Archive for the ‘Summer Camp for Kids’ Category

This Sanborn Life: Hello, It’s Earth Day!

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

Goshawk in a Ponderosa

We felt like we needed to celebrate Earth Day in a new and different way this year. While people all over the country are picking up trash, volunteering at their local parks, and raising awareness about the importance of conservation, preservation and stewardship, we wanted to simply share some day-to-day moments of wonder that can happen for everyone all over the world if one can slow down, be present and become a keen observer of the world around you. We would love to hear about YOUR Earth Day events, experiences and lessons, too!
Note: All of these events describe (mostly) real events that have happened to camp staff, on camp property or in and around Teller County within the last 24-72 hours. (We also really like Ira Glass and This American Life)
Act I–Of Mice and Spring

Squeak. Squeak. Squeak…Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.
(Mouse Translation: Happy Spring! It has been sunny and warm, then it got cold and snowy.)
Squeakie, squeak-squeak-squeak.
(Mouse Translation: So we all decided to go into our friends’ houses at Sanborn. They are warm and dry.)
Squeak, squeak. Squeak squeak squeak.

Abert (ninja) squirrels are a year round friend

(Mouse Translation: Besides, it’s Earth Day, and we think it is important that they don’t forget about us…so we are going to head indoors to remind them to get outside.)

Act II–Goshawk Haiku

Slate grey black-brown-dark
Sits low in Ponderosas
Wants to eat the squirrel.

Act III–Vulture Queens

Voice on the Radio: We have just had a report of an accident off of Highway 24, just west of Florissant. The driver said she drove off of the road after seeing a large vulture perched on top of a fence post with full outspread wings, apparently drying itself after eating in/on/through one of the very large snowdrifts remaining from last weekend’s snowstorm. The driver said the vulture appeared to be “frozen in a commanding position–as though it was about to direct an orchestra or is channeling Isis (the goddess).”

Evening Grosbeak

Act IV–Bird Nerds Unite!

In everyday conversations around the globe, when questions arise people raise their phones horizontally to their lips and say, “Hey, Siri…”

Around here, we just call Jerry. Jerry is sort of like the old KU Info line you could call to find out the name of the author of that book about the rabbits that form a society, but there are bad rabbits, and it has water in the title or something…but Jerry is better than KU info because he knows what you are talking about when you burst into the office and excitedly say, “Jerry! There was this cool bird at the feeder yesterday and it was a big, medium-sized, yellowish orange with black and white and…” “Oh! You saw an evening grosbeak! They are spectacular!”

After a while, you just find yourself talking about the birds you’ve seen not only to Jerry, but to everyone else:
“Hey! Did you see the kingfishers down in Florissant this morning on the powerline–so cool!”
“I saw a Golden eagle outside of Divide yesterday–those things are so big!”
“The bluebirds are back! The bluebirds are back!”
“I saw a whole flock of red-winged blackbirds yesterday, and heard them calling by the pond this morning!”
“Look at the junco building its nest above our office window!”

And, of course, Jane yelling from her desk, “Hey you turkeys!” (the entire office goes immediately silent)
“What’s wrong, Jane?” says a timid voice.
“No! I’m talking to the REAL turkeys outside of my window, come look!”

Act V–Can We Go With You?

Of all the megafauna on the ranch, the most ubiquitous are the mule deer and elk. Elk are generally a little harder to spot, though there were eight hanging out by Strawberry Fields this morning. But the mule deer? They are kind of like our local street corner thugs…except they have huge doe eyes, enormous ears, and tend to spring off into the woods with the slightest provocation.

Mule Deer (and cats) are Unafraid

But this morning was different.

Jane Sanborn, mind fully churning at 5:30am, opened the door to her apartment and was both startled and amused to find twenty eyes looking back at her from a distance of about 10-15 feet.

The deer looked at her, Jane looked at the deer.

Jane spoke to the deer, “Good morning, deer. How are you, deer? Beautiful day, deer!” But still, the deer did not move. Finally, with 34 unwritten emails spinning in her mind, Jane walked out of the door, walked past the deer, to her car, got in, slammed the door, and drove away.

The deer looked on.

Act VI–Bob, Cat, Bobcat

The nicest thing about spring mornings at camp is the sun. In the dark months of December, when the sun had barely started to rise by 7, it is hard to remember that April soon arrives with its ever brighter 6:15-6:30am arrival. It is mostly hard to remember because the cat doesn’t yowl in December. The cat just sleeps.

