Archive for April, 2010

Teaching By Being: How We Teach Campers

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Much of the impact we have as youth development professionals happens just because we are role models.  Campers look to their counselors for guidance, wisdom, and to learn more about the people they want to become.  The quote, “act as though what you do makes a difference,” is a perfect line for camp counselors–because who you are as much as what you do DOES make a difference.  Here is a list of 10 ways to help teach your campers essential life skills, to build a strong relationship with your camper, and to model happy, healthy, and enriching behaviors.

Summit Success on Mount Silverheels

1.  Respect:  A camper who is treated with respect at camp will have self-respect.  He will learn to cooperate and have empathy for others.

2.  Listening:  Listen to your campers’ stories, hopes, and worries.  Hear them and respond.  They will learn to listen to others.

Singing "Rocky Mountain High" at the start of a backpacking trip.

3.  Patience:  A camper who sees you are not afraid of failure, who sees you fiinish what you begin, will try, try again until he succeeds.

4.  Trust:  Keep your promises.  Your campers will be trustworthy.

5.  Work:  A camper who shares in the daily work at camp will learn to be responsible.

Practicing the art of the lasso, Big Spring Barn

6.  Honesty:  If a camper is taught and shown how to respect the truth, if he sees justice used to solve problems at home, he will know right from wrong.

7.  Time:  All children, not only at camp, spell love T-I-M-E.  If your camper owns enough one-on-one time with you each day, she will have confidence because she knows she has value.

Reading stories around the campfire together

8.  Downtime:  Give your campers time to read, reflect and dream for at least 20 minutes every day.  They will learn to take time for themselves.  They will learn to concentrate.  They will forget how to be “bored.” They will learn critical thinking and be set free to dream.

9.  Writing:  Give your camper time and encouragement to write in or draw in a journal.  Praise his efforts.  He will carry these efforts away to home and school.  He will connect writing with enjoyment and will then write with and for pleasure.

Great staff members help build great campers!

10.  Habits:  Campers need quiet time every day.  They need a good night’s sleep and regular meals of wholesome food, instead of sugar snacks.  They need to wash their hands and use good manners with everyone.  They need to be outdoors, instead of watching TV and playing video games.  Good habits make good campers.

Outdoor Education Teachable Moments

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Here we are, April 29th, and it is still snowing! I think they say it everywhere, but the saying “wait 5 minutes and the weather will change” is especially true in Florissant, Colorado.

We have 3 school groups here this week, all for five days. They are all out on all-day discovery groups today – Prospectors, Explorers, Homesteaders, and Cowboys – and the weather will make for some interesting stories. Thursday dinner is one of my favorite times to hear the students recount the things they did and saw. With cabin groups split up, each table at dinner has lots of perspectives and details to share!

I was talking to a teacher from Nederland yesterday about her Homesteader half-day. She and the students thoroughly enjoyed their time out at our 1890′s homestead. She and the counselors stayed in character of east coasters making their way west to claim their 160 acres during the Homestead Act rush. Well, they stayed in character until they saw some really neat birds on the hike back to the central High Trails area. She said the group was walking back when several vultures flew close to the groups’ heads. While most people probably would have been grossed out by the thought of birds that eat dead things flying so close, this teacher used it as a great teachable moment. Instead of acting like homesteaders, the rest of the hike was spent looking for “cool things.”

I thought this was great! We worry sometimes that teachers who are so used to being in a classroom and following a curriculum won’t be able to enjoy the outdoor classroom at High Trails. We definitely didn’t need to worry about this great teacher. Rather than worrying about getting the material across, she let the students use their Sense of Wonder and learn outside the box. My guess is, the students learned more by looking for cool things than they would have only learning about the homesteaders. They are going to return home appreciating and looking at what is around them (while also thinking what it would have been like trying to make a life for themselves as a homesteader!).

I can’t wait to hear about what teachable moments the snow provided today!

Wichita Reconnect

Monday, April 26th, 2010

We had a wonderful turnout for our Wichita Reconnect event last evening! As part of our ongoing goal to share the joy and the transformational power of the camp experience, we have traveled to Tulsa, St. Louis, Kansas City and, now, Wichita to connect our Sanborn alums within those communities. 

Last night at the Wichita Country Club, former and current campers, staff members, their friends and family all experienced lots of Ah-Ha! moments when they realized, “Oh, my sister was in your cabin…” or “Jane Sanborn was my counselor!” or “We lived in the same tent that summer!” or the simple, “I had NO idea YOU went to camp, too!” There were powerful stories shared, good friends remembered, and animated faces and laughter filled the room all evening long.

While guests enjoyed beverages and dessert, Jerry McLain, Director of Alumni Relations, shared the evolution and growth of the camps over the last 62 years, as images of truly happy campers from the Summer of 2009 played on a screen behind him. He shared the recent campaign message of the American Camp Association, our professional organization, and asked attendees to think about the phrase, “Because of camp…”.

