Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

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.

News From Camp: June 1, 2015

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

June is finally here and we are excited for the arrival of campers in two weeks. We had a significant amount of moisture in May, which has made the Ranch more beautiful than ever. The grass is green, the Aspens are leafing out, and the wildflowers are beginning to appear. We see deer every day in the immediate camp area, the Mountain Bluebirds are settled in for the summer, the hummingbirds are back, and the Abert’s Squirrels are exceptionally fat and sassy.

We have been preparing the facility and are almost ready for everyone’s arrival. The Big Spring tents are up, the BS Lodge is open for business, and fresh paint is being applied in many places. The flowers are planted, the horses have new shoes, and the swimming pools are full and heating. We think you will be pleased by the facility improvements we have made over the winter: a new floor in the HT Lodge, renovations at the Real Estate Office at Big Spring, a new bathroom in Crystal Palace, and new tent frames for the Outbackers at Big Spring are just a few of these. Although we are still finishing a few last minute facility projects, we have now turned our attention to staff training.

The leadership staff arrived last week and we are conducting a special training for our Senior staff team over the weekend. Several staff are also taking a lifeguard training course over the weekend. On Thursday and Friday last week, our rock climbing staff enjoyed a two-day training at our Wild Goat Mountain climbing site, while several staff completed a riflery instructor course. Our wranglers have been here for two weeks now and have been busy getting our horses ready for the summer and completing their specialized training.

On Monday and Tuesday, many of our trip leading staff will complete a two-day Wilderness First Aid course taught by the Wilderness Medicine Institute. Also on Monday, several staff will complete a course in archery instruction. On Wednesday, we will hold an all-day driver training course and also will conduct First Aid and CPR courses. Our entire staff of more than 100 will arrive on Thursday. For the following nine days, we will hold sessions on youth development, outdoor skills, our mission and core values, leadership tools, and health and safety, as well as trainings in our many program areas.

It is always special when our wonderful summer community comes together. We are looking forward to the mountains we will climb, the horseback trips we will enjoy, the sunsets we will share and the friendships we will make. We especially anticipate the opportunities we will have to learn more about ourselves, our companions and the natural world.

We again plan to post weekly updates and photos on the website once camp begins. Although we cannot promise to show every camper or every activity, we think these photos will help parents, friends, and family members to get a peek into life at Big Spring, High Trails, and Sanborn Junior. So visit us again on June 14!

Oh the Places WE Go!

Monday, October 13th, 2014

The mountains ARE waiting...to see YOU at camp!

Sanborn Road Show 2015

The Sanborn Road Show is an opportunity for prospective and current campers and their parents to meet and chat with Mike MacDonald, Matthew Huffman, Elizabeth Rundle and/or Ariella Rogge, the respective directors of Big Spring Ranch for Boys and High Trails Ranch for Girls; see a digital presentation about a summer at Sanborn Western Camps; and ask questions about the facilities, camp programs, staff, or anything else that may be on your mind!

We are currently coordinating our dates and times for our 2015 show. Please save the dates  below for shows in nearby cities, and visit our Facebook Events page for new city additions and location updates.

If you are interested in hosting a presentation, please contact Mike, Elizabeth or Ariella at 719.748.3341.

Seattle, Washington

Sunday, October 26th, 2014
4:30 p.m.
Montlake Community Center
1618 E Calhoun St
Seattle, WA  98112

Hosted by: The Rawlings Family
Kay Rawlings 206.501.5942 or rawsee1 at gmail dot com

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Ariella Rogge at Sanborn: 719.748.3341 or ariella at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

Falls Church, Virginia

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014
7:30 p.m.
Temple Rodef Shalom
2100 Westmoreland Street
Falls Church, VA 22043

Hosted by: Sam Klein and Family

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Elizabeth Rundle at Sanborn: 719.748.3341 or elizabeth at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
Location and Time: TBD

Hosted by: The Stefani Pashman and Jeremy Feinstein Family

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Elizabeth Rundle at Sanborn: 719.748.3341 or elizabeth at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Thursday, November 13th, 2014
7:30 p.m.

Temple Sholom

55 Church Ln
Broomall, Pennsylvania 19008

Hosted by: Jeff Farhy and Family

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Elizabeth Rundle at Sanborn: 719.748.3341 or elizabeth at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

Houston, Texas

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Location and Time: TBD
Hosted by: Deborah Whalen

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Elizabeth Rundle at Sanborn: 719.748.3341 or elizabeth at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

Austin, Texas

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
Location and Time: TBD
Hosted by: The Ehrlich and Gormin Families

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Elizabeth Rundle at Sanborn: 719.748.3341 or elizabeth at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

San Antonio, Texas

Wednesday, December 11th, 2014
Location and Time: TBD
Hosted by: The Smith Family

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Elizabeth Rundle at Sanborn: 719.748.3341 or elizabeth at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

Denver, CO

Wednesday January 21st, 2015
7:30 p.m.
1st Plymouth Congregational Church
The Odeon Room
3501 South Colorado Blvd.