But with the arrival of April, the energy and early morning prowly enthusiasm of our cat intensifies with ever-earlier cries, howls, and meows of “Out! Out! Out” (these caterwaulings are only interrupted by the sudden arrival of spring mice in the kitchen which causes a different sort of sleep disturbing mayhem). So, at promptly 6:07am this morning, I fed my cat to a bobcat.

It was not a deliberate act, and one–fortunately–I was able to remedy by sprinting outside and speaking firmly to the shockingly large bobcat walking through our (his) front yard. I think I said something really terrifying like, “Okay, big bobcat, keep on walking…that’s right, get a move on, buddy” all while trying to see where my also largish (for different reasons) cat had gone. The Australian shepherd sized bobcat was fairly nonplussed by my approach and simply kept sauntering. Our largish, often loudish, cat had chosen two, tried and true animal defense mechanisms: 1. Fluff himself out to racoon-like proportions; 2. freeze and practice invisibility.

It was only after the raccoon cat was safely stored underneath a bed did the whole family look around and say, “That was AWESOME!”

Happy Earth Day from ALL of your friends
(furred, feathered, slimy, scaly or human)
at Sanborn Western Camps

The Thrill of Horseback Riding

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

When riding a horse, I feel connected.

Trees blurring past, the thunder of hooves.  I held tight to the reins, remembering to keep my heels down.  Fourteen hundred pounds of power galloping through the forest.  Horseback riding is a mystical, powerful adventure.

When riding a horse, I feel connected.  It’s a mixture of love, fear, and respect.  Humans and horses have a long history together, a productive relationship that has lasted centuries.  Before machines, horses were the machine, they were a power that helped pull our civilization together.  Before cars, horses carried us across the land.  When we ride horses in this modern world, it’s a timeless event.  And Sanborn Western Camps is one of the best places to ride.

At Sanborn, one of our many goals is to foster a sense of wonder in every camper.  We work to inspire a connection with nature.  And one of the many ways to achieve that connection is to swing up into a saddle and ride a horse.

I gazed into the huge marble eyes.

There is something therapeutic about horseback riding.  Studies have shown that we truly connect with the animal.  Brain waves slow.  We even change our breathing to match up with the horse.  The slightest movement, a turn, the twitch of a muscle, it’s all communication.  The horse understands without words.  If a camper is stressed, the horse can sense that.  If a camper is relaxed, the horse relaxes as well.  It’s a feedback loop, animal to animal, a real time relationship.

Many years ago when I was a camper at Sanborn, I was afraid of horses.  I pretended I didn’t care, but the truth is I was scared.  The staff was ready for this.  The counselors and wranglers gently encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and give horseback riding a try.  So I did.

I thought we would jump right on a horse and ride, but the process was much more intricate.  The wranglers first taught me how to care for the animal, to understand it, to lead the horse gently, to speak to it.  They showed me how to brush the horse, tracing the contours of its power.  I began to relax and forget my fear.  I began to feel a sense of wonder.

I gazed into the huge marble eyes.  I ran my hands along the sway of the horse’s back and wondered if a Ute boy or a young trapper did the same with his horse two hundred years ago, right where I was standing.

We learned to saddle and bridle, tightening buckles, bringing all tack to the perfect length.

We learned to saddle and bridle, tightening buckles, bringing all tack to the perfect length.  Then, with mud on my rented boots, I swung up into the saddle.  We rode slowly, ambling away from the Big Spring barn.  That sunny afternoon, I went on my first ride.  And I’ve never looked back.

When we ride, we develop all kinds of skills.  Horseback riding is a two-way process.  You can’t just sit back and do nothing, you must interact with the animal with physical and verbal cues.  As a result, riding develops subtle communication skills.  Riding also develops balance and coordination.  Your core gets a workout, and you must stay focused on where your body is in space.  After a long ride, the next day you can truly feel it, aches in muscles you didn’t know you had.

At camp we do all kinds of rides, from half-day trail rides to five day pack trips deep into the Rockies.  It’s a range of fun that fits perfectly with the range of campers.  My favorites are the long trips, adventures that are unmatched.  We ride deep into rugged country, places where only horses can take us.  We sleep under the stars and rise before dawn to care for the herd.  It’s a unique experience that you can only find at a place like Sanborn.