Last night, because of camp, we all returned to the high country—to enjoy Vespers at Sunday Rocks, to ride horses with Sweet Estes, to hike up A-Bluff, to hear Sandy tell a tall-tale, to see the panorama of Colorado’s high mountains for the first time, to hang out in a big green tent, to make new friends from across the country, to take risks and experience personal triumphs, to sleep outside under the stars, to share memories that—for many—did not fade with time.

We want to thank all of our attendees, and we look forward to seeing you next year (or anytime you find yourselves in Colorado)!

Attendees included: Bill and Holly Anderson; Becky Koch Arheart and son, Zander; Paul Brunson; Georgia Chandler; Bill Comley; David Garretson; Dorothy Gray; Christina and David Hesse; Phil Hesse and Jane Relihan Hesse; Nick Hesse; Susan McKnight; Jerry McLain; David Murfin; Kristin Utz Price and Will Price; Jan Chandler Randle and Steve Randle; Ariella Randle Rogge; Bruce Rowley; Barbara Rowley; John Rundle; Rick Shrader; Charlie and Amanda Wells and their son, Oliver; Marty and Lyndy Wells; Kiv Yankey and Terry; John Ranney and his mother, Mary Ann Ranney; Jerry and Diane Leisy; Naomi Shapiro; Joyce Oster and Lucca Grene; and Heather Chappel, and daughter, Taylor.

Go Play Outdoors

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

The research has been done.  The results are staggering.  Children spend less time in the outdoors than EVER before in human history.  And the impact of this fact will, inevitably, profoundly shift how our children, and our children’s children view their connection with and within this natural world.

West of Jesus: Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief

In his excellent, and well-researched West of Jesus: Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief Steven Kotler posits that “what we believe governs what we see.”  Basically, our belief systems (from religious, to spiritual, to biological, and back again) govern our perceptions—and what we perceive is the real world—Reality—is nothing more, or less, than what we believe.  Kotler’s concern, same as mine, is grounded in the current trend that has the human species moving farther and farther away from the natural world.  In essence, we are ignoring or shunning basic biological imperatives that allow us to see, to create, to value interconnections in the very natural world from which we came.

Not so, you say.  Our children (and some of us) are making connections and raising the collective consciousness through the strategic use of internet technologies, globalization, and instant access to information.  Yet in this environment of overwhelming information access, our human-animal brains are being put to the test.

Kotler frames his argument about the origins of our belief in both current and older brain research and studies.  Much of our “human-ness” comes from our ability to manage both “logos” and “mythos.”  Logos—or logic—is “information of the no-nonsense variety:  practical, clinical, scientific, secular.”  Mythos—or myth–is a “way to give meaning to events that exist beyond easy context.”    We are deeply entrenched in a culture that celebrates logos, bringing to mind the line and cultural motifs from The Matrix, “The world as it was at the end of the 20th century”.  A culture that, by and large, now shuns myth.  Myth was long believed to be an outward representation/explanation of our inner selves.   Our creation of personal “myth” explains the inexplicable, allows us to describe the indescribable, gives us the context to make sense and meaning in a world of random suffering, pain, and death.

Images of Haiti by Allison Kwesell

In the current scientific climate, however, subjectivity is out, and objectivity rules.  When we are confronted with glaring economic issues,  complex political initiatives, and public health conundrums—there are those who utilize logos in its myriad forms to find “a solution.”  Yet when those situations involve environmental paradoxes where human wants and needs trump multiple species, or when whole cities or nations of suffering humans seem to become “an issue”—that is our logos attempting to usurp our mythos.  We don’t connect, we think.

The Great Bower Bird

For all of that thinking, we are still losing ground in certain ways—and our connection with ritual is one of those.  If you watch the elaborate mating ritual of the Bower Bird during this last month’s seminal Discovery Channel series, Life , or the battle of the Giant Bullfrogs, or the painstaking (and multi-year) guidance a mother orangutan provides to her child, it becomes easy to understand that all of the natural world is governed by ritual.  And, yes Virginia, we are part of that natural world, too.

Meaning, for humans, is created through layers and layers of ritual.  This evolution of ritual eventually created a schema, or thought pattern, that made us want to know why something happened.  This desire to know why is one of the characteristics that make us uniquely human.  The “logos” sciences have helped us tremendously in this area.  I am happy to know that my toddler son’s runny nose is actually caused by a virus that my preschool son brought home and somehow shared with him (think prolific nose-picker) and not by a malevolent spirit (though I do wonder what possesses the nose-picker, sometimes…).

The cognitive imperative to seek out  “the answers to life’s persistent questions” is not only the charge of Guy Noir, it is inherent—biologically and neurologically—in each one of us.  Because of this, we have to reconnect our kids with nature because—without it–they are actually losing part of their evolutionary intelligence, health, and disrupting their neurochemistry.

Wild Turkeys on the move at Sanborn Western Camps

For example, if a child is completely disconnected from the food cycle, and has no idea that the meat in front of her was once living—or if that child knows that the sandwich she is eating was once, in some other place and time, a living, breathing turkey, yet she has no experience with “Turkey”—how will she be able to truly know to ask why. (Why am I eating this? How did this turkey live and die? Why does turkey taste so terrific?  What will happen to me when I die?)  And when she does bother to ask why, she’ll find a number of nutrition charts on line that define the essence of “Turkey” as its caloric value and place on the food pyramid…but nothing that allows her to experience “Turkey” in all of its squawking, fluffing, and preening glory. Nor will she be able to find anything that will give her the respect, understanding, and empathy toward a once living creature who has now arrived in a neatly package, hermetically sealed, plastic container on her lunch tray.

We are short circuiting our brains because we cannot make connections to the very world that has sustained us for the last 6,000 years.  Candice Pert writes in her book, Molecules of Emotion,

There is a plethora of elegant neurophysiological data suggesting that the nervous system is not capable of taking in everything, but can only scan the outer world for material that it is prepared to find by virtue of its wiring hook ups, its own internal patterns, and its past experiences.”  If our children scan the world in 50 years, and haven’t explored and played in the outdoors, then how will they ever understand its value and seek to preserve it?

The current logic and trends say they won’t….but with the continued efforts and wisdom of  camping professionals, educators, eco-visionaries, environmental activists, parents, youth development professionals, surfers, brain researchers, scientists, spiritual advisors, nature-lovers, active individuals, the health-conscious, and other progressive fields and industries—we are swinging the pendulum back to a more connected, present, and happier place: our backyards, parks, camps, natural recreation areas….our world.

The adventures never end....

Reconnect with nature.

Reconnect with others.

Reonnect with yourself.

Reconnect with wonder.

Go play outdoors.

National Environmental Education Week

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

As the national Environmental Education Week comes to a close, we hope you have been able to enjoy the outdoors! Just because the week is over, does not mean

According to EE Week, this is an event that “promotes understanding and protection of the natural world by actively engaging students and educators in an inspired week of environmental learning before Earth Day. Studies show that environmental education (EE) increases student achievement in many ways. By engaging students in real-world problem solving, EE builds critical thinking skills. Many educators have found that incorporating environmental themes into the curriculum results in improved performance on standardized tests and other assessments. EE has also been shown to reduce student apathy and increase motivation.”

Check out this great video about being outside: Sesame Street: Outdoors with Jason Mraz

Adventures with the Five Senses

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

As part of the national Children and Nature Awareness Month, we wanted to share some extra special outdoor activities that you can do with your friends and family to get you outside and enjoying the spring weather in your neighborhood.  A great thing to create, and to bring with you to camp, is a nature journal or sketchbook.  If you start collecting all of your experiences (and a feather, cool leaf, and pressed flower or two) in a journal, then you will have a great record of seasonal changes, observations, and all of the outdoor fun you experienced in 2010.

Keep a Nature Journal on all of your adventures

Using our five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell) is a great way to interact with the natural world and to learn and experience things you have never noticed before.  And, in spring, the natural world is coming alive again…so you should get out and enjoy it!

Think of every walk outside as a Five Senses Hike.  Be mindful of not only what you see, but what you can hear, smell, feel — even (with caution) taste!

Here are a few activities that will help you use your senses while you are outside this spring:

How Far?  How Close?  Get Some Perspective!
(adapted from Today Is Fun and 101 Nature Activities)

Materials needed:

  • Nature Journal or Sketchbook
  • 100 inch piece of string
  • A day pack with everything you need for a fun afternoon outside (just like at camp!): water bottle, sunscreen, warm layer/rain layer, and wear sturdy shoes!

Hike up to the top of a hill, or anywhere you can find a view and see how far you can see.  Can you see a distant mountain range, a far-away hill, a tall building downtown, a really tall tree?  How many miles away is that particular place/object?  Bring a nature journal to jot down ideas about distance, and to sketch an image of what you are seeing.  When you get home, look up that place/object using Google Earth, or pull out a map with the features/intersections you could see.  Did you underestimate or overestimate the distance?

Before you head home, though, pull out your 100 inch piece of string and find an interesting natural area.  Place the string on the ground and explore the area along the string very carefully.  Look for signs of animals, birds, or insects; distinctive characteristics of any plant along the trail; texture of soil or sand; different colors, etc..  Record your findings in your nature journal.

By closely examining a very small area, one can discover wonders which otherwise might be overlooked.  Shrinking our field of perception often adds to our awareness.  Now think about how far you could see when you were up high, and how much you saw when you were down low.  How much more of the natural world would we appreciate if we just took time to see near, far, and everywhere in between?

Do You Smell What I Smell?

Materials needed:

  • An imaginative, descriptive mind
  • Your nose

Take a walk focusing your sense of smell on the nature around you.  What does the bark of the trees in your neighborhood smell like?  (We think Ponderosa Pine tree bark—which grow at camp—smells like vanilla or butterscotch)  What do different plants, flowering trees/bushes, or grass smell like?  Why do different things have different smells?

Once you have descriptions for the smells around you—have a smell scavenger hunt with your friends and family—see if they can find a “plant that smells like a skunk” or “a flower that smells like peaches.”  Creating the descriptions will be almost as fun as finding the correct natural object!

Sound Tapestry

Materials needed:

  • Nature journal/sketchbook
  • Colored pencils
  • Attentive ears

Take a walk to a park or local open space—find a comfortable, special spot in the outdoors (if possible, have some of your friends sit in an open meadow, others down in the trees and bushes, and others still near a stream or water).  Sit quietly and listen for birds, grasses, and other sounds in nature for 10 minutes.  As you listen to each distinct sound, think about what that sound “looks” like.  What color is it?  Is it a smooth, wavy, or rough sound? Is it loud or soft?  Once you have an idea what the sound looks like, use your colored pencils to draw a picture of each of the different sounds you hear.  After your ten minutes of listening and drawing, create a “key” for the sounds you heard at the bottom of your sketch.

Bag of Rocks

Materials needed:

  • Rocks of different sizes, shapes, textures collected from the outdoors
  • A cloth bag big enough to reach into
  • A heightened sense of touch

A blindfolded hike makes you use other senses

Head outdoors and find a collection of different rocks.  Have each person in your family, or each of your friends, chose a rock and “get to know it”.  How does it feel?  How many sides does it have?  What color is it?  Does it have any marks on it?  Is it heavy or light?  Then have everyone put their rock into a bag.  Mix up all of the rocks.  Each person must reach into the bag and attempt to find their rock WITHOUT using their sense of sight.  How easy is itto find a particular rock?  How is one rock different from another rock?  How does your sense of touch compare to your other senses?

Oh The Wonderful Things Mr. Brown Can Taste

Materials needed:

  • Edible plants field guide
  • Adventurous adult
  • A sophisticated palate

Remember the “5 Second Rule”? or the phrase, “God made dirt, so dirt won’t hurt?”  Though we do not recommend eating plant material or other items found in the natural world…there are certain things you can taste—and see ifthey taste like they smell!  (To make sure you aren’t tasting anything that could make you sick—check out a book on edible plants in your area—and never, ever, ever bite or taste a mushroom.)

Things you can bite, taste, lick in the outdoors:

  • Honeysuckle flowers and nectar inside
  • Pine tree sap
  • Juniper berries
  • Wild onions
  • Tree bark
  • Herbs like sage or rosemary
  • Grass (chew on the base and the leaf parts)
  • And, if you are brave enough, you can lick an ant…it tastes like lemon!

After using all of your senses in the outdoors, you can share your love of the natural world with your friends and family by creating a Nature Table to display your sketches, collections, natural treasures at home. (from

Make a Nature Table
There are many ways you can display natural treasures in your home:

  • Nature Table or Shelf: Designate a flat surface for shells, acorns, etc. Use colored fabric to protect the surface (and to add a decorative note). For a little extra fun, make it a mini-museum, using folded index cards as name plates for each item.
  • Vase: A clear vase can store a lot of less delicate items — rocks, shells, nuts, etc — in a relatively small space.
  • Shoe Holder: Place objects in a hanging shoe organizer with clear pockets, found at many dollar stores or other discount retailers.
  • Box It Up: The many different compartments in a tackle, sewing or tool box are great organizers.

What are your favorite sensory awareness games or activities to do in the natural world?  Do you have a nature space at home?

The Importance of the Kitchen Table

Monday, April 12th, 2010

My kids love to dance on the kitchen table. A different kind of energy is emitted when kitchen table dancing occurs. It’s something unusual, exciting, taboo. It’s great! I encourage everyone to dance on the kitchen table.

There was a movement a while back promoting the idea that the federal government should supply every family in the U.S. with a kitchen table. It’s a good idea. A lot happens around the kitchen table. It is a place to develop family value foundations. There are conversations, card games, craft projects, eating and cooking, being together, and slipping the family dog a treat. Homework and bills are done at the table. Holiday meals with family and friends make the kitchen table a hearthstone for family memories. It’s a healthy place to be.

At High Trails Outdoor Education Center, the first meal we serve to school groups is always a mess. Many students don’t have the chance to sit down with a family back home or have kitchen table norms to set expectations. It is loud, chaotic, messy, confusion over passing, and lots of refills. By the end of the week, students are working together at their tables like well-oiled machines (probably motivated by hunger). We hope students will be the impetus in their own homes to get everyone around the table for dinner or a little dance.
There is a great resource providing suggestions for how the kitchen table can influence child behavior and development.

From the Archive: Top 10 Things I’ve Learned at Summer Camp (that make me a better parent)

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

This post first appeared in April 2009 on our previous blog.

Part II

The second edition of the two part series about skills I learned while working as a summer camp youth development professional at Sanborn Western Camps. These top five are, in my mind, some of the most important tools to practice…but they are also some of the hardest parenting, and counseling, skills remember. In the end, if we screw up (which we will), a genuine apology, a good hug, and time spent together in the outdoors will make the challenges and bad feelings evaporate–and give everyone the room they need to breathe. Enjoy!

Developing a sense of Self--and style--takes time

5. Respect their individuality. Making    comparisons between children (siblings, bunk mates) is a terrible mistake. Very few of us deliberately say things like, “I wish you could be MORE like Alice…” but plenty of us are guilty of saying, “Look at how well Alice cleared the table…” with the sibling or the rest of the children filling in the end of the sentence, “…and YOU didn’t.” Appreciate each child’s unique gifts. Know each child’s unique gifts. Celebrate those gifts in a one-on-one setting, don’t put one child on a pedestal in front of any others. Don’t love equally, love uniquely.

4. Never forget: It is the ACTION, not the person, you need to modify through discipline. There are no “bad kids” only “bad choices”. It is hard to emotionally remove yourself from a situation that has you incensed…but you must. That said, it is equally essential to voice your feelings, “We all have been working as a group to stop gossiping about other campers, because it is very hurtful and damaging to our community. The rumor that you started IS hurtful and damaging. You are not a mean girl, you just made a bad choice and I want to understand WHY you made that choice.” Tantrums (pre-school or pre-teen) are an outstanding time to practice empathy, not judgment.

Wonder is everywhere

3. Kids need time to simply be themselves. To simply be kids, to simply be playing, to simply be silly, to simply be curious, to simply be grumpy, to simply be happy, to simply be thoughtful, to simply be alone, to simply be playing with others, to simply be outside, to simply be strong, to simply be scared, to simply be human. Never underestimate the power of unstructured free play in the outdoors—kids will learn more about themselves and others in that environment than during a lifetime of soccer games. Boys, mine especially, really love taking long walks outside while singing silly songs, running races, picking up pinecones, inventing games, and actually talking to their momma.

2. The ability to manage and control one’s emotions effectively is a trait that many happy, wise successful adults all have in common. Providing children tools to practice emotional management is vital for creating a healthy, well-balanced society. A parent’s job is to raise a child that she wants to “release” into the world…and to begin that slow release the day the child is born. Beware of enabling behaviors that seem like safe alternatives. Make challenging situations into positive learning experiences. Promising a homesick child she can come home if she “hates camp” before she even arrives strips her of the ability to work through a tough experience and be proud of the resilience she developed on her own is no different than promising candy if you can make it through the grocery store without a fit.

cool duds

Like father, like son, like brother...

1. 80% of what children hear and learn is what they see. Humans learn through mimicry. Kids will only be as good at these skills as you are…and parents, camp counselors, and camp professionals should never stop trying to do these things at home, at work, with friends, and with family. Because, in the end, children will see all of you faults, and love you anyway.

If you are interested in more tips from the camp world about parenting, preparing your child for camp and for life, as well as some cutting edge conversations about youth development, please continue to visit the Sanborn Western Camps blog–and also check out Bedtime Stories for Parents and parent resources on the ACA website.

From the Archive: Top 10 Things I’ve Learned at Summer Camp (that make me a better parent)

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

This post first appeared in April 2009 on our previous blog.

Part I

Most of these lessons apply to littles, middles, and beyond...

I love summer camp. Being a camper, being a camp counselor, being a camp director, being a parent—I have made summer camp a part of my life and, now, part of the lives of my children. That said, it is remarkable how quickly you forget some of the cardinal rules you learned while you were a 20-something summer camp counselor about working with kids when your own children are in mid-meltdown about the shark show that “Daddy promised!” they could watch if they ate all of their mixed veggies. Sigh.

In order to help me regain my sanity, I have compiled a list of some of the most effective tools I have found for working with kids in the summer camp (and home!) setting, whether the kids are mine, yours, your sisters’, your neighbors, or “that kid” from down the street. I would love to hear from wise parents, youth development professionals, and other summer camp believers about kid-centric tools and techniques you find have worked for you. Since this is a two-part series, you may see some of your ideas in the next post.

10. The Power of Choice: Give kids real decision making opportunities by providing them with choices you can live with (i.e.: Do you want to clean the toilets before or after you make your bed? or What are your goals for this summer camp session? Do you want to climb a bunch of mountains or do you want to ride horses? Or Do you want to help mom set the table or do you want to make the salad for dinner tonight?). By doing this, you empower kids to take responsibility and ownership for their own actions.

"Should we play in the mud?"....Yes we should!

9. Allow kids to define their own boundaries; facilitate the boundary creation. Give them ways to “frame” things in the positive: We’re going to the zoo today, what SHOULD we do at the zoo? We SHOULD stay together, we SHOULD wait our turn to look at the otters, we SHOULD have lots of fun. And what SHOULDN’T we do?…. “RUN!” “Eat too much candy!” “Feed the lions!” “Cut in line!” “Talk back!” You quickly learn that many children, even very young ones, have a great understanding of right from wrong…and by “framing” activities before they even begin, they can more readily “own” their actions and are more willing to respond if they accidentally do something they SHOULDN’T do.

8. If conflicts do occur, make kids right about what they need to be right about. “She hit me first.” “Yes. I saw that she hit you first. Why did she hit you, do you think?” Also, in heated situations, never make assumptions. Ask A LOT of questions and remember that most kids WANT to do the right thing…but sometimes they just forget how to do it. Don’t put kids in a box that they can’t get out of—during conversations, as they are growing up, socially, etc.. A great technique for getting a kid to talk is to MOVE. Children, especially boys, can have a hard time expressing their feelings if they feel like an adult is standing there, waiting for an answer, and “pressuring” them to say something. If you can remove the child from the situation and go for a walk (ideally outdoors), the questions you ask may elicit more than the standard, “I dunno” answers.

7. When they make bad choices, assign real and timely consequences. This one takes practice and you have to know your children or campers very well in order to assign a consequence that is neither too harsh nor too lenient for the action. I will often make sure I—with the help of the kids–have “framed” the entire experience so any resulting “bad choices” already have consequences assigned (i.e.: “We decided as a group that people who don’t help with clean-up today won’t get to have any of Emily’s cake after clean-up. SO…is everyone ready to win cabin clean-up today?”). That also takes some of the emotional volatility out of the situation. If everyone knows what will happen and when, I am not perceived as being arbitrary or unfair.

Opportunities to practice leads to self-efficacy and confidence

6. Give them plenty of opportunities to practice making both good and, inevitably, bad choices. Give them a safe framework to practice in…overnight camp is an outstanding, safe place to practice decision-making. Overnight camp provides a community with multiple supportive adults who genuinely want each child to have an outstanding camp experience. Through their interactions with other adults and children, who may or may not have similar interests and experiences, kids learn how to make and keep friends, practice perseverance and resilience, and gain a better understanding of themselves…all of which helps them become wise decision-makers.

Next time, Part II! I look forward to hearing your thoughts….

Getting To Know You: Meet Our #GNO Twitter Party Panelists

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Tonight, from 9-11 p.m. EST (7-9 p.m. MST), Sanborn Western Camps is sponsoring a #GNO Twitter Party with host Mom It Forward about The Benefits of Summer Camp and How To Pick a Summer Camp.

The Twitter hashtag #gno stands for “Girls (& Guys!) Night Out”.  Once you are on Twitter, do a search on the hashtags #gno and #sanborncamps to join the chat or click here to follow the chat using Tweetgrid.  This promises to be a very informative, fun conversation with folks from all over the country.  It will get you pumped up to pick a great camp for your kids this summer!

Sanborn Western Camps is giving away a full Sanborn Junior tuition (or a 1/2 tuition for the full term) for summer 2010 or 2011,  based on availability.  Visit for more details on how to enter.

We wanted to take a moment to thank all of our panelists for tonight’s #gno party.  They are great people to follow on Twitter and in the blogosphere.  We look forward to their insights and contributions during tonight’s event.  Think summer!

Our tremendous panelists are:

@acacamps The American Camp Association (formerly known as the American Camping Association) is a community of camp professionals who, for nearly 100 years, have joined together to share our knowledge and experience and to ensure the quality of camp programs. Because of our diverse 7,000 plus membership and our exceptional programs, children and adults have the opportunity to learn powerful lessons in community, character-building, skill development, and healthy living — lessons that can be learned nowhere else. Learn more about ACA and their rigorous camp accreditation process by visiting

@acacampparents is a comprehensive summer camp resource for families—offering expert advice from camp professionals on camp selection, readiness, child and youth development, and issues of importance to families. ACA helps you find the right camp for every child.  Dawn Swindle, head of ACA Publications (both print and web) will be tweeting using @acacampparents during tonight’s #gno Twitter party.  With her years at ACA, and as a long time camp professional, Dawn is a great resource for parents and camp professionals alike.  Learn more about Dawn and use the impressive camp finder tool at