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Elizabeth Rundle at Sanborn: 719.748.3341 or elizabeth at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

Chicago, IL

Saturday January 24th, 2015
Time: TBD
Winnetka Community House
620 Lincoln Ave.
Winnetka, IL
Local Host: Cathy Burnham 847-272-2160

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Elizabeth Rundle at Sanborn: 719.748.3341 or elizabeth at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

St. Louis, MO

Sunday January 25th, 2015
Location and Time: TBD
Local Host: Bill Polk

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Elizabeth Rundle at Sanborn: 719.748.3341 or elizabeth at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Monday January 26th, 2015
Time: TBD
Christ United Methodist Church-Room
3515 South Harvard
Local Host: Margie Brown 918-260-6808

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Elizabeth Rundle at Sanborn: 719.748.3341 or elizabeth at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Tuesday January 27th
Time: TBD
All Souls’ Episcopal Church
Christian Family Life Center
6400 N. Pennsylvania Ave.
Local Hosts: Lucy, John and Sarah Covington
john at covingtonoil dot com  or call 405-306-0518

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Elizabeth Rundle at Sanborn: 719.748.3341 or elizabeth at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

Santa Fe, NM

Thursday January 28th
Time: TBD
Santa Fe Prep
1101 Camino de Cruz Blanca
Santa Fe, NM 87505

Local Hosts Mary and Kent Little
mbrlittle at mac dot com 505-989-8977

Additional 2015 Sanborn Road Show Dates will be added in the upcoming months. Please check back soon or call 719-748-3341 to find out when we are coming to your neighborhood!

Happy, Healthy and Moving

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Staff Gaga Ball...Practicing Best Practice!

Just yesterday, there was a piece on NPR that basically said our teenagers are getting fatter.  Based on the nation’s recognition of the childhood obesity epidemic and PSA’s from the NFL, the First Lady, and a wide variety of Sesame Street characters, our kids should be moving more right?

Maybe.

As the pendulum has swung, and children have been spending less and less time outdoors (this generation has spent less time in the outdoors than any generation in human history)—I will posit—that they have actually FORGOTTEN how to play.

During a recent training session with the High Trails Ridge Leaders, we actually had to look up the rules to “Kick the Can” (granted, it was because there were competing theories…and we realized it is a much easier game to play in an urban environment where there are a lot of cars and basement stairwells to hide in).  Active play has been endangered by hyper-vigilant playground monitors, fear of strangers, children’s access to and us of technology, and a lack of adults who model outdoor play.

Yet, at camp, all of that changes.  Kids walk everywhere.  They hike, they bike, they look at the stars instead of screens, they carry saddles long distances (ask any Sanborn Junior camper what is the hardest thing they do at camp and it is carrying those gigantic, awkward saddles).  It isn’t hazing, it is helping—we help these campers recognize the potential of their bodies.

Our staff are wildly active—pick-up Frisbee games after every meal, Gaga ball, riding bikes to commute to work, walking up and down the High Trails hill and back and forth from the ridges to the lodge and all of these crazy games.  During our afternoon training, our comprehensive pack-packing clinic was a bit rushed because we couldn’t stop playing games (my new personal favorite is a tag game where everyone is trying to tag everyone on the backs of their knees, and when the person who tagged you gets out, then you are back in again…ran and laughed so hard I thought I was going to throw up…which was NOT an unpleasant feeling in this case).

Adults love to run and play, too, and when we model it for our own children, students and campers…AND TEENS, we WILL help the pendulum shift back to an understanding that play might be the job of childhood, but it is a requirement of of healthy, happy adulthood, too.

Zen Masters, Unite and Write!

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

As community building and preparation for the summer, each camp creates a staff-only Facebook group so staff can discuss the upcoming summer, make introductions, and ask for advice from directors and returning staff members on all things camp.

Yesterday, the topic of conversation was laundry—how is it done, who does it, how often, and more.  As the ideas for underwear management were traded back and forth the line, “unless there is a name on it” was repeated over and over.  Though some of the comments were written in jest…there was a slightly desperate undercurrent and tone from many of our returning staff members.

The Klean Karma Laundry has been such a foundational part of camp for so long, that—in our quest to keep its reputation unsullied—we decided we must clean up our acts and seek order and crisp clarity in setting a goal to keep our laundry Karma pure.

This made us think:  how could we create Laundry Nirvana at camp?  Much like the Eightfold Path, we need to have the Right Effort to achieve the Right Mindfulness which is found through Right Concentration.  Laundry truly can be a meditative effort and when we put our minds to making the whole laundry process one of zen-like calm and clarity.  If we can make it so, then we are all able to concentrate on other things….like playing outside.

Though some may say the sword is mightier than the pen, we disagree.  We believe there is nothing more powerful than a Sharpie Rub-A-Dub laundry marker.  And imagine the impact you could have on the lives of countless children, young adults, and weary laundresses if you practice this meditation every laundry day between now and camp:

You stand at the folding table, a content smile on your face, your head is clear of any negative thoughts.  You mindfully lift and fold clothing item after clothing item, noticing your breathing and sending positive energy toward the wearer of the Fruit of the Looms you hold in your hand.  As you inhale, you lift the Sharpie purposefully, intently, and then slowly inscribe the name of the wearer on the smooth elastic band, deeply exhaling as you lift the pen from the cotton.*  Repeat.  If your mind wanders, use the image of a sad counselor lost in a chaotic mountain of unlabeled clothes to help you refocus on your breathing.

Laundry nirvana is achievable if we label mindfully and follow the orderly path to sorting the fresh and folded linens….at least, everyone in the cabin and the unit will be much happier that way.

In closing, we offer you this mantra to chant:  May your karma be forever clean, and may the names on your socks (and your skivvies) be your own.

*Or, if you are more of the contemplative ironing type, may we recommend Mabels Labels or Stuck On You as a great option for helping clothes—and everything else—find their way back to the right owners.

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~

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.