In our modern chaotic world, it’s important to find ways to relax.  Horseback riding can do that.  Horses are a direct bond with nature that we can all share.  When you ride a horse, you find both companionship and solitude at the same time.

Any chance I can get, I’ll take a horseback ride.  The rasp of an old saddle, the musk of the animal, the joy of a slow walk through an aspen grove.  The world looks better from the back of a horse.  The Ute Indians of the Rockies once said, “The way to heaven is on horseback.”  I think they might be right.

- M. Huffman -

News from Camp: April 1, 2016

Friday, April 1st, 2016

The fuzzy Pasque Flowers are so fun to see in the springtime!

Significant snowfall during the last couple of weeks has provided wonderful moisture and a promise of spectacular wildflowers and full ponds in the coming months. Despite the snow, a few of our summer birds, including bluebirds and robins, have returned to the Ranch so we know spring is on the way. Our first wildflowers, the hardy Mountain Candytuft and the Pasque flower have also been spotted on south-facing slopes. We know that summer will be here before we know it and are inspired to work harder than ever on our many pre-summer projects. The summer staff will begin arriving in less than two months.

Speaking of staff, we have some great people returning for 2016! At Big Spring, returning staff include Jared Allen, Walker Crowley, Tijler deJong, Kevin Fernandez, Oliver Fisher, Kevin Gassaway, Kyle Gilbert, Will Gundlach, Matt Larimer, Slayter Marwitz, Dylan Morris, Evan Niebur, Connor Overman, Emerson Underwood, Jordan Unger, Stephen VanAsdale, Rilyn VandeMerwe, Ben Vockley, Ethan Wallgren, Bret Wolter and nurse Margot Cromack. Jeremy Mabe will be the Program Director assisted by Logistics Coordinator Martie Adams while Jalen Bazile will be a Ridge Leader. Mike Mac will lead the staff, with the help of Assistant Director Matthew Huffman.

The Mountain Candy Tufts tend to grow in the loose gravel alongside the roads.

At High Trails, returning staff include Val Peterson, Allie Almanzar, Cade Beck, Megan Blackburn, Ellen Cromack, Claire Foster, Hailey Gelzer, Carly Holthaus, Carlie Howard, Abby Johnson, Avery Katz, Sophie Leiter, Cara Mackesey, Annie McDevitt, Rachel McNamara, Maddie Ohaus, Gwen Schmidt-Arenales, Kendra Shehy, Truman Sherwood, Anne Shingler, Erica Wilkins and nurse Katie Metz. Janie Cole will again be Program Director, Carlotta Avery will take care of the camp kitchens and trip organization, Maren MacDonald will direct the riding program, Sarah Ulizio will head up rock climbing, Jessie Spehar will take plenty of canoe and river trips and Ariella and Elizabeth will keep everyone organized. We also have a great group of former campers returning as staff members, and some wonderful new staff who will join us for the first time.

We have begun our Spring outdoor education program and are excited to provide experiential, nature-based classes for 4th– 6th graders from 15 schools over the next six weeks.

The Mountain Ball Cacti are very prevalent on the South facing slopes right now.

Our April will be filled with putting the finishing touches on improved programs and trips for this summer, renovation projects to improve our facilities, hiring the last few summer staff and counting the days until camp begins. We’ll be painting, cleaning, flying tents, and planting flowers in no time.

Seeing the Dwarf Cinquefoil now, reminds us that soon Olin Gulch will be covered with its larger counterpart!

Our 2016 community is really coming together. We only have a few openings left in select grades at High Trails, Big Spring, and Sanborn Junior. Families interested for the summer of 2016 should call to check availability. As always, we are happy to send our brochure, DVD and references to any interested families.

We can’t wait to begin creating the fun, adventure, and friendship of the Summer of 2016!

A Sense of Wonder

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Enjoying the sunset at Top of the World

Many of us can remember “a moment of wonder” at camp when time stopped as we watched a Red Tail fly through the sky, or when we witnessed a sunset so beautiful it took our breath away. Perhaps we were amazed by the stars glittering in the night sky, or by the colors of the wild iris in the field below Witcher Rocks. “To inspire a sense of wonder” has always been part of the mission of the camps, and we hope that everyone who comes to camp experiences many such moments at Big Spring and High Trails.

The importance of a sense of wonder for all of us, and especially for young people, cannot be over emphasized. Scott Barry Kaufman, author of “Wired to Create” recently spoke at an American Camp Association conference we all attended.  He provided research to show that a “sense of awe” as he termed it, greatly enhances curiosity and creativity, skills that are sadly diminishing among today’s youth. Other speakers at the conference demonstrated how the simple act of “noticing” in the natural world can lead to awareness, joy, and a deep connection with nature.

