Posts Tagged ‘Benefits of nature’

We agree – Camp is Magic

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Facing challenges that seem impossible at the time is part of the Magic of camp.

Maybe being this far back in the forest you would think that it’s hard for the News to reach us, but we do appreciate those of you who help keep us connected to what’s new and trending, and we will never pass up a great article about the Magic and Purpose of Camp! So when this article from the Huffington Post by Kelly Newsome was passed along to Jane by a couple of alums, it quickly made its way around the office and now up on the blog and back out to you, who we have a feeling will appreciate it as much as we did!

We know from first-hand experience that the thoughts Ms. Newsome expresses about how camp shaped her as a person are very real. Camp is an environment where individual growth and self-understanding occur in a way that seems magical. It does not matter where or which camp you attended as a child or worked at in your young adult years or came back to for an Alum Reunion.

The Magic of camp can happen in as short a time frame as a weekend.

And that is where this article struck me as so true. We just enjoyed the camp alum reunion to celebrate our 67th year, and welcomed nearly 50 over-excited “children” (as Ms. Newsome so aptly put it).  The excitement in the lodge on Thursday night was palpable. Pre-historic through present aged camp alum immediately blended together into a new camp community. All weekend they enjoyed together the activities that make up so many happy memories from camp days.

My favorite part of the reunions though are the stories told during meals and “rest time” on the deck. The stories of great adventures, favorite counsellors and campers, and most especially the challenging moments! Just as Ms. Newsome said, “After lice outbreaks, soiled linens, projectile vomiting, and shrill screams in the wee hours of the morning, getting splashed by an oncoming bus on the way to class or stepping in dog poop at the park just doesn’t take a toll on my happiness the way it once did.”

We all have those stories of the great mountain climbs and perfect 5-day horse trips that we look back on fondly, but it’s not these stories that get told with minute-by-minute details and pride in all the sheer will-power it took to boil water in a torrential Colorado downpour. It’s the challenges we all faced, and overcame, that turn into the stories that are now told and reflected on as being the best. You were challenged by Nature, by very-tired distraught campers, by a mountain with 14 false peaks. You struggled, worked as a team, and overcame the worst of the situation to pull through and return triumphant! Those are the memories that you hold dear and those are the times that shaped you into the strong confident human being you are now.  These are the magic moments – and yes, for those of you who are currently campers, this is happening for you too!

The world is changing out there (we do venture out of our forest home enough to know that). It is continuing to become a place of diversified challenges and struggles. Yet, we know that what we’ve done here for the past 67 years and the challenges we continue to embrace, are still helping to grow and shape us into the very best humans we can be. The humans that will take Camp out into the world and “redefine magic” there as well.

Find Kelly Newsome’s article The Magic of Summer Camp here.

ACA Conference

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Last week 10 of us ventured to Atlanta for the ACA National Conference. The overall theme of the conference

Jane Sanborn and her entourage!

was Convergence: Vision, Learning, Innovation. This was an exciting opportunity for our staff to continue our professional development as youth and outdoor educators and camp professionals. And it was a great week! Our very own Jane Sanborn was the conference program chair. She and the conference team lined up wonderful session and keynote speakers, fun night programs, and a variety of exhibitors for the exhibit hall.  We were all able to go to a variety of educational sessions presented by child development and camp professionals – sessions that emphasized the importance of what we do best: provide exceptional outdoor experiences for children. We were able to network with other camp professionals. We left energized and motivated for the summer! It is fun for us to come back and share all that we have learned with each other and start incorporating new ideas into our summer and school weeks programs.

We had great keynote speakers including, Dr. Christine Carter (author of Raising Happiness), Richard Louv, Sanborn alum, Rod Lucero, and Niambi Jaha-Echols. Each speech was relevant to and encouraging of what we do at camp.

Dr. Carter started the week sharing the importance of teaching and cultivating life skills such as gratitude, kindness, and growth campers – all things that we know about and do at camp! Dr. Carter is a strong believer of Growth Mindset – the belief that someone is successful due to hard work and effort, as well as innate ability. At camp, it is important to us that campers are challenged to try new things and encouraged through the process. We believe that campers and staff can grow and learn from our trips and activities. Being able to try new things is one of the great things about camp and campers having the ability to choose their own trips and activities.

Richard Louv emphasized the role camps play in continuing to get children outside. In his speech he told us how he was jealous of his friend who left Kansas every summer to go to camp…specifically, his friend left Kansas and spent his summers at Sanborn. He spoke of the growing importance of camp and getting outside, as our world becomes more technology-driven.

