Archive for January, 2011

Kids ARE Strong

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Stronger Than Ever!

Amy Chua is right about at least one thing in her controversial new book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”.  She

“assumes strength, not fragility” for her children.  We agree.  Children are inherently strong—we have seen this over and over again in our 60 + years of running a long term residential summer camp.

“But my child can’t be away from home for a month!”  Of course he can.  Given the opportunity, he will first survive and then thrive.  He will learn that he can make his own way in the world, that he can make friends, that he can find his own shoes, that he can work with a team and make decisions for himself. He will gain a solid foundation for self-confidence based on the knowledge that he can be independent.

She will learn that she can saddle a horse, carry a 30 pound backpack for five days along mountain paths, climb to the top of a 14,000’ mountain. And along the way, she will also gain self-confidence based on achieving real and challenging accomplishments.  No one needs to offer praise to a young person who stands on the summit of a Fourteener—the accomplishment speaks for itself.

Kings of the Mountains

Children are not only strong, they are inherently resilient.  Much more than 90% of the relationships they form with peers and college age counselors at camp are based on friendship, teamwork, and positive communication.  Camp friendships often last through life—and these friendships are formed in an environment where there was no parent watching over the interrelationship as it developed.

And, what about the 10% of relationships that create a challenge?  Here is the perfect opportunity to learn positive conflict resolution skills—skills that an astonishingly large number of adults still have trouble with.

We’re not drilling math problems or providing practice sessions on the violin, but everything we do at camp celebrates the strength of young people.  And the skills we practice in this environment are the social and emotional skills which young people need to learn to grown into happy, successful adults.  What could be more important?

The Next Generation of Cowgirls (or Legendary Women) in Training

Monday, January 24th, 2011

High Trails Cowgirls

Yesterday in The New York Times Magazine, Rebecca Traister wrote an article titled “Cowgirl Country.”  In it, she examines some of our current female politicians through the romanticized, and somewhat marginalized, American myth of “female strength and individualism”: the cowgirl.

Up here at Sanborn Western Camps, we have our own brand of cowgirl—and though she is not typically an outlaw—she often embodies the frontier and pioneer spirit of the very women who helped settle the West (and who started SWC as well—thank you, Laura Sanborn).

Even Cowgirls Get the (power of a) Bluebird, Colorado Day

Since “frontier womanhood has emerged as one of the only historically American models of aspirational femininity available to girls,” it is not surprising how many of our campers and staff—like Traiser’s frontier women “who pushed West, shot sharp, talked tough and sometimes drew blood”—love the West, are very intelligent and sharp, can be tough on themselves, and sometimes draw (their own) blood during our high mountain adventures.

Yet our cowgirls transcend the “only tradition in which America has historically been able to celebrate its mighty women” by embodying all of the strengths of a cowgirl, with all of the insights of a wise woman…or, more accurately, the wisdom of a group of strong women.

Our Cowgirls=American Spirit...and so much more!

Last summer, we kicked off the “Grow Strong Project” at High Trails Ranch for Girls.  “Grow Strong” is an acronym for Growing Responsibility in Our World; a Sisterhood Transforming and Renewing Our Never-Ending Growth.  Throughout the summer, campers and staff alike were celebrated for traits they had and choices they made which demonstrated specific characteristics of a girl or young woman who was “growing stronger” at camp.

From the Grow Strong Journal:

Our challenge as a staff is to inspire our campers and help them implement what they learn during their time at High Trails into their everyday life.  It is our goal to inspire action that goes beyond our 6,000 acres into their daily routines, into their communities, and into our world.

We must challenge them to go beyond conversation, to actually show us (and themselves) what they are doing, the action they have taken, and the impact it has had (or will have).  We must also look at ourselves and how our internal character and value development is evolving over the summer through our actions as role models and leaders.