Use your imagination to build a fort like the Trappers would have done over a hundred years ago!

The term “sense of wonder” was coined by Rachel Carson in a 1956 essay. Though she planned to write a book on the subject, she died in 1963 before completing the project. However, her notes were used to create a book called “Sense of Wonder”, that was published posthumously in 1965.  When Carson wrote her essay, she was already seeing signs that many children no longer had access to the wild places that were abundant for our agricultural forbears.

Carson could not have predicted, however, the changes in society which have occurred in the past 60 years. In 2006, Richard Louv picked up Carson’s theme with his bestseller, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder”. The research is now significant and it all shows that children need time spent in the natural world in the same way they need food and sleep.  And, while we now understand the power of this need, studies also show that the amount of time children are spending in the natural world is decreasing each year.

Where will these seeds go?

Two significant, and simple, realizations have become clear through the research. One: it is through a personal connection to the natural world that a child experiences the most powerful benefits of a nature experience. This is the same emotional feeling described in the phrase “Sense of Wonder”. Two: young people are 90% more likely to experience this personal connection with nature if they explore the natural world with an adult mentor who also has a personal connection.

Rachel Carson was prescient in this; in her 1956 article she said “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

“To inspire a sense of wonder” is still an important part of our mission and we are becoming ever more intentional about ensuring that each person who comes to camp leaves with a personal connection to the natural world. A sense of wonder can also be enhanced in a garden, a park, an alley, or just by looking at the stars. So go outside today, notice what is around you—and take a child with you.

From the Summer Staff Perspective

Friday, December 18th, 2015

Camp has an incredible impact on campers, but it also impacts our staff members in equally powerful ways. It allows us to reflect on the impact of our experiences and the strength of connections made during our childhood and adolescence. It gives us a perspective on the challenges of growing up that we don’t experience again until we have children of our own. And, possibly most important, it allows us to see ourselves through the eyes, actions and needs of another. We have incredible staff at Sanborn Western Camps because, as an organization, we ask them to put the needs of the campers before their own. The staff members who remain present and focused on the campers’ development end up being the ones who take away camps’ biggest lesson: how to empathize and care deeply for others–and to hold yourself accountable. As one of our long-time staff members and former campers, Iska Nardie-Warner, shared in her following response on self-reflection, “They will ask similar questions of you, and you might want [to have] your answers ready.”

Camp changes the way girls perceive themselves.

I was writing [this] and ended up getting super nostalgic for camp, the staff, and the campers. Anyway, I just thought I’d share some of what camp has given me these past 3 years mostly because I think that sharing in the moment is cool and not done enough, but also because tis the season you know?


Though I have had many reasons for returning to Sanborn, the opportunity to communicate to young girls the power that comes from living outdoors in a solely female community surely covers the main of it.


Fortunately for me, the past two summers have been spent living and working with the same girls. And I can honestly say that watching each and everyone of those unique, talented, and beautiful young ladies challenge themselves physically, emotionally and grow in themselves has been a blessing. We all remember the challenges of being a fifteen-year old girl and to help these special ladies recognize their connections to (and love for) each other and the strength they build when they rely not only upon themselves but each other as well is making a difference.


Camp changes the way girls perceive themselves. Less and less, you will observe, the girls worry about the need to look or act a specific way: instead, they focus on climbing 14,000 foot mountains, riding horses with control, and most importantly asking questions of the world, themselves. And don’t be fooled, they will ask similar questions of you, and you might want your answers ready.


The power of fifteen-year old girls is undoubtedly underestimated. There is something striking about waking each morning and having to explain yourself and your thoughts and actions, almost immediately, to your girls. Their insatiable curiosity prompts repeated recognition of the importance of self-reflection for a counselor.


Honestly, I cherish explaining why my opinions on the importance of female empowerment provide the drive behind my work as a counselor: Sanborn becomes the intersection of theory and practice, for me, and I only fully-understand that because of self-reflection, sometimes prompted by the intelligent young ladies that populate that camp. In other words, these girls challenge me just as much as I plan on challenging them each summer. And I know they will give me just as much as I am willing to give them.

"And I know they will give me just as much as I am willing to give them." Avery (left), a current camper, with Iska (right) during their long trip in Summer 2015.


