the camp used a mantra, “fun and adventure, with a purpose”.  In my first staff training experience it became clear what the “purpose” was…as Counselors, we were there to enjoy being in the out of doors with campers, but also to educate them about the natural world in which we explored.  It is here that the mission is found…a focused idea: an idea of purpose, an idea of learning.  It is on the first day of my first staff week where I became an educator.  I can recall an overwhelming sense of responsibility and excitement sweeping over every sense as I wondered how I would answer the charge to be an educator.  Would I be good enough? Would I know enough? Would I be engaging enough? Would I be funny? Would I be liked? What if I didn’t know an answer?

As staff training continued I came to a realization that has stayed with me thirty years later…it’s not about knowing the answers, critical thinking and effective instruction is about asking the questions…and then searching for possible answers together…the discovery…ah, the discovery.  The miracle happens every day, and every cloud becomes a shape to see, every ant hill was a city to be studied, every song was a mirror within which to see ourselves, and every challenge, an opportunity to help others, even while we struggled…and we learned…that the fun was in the journey, and that the journey of learning never ends…and the fun never ends.  And the answer to effective learning and effective education is, as Ellen noted in my session yesterday…the answer is CAMP.

So what are these 21st Century skills that we’ve been discussing, and how exactly do they help us learn, how do they help us all in our own renewal?

Because of camp…

We learned to persevere

We learned to be kind

We learned what was meant, by camp cookies that sang.

We learned how to take the next step, then the next as we climbed

We learned to live in a community

We learned that Facebook was not as much fun as a sunset

We learned that our I-Phone was not as engaging as kickball

We learned to make friends

We learned to overcome homesickness

We learned to lend a helping hand

We learned that a smile we could share was more important that our rotten mood

We learned to challenge ourselves, and our friends

We learned the power and subsequent respect of a thunderstorm

We learned to be a member of a team

and when to lead,

and when to follow

We learned the magic of a group effort

We learned the intimacy of being silent

We learned the humility of being a part of nature

We learned that don’t have to sing well, to sing camp songs

We learned that the showers get hotter when the toilets are flushed

We learned that we really have value

We learned that we really do have worth

And we learned that we really do matter

And we learned that sometimes we need someone else’s help

And we learned that in every interaction, and in every challenge there was

something for us to learn…and we learn…and we learn…and we learn…

… to be continued

Dr. Rodrick S. Lucero is an Associate Professor and Associate Director of the School of Teacher Education and Principal Preparation in the School of Education at Colorado State University and has 10 years’ experience as a camp staff member. He was a well-respected high school teacher and high school administrator for 21 years before moving to his current position. His educational career has been heavily influenced by the relevance inherent in a natural environment and he continually advocates for a myriad of learning environments in order to educate every student effectively. It is at this complex intersection that Rod has fused his passion for nature and his passion for educational opportunities for every child.

Social Responsibility

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Fun and Adventure in the Natural World

Here at Sanborn, we like to transcend norms. For example, we are passionate about getting kids outdoors, and we spread the word both in action and through our online connections. We have come to see the importance of an online presence because it can validate and educate others about what we do offline and at camp. We also truly enjoy having the year-round input and connection with our campers, staff, parents, and alums.

With that in mind, we encourage you to engage with us through your favorite social media platform. We currently are active on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Pinterest, and the Sanborn Blog.

Social media works in concert with our mission: To live together in the outdoors building a sense of self, a sense of community, a sense of the earth, and a sense of wonder through fun and adventure. Though we may only be living outdoors with others for 9 months of the year (during summer camp and outdoor ed), social media creates a year-round opportunity to build on our shared values…and exchange ideas, information, and insight that can educate beyond these 6,000 acres.

In order to maintain an authentic identity in the realm of social media, it is important that we do what we do best at camp: be ourselves, build community, practice good communication, be outstanding role models, represent our values and mission, be a leader, keep a good sense of humor, and – most of all – remember the importance of unplugging, getting out and playing in the natural world.

REAL-ationships!

Like any social situation where there are group dynamics at play, the social media environment can be both overwhelming and empowering, expansive and intimate, calloused and understanding – and, because we are professionals when it comes to the development of social and emotional skills in people – we are at an advantage in the social media environment because we CARE about people…and we see the value of “playing” within the technologies that exist.

If you don’t use any of those platforms, let us know what you are using and what you like most about that social environment. In the summer, you want to be where we are–the rest of the year, we would like to be able to say “Howdy!” wherever you might be.

See you online!

Sanborn Camps News Update…and an (almost) spring Top Ten

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Top Ten Ways We Can Tell Spring Is Just Around the Corner

10.  Days are getting longer.  More sunshine=More birds singing in the Ponderosa Pines

9.  The spring winds have arrived…and are trying to blow Colorado into Kansas.

8.  There is mud everywhere: on our boots, in our cars, in the office, and under our fingernails

7.  Larry is spending more time servicing camp vans and less time servicing snow plows

6.  Popcorn is starting to lose (some) of her winter coat

5.  The number of staff employment applications has quadrupled

4.  Preparations for our spring High Trails Outdoor Education Center are well underway (we’ll smell baking cookies by the end
of the month!)colorado summer camps

3.  Our annual Denver Reconnect is happening THIS WEEKEND!

2.  Sunbathing on the Big Spring office balcony is once again possible (but don’t blow away…see
#9)

1.  We are wearing tutus

Hello from camp and happy (almost) spring!  We are just coming off an incredible American Camp Association conference in Atlanta.   Our very own Jane Sanborn was National Conference Chair, and many of our year round staff members presented educational sessions.  COEC board member, Rod Lucero, gave a powerful and motivating keynote speech to the 1,000+ camp professionals reminding us that we are outstanding educators who provide—in the words of Sandy Sanborn—“fun and adventure with a purpose.”