@annie_fox Annie Fox is a prolific writer, great thinker, youth development expert, excellent speaker, and phenomenal correspondent.  From writing books, designing computer programs for kids, and being a phenomenal correspondent, Annie takes youth development and growth TO the teens and families she serves on her website, blog and Twitter posts.  Visit Annie Fox and learn more about answers to tough questions facing tweens, teens and beyond at

@ashleykingsley Ashley E. Kingsley thrives on connecting people and is a solid engineer of community. She brings years of marketing, social media and community relations expertise to her clients at  Ashley is a lucky wife, Mama of two kids and two dogs. Ashley has been blogging since 2004, considers herself an early adopter, a wild event thrower, and a loyal and adamant promoter of community. Ashley founded @TwitStroll a diverse and spontaneous alternative to the #TweetUp designed for people that do better “on the fly.” As a Colorado native, camping, hiking and skiing are at the top of her list.

@balmeras Bethe Almeras, The Grass Stain Guru, is an award-winning author, web producer, and eLearning designer. Co-founder of the National Wildlife Federation’s Green Hour®, she has been connecting people with play and nature for many years. A gifted speaker and trainer, Bethe also specializes in inclusive education and accessibility issues for individuals with disabilities.  We love Bethe because, as she says, “I also believe that childhood was meant to be messy. Muddy. Slimy. Silly. And most of all, joyful. Steeped in awe and wonder, childhood should be spent outdoors as much as possible, and should rely on imagination and whimsy as much as it does on rules and regulations.  I firmly believe that nature is the best therapist and teacher any of us will ever have, and that the magic of childhood should be rooted there, and the peace of adulthood is waiting there. It’s not only in nature, but the connections we make with ourselves, and each other, when we slow down long enough to notice the beauty around us and simply play.”  Agreed!  Visit her at

@CarissaRogers Carissa Rogers is “a Mom of all trades…a Jack of NONE.”   She is a consummate blogger, reader and co-founder of the MomItForward and #gno concept.  She has three wonderful children and, like many panelists, believes in Manifest Destiny…and she just keeps going West.  She writes about her family, blogging and social media tips, great books she’s read, and really tasty recipes (some of which may find their way into the Sanborn Western Camps kitchens this summer!).  We are excited to have Carissa as a panelist because she knows all of the tricks and tips to make everyone’s ideas and voices heard.  Read more about All Things Carissa at

@fleurdeleigh Leigh Caraccioli is a Master.  A Master Photographer, a Master Mother, a Master of Technology, and a Master of the Real (not unlike “The Matrix”).  Leigh seeks to “craft a moment in time” for her photography clients—to capture and sculpt a memory which will both captivate and last, but she also values the ephemeral, fluid nature of the online social media experiment where she has made, and maintains, true and close friendships.  With technological connections so important to her and so much about camp being “unplugged,” Leigh might seem like an odd panelist. Yet we knew we had a kindred spirit when she wrote in her blog about a camping trip where she WAS going to unplug because, “I need to draw true warmth from my loved ones around me. I want to sit and listen to the birds, feel the rift of waves on the side of the oar flanked boat.  I need to catch a large mouthed bass, with my father at my side. I cannot hear, see, smell and taste as well when I am talking. (ie; tweeting).  I plan to embrace the chatter of nature over the chatter of social society. I need to plug back in to nature’s outlet and feed my little outdoor girl soul.” Connect with Leigh by visiting

@FreeRangeKids Lenore Skenazy was vaulted into a Brave New World when she published a column in The New York Sun titled, “Why I Let My 9 Year Old Take the Subway Alone.”  Many parents branded her “The World’s Worst Mom”—but many others said, “Thank you.”  In her words, “Free-Rangers believe in helmets, car seats, seat belts — safety!  We just do NOT believe that every time school age kids go outside, they need a security detail.”  Lenore’s book and blog provide tips, humor and a good dose of common sense to help all of us raise wise, independent, thoughtful, and functional children in these uncommonly overprotective times.  Learn more about Lenore at

@JasonFlom Jason Flom is a Super Dad, incredible teacher, inspired writer, former Outward Bound instructor, and vocal outdoor educator.  He teaches 5th grade in Tallahassee, FL, but also blogs for, has started a Green Schools group on and is a regular contributor to the daily Twitter #edchat.  He is funny, articulate, and dedicated to quality education both inside and outside the classroom.  In a blog post, Jason surmised that kids (and their educators) just need to get outside. “How do we help students understand the dynamic nature of our planet? Go outside. How do we give students a baseline of experience with nature to help them appreciate the value (and necessity) of it? Go outside. How can we strengthen students’ insights into how nature solves problems in order to create and cultivate sustainable innovations? Go outside. How can we provide authentic opportunities for students to strengthen their engineering skills while broadening their understanding of natural materials? Go outside. How can we keep students active in authentic ways while also providing a relevant context for numerous academic concepts? Go outside.” Read more of Jason’s posts and watch an incredible video his students made to promote their fundraiser, “Haitian Food for Haitian Lives” at