I could never take my role in their life lightly, and plan to never take for granted the role they have played in mine either because they really are the most special, funny, witty, charming, intelligent, kind, poised, and lovable young women. I miss them to pieces and know that they will be some of the best JCs and people this world has ever seen. And Sanborn—as a place that changes lives forever (for the better)—would be lucky to have any of them that can return.

Cheers,

Iska

Thank you Iska for sharing your thoughts with us and our greater Camp community. We are so excited to continue impacting each other with our campers and staff members as the New Year approaches and brings Summer 2016 with it.

The Joy of Campfires

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

"The brilliance, the warmth, the crackle of the logs…it brought new life to our cold campsite."

There are so many magnificent things about summer camp, and for me one of the greatest of them is the opportunity to sit around a campfire.  Not a gas flame flickering, not a warming lamp on a restaurant patio… but a campfire.

The first campfire I experienced was at Sanborn, and it was love at first sight.  I was a camper on my first unit overnight, far from home.  I was tired from a long hike in wet weather, my feet and shoulders were aching, and a cold front was rolling in behind the rain. But then the counselors built a campfire.  And all of those tiresome things melted away. I couldn’t believe how incredible it was to just stare at the rolling flames.

The mood lifted as campers and staff gathered around.  We gazed at the fire, transfixed by the vines of light tangling in the air.  The brilliance, the warmth, the crackle of the logs…it brought new life to our cold campsite.  There was something mystic about those flames.  It felt like a message from the earth, from nature itself, an encouraging note of warmth and energy.

Throughout that evening, campers and counselors stayed near the fire, working together to prepare dinner.  We chopped and grilled, cooking right over the blaze.  There wasn’t a stove in sight, we literally cooked over the fire.  It felt timeless, as if we were engaged in an ancient task.  I still remember that meal, it’s one of the best dinners of my life.  And not because it was well made, which it was, but because the entire meal was cooked on an open fire.  It lit up my mood and filled up my belly.

"We chopped and grilled, cooking right over the blaze."

That campfire was a first for me, and summer camp is all about firsts.  Spending a night or two out in the wilderness can be scary, but a campfire can chase away those fears.  It’s a process that humans have been doing for eons.

The human race has a special relationship with campfires.  It’s a ritual of light, a safe zone of warmth and community.  Gazing into a the flames, we connect to our past.  For thousands of years our ancestors sat around fires, not for fun, but for necessity.  Human history began by the firelight.  When we build campfires, it brings a taste of the timeless into our cluttered modern world.

It’s essential to be safe when building a fire.  At Sanborn, we don’t have fires all the time, we only build when conditions permit.  Sometimes there are fire bans, other times we’re in National Forest or high country and we simply don’t want to impact the surroundings.  But when we do build campfires, it’s truly wonderful.  A campfire can warm a day and bond a group.  Gazing into the flames inspires you in ways that are hard to describe.  The flames roll and your thoughts roll with them.

Years ago, that night around the fire, the meal finished but we kept the flames going.  We roasted marshmallows and sang along with an untuned guitar.  The flames twisted up into the night with our laughter in tow.  I looked across the fire, into the eyes of my new friends.  The campfire underscored the mood, it was a shared love of the moment.  With each pop from the fire, sparks floated up into the sky, mixing with the stars.  I felt so… connected.

As the night ended, the flames fell into coals and the embers pulsed like a heartbeat.   One by one, everyone headed off to bed, zipping into their tents and bags.  I sat alone with a few others, poking at the embers. Finally, the counselors put the fire out with a crash of cold water.  Steam hissed up into the night, the light fading away.  It was time for bed.

I always sleep like a rock after sitting around a campfire.  It’s almost like the flames were a lullaby for my busy mind.  And then there’s the fun of the next day… because one of the great things about a campfire is that it stays with you.  The next morning you can smell the campfire in your clothes, an aroma of smoke, an echo of nighttime fun.  More than once, I’ve been caught standing stock-still, sniffing my clothes and smiling, remembering the flawless joy of a campfire.

News from Camp: September 1st, 2015

Friday, September 4th, 2015

Don't worry...This Window, That Window and The Other Window signs will be back!

It is much too quiet around camp   The fields, hills, and lodges are filled with great memories from the summer of 2015, and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to spend this time with so many outstanding campers and staff.