Some of the character traits we are hoping to model for, instill in, and celebrate with our campers are:

* Loyalty * Respect * Responsibility * Honesty * Perseverance * Initiative * Resilience * Flexibility * Trust * Communication * Service * Generosity * Modesty * Grace * Kindness * Problem Solving * Leadership * Patience * Knowledge * Courage * Discipline * Dedication * Awareness * Stewardship * Friendship *

Strong Women Make Strong Role Models

By recognizing our strengths as individuals and as a community, we are able to see the power, wisdom, leadership and beauty of women—and “to expand our vision of how women might, and do, embody America’s spirit.”

Our High Trails campers and staff DO embody America’s spirit in every adventure, every smile, every hug, every whoop, every triumph, every challenge, every laugh, every story, every lesson, every moment they grow stronger by being in the outdoors and being with each other.

It is with awe and wonder I reflect on each summer I have spent at High Trails because I know that these “camp cowgirls” do not only “hint” at “other kinds of mythic female strength”—they live the “collaboration, friendship, and support” day in and day out.

And whether they become “businesswomen, brainiacs, or feminists,” they will always be visionary, female pioneers (and cowgirls) who know they grew stronger (and taller) from walking with the trees, and each other, at High Trails.

Camper Stories

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

We can’t believe it is already the end of January! It feels like campers were just here sharing their stories from their trips and activities. While we reminisce about the summer, we are very excited for summer 2011, and all the stories to come!

Campers at the start of a 4-day long trip.

Camp has been a huge part of my life for the past four years. Since day one, everyone here has been kind, understanding, and fun. The girls in my cabin are my sisters and we are all part of a strong, loving community. Sanborn has pushed me to achieve goals I hadn’t even set for myself 4 years ago. I have been pushed to do what I thought was impossible, which has helped make me a stronger person. My self-esteem has grown enormously from my experiences here. I cannot believe this is my last year as a camper. I will never forget the times I’ve had here and the lifelong friends I’ve made. Camp’s been an experience of a lifetime that has changed me for the better and I will forever be grateful for the time I’ve had at Sanborn.  - Jaclyn T.

I have made a lot of friends at camp. On my first overnight we went to Beyond A-Bluff and played Capture the Flag. I have done a lot of activities including rock scrambling, hat making, horseback riding, and a lot more. The food is GREAT! Camp is so much FUN! I am really excited for my long trip and Gymkhana. I am definitely going to come back next year!  - Simms E.

On July 1, 2010 I climbed a 14,037ft mountain (Mt. Sherman). We lost the trail once, but didn’t back down and found it right in front of us again. When we reached the top we celebrated with apple cider and gummy bears. It was REALLY fun! And challenging. It was a wonderful experience and I’m so glad I went and climbed the mountain.  - Hannah B.

Camp is NOT for Wimps

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

In his New York Times article, “Amy Chua is a Wimp,” op-ed columnist David Brooks poses a series of questions to Amy Chua, whose recent book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” is causing a stir in both parenting and academic circles.  Unlike many of her critics, Brooks believes she is actually “coddling” her children by demanding that they outperform their peers (and practically everyone else) in their socially sterile academic pursuits. “She’s protecting them from the most intellectually demanding activities because she doesn’t understand what’s cognitively difficult and what isn’t.”  In his mind “managing status rivalries, negotiating group dynamics, understanding social norms, navigating the distinction between self and group” are far more challenging than “intense tutoring sessions or a class at Yale.”

Signing Up for Great Trips That I Can't Do at Home

He asks, “Where do they learn how to manage people? Where do they learn to construct and manipulate metaphors? Where do they learn to perceive details of a scene the way a hunter reads a landscape? Where do they learn how to detect their own shortcomings? Where do they learn how to put themselves in others’ minds and anticipate others’ reactions?”  Where, is he asking, do children develop the critical thinking and self-definition skills to work well with other people?

Meeting Your Counselor on Opening Day

The answer is simple: at camp.

The overnight, summer camp environment is unlike any other social environment youth experience.  As Scott Arizala, The Camp Counselor, said during a session, “Where else do you show up, not knowing another soul, and suddenly a smiling person takes ALL of your stuff (“it is going to your cabin”…where? Huh?), asks you a ton of personal questions (“So how do you like being an older sister?”…like it? Really?), makes you disclose your weight and other personal

Learning the "ropes" at the stables on Opening Day

stuff to a smiling nurse (“what a healthy weight! You’re going to love the food here, too!”…interesting, my mom tells me I eat like a goat and my dad has called me “fatty” for two years), has you change (translation=get naked) for a swim/water safety check out, and—if you’re lucky—you get to “head on down” to the stables to ride a gigantic ungulate with a brain the size of an orange in front of people who very well might OWN one of these said ungulates as a pet back home.”

Who knew you would get a standing ovation on your first day at camp?

Stressful?  Yes.  Great for self-definition, confidence building, teamwork, humility, perseverance and an opportunity for breakthroughs in social development?  Absolutely.

Camp is one of those “arduous experiences” David Brooks is talking about.  Learning to live and work together in close quarters for over a month IS challenging—but it is also infinitely rewarding.  As some of our campers have noted:

Prison Ball: Play is Essential for Cognitive and Social Developme

Camp has truly made me evolve into more of an adult and develop skills I never thought I would have.  Sanborn has helped me become better at social skills such as making friends with people and talking to people more openly.  Sanborn has made me figure myself out better.”

“What is great about camp is the camaraderie we all share as we live so close together in these special weeks. The memories and friendships we make at Sanborn will last a lifetime.”

“I had an amazing time at camp this year.  It was so nice to be in such a beautiful place with so many wonderful people.  I have learned many things about relating to other girls that I will value for the rest of my life.”

As Brooks says, “Participating in a well-functioning group is really hard. It requires the ability to trust people outside your kinship circle, read intonations and moods, understand how the psychological pieces each person brings to the room can and cannot fit together.”

Making your bed for the FIRST time on the FIRST day of your FIRST summer camp experience

Though many of the people you meet on your first day at camp are complete strangers and are “outside” of your kinship and normal friendship circles, by the end of the summer many of our campers believe, “Camp is my second home. I don’t just friends here, I have family.”

I hope Amy Chua has a response for David Brooks, I hope she can say that she has sent her kids to camp…if not, maybe she ought to have closed circuit cameras set up in their dorm rooms when they head to college (and at their staff meetings when they get their first jobs)…so she can make sure they are continuing to excel—and can more readily understand why few will want to live with or work with them.

-Ariella Rogge-

Hope for “Race to Nowhere”

Friday, January 14th, 2011

A group of us went to University of Colorado Colorado Springs a couple of evenings ago to see the film “Race to Nowhere“, that explores the pressures on today’s students to succeed in school and the negative health benefits these pressures have caused. A mother was inspired to make the film after seeing the unhappiness, illnesses, and stress her own children were enduring due to the pressure to be a good student. An online article in the New York Times today further explores the pressures on students and the definition of success. Does strict control determine greater success? Is success having good grades or being a good and happy person?

There were a number of teachers and parents with children at the showing who expressed their frustration at the current system and how they feel trapped to teach to tests, and assign and enforce hours of homework, regardless of what their students developmentally need. A teacher mentioned the illogic of her 1st grade grandson having an 1.5 hours of homework a night.

We were all moved at the end of the film by the lack of time students have to take a breath. Are students doomed to have no time? Are they really in a race to nowhere? one of the students featured in the film explained that schooling was a race to nowhere -elementary school is all about getting to middle school, middle school is about getting ready for high school, high school is about getting into the right college, and college is about getting into grad school. Quoting a comment in the article, “Balance, it’s all in finding the correct balance.”

There is hope! We were inspired by what we do as outdoor educators. We provide the opportunities for children and adults to learn, we teach in an outdoor setting, we empower and inspire our participants to experience the world and education in new and imaginative ways. There are places that allow students the freedom to learn in a different environment. While not all children have experiential learning trips with school or have the opportunity to go to camp, there is hope for all students. It is finding the “correct balance.” It is necessary for students to spend a few minutes outdoors in the backyard or local park, to take a break from the pressure of school, to learn about life beyond the basic subjects in school.

Campers and staff learning about animals

All the employees at the Colorado Outdoor Education Center, High Trails Outdoor Education Center, Sanborn Western Camps, and The Nature Place hope you are able to find, and help the students in your life, the balance and beat the race to nowhere.

More Support For Children’s Play

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Camps have known about the importance and power of play for a long time. As outdoor educators and youth development professionals we do all that we can to promote children’s use of imagination, creative play, developing relationships, understanding of self and others, self-esteem, and appreciation for the outdoors (to name a few).

Research has been done and published promoting these lessons and the chance for children to play and explore. The New York Times published an article today about efforts made to promote play. This article supports our parents’ efforts to encourage their children to use their imaginations, disengage from video games, computers, and TV. We have long recognized and try to share the importance of free play and getting kids outdoors as a way to take advantage of imaginative play. Children need recess, camp, time in the backyard to develop and refine the life and relationship skills that are hard to learn in the classroom or on the soccer team.

Central Park hosted the Ultimate Block Party in October to promote the importance of play in children’s lives. While the party’s over, the Web site provides additional resources and research for parents. Just looking at the number of sponsors and endorsements the group received was inspiring for me to see the number of people and organizations that support the movement to get children playing.

Throughout the past year we have shared ideas and benefits of creative and imaginative play with our readers. As I searched our archives and reread what we’ve written, I realized that I couldn’t share every post that we’ve written, so I tried to limit the links (as hard as it was).  These are just a few links to check out some of our ideas for helping children and parents helping their children get back to unstructured (while supervised) play: Snowy Day ActivitiesBring on the Sunscreen,Parent Lessons from CampGo Play OutdoorsHooray for the Wild ChildMore PlayTime for a Special PlaceAdventures with the 5 Senses, and Reconnect With Your Sense of Wonder. Sometimes children just need props to get their creative juices flowing and other times we try to provide limited guidance to help children feel comfortable with the idea of free play.

With greater recognition, support, and effort we can all help children reconnect with their childhood and enjoy playing again.

A Shiny New Outdoor Adventure

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

On the lake at Lakewood Discovery Center, Salina, KS

Visits with family during the holidays can be, um, challenging.  I love to hang out in non-child-proofed, 80+ degree homes, full of adults and Limoge-like breakables as much as the next mom…but my kids go beserk.

Of course, the promise of presents, and the overarching threat of the “naughty” list can keep them in check for a few days, but not indefinitely.  After the presents are opened and the World’s Greatest New Beeping Plastic Toy has lost its allure, I watch them begin their descent into the worst holiday-time illness out there: Cabin Fever.

Fortunately, my husband and I know the symptoms: roving eyes, subversive touching of “breakable” objects, the use of shoes/stuffed animals/cups/hard plastic animals as baseballs, and—of course—the act of stuffing one’s younger brother into a cupboard against his will.  Somewhere between almost breaking Grandma’s crystal cardinal and feeding the baby large chunks of Hubba Bubba gum, we seek a cure: let’s go outside.

Checking out the salamanders

During our last visit to Salina, KS—home to the excellent Rolling Hills Zoo and Museum—our sons began exhibiting rather significant symptoms about 2 hours before dusk (you know, around 2 p.m.).  We didn’t have enough time to head out to the zoo, but we had heard of an alternative: The Lakewood Discovery Center.

Located in northeastern Salina right next to Lakewood Lake, this hands-on center is run by the Salina Parks and Recreation Department and it is a top-notch facility for families, school groups, and others looking for an opportunity to get outdoors and to gain knowledge and insight about some of Kansas’primary flora and fauna.

Built in a donated home, the downstairs houses some nice animal dioramas and a few live amphibians and reptiles, a fun puppet theatre and small library for budding naturalists to research the discoveries made during their hikes on the trails around the lake.  The upstairs of the center has more “hands-on” activity stations: mask-making, sensory identification, Who Lives in This Tree, owl pellet dissections, fur and skull identification, and much more.

Skunk pelt in the What's Is It? Sensory Exhibit

My sons and niece really enjoyed the animal mask making station and trying to identify animals based on the sounds they make.  We also had fun attempting to name all of the birds on a beautiful mural in the hall.

The Peligret

Afterwards, we went out to hike some of the trails and were amazed by the various shapes and sizes (and sticking power) of the seed heads on the plants and grasses which lined the trails.  At the lake my boys discovered they could make the coolest noises by throwing various rocks onto the ice—and, as we were getting ready to leave, a giant bird arrived which looked like a mix between a pelican and an egret.

It was a highlight of the entire holiday…and when we returned from our outdoor adventure, the holiday chaos had been put into perspective.  If your holiday travels include a foray on I-70 or I-35–plan to stretch your your legs and mind at the Lakewood Discovery Center–your holiday psyche (and your children) will thank you.

May you all have a blessed, nature-full, holiday season!

Happy New Year! News and Reflections on 2010

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Happy New Year to all of our friends across the world.  As we reflect on the many happy moments of 2010, we are so grateful for the wonderful campers, staff members, friends and alums who are such an important part of our lives.

Sanborn Western Camps had an exceptional year in 2010 and as we move forward into 2011 it is appropriate to share some of the things we are most thankful for during the past year:

  • We had an extraordinary group of campers and staff at High Trails, Big Spring, and Sanborn Junior.  Countless new friendships were formed, thousands of songs were sung, and laughter was shared every day in many places.
  • Fifty-four different groups from camp stood on the summit of one of the eighteen Colorado mountains we climbed last summer.
  • Our wonderful wranglers took our already excellent horse program to the next level, creating more opportunities for teaching and learning the skills of  horsemanship and for exploring our beautiful land on innumerable trail rides and multi-day trips.
  • Our fabulous cooks created delicious meals from fresh ingredients three times a day and their homemade breads, pastries, and cookies continue to win high approval ratings.
  • Our superb maintenance crew rebuilt the tents on HKL Ridge, restored the outside logs of the Big Spring Lodge, built a new deck on the Big Spring Health Center, renovated the dishroom in the Big Spring Lodge, renovated the kitchen in the High Trails Lodge, and kept all of our buildings in good shape.
  • Our committed alums and camp friends continued to support our Sanborn 60 Capital Campaign so generously that we were able to continue facility renovation and offer a record number of scholarships to deserving young people.

For these and so much more, we are extremely grateful.

And, as we look ahead to 2011, we are especially excited about the friendships and adventures that will occur at Big Spring, High Trails, and Sanborn Junior next summer.

Mike and Julie will be heading out in mid-January with the new digital slide show about a summer at Sanborn Western Camps and look forward to seeing many of you as they tour the Midwest.  Beginning January 19, they will visit Denver, Santa Fe, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, and Boulder.  Those of you who are on our mailing list will receive information in the mail and all the details are posted on the website.  It is a great program and takes less than an hour so save the date!

Jerry will head to the East Coast late this month for “Reconnect with Sanborn” events in Greenwich, CT, and New York City on January 30.  He is looking forward to seeing many alums and friends of camp at these events.  We are also planning a giant “Reconnect with Sanborn” event in Denver on February 27.

Enrollment is well underway for 2011 and many of our age groups are over half full.  We are always happy to send our brochure, DVD and references to interested families.

We hope that you have the happiest New Year ever!