Rod Lucero helped us better understand the importance of camps continuing the education from schools. Relevance, Rigor, and Relationships are the foundation of education, and according to Lucero, without them, reading, writing, and arithmetic don’t matter. At camp, we help make education relevant. The foundation of Sanborn is education. We continue to learn and pass our knowledge on to all Colorado Outdoor Education Center participants.

Niambi Jaha-Echols provided us with an inspiring and humorous closing session. According to Jaha-Echols, camp provides us the opportunities to transform into new beings – from caterpillars to butterflies. It is important to us that we provide campers with the space and support to understand and grow into the people they are supposed to be. We are lucky to have 6,000 acres, amazing counselors, and a great variety of trips and activities to help all campers grow as individuals into butterflies.

We look forward to continuing to share our learnings with you and incorporate them into our 2012 summer.

National Get Outdoors Day

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Saturday, June 11, is National Get Outdoors Day (GO Day). The ACA is promoting the fourth annual GO Day in order to “encourage healthy, active outdoor fun” across the country. While there are a number of events taking place at different locations, we encourage you to create your own GO Day. The overall goal for the day is to reconnect youth with the outdoors.

A typical Sanborn GO Day

Our campers don’t arrive until Sunday, but we will spend the rest of the summer having GO Days. We have numerous traditional and non-traditional outdoor activities. We think that is part of what makes participating in GO Day so fun – you can do whatever you want, as long as it is outdoors!

The Big Spring staff returned from their overnights yesterday, and the High Trails staff returned today. They spent two days out of the trail learning different parts of the ranch, mastering how to cook excellent overnight food, and partaking in a variety of nature activities. Most importantly, all the staff are very excited to share their new knowledge with the campers in just a few days!

We would love to hear what activities you are doing for GO Day!

Lasting Impact

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Our school program ended last Wednesday after a very successful season. We had 4th-8th graders from about 20 schools came for 3-5 day programming over the last month and a half. At the beginning of every season we have the chance to reflect on why we want to be a part of HTOEC school weeks and share our thoughts with each other. I tell the staff, and remind myself, that the season will go by way too quickly, that we will have the opportunity to make a difference in the life of at least one child (hopefully more), we will be challenged, we will learn something new from the students we work with, and this place will become home.  Even though I have been part of a number of seasons, I’m always surprised that I forget these predictions that come true every year.

Students on a cabin porch

Several weeks ago I worked with a group of 5th graders from Palmer Lake Elementary School in Monument. I worked in a cabin with about 12 girls who varied in their interest and experience in the outdoors. We played games and hiked to several points around the ranch. I was at the cabin early in the morning and brought snacks after evening programming. This is typical for all the schools we work with. They were only here for three days before they headed back to school and a new school arrived at High Trails. I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with them and as always, I wished them well as they left and reminded them they could come back as high school counselors.

About a week or so later I received a large stack of envelopes in my mailbox. I was mostly excited because it is rare that I have mail. I opened the first envelope and saw it came from one of the Lewis Palmer students that was recently in my cabin. I read about one of the girl’s experiences at High Trails as she talked about how much fun she had and how she was sad to go. Each letter in the stack was from one of the girls in that cabin. And each letter talked about how she challenged herself, enjoyed the hiking (when she didn’t think she would), loved the food, had fun doing different discovery groups, and several remembered my suggestion to come back in several years.

It was definitely surprising to receive this stack of mail. It was also very nice to read about the impact High Trails had on this group of girls. As staff, we see a number of students from different schools with various expectations about High Trails and experiences in the outdoors. We are never sure what students will walk away with as lasting memories. We will see a few high school counselors return after being at High Trails as younger students, we will hear teachers say the experience is great for their students, but it is rare to hear from students after they leave High Trails.

Checking out an Aspen tree

As the season ended and I reflected back on my comments at the beginning of the season, it was fun to remember my comments and recognize that they once again came true. These girls challenged me to go new places and I challenged them to push themselves a little farther out of their normal comfort zone. I learned more about High Trails as they asked me questions about birds and flowers I didn’t know and they learned more about nature. While they did not explicitly say High Trails had changed their lives, reading their excitement about being here showed the lasting impact High Trails will have on them.

We are now gearing up for the summer season. As I move forward and work with new and returning campers, I will again remind myself that everyday is a learning opportunity and the chance to making a lasting impact on another child.

“Why Kids Need Nature”: WE AGREE

Friday, March 4th, 2011

We found a great article on the Children and Nature Network web site this morning: Why Kids Need Nature. At Sanborn we more than understand the value of kids spending time in nature, and we love being able to share more research about the importance of it with others.

I wonder what that tastes like?

Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine interviewed Richard Louv to gain more insight into why it is important for children’s well-being to spend time outdoors and how parents are able to expose their children to nature. Louv explains that time in nature can help fight obesity, depression, and ADD as well as help kids activate their brains (in a different way than school provides) and utilize all their senses. Including their sense of wonder which we emphasize in our summer camps and school weeks programs. It can be hard for parents and children to find the time and space to explore nature. Sports, clubs, meetings, homework all take time during already busy family schedules. Not many neighborhoods have the space for kids to run and play freely.

Louv explains that it is understandable that parents are hesitant to send their kids out to explore unsupervised, but that he finds more and more parents spending time outdoors with their children. We believe that not only kids benefit from nature, but adults as well! Louv states, ”Nature is good for everyone’s mental health.” It is fun for parents to get out with their children and go on scavenger hunts around the yard and neighborhood and take a break from work and for a hike in the woods. The more enthusiastic parents are, the more excited their children will be about their abilities to explore.

“Nature isn’t the problem; it’s the solution.” The Children and Nature Network recognizes the challenges parents may face taking the initiative to take their children outdoors and provide parents with local resources and ideas. We at Sanborn also try to provide resources and ideas for parents and children to reconnect with nature. Here are just a few:

Beyond 101 Nature Activities

New Adventures

Ariella and the Wild Animals

A Small Sounds Tapestry

Time for a Special Place

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.

Challenger Middle School, Day 4

Friday, November 12th, 2010

We had a lot of fun with the 6th graders from Challenger Middle School! This morning the staff went to the cabins to help the students pack and clean before breakfast. They did a great job cleaning! We enjoyed a hot breakfast before heading out for the morning.

The students are on our big rocks right now for a closing session. On Tuesday, the students wrote quotes about what they were thinking and feeling in their special spots. This morning, the High Trails staff is reading about 20 of those quotes on the rocks. It is chilly again this morning, but the sun is shining and we have a great view of Pikes Peak!

After the closing session the students will head out on their last discovery group, Putting It All Together. Similar to Setting the Mood, everyone does the same discovery group, but in the smaller groups. The staff has activities planned to wrap up the week and the students have time to return to their special spots to reflect on what they have learned and goals they want to set for when they return home. Everyone seems excited to share their stories and adventures from the week with their friends and family who weren’t here this week.

The group from Challenger has been a lot of fun to have around. We hope they have a great fall and are able to remember their highlights from their time at High Trails. The 6th graders we have spent time with this fall truly embraced their time in nature and took advantage of their outdoor education experience. They came together as teams from the middle school and seemed to return to school as a stronger community. We have had a great season with District 20 6th graders and look forward to seeing some of the same teachers and high school students next fall!

Challenger Middle School, Days 1 and 2

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

We have had a great first two days with the sixth graders from Challenger Middle School.

The students arrived on Tuesday to cool weather, but no snow. The students participated in their first discovery group – Setting the Mood. Everyone did the same discovery group, but in different smaller groups going to various points around the High Trails property. The students started with a nature awareness scavenger hunt, where they looked for things and used their 6 senses (smell, taste, hearing, sight, touch, and WONDER). They additionally did a blindfold find your tree activity where they had to learn about a tree while blindfolded, then without their blindfolds had to go find their trees. They also were able to find a special spot where they could reflect on the week ahead of them and set goals for the week.

After dinner on Tuesday, half the students went to the Hoedown and half the students went to the Interbarn. The High Trails led 5 silly, choreographed dances at the Hoedown. The students had a great time skipping around and laughing. The Interbarn is our hands-on science center, where students can choose three stations to go to in order to learn more about nature, animals, and the earth.

On Wednesday morning, the High Trails staff led early morning cabin hikes before breakfast to take the students to several of the high points around High Trails. Again, it was a little chilly, but a sunny day. The students went on their first themed discovery group after breakfast where they spent 2.5 hours role playing and learning about Colorado history. All the groups had a lot of fun and enjoyed their times learning. The students were able to participate in a second themed discover group after lunch. For evening programming, the students switched if they went to the Interbarn or the Hoedown.

Week 2, Discovery Canyon Campus Day 4

Friday, November 5th, 2010

It is another beautiful day here at High Trails. The High Trails staff helped the students pack and clean the cabins this morning before breakfast. The cabins look great!

The students are down on the big rocks for a closing session. While in their special spots on Tuesday the students wrote quotes about their goals and what they were feeling about being here. The staff are reading about 20 of those quotes right now on the rocks. The students will then go back to their special spots during their last discovery group, Putting It All Together. Similar to Setting the Mood, the students all do the same discovery group, but in their smaller groups.

We have had a great time with this group of 6th graders from Discovery Canyon Campus! It is rewarding for us to see students excited about nature and ready to learn in this wonderful outdoor classroom. It is even better when they want to take their learnings home to share with their friends and family who were not here with them this week. We hope the students have a great fall and it would be fun to see them back as high school counselors!