One of our tasks during the weeks following camp is to collect and distribute all the lost and found items.  We have now mailed every major article which has a name to the owner.  We still have some jackets, boots, and other items of clothing which do not have names.  Please let us know if your camper is missing something and we will do everything we can to track it down and send it to you.

Our outdoor education program staff has arrived and we will begin welcoming sixth graders to High Trails Outdoor Education Center on September 8.  Among the summer staff who have returned to teach during this program are Mike Adler, Janie Cole, Melody Reeves, Jared Allen, Anne Ulizio, Nick Jordan, and Jalen Bazile. Patrick Perry, Carlotta Avery, Sarah Ulizio, and Jackson Blackburn will provide leadership for the program.

An outstanding hay crew consisting of Jim Larsen, Joe Lopez, Ian Stafford, Matthew Huffman, and Anne Shingler has been working hard to bring in our hay crop this year. The cattle and horses are very grateful for their work because the hay will provide their nourishment through the winter months.

Our maintenance crew has been busy since camp ended. They have completed a beautiful new over the road sign at the entrance to Big Spring and have almost finished a big job at the High Trails Lodge—installing new electricity, new paneling, and new windows. We think it will be a big hit with all the High Trails diners.

We have several exciting events this Fall in addition to our traditional schedule.  On September 4 we will be providing leadership training for students from School District 20 high schools.  We have developed this outstanding program over the past few years and are always excited to work with these motivated teens. And on September 19, we will again join with the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument to celebrate “No Child Left Inside Day” by hosting an open house.  We will be offering a program of nature-based activities and hikes for families who would like to get their children outdoors for the day.  There is no cost for the event.  We also have an Alum Reunion planned for October 15-18, and are looking forward to welcoming many old friends back to camp.

We are already thinking about next summer and have established our dates.  The first term at Big Spring and High Trails will be Sunday, June 12 – Tuesday, July 12, 2016. The second term will be Friday, July 15 – Sunday, August 14.  The four terms of Sanborn Junior will be June 12 – June 26, June 28 – July 12, July 15 – July 29, and July 31 -August 14.  We have sent this information to current camp families and will send additional information in October to camp families, former camp families, and prospective camp families. If you would like to receive our catalog and DVD or know someone who would, we will be happy to mail them at any time.

Each month we will post news from camp on the website, so keep checking it out!  Right now, a few gold leaves are showing on the Aspen, and the sky is incredibly blue.  A large herd of elk is hanging out at Potts Spring and the horses are wondering why no one comes each day to ride them.  We wish all of our camp friends a great beginning to the school year and hope that everyone will keep in touch.

News from Camp: June 21, 2015

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

One of the best activities of cabinside overnights is enjoying the sunset together!

What a great week!  As always, we feel so fortunate to work with such a wonderful group of young people, and enthusiasm has been high for all of our trips and activities.

Following our busy week of campouts and activities, we were happy to once again be all together on Friday evening for dinner, and the Lodges were exciting (and noisy) places to be.  On Saturday mornings we offer Saturday Specials—these are activities which continue every Saturday morning during the camp term.  Campers may choose to work on the coed Drama which they will present at the end of camp, take riding lessons, learn technical rock climbing, hike to different parts of the ranch, learn how to throw pots on the wheel in ceramics, and many other fun activities.  On Saturday evening, the camps came together at Big Spring for an ice cream social and dance.
Campers in both camps have been offered a wide variety of all-day and overnight trips and a number of these are scheduled for next week.  Horseback overnights, fishing all-days, mountain climbs and hikes to several spectacular locations are only some of the adventures that await. There will also be a busy in-camp program and some of our favorite special events.  Juniors at both camps will experience another campout, more horseback riding, swimming, rock-scrambling, and a number of fun, creative in-camp activities.  High Trails Juniors are looking forward to a special fishing trip while Junior Campers at Big Spring will enjoy the Bat Caves/Fossil Beds All Day.
Many of our older campers have signed up for SOLE (Sanborn Outdoor Leadership Experience) or CORE (Community Outreach Experience) next week—these 5-day adventures include service projects as well as challenging activities.  One group will work with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative to build trails on Mt. Elbert, while two other groups will work with CFI in Missouri Gulch.  All three groups then plan to climb a Fourteener to complete their week. Two separate trip groups have chosen a rock climbing focus.  During the week they will learn climbing skills at our climbing site on Wild Goat Mountain and then venture off our property to climb at Turkey Rocks. These groups will come together on Thursday to work with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte to complete service projects at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Both the CORE and SOLE programs are also offering 5-day Horsemanship experiences–these will emphasize improving horseback riding skills as well as community service. We also have a CORE mountain biking trip which will bike around the ranch, work on our biking trails, and then complete the Salida Downhill bike ride.
The Junior Counselors at High Trails and Outbackers at Big Spring are also looking forward to their special 3-day trips this week.  The girls leave tomorrow for Great Sand Dunes National Monument; on Wednesday they will meet the Outbackers in Buena Vista for an exciting day of rafting on the Arkansas River.  The girls will then return to camp while the boys head to the Sand Dunes for two-days of sand surfing and exploration.
Although we are high and dry here at camp, some of our usual activities have been impacted by the extreme amount of moisture Colorado received during the spring and early summer. The South Platte River, where we usually tube and raft, has been at flood stage for over a week now, and the part of the river we use is closed. We hope to be able to take some River Trips later this term when the water flow has decreased. The good news related to water sports is that the High Trails Lake, which has barely been a puddle for several years, is now an impressive body of water and we are having a great time canoeing and paddle boarding there.
We also are watching the high mountains closely due to extremely high snowpack in some areas. However, the snow at high elevations is melting rapidly now, and we are fortunate enough to have Forest Service permits for many different mountains, so we have been able to shift some of our permits to climb those mountains with less snow next week.  And, we are confident that most of the mountains we climb will be in good shape by June 29 when the High Trails long trips head out.
If you haven’t already done so, check out the living unit photos taken early last week by visiting our Camp-in-Touch portal.  Our photographers are also hard at work posting new photos taken at camp last week. They will be available for viewing early tomorrow morning.
Beyond reading these news updates and our Sanborn blog online, you can follow Sanborn Western Camps on Facebook. We would love to have parents, friends, and family follow our updates about camp events, trips and activities.

Resilience, Research and MORE at Sanborn

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

BMWs: Beautiful Mountain Women

Last year, High Trails campers participated in research on the development of resiliency in girls through the camp experience. COEC Director of Research, Heather Huffman, Ed.M. Harvard, Ph.D. UCLA, worked in concert with researcher Anja Whittington, Ph.D. of Radford University to test her newly designed measurement tool, the “Adolescent Girls’ Resilience Scale.” Surveys were administered to a specific population at camp at both the beginning and end of each term and we wanted to share our results with you.

Overall, High Trails campers showed a positive and significant change in their resiliency scores by the end of camp.  Specifically, the girls’ scores increased in the areas of Positive Approach to Challenge, Self-Efficacy, Relationship-Building, and Confidence. Their scores did not change significantly in the area of Positive Peer Relationships. Scores did not decrease in any area. What does this mean, you ask? Read on to learn more about the AGRS scale and how resilience can be defined in the camp environment.

From the Adolescent Girls’ Resilience Scale (AGRS) website:

Simply stated, Resilience is the ability to negotiate and successfully cope with risks, challenges, and/or disadvantages. This includes having feelings of confidence and self-efficacy, being able to approach challenges in a positive manner and developing positive relationships with others.

The AGRS measures several components of girls’ resilience.  This includes:

  • Approach to Challenge: the degree to which girls view challenge positively; respond positively to stressful situations; feel brave and courageous; show persistence, and are flexible when problem solving.
  • Self-Efficacy: the degree to which girls believe that they are capable and believe they have the ability and motivation to complete tasks and reach goals.
  • Relationship Building: the degree to which  girl’s form positive relationships with others, successfully negotiating conflicts in relationships, and feel comfortable with and supported by other girls.
  • Confidence: represents an adaptive approach to challenge and sense of self-efficacy.
  • Positive Peer Relationships: includes interactions with peers and how one interacts with or feels about their peers.

Teamwork and Adventure

The goal of the AGRS is to measure change in the potential for resilience among adolescent girls (ages 10-18) as a result of participating in a broad range of programs designed to promote resilience among girls, such as adventure programming or camp experiences.  The AGRS was tested over three years with a total of approximately 1500 girls from various organizations.

