Archive for November, 2012

Why Campfires Rule

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Fire Power!

According to a new article in Smithsonian magazine, sitting around a campfire may increase your capacity for inspiration, long-term thinking and problem-solving.

Researchers suspect that early humans’ use of fire influenced brain evolution in three significant ways:

  • Fires created “artificial daylight” which dramatically altered the way our brains regulate time; instead of going to sleep and waking with the sun, early humans could now stay alert and active into the evening.
  • Fire also altered quality of sleep—though not because early humans were now staying up later.  Instead of a light REM cycle, which was necessary to keep from being eaten by predators, the protection of fire kept predators at bay while allowing humans to go into long—and more brain productive—REM states
  • Fire improved “working memory”—allowing humans  to think about, process, and create interconnections between multiple things and ideas.  Focusing on a fire creates a meditative state in the brain—which has both health benefits but also helps regulate attention.  This attention regulation allowed early humans to foresee problems and to plan ahead—giving them a great advantage in all aspects of survival.

The take-aways?  At camp, there is nothing better than sitting around a campfire in the evening, telling stories, singing songs, and roasting marshmallows while staring into the embers. …while, simultaneously, our brains create life-long synaptic interconnections…making us more innovative, better problem solvers, and more relaxed in general.

Pass the chocolate and the graham crackers, please.

(and, just for fun…campfire for your computer.  We know.  Not even close)

Giving Tuesday: A Holiday Tradition We Value

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Smoke Plume from Springer Fire above Big Spring

The new tradition of Giving Tuesday has inspired many people to give back in various ways across the country.  We are especially excited about the #GivingTuesday work of Sanborn Western Camp parent Jyl Johnson Pattee who is using her Mom It Forward network and blog to engage others across the country in community projects, charitable giving, and other gratitude-based volunteer opportunities.  In alignment with some of the Giving Tuesday goals Jyl speak of on NPR’s Morning Edition yesterday,  our staff at Sanborn Western Camps has decided to spend a day giving our work to the local community.

This summer, the Waldo Canyon Fire outside of Colorado Springs burned over 18,000 acres, including residential areas on the west side of the city. The area is still recovering, and we have decided to give back by working to help. We will be partnering with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte to help prevent serious erosion and mitigate flooding around a number of homes. Our work consists of filling and stacking sandbags to construct barriers which will protect the homes in danger.

After our entire camp was evacuated due to another wildfire this past summer, it will be great to get to help those who were affected by wildfire.

We are constantly thankful to be here after our close call this summer, and are happy to get to help some of those who were not as fortunate.  We hope you will find time today to share the holiday spirit of Giving Tuesday with others in your local community.  Happy Giving Tuesday!

Winter Is Here…What Do We Do?

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Fly-tying during Stalking Education in the Wild 2012

There are two questions a camp director dreads: 1. Why does toilet in Kinnikinnik look like a Yellowstone geyser? 2. What do you DO in the winter?

Both questions require thoughtful responses (but the first question might also require a plunger and a biohazard suit).  Beyond hiring the 120 broadly talented seasonal staff members, recruiting 600 unique and fantastic campers, connecting with our alums, designing new programs like the Sanborn Semester, organizing mission-centric educational opportunities like Stalking Education in the Wild or our annual No Child Left Inside Family Fun Day, hosting the ACA Rocky Mountain Section regional conference, sending birthday cards (over 10,000 annually), and operating The Nature Place and High Trails Outdoor Education Center, we are committed leaders and educators in the field of youth development and in the camp profession.

As the culture shifts, camp is taking its rightful role as an important component in the year round education of every child.  COEC Board Member Rod Lucero said in a recent article in Camping Magazine, “One concept that emerges from most every camp activity schedule is the idea of “fun.” While “fun for fun’s sake” is a worthy goal, I would contend that fun with an articulated focus on education transcends the camp experience and extends to the pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade classrooms.”  Sandy and Laura Sanborn believed in “fun and adventure with a purpose.” And we, like Rod, believe that “the purpose is education, and as the camp has evolved and grown, this mantra has remained fundamental to every aspect of the good work being done there.”

One of the 101 Nature Activities: Find a Tree Hike

Everything begins at home and we are committed to professional development of our year round and seasonal staff.  Through conferences, training sessions, and skill development workshops, our staff not only represents a seasoned group of camp professionals, we actually lead, teach, and design many training sessions for others in the camp community.

The National Convention of the American Camp Association was held in Atlanta in mid-February, and we participated in full force.  Executive Director, Jane Sanborn, was the program chairperson for this year’s conference (as well as for the upcoming 2013 National Conference in Dallas, TX) and worked on an outstanding educational program for many months.  Chris, Elizabeth, and Ariella led educational sessions at the conference. Mike, as President of the Rocky Mountain Region of the American Camp Association, participated in all of the leadership events held at the conference. COEC Board member Rod Lucero presented one of the keynote addresses, and Julie, David, and Carlotta attended the conference.