@JylMomIF Jyl Johnson Pattee lives, works, and breathes a special kind of magic.  As the founder of, Jyl combines a passion for communication and people, and she launched the site in 2008 with the mission to “change the world one mom at a time.”  We think the concept is a perfect use for value-added social media (and a great metaphor for human relations all the way around)—great ideas are TOO great not to be shared.  She is THE hostess of the weekly #gno parties on Twitter, which started in September 2008. Jyl is known as a “connector” who brings good ideas and people together both on and offline to make a positive impact for causes and brands through education and sharing of experiences.  Jyl is also a tremendous mother to two active boys, an intrepid traveler, the creator of the EVO conference, a wonderful writer, an occasionally irreverent wife to Troy, and a great friend to any parent online.  Please take the time to visit her and learn more about Jyl, the EVO conference, the Mom It Forward movement, #gno and much, much more at

@momspark Amy Bellgardt is the mom of two very active boys in Oklahoma.  Amy created Mom Spark in July 2008 as a way to connect with other moms who were experiencing the same joys and challenges of parenting she was. She wanted Mom Spark to become a community of women who love to laugh, learn, and support fellow parents. In addition to the blog, Mom Spark also has a forum, which is open 24 hours a day.  In addition to Mom Spark, Amy also runs the successful Mom Made That!, a site for supporting and promoting mom businesses.  Mom Made That! has over 200 business listings and was just recently recommended by Etsy as an economical method of advertising.  Visit Amy and learn more about Mom Spark at

@rockandrollmama Lindsay Maines is a camp-loving mom of three who lives in the DC suburbs and loves music.  Yet, like all parents, she has struggled to balance her and her husband’s musical passion (they both play bass—he is the bass player for the band Clutch) and the needs of her family.  After connecting with her on Twitter, we have learned she has excellent abilities—not only musically (she plays the bass, too)—but in creating time for her family, herself, and for her community…her blog posts are informative, thoughtful, and real.  We love this rockin’ mama!  Learn more about Lindsay by visiting

@sanborncamps Ariella Rogge, Program Director/Assistant Director/Outdoor (and indoor) Eductor/Social Media Junkie/Mom of Two Boy Wonders/Toilet Plunger, manages the @sanborncamps Twitter account both day (and more consistently) by night.  Ariella has been involved in some capacity (see “Toilet Plunger”) at Sanborn Western Camps since she was 12.  She is a true believer in the transformational power of the camp experience for all children because for her, like Richard Louv (author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder) says, “The woods were my Ritalin. Nature calmed me, focused me, and yet excited my senses.”  She would love to answer any questions you might have about summer camp (or help direct you to the right person!)—either at Sanborn or anywhere else—feel free to email her at ariella at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

@texasholly Holly Homer is a HUGE advocate for the summer camp experience.  As a counselor for four summers she thought she had seen it all—then she had kids.  She has three great boys and writes a blog that gives voice to EVERYTHING that your inner voice may say (with really fabulous Crayola marker sketches to boot).  Even though she drives a minivan, this Uber Mom is no June Cleaver.  Check out Holly’s blog and join in one of her riotous “Potlucks” at

@TroyPattee Troy Pattee is a Man Among Women.  Troy is THE “G” in #GNO.  Troy’s wife, Jyl, founded the Twitter #GNO (Girls Night Out) party—and has brought her affable “Guy” with her to every event.  @sanborncamps first connected on Twitter with Troy—and later with Jyl—because he has an unnerving propensity to be skiing EXACTLY when we wish WE were skiing (and, we’ll admit it, sometimes the snow IS better in Utah).  Troy has a brand new, and fabulous blog called where he will be sharing tales and adventures with other like minded dads…and—knowing Troy–probably moms, too.  Check out the new blog at and hang with him during the weekly Tuesday night #gno Twitter parties.

@zealandsmom Danielle Wann is a long-time camp enthusiast, and loves her trips out West!  She is also the host of #bfcafe (breast feeding café) a Twitter party that has great giveaways every Thursday evening.  Though her kiddos are too young to head to camp just yet, with her breast-feeding, baby-wearing, eco-wise attachment parenting practices, they will—undoubtedly—become intelligent, educated stewards of the Earth…who are going to have a TON of fun at camp!  Learn more about Danielle at