Both Dr. Whittington and Dr. Huffman’s research is instrumental to determining OUR ability to achieve our mission and demonstrate quantitatively that we actually DO what we say we do at camp. The best part? Dr Whittington and her research team are making the AGRS available to the public for free–with the recognition that it is a measurement to be used in outdoor, adventure programming or camp experiences for girls. Just visit www.agrscale.com to learn more.
In addition, over the last four summers, our campers have participated in the ACA’s Youth Outcomes Battery–a measurement tool that can help us show the specific “take-aways” our campers gain at Sanborn Western Camps. We have aligned the ACA’s measurements with our own 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. Each summer we focused on one set of outcomes aligned with one of the four pillars of our mission: self, community, earth and wonder. We are in the process of examining all of the results from the last four summers and translating that data into meaningful information we can share with parents, alums, campers, and others who are interested in the benefits of the camp experience.

Courage and Competence: The Sanborn High Ropes Course

We know that our camp experience helps develop resilience in girls and we also know that camp has a positive impact on the development of a child’s independence, perceived competence, responsibility, problem solving-confidence, friendship skills, teamwork, camp connectedness, family citizenship, interest in exploration, and affinity for nature…and we can’t wait to share even more of the hard data that says, “Camp is an important part of a child’s healthy development,” because we have known that for over 65 years.

The Importance of Climbing

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Life is a gift, but some days it feels like a chore.  On those days, we can feel overloaded with the weight of responsibility, disappointment, and anxiety.  It’s important to push through those feelings because in the end, life is an adventure.  That’s one of the reasons it’s important to get outdoors.  More specifically, it’s important to climb mountains.

Climbing a mountain somehow resets your brain.  Ascending any peak, no matter its size, is an exhausting journey, a crazy trek.  It changes you as it challenges you.  Maybe it’s the lack of oxygen, but every time I climb a mountain I see the world in a new light.

I climbed my first mountain at camp many years ago.  School had ended, summer rolled around, I assumed I had three months of dullness to look forward to.  But then, my parents sent me to Sanborn.  Boredom went out the door.  I loved it.

It was that summer that I climbed my first 14er.   I’ll never forget that trip.  I remember getting dropped at the trailhead, our packs full.

At the trailhead, ready to climb

Counselors checked the maps, and we set out into the wilderness.  After many hours of hiking, we reached our basecamp.  Rising to the north was the cloud-covered mountain that we were driven to climb.  That night, we ate well, sang songs around the fire, and drifted to sleep in our little village of tents.

We woke long before dawn to find the counselors up and ready.  We crunched down some cold cereal and set out to climb the mountain.  The adrenaline was flowing, the spirit of adventure pushing us.  Hours passed, our line of headlamps bobbing up the steep trail, gaining altitude. I was exhausted and I wanted to give up.  But with encouragement from my counselors, I pushed on.

As early daylight broke on the mountain, we were able to see our progress.  I was encouraged by how high we had climbed.  In the valley below, our tents were so small they were hard to see.  And then we saw an eagle fly.  Not above us, but below us.  Looking down on that powerful bird as it soared across the sky was a shift for my brain.

We pressed on.  After a while, we could see the summit — it was only a few hundred yards away.  I was so excited I joined other campers and we ran… only to discover… it was a false peak.  We learned an important life lesson: don’t burn out racing up false peaks.  I was exhausted, but because of my counselors, because of how much they believed in me, I never gave up.  We pressed on.  It seemed like we were hiking across a lunar landscape.

Climbing a 14er

We were above tree line, no vegetation, the squeak of pikas all around us.  Hours moved like minutes.  We fought the wind and cheered each other on.  Finally, we scrambled over rocks that were billions of years old and reached the summit.  We did it.  There was a mystic silence as we stood on the peak and watched the sun rise over the Rockies.  I laughed with delight, bonding with my Big Spring brothers.  I couldn’t wait to climb again.

Standing on top is amazing, but the summit is not the goal.   The reason we climb a mountain is just that:  to climb.   One of my favorite climbs was years ago, when I was a counselor myself and our camp trip didn’t even reach the top.  A storm rolled in over Mount Harvard and pushed us down long before the summit.  We returned to base camp and took shelter from the cloudburst.  We still had a great climb.  It was an epic trip, long remembered, even though we didn’t make it to the top.  The goal is not only the summit, the goal is the journey, the strength you gain from the climb, and the memories.

Standing on top of the world

When we climb mountains, it clarifies our thinking.  The disorder of our lives — the argument with a friend, the bad grade in algebra — all of it is forgotten.  The mountain is all that matters.  It gives us perspective.  When we climb, the mountain speaks to us in geologic time, a slow-motion language, and it reminds us that that problems are fleeting and life is truly a gift.

~M.Huffman~