Additionally, Jane, Elizabeth, and Ariella have written curricula and participated as webinar panel experts for the ACA’s e-Institute.  The ACA just released a 15 hour online Certificate of Added Qualification for Middle Managers, and Ariella was one of the four writers of the curriculum.  Jane is the chair of the ACA’s Children, Nature and Camps Committee and co-authored the best-selling, “101 Nature Activities for Kids” with Elizabeth.

Then there is the hard skill training: BC is a AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association) Certified Top and Bottom Managers and supervise our rock-climbing staff; we train using the most current ACCT Ropes Course certification model; all of our summer trip leaders have WMI/NOLS Wilderness First Aid certification; we have an on-site Red Cross Lifeguard course; we require our peer supervisors (ridge leaders, wranglers, kitchen coordinators) to attend a specialized Supervisor Workshop; and all of our trip leaders go through a comprehensive Trip Leader and 15 Passenger Van Driver Training…plus all staff are certified in CPR and Standard First Aid and participate in our 10 day Staff Week training. This training includes everything from the latest in youth development research to experiential teaching techniques.  Whew!

Winter=Time to Turn Our BIG Dreams into Reality!

We are invested in the experience and our own continued growth and development.  We are actively involved in building a more professional camp and educational experience for ALL children through our staff development and the variety of outreach and educational sessions we lead.

This is a big part of our “purpose” and it is one we take pride in.   And with Jane repeating as program chair for the 2013 American Camp Association National Conference, we will continue to take a professional lead in the camping and youth development industry.

So we actually do work in the wintertime…maybe that is why summer is so darn incredible!

November News Update

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

We miss the golden Aspen...but they will be green again before we know it!

After a long and beautiful Indian Summer, with golden and red aspen trees lasting into late October, winter arrived last week in the form of wind and colder temperatures.  We still have not seen much snow, however.  We are certainly thinking about our many friends on the East Coast and wishing you the best as the clean-up from Hurricane Sandy moves forward.

The High Trails Outdoor Education Center staff will finish an outstanding outdoor education season on November 9th.  They hosted a fantastic Halloween event for the Colorado Springs District 20 students, as well as helped almost 1,500 sixth grade students, high school “counselors”, teachers and administrators connect with the natural world in a positive, transformational way.

We are happy to announce that our Sanborn Semester school will begin in January 2014!  The Sanborn Semester is a semester school for motivated, aspirational high school students who are looking for an alternative to traditional classroom learning.  Classes feature hands-on experiences, inspirational educators, service projects and regular field trips to explore the many facets of the Rocky Mountains.  Electives even include Western Horsemanship and Bicycle Maintenance!  Students will live, study and exchange ideas in the comfortable facilities of  The Nature Place.  Call Chris Tholl at 719.748.3341 or visit for more information.  Scholarships are available.

Our maintenance crew has made excellent use of the good weather and has built four new tent frames on STUW Ridge at Big Spring.  These are similar to the new tent frames they have built on HKL and MOPQ ridges over the past two years. They have also put new roofs on three cabins at High Trails.  If our sunny days continue, they will complete several more roofing projects this winter.  One of their winter projects will be to build new Gaga Ball pits for both Big Spring and High Trails.

Maren reports that the horses are very happy grazing in the Fish Creek Meadows. They have appreciated taking it easy and munching sweet mountain grass to their heart’s content after their busy summer in the Big Spring and High Trails Riding programs.

We will be again be hosting the American Camp Association—Rocky Mountain Region Annual workshop in mid-November.  Attended by camp leaders from several states, this is a wonderful educational and networking opportunity and many of our year round staff will be attending and, in some cases, presenting programs.  Big Spring Director Mike MacDonald is the current President of the Rocky Mountain Region.

Early morning mountain climbs...the best!

We are all looking forward to the relative calm of the winter season and the opportunity it provides to improve our programs and our facilities. We will meet soon to select dates for some of our exceptional trips next summer.  These include four- and five-day backpacking trips on Mts. Elbert and Massive, Mts. Harvard and Yale, Pikes Peak, the Colorado Trail, Buffalo Peaks, the Tarryall Mountains and several more spectacular wilderness areas.  We will also plan mountain climbing trips to Mt. Huron, Mt Ouray, Mt. Oxford and Belford, La Plata Peak, Mt. Quandary, Mt. Democrat, Mt. Princeton and ten more Colorado “Fourteeners”.  We are already anticipating the fun and challenge of these amazing adventures.

Plans are underway for Mike and Elizabeth’s January—February trip to the Midwest with the camp road show.  A schedule of their travels will be posted on the website, and we will be sending information about the shows to camp families, alums, and those who are interested in exploring the opportunities at Big Spring, High Trails and Sanborn Junior.

Many of you have received enrollment information in the past month, and we are always happy to send our brochure and DVD to new families.  We offer an early bird tuition discount for enrollments we receive before December 1. We have already received a significant number of enrollments for 2013 and are excited to watch the High Trails and Big Spring communities take shape.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!