Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

Reflections and Realizations

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015
Camp is finally here! We are all together again! My skin can barely hold all joy and excitement inside me! It is absolutely amazing to see everyone, staff and campers, in the lodge, on the trails and playing in the fields. What we’ve discussed for the last ten days is finally being out to practice. First year counselors and fourth year counselors are seamlessly blending together as a group of strong mentors for this group of young people we’ve welcomed home in the last 24 hours. Everyone is experiencing the first few days of Summer 2015 together and looking forward to all the adventure and fun in store.
As I struggle to sleep tonight with all this excitement, I’ve also been reflecting on the past 10 days of training and the conversations I know have happened at both Big Spring and High Trails. The impact will we have on their lives as counselors, wranglers, or leaders on trips this summer is remarkable. We talked about ways to help campers learn both hard and soft skills and build competence and confidence; not only in their lives at camp, but throughout their lives outside of camp. Staff members are taking to heart all the ideas presented to the group and looking for ways they can impact campers.

Celebrating the summit of Mt. Elbert on day 4 of the 2010 1st Session Elbert/ Massive Trip.

This helped me recognize something special about this summer for me. Many of my junior campers from my first summer on staff are now the Junior Counselors (JCs) at High Trails. In fact, a great many of our staff members were also former campers on trips of mine. Over the past ten days, I’ve realized that some of my favorite people in the world are on the staff this summer – it’s because they are the people that made a huge impact on my life!

These are the ladies that were campers on the first backpacking trip I led, on the first trip with 2 mountain climbs, and on the trip that the rain would never stop and I had dreams of our tents floating away. These were the trips that have shaped me into the mountain woman I am today. I remember those instances that I didn’t speak with grace first, I didn’t come into each conversation with the thought of teaching first. Those are the trips that were wonderful in their many missteps and these are the ladies that trusted me to guide them, teach them and celebrate with them….even when I didn’t feel I had the competence and confidence that I was trying so humbly to help them gain.

All the 2015 staff members who I first met when they were campers and took out on trips. (And Ariella too, who has always been a rock of support)

These are the ladies that impacted my life in so many positive and most important ways.

There is a phrase we use around here sometimes, because of camp… Well, because of camp, I have gained the skills and self-confidence of a great leader, all while being too busy playing in the dirt and hiking with my girls to notice.
To the parents who send their most precious treasures to camp, thank you, you are giving our staff members a most precious gift–the gift of being able to grow and change alongside your sons and daughters.

- Jessie

Nature Activity: Nature Scavenger Hunt

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

This looks SCARY!!!

At High Trails Outdoor Education Center, students experience the natural world through role play and hands-on activities. One of our students’ favorite activities comes during their first Discovery Group: Setting the Mood.

The Nature Scavenger Hunt is facilitated by the high school counselors, many of whom have attended our HTOEC Leadership Day. The goal is to help the students begin to see interrelationships in the natural world, as well as to help them slow down and help them truly “see” (and understand) the natural world all around them.

Here is what the students will be looking for:

HTOEC Nature Scavenger Hunt
Something red in nature
Something scary
The oldest thing you can find
The youngest thing you can find
Something you can feel but cannot see
Something with a smooth texture
Something with a rough texture
Something beautiful
Something amazing
Two seeds
A piece of litter
Evidence of an animal
Three different kinds of grass
Something that makes a noise
Something humans could not live without
Something natural that has no purpose

Once the group has found all the items, the high school counselors will facilitate a short wrap-up discussion to allow the students to share their discoveries. Some of the questions the counselors may ask are: What do all the objects have in common? How are they interrelated? Would a dog be able to find something red? Would a bat be able to hear the same things we found which made a noise? What else could a bat hear? What things would animals be able to find better than we can?

These questions help the student begin to recognize that our senses help us experience the natural world in rare and unique ways—and that our sixth sense, our sense of wonder, allows us to understand, appreciate and celebrate our connection to nature.

What do YOU look for when you are out in the natural world?

How Long Is Your Shadow?

Monday, February 6th, 2012

How long is your shadow?

“How long is the shadow of your leadership?” A recent article in the ACA’s Camping Magazine includes an article by Kerry Plemmons, a clinical professor at Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. The basis of the article is that camp is good for everyone. Plemmons and fellow professors bring students from DU’s business school to The Nature Place for a weekend early in their graduate school careers to help teach the students the leadership skills necessary to be successful business men and women.

The relationship between Daniels and The Nature Place started in 1990 when Rob Jolly and Sandy Sanborn approached Daniels with the idea of experiential leadership. As part of the 10th Mountain Division, Sandy saw the importance of strong leadership in challenging situations. He saw how organizations could be successful with a flat structure. He saw the long-term benefits of leadership opportunities in students of all ages. During the summer, we offer a Peaks to Performance curriculum where campers can partake in SOLE and CORE in 8th and 9th grade, respectively and are able to be Junior Counselors and Outbackers in 10th grade. We put into practice the beliefs that Sandy felt so important with campers:

  • Individual development: self confidence, virtue & courage, sense of self, leadership roles & styles, establishing trust
  • Team development: working with a team, encouraging & helping others, interdependency, membership and followership
  • Problem solving: managing others, creativity & innovation, environmental awareness

These are the same skills that DU business students develop and practice during a three-day weekend. As Plemmons points out, it is easy and fun to talk about leadership, ethics, and values in a classroom, but it is not until the skills can be put into practice that individuals are challenged, motivated, and successful at implementing personal change. Campers are challenged during the summer in a safe and supervised environment. Counselors are prepared to help campers work together and challenge themselves individually.

Daniels students are taught “the Shadow of Leadership” – we practice leadership skills modeled by others, and those skills

Working together on a plan

are hopefully passed onto other people we interact with; and ideally the shadow of good leadership continues to grow. Plemmons explains, “When you think of bad leadership, the influence of that person leaves as soon as the physical shadow is gone…Good leadership is able to influence people across boundaries of time and space through empowerment.” This is our goal for every participant (from the young camper, to the DU graduate student, to the corporate business person) who comes through the Colorado Outdoor Education Center – to be in the shadow of positive leadership and help that shadow grow.

It is important to us to keep asking, “How will you build capacity in others in a manner that lengthens the shadow of your leadership?”

Growing Stronger

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

We CAN Do It Together!

Over the past few weeks, the GROW STRONG initiative at High Trