Archive for April, 2011

Back In The Day….Sanborn Bus Memories

Friday, April 29th, 2011

This is NOT a Sanborn Bus...but it could have been

For some reason I have been thinking about camp buses recently. We don’t use buses anymore, relying instead on
more flexible vans. But vans do not have the personality quirks that the buses had and there is a sameness about
them that makes them—well, boring. Today’s vans are numbered and this is how we tell them apart. 105, 106,
121, and 122 are all white vans, as are all the vans we now lease for the summer. 124 is a light blue van and 119
is teal blue but it is still too confusing to put those descriptions on the transportation list so we just use the numbers.
116 and 117 are both red; 120 is dark grey but 103 and 104 are light grey. We do have 2-tone purplish van
we call Grimace, but you get the point.

Camp buses, however, had personality, and no camp driver needed a number to clarify which was which. Do you
remember “Fat Albert”? I never knew whether the song (“Old Fat Albert had a puncture in its tire…and we fixed
it with a piece of chewing gum”) came from the name of the bus, or the name of the bus came from the song.
Then, in the spirit of fair representation of the sexes, there was “Plump Penelope”. “Fat Albert” and “Plump Penelope”
were both 24 passenger buses and I guess they did look a bit alike, but no one ever had a trouble telling
the difference between them. Somehow, “Fat Albert” was more macho.

“69B” was the pride of our fleet and one of its primary workhorses well past the time when it should have gone to
a quiet retirement. I still remember being shocked in the early 90’s when I realized that “69B” was named for the
year of its birth. “69B” had a split axle and only those of us with some experience could drive it—“69B” was one
fine bus!

Then, in the 70s or 80s, Sandy bought “The Rust Bucket”, named for a slightly rugged exterior look. It, frankly, was one we tried to hide on parent visiting days. Sandy, however, swore that “The Rust Bucket’s” motor was just great, and, in truth, it served us well for quite a while. The JCs and Outbackers painted it one year as a project, but it didn’t improve its looks much. About that time we also got “The Big Ford”—this was a 40 passenger bus which could hold most of High Trails or Big Spring after a coed activity. I don’t know why we never gave it a more interesting name.

The beginning of the end of the bus era came when Sandy purchased “The Automatics”. These were two small
buses with automatic transmissions and we never gave them individual names. We “experienced” bus drivers
hated “The Automatics”. For one thing, they were wimpy. We knew how to drive split axles and double clutch
and we were not about to be seen in an automatic. But the even more important reason we hated “The Automatics”
was that they didn’t work very well—they were always dying near the top of the High Trails Hill or at the
crest of Strawberry Shortcut—it was terrifying to have to back down one of those hills with a bus full of loud
campers. So, on Saturday nights, we always gave the Automatics to the newbies who didn’t know any better.

Those buses were great! Do you remember climbing in one for the trip back to High Trails or Big Spring after the
dance on Saturday night? Do you remember the noise level? Do you remember that there were no seatbelts—
and, in some cases, the seats were not even fastened to the floor of the bus and that the “seating capacity”
was often just a suggestion. Do you remember riding in a bus to the river or to Leavick Valley? Some Big Spring
boys may recall running from side to side in a bus parked on the streets of Fairplay, making innocent passers-by
gasp, because it looked like the bus was about to turn over.

Ah, those were the days. Today our vans are cared for by a qualified mechanic, our drivers are trained and follow
strict protocols, and everyone fastens their seatbelt for even the shortest trip—it is a much safer situation. But the
old bus days were fun—weren’t they?

This was excerpted from our monthly newsletter. The Alum e-News is sent to Sanborn alums (and other Friends of Sanborn). To add or remove your name from the Alum E-News list, please send an e-mail to jane at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

Happy Earth Day

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Playing Outdoors: Dirt is Good, Mud is Better!

Developing a “sense of the earth” for both adults and children is a demonstrated way to live a happier, healthier, and more peaceful life.  We make the development that “sense” part of our daily mission and lives here at Sanborn Western Camps.  Over the last 60 years, we have found children “do what they see,” and do not always “do what you say.”  Appreciating the natural world is part of our culture—and it becomes part of the culture of the children and adults who spend time here through our modeling.

As the years pass, these children become adults and the adults become parents and grandparents who now know, understand and value the natural world—and who will act as stewards and advocates on behalf of the planet.  This stewardship and advocacy doesn’t often make headlines, but the simple act of watching one’s parents or other mentors appreciate and care for the earth will make more of an impact on a child than a million “calls to action.”

Modeling a "Sense of the Earth"

People feel better when they can spend time outdoors—and the old “Make Earth Day Everyday” slogan is still an important one—as much for the health and sustainability of our own families as it is for the health and well-being of the planet.  People also find family volunteer efforts and service activities make them feel more meaningfully engaged with their families, communities and lives—not only on Earth Day, but all year round.

Share your “sense of the earth” this weekend.  Dig in the dirt.  Build a fort.  Clean up your neighborhood park.  Take on the “eco-fairy” role at your house—make sure all the lights are off, appliances are unplugged, and the heat is turned down everyday before you leave home (and yes, you’ll need a sparkly wand and iridescent wings for that job).  Remember to take your reusable bags to the grocery store.  Use cloth napkins for dinner.  Make recycling a family thing.  Then get outside and play some more.

What will your children, friends, family, and neighbors see you do this Earth Day?  And, perhaps more importantly, what will you do with them?

Outdoor Service Experience: Connecting children and adults to nature...and to each other

Great Activities for Earth Day/Earth Weekend Celebrations

In a nod to both Earth Day and John Muir’s 173rd birthday yesterday, ALL of parks in the National Park Service are fee-free through this Sunday, April 24.  Visit the National Park Service’s National Park Week page for more information and to find a National Park near you (St. Louis Arch, anyone?).

The Children and Nature Network’s Let’s G.O. (Get Outside) campaign has over 500 different activities being offered all over the country to celebrate Children in Nature Awareness Month, so check out what is being offered in  your “neck of the woods.”

Finally, we hope you can join us today and tomorrow for Earth Day activities in both Woodland Park and at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.  We are bringing our solar and wind energy demonstration trailer to both events and would love to see our Sanborn campers, alums, families, and friends there too!

Don’t Let The Summer Slide

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water-bugs, tadpoles, frogs and mud-turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb, brooks to wade in, water-lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pine-cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets; and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education.
Luther Burbank

Learning By Doing

In the Edutopia article, “Summer: The Third Trimester,” author Milton Chen states: “Summer camp, I’d argue, plays a more important role in children’s learning than most educators acknowledge, a chance to get outdoors, learn new hobbies, and form new friendships.”

His article is about the documented and highly-publicized “Summer Slide,” or learning loss, that occurs during our long, agrarian-society-based summer break.  Some of the documented facts about “summer slide” come from the National Summer Learning Association. These include:

  • All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004).
  • Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains (Cooper, 1996).
  • More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college. (Alexander et al, 2007).
  • Children lose more than academic knowledge over the summer. Most children—particularly children at high risk of obesity—gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school during summer break (Von Hippel et al, 2007).
  • Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do (Duffett et al, 2004).

So the question becomes: What defines an educational experience?

We made it ourselves!

Chen is correct when he recognizes the educational benefits of a summer camp experience.  The time outdoors, the development of creative, new, imaginative skill sets, and the creation of healthy, new, “in-real life” social interactions all contribute to the continued development of healthy bodies and enriched brains.

Deborah McNelis is the creator/owner of braininsights and is a brain development specialist.  She writes, “Creativity and imagination are high level skills in the brain…It is through experience and repetition that the brain learns and makes connections between neurons. It is only through play that children get the chance to develop these higher level brain skills….Offering varied activities for play and exploring with real objects, people, and nature gives the brain the ability to pretend and to gain knowledge about how things in the world work.”

Music Doesn't Always Come from iTunes

This is what we do every day at camp.  American Camp Association Executive Director, Pam Smith states, “Camp is a place where kids can “practice” growing up stretching their social, emotional, physical, and cognitive muscles outside the context of their immediate family. This is what childhood is supposed to provide.”  Our campers, and kids who attend day camps, soccer camps, music camps, theater camps, baseball camps, and every other ACA accredited camp in the country, DO gain knowledge about how things and–perhaps more importantly—how people work.

David Carr’s piece, “Keep Your Thumbs Still While I Am Talking To You” acknowledges the plugged-in trend that has many adults, and perhaps a complete generation of children, in a kind of “imprisonment.”

We are developing co-dependent relationships with our digital devices—and completely neglecting the people who are sitting with us.  In many cases, summer camp provides freedom from those devices.  This, in turn, allows campers to focus on developing friendship, communication, and the other necessary group living skills required to function as a respectful community.

Practicing the art of the lasso, Big Spring Barn

And the development of those social connections and skills are important if we want our children to be successful in both school and in life.  Developing a “sense of belonging and a sense of capability” has been demonstrated to actually improve the GPAs of some students—and that sense came from writing a series of personal essays.  Imagine the benefits of having a camp counselor or staff member who, as Audrey Monke says, “finds something unique and special about them…it can have a powerful and positive influence on them.

Along with the social/emotional benefits, summer camp creates an optimal outdoor environment where kids can be healthier, safer, and have more opportunities for brain-building reflection time.  Richard Louv says, “Children learn by doing. Unstructured time in a natural setting invites a child to explore, to play and to create.”

Sitting. Thinking. Singing. Being.

In research collected by the Children and Nature Network, time in the outdoors can actually mitigate many of the “negative” effects of summer.  Some of the findings show:

  • Kids who engage in outdoor play are more physically active, are more aware of what they eat, and tend to have lower BMI ratios.
  • Kids who play outdoors learn critical thinking skills necessary for school success
  • Kids (and adults) who engage with the natural world are less stressed and more able to cope with stress.

ACA research demonstrates the educational value of the camp experience for both campers and their parents.  Campers learn new things, make new friends, gain invaluable self-esteem, are physically active and mentally creative, and have opportunities to play outdoors and reflect.  Campers in these research studies say:

  • Camp helped me make new friends. (96%)
  • Camp helped me to get to know kids who are different from me. (93%)
  • The people at camp helped me feel good about myself. (92%)
  • At camp, I did things I was afraid to do at first. (74%)

And the parents of these campers say:

  • My child gained self-confidence at camp. (70%)
  • My child continues to participate in some of the new activities he or she learned at camp. (63%)
  • My child remains in contact with friends made at camp. (69%)

Every Camp Moment IS A Teachable Moment

These findings celebrate the holistic educational experience that is camp.  Camp IS an “equal opportunity life enhancer“—and there IS a camp out there for every child.

So don’t let summer slide.  Think smart.  Think summer.

Check out the new ACA summer reading initiative: Explore 30 and register your camp or youth development organization today!

Also, check out the ACA’s comprehensive Find A Camp tool and more excellent articles about the value of the camp experience at

Join Fiona Bryan and Ariella Rogge on April 20th, 2011 at 1 p.m. MST (3 p.m EST) for a Twitter chat with parents, educators, and camp professionals about the impacts of summer learning loss and how camp can provide educational benefits to your children, campers and students.

Use the hashtag #CampChat to follow along and to participate.

Pocket Nature Activity #3: Nature Sculptures

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Andy Goldsworthy: Play with Textures of Nature

In celebration of The Children and Nature Network’s campaign Let’s G.O.  (Get Outside), we will be posting a weekly “Pocket Nature Activity.”  These activities require minimal, if any, materials–and will be just as “wonder-full”

in your backyard, the local playground, a nearby nature center, or just on an after dinner walk around the neighborhood.

Be sure to share your favorite “Pocket Nature Activity” in the comments section, we will link to your ideas, website or blog posts on our Facebook page all month long.

Andy Goldsworthy: Play with the Colors of the Natural World

Begin this activity by discussing what environmental art is with your children. Explain that different styles of this art form exist and it can be traced back to the late 1960s.

Environmental art is often used to raise awareness of topics such as the sacredness of nature, recycling, climate change, renewable energy, the importance of connecting with nature, and other important issues.

Artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, Chris Drury, and Richard Long have written books that you can take on your hike (or share beforehand) to show kids and teens examples of art in nature.

To make Nature Sculptures: Hike along a trail, stopping to observe natural materials, looking for unusual colors, patterns, textures, and shapes. Then, either as pairs or individuals, plan a sculpture that will not damage the environment around you.

Nature Sculptures: Give Kids Time to Celebrate Their Creations

Make sure you express the “temporary” nature of the artwork—and commit to either taking the sculptures down at the end of your “Art Show” or determine a time you will come back and see what has happened to the sculptures.

Questions to ask might include: How does your sculpture represent your relationship with the environment? What do you hope your work will say to others? Why is Nature often an important part of “Art”?

Pocket Nature Activity #2: 100-Inch Hike

Monday, April 11th, 2011

A Change in Perception

In celebration of The Children and Nature Network’s campaign Let’s G.O.  (Get Outside), we will be posting a weekly “Pocket Nature Activity.”  These activities require minimal, if any, materials–and will be just as “wonder-full” in your backyard, the local playground, a nearby nature center, or just on an after dinner walk around the neighborhood.

Be sure to share your favorite “Pocket Nature Activity” in the comments section, we will link to your ideas, website or blog posts on our Facebook page all month long.

Taking time to smell...and check out...the flowers

The 100-Inch Hike

Shrinking the field of perception often adds to awareness.  By closely examining a very small area, wonders can be discovered which might otherwise be overlooked.

In the 100-Inch Hike, individuals are each given a piece of string 100 inches long.  Each person places it on the ground and carefully explores the area that extends along the string.  Things to look for include: signs of animals, birds or insects; distinctive characteristics of any plants along the trail; textures of soicl or sand; different colors, etc.

Individuals may wish to record their findings in a nature journal and share them with other members of the group.

A variation on this activity is to shape a wire clothes hanger into a square and examine the area inside the square.

Pocket Nature Activity #1: Meet a Tree

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Meet a Tree

In celebration of The Children and Nature Network’s campaign Let’s G.O.  (Get Outside), we will be posting a weekly “Pocket Nature Activity.”  These activities require minimal, if any, materials–and will be just as “wonder-full” in your backyard, the local playground, a nearby nature center, or just on an after dinner walk around the neighborhood.

The goal of Let’s G.O. is to harness the power of The Children & Nature movement, a movement “that celebrates every day the sun rises and sets, every day a child digs into dirt or builds his first mud pie. Let this not be the last generation that celebrates time outdoors.”  So after school today, or after dinner some night this week, grab a few blindfolds/bandannas and help your kids (or maybe all the kids in the neighborhood) “Meet a Tree.”

Be sure to share your favorite “Pocket Nature Activity” in the comments section, we will link to your ideas, website or blog posts on our Facebook page all month long.

I found my tree!

Meet a Tree (from 101 Nature Activities for Kids)

Lead a small group of blindfolded participants on a short walk, allowing them to concentrate on their less-used senses by taking away their most highly used sense: sight.

Guide the blindfolded players through a variety of sensory experiences–sunlight, shade, open areas, trees, grass, rocks–always going slowly and building their confidence in you as their leader.

Now, leave each blindfolded participant at a different tree.  Tell each one to learn as much as possible about his/her tree by feeling, smelling, listening, and even tasting.  After a few minutes, bring the participants away from their trees, remove the blindfolds, and ask each one to find his/her tree.

If they have trouble finding their tree, discuss how successful players identified their trees and then repeat the exercise.

During the debriefing time for this activity, participants can share how they felt about “their” trees.  This activity can also lead to a great discussion about the needs of individuals compared with the needs of a community.