Archive for March, 2016

A Sense of Wonder

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Enjoying the sunset at Top of the World

Many of us can remember “a moment of wonder” at camp when time stopped as we watched a Red Tail fly through the sky, or when we witnessed a sunset so beautiful it took our breath away. Perhaps we were amazed by the stars glittering in the night sky, or by the colors of the wild iris in the field below Witcher Rocks. “To inspire a sense of wonder” has always been part of the mission of the camps, and we hope that everyone who comes to camp experiences many such moments at Big Spring and High Trails.

The importance of a sense of wonder for all of us, and especially for young people, cannot be over emphasized. Scott Barry Kaufman, author of “Wired to Create” recently spoke at an American Camp Association conference we all attended.  He provided research to show that a “sense of awe” as he termed it, greatly enhances curiosity and creativity, skills that are sadly diminishing among today’s youth. Other speakers at the conference demonstrated how the simple act of “noticing” in the natural world can lead to awareness, joy, and a deep connection with nature.

Use your imagination to build a fort like the Trappers would have done over a hundred years ago!

The term “sense of wonder” was coined by Rachel Carson in a 1956 essay. Though she planned to write a book on the subject, she died in 1963 before completing the project. However, her notes were used to create a book called “Sense of Wonder”, that was published posthumously in 1965.  When Carson wrote her essay, she was already seeing signs that many children no longer had access to the wild places that were abundant for our agricultural forbears.

Carson could not have predicted, however, the changes in society which have occurred in the past 60 years. In 2006, Richard Louv picked up Carson’s theme with his bestseller, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder”. The research is now significant and it all shows that children need time spent in the natural world in the same way they need food and sleep.  And, while we now understand the power of this need, studies also show that the amount of time children are spending in the natural world is decreasing each year.

Where will these seeds go?

Two significant, and simple, realizations have become clear through the research. One: it is through a personal connection to the natural world that a child experiences the most powerful benefits of a nature experience. This is the same emotional feeling described in the phrase “Sense of Wonder”. Two: young people are 90% more likely to experience this personal connection with nature if they explore the natural world with an adult mentor who also has a personal connection.

Rachel Carson was prescient in this; in her 1956 article she said “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

“To inspire a sense of wonder” is still an important part of our mission and we are becoming ever more intentional about ensuring that each person who comes to camp leaves with a personal connection to the natural world. A sense of wonder can also be enhanced in a garden, a park, an alley, or just by looking at the stars. So go outside today, notice what is around you—and take a child with you.

News from Camp: March 1, 2016

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

It's calving season at Witcher Ranch.

We had another good snow last week and are very happy to look ahead to the green grass and wildflowers which this moisture will make possible during the summer. The longer days and increased activities of our wild animal friends remind us that Spring is just around the corner, and this makes us even more excited about the coming camp season.

We have many projects underway in preparation for camp next summer.  Mike, Matthew, Ariella, and Elizabeth have been hiring outstanding staff members for next summer.  We have some great returning staff as well as some wonderful new staff signed up for the summer of 2016.

We’re also creating a new staff manual which includes up-to-date youth development information and will provide a framework for our 10-day staff training.

Witcher Rocks has been a great place to spot a Red-Tailed Hawk this spring.

We are working on many areas of the program, too, which will provide some exciting new activities and trips this summer.  Everyone has been busy putting together plans and resources for each activity so by the time June arrives, we will have everything ready!

Maren, Rachel, and Oliver have been making plans for our super horseback riding program, designing activities and trips that will be lots of fun and also allow everyone from beginner to advanced riders to improve their riding skills.

Our maintenance crew is working on a variety of projects to improve and update our facilities in both camps.  These include renovations of the ABC washhouses at Big Spring and in the Lodge at High Trails.  We also plan to have a new yurt at Big Spring before summer begins.

Jessie and Ariella are working our new website, which we hope to roll out before the end of the month. Also, check out our weekly posts on Facebook to stay current on what is going on around camp during the winter.

Matthew and Elizabeth will be heading to the Bay Area with our road show on March 13 and 14. Current camp families have received an evite for the programs and the details are also on our Facebook site.

So far we have 11 calves running around the Witcher Fish Pond pasture.


Camp is only three months away and we can’t wait.  Already we have campers and staff from 39 states and 8 countries—and we’re adding more every day.  The fun and friendship which occur when all of these great people get together is what makes camp so special!  We are happy to send our brochure and DVD to anyone interested in learning more about the exciting programs at Big Spring, High Trails, and Sanborn Junior.