As educators, we are happy to announce the launch of COEC’s latest program offering, our very own Sanborn Semester.  The Sanborn Semester offers achievement-oriented high school students an opportunity to create, live, and learn in a supportive community environment isolated from the distractions of the sometimes too-busy and over-stressed high school years.  We are currently accepting applications for the 2013 spring semester, and would love to answer any questions you might have about the program.

We are gearing up for another incredible summer at camp!  New Big Spring Program Director, David Cumming, creating a variety of great new program offerings and building a comprehensive library for Big Spring.  Maren, Rosie and Scot are charting new rides, designing great activities and trips, and waiting for the cows to calve.  Chris, BC and Carlotta have assembled a top-notch staff for our outdoor education program, and are currently helping Colorado Spring’s District 20 with their outdoor education fundraising efforts.  Mike and Julie finished up the Sanborn Road Show tour in Boulder on February 8th.  It is always a fantastic way to kick off the upcoming camp season, to connect with camp families, alums and staff, and to have the opportunity to share the spirit of camp with prospective campers and their families.  If you are interested in hosting a future Sanborn Road Show in YOUR community, please contact Mike or Julie at 719.748.3341.

Everyone in the office is busy hiring staff, processing camp applications and sharing the experience of Sanborn with prospective families over the phone.  One of our favorite things to do is to talk to parents about the life-changing opportunities that camp provides kids of all ages.  Even when the phones are ringing, we regularly share great parenting, camping, child development research and information on our blog and Facebook page, so if you are not currently following us, we hope you will soon!

We are all excited about the community that is coming together for the summer of 2012 and can’t wait to begin the fun. Many of our age groups are already full for the summer of 2012, so if you don’t want to miss any of the adventures, get your application in today!  Last month we shared that we have added the “Camp In Touch” app to our Facebook page.  This will allow families to access their camp information, view photos from the summer, purchase “Camp Stamps” for our one-way email program and much more.  We are happy to mail our brochure and DVD to anyone interested in camp and to provide references for new families.

Think summer!







ACA Conference

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Last week 10 of us ventured to Atlanta for the ACA National Conference. The overall theme of the conference

Jane Sanborn and her entourage!

was Convergence: Vision, Learning, Innovation. This was an exciting opportunity for our staff to continue our professional development as youth and outdoor educators and camp professionals. And it was a great week! Our very own Jane Sanborn was the conference program chair. She and the conference team lined up wonderful session and keynote speakers, fun night programs, and a variety of exhibitors for the exhibit hall.  We were all able to go to a variety of educational sessions presented by child development and camp professionals – sessions that emphasized the importance of what we do best: provide exceptional outdoor experiences for children. We were able to network with other camp professionals. We left energized and motivated for the summer! It is fun for us to come back and share all that we have learned with each other and start incorporating new ideas into our summer and school weeks programs.

We had great keynote speakers including, Dr. Christine Carter (author of Raising Happiness), Richard Louv, Sanborn alum, Rod Lucero, and Niambi Jaha-Echols. Each speech was relevant to and encouraging of what we do at camp.

Dr. Carter started the week sharing the importance of teaching and cultivating life skills such as gratitude, kindness, and growth campers – all things that we know about and do at camp! Dr. Carter is a strong believer of Growth Mindset – the belief that someone is successful due to hard work and effort, as well as innate ability. At camp, it is important to us that campers are challenged to try new things and encouraged through the process. We believe that campers and staff can grow and learn from our trips and activities. Being able to try new things is one of the great things about camp and campers having the ability to choose their own trips and activities.

Richard Louv emphasized the role camps play in continuing to get children outside. In his speech he told us how he was jealous of his friend who left Kansas every summer to go to camp…specifically, his friend left Kansas and spent his summers at Sanborn. He spoke of the growing importance of camp and getting outside, as our world becomes more technology-driven.

Rod Lucero helped us better understand the importance of camps continuing the education from schools. Relevance, Rigor, and Relationships are the foundation of education, and according to Lucero, without them, reading, writing, and arithmetic don’t matter. At camp, we help make education relevant. The foundation of Sanborn is education. We continue to learn and pass our knowledge on to all Colorado Outdoor Education Center participants.

Niambi Jaha-Echols provided us with an inspiring and humorous closing session. According to Jaha-Echols, camp provides us the opportunities to transform into new beings – from caterpillars to butterflies. It is important to us that we provide campers with the space and support to understand and grow into the people they are supposed to be. We are lucky to have 6,000 acres, amazing counselors, and a great variety of trips and activities to help all campers grow as individuals into butterflies.

We look forward to continuing to share our learnings with you and incorporate them into our 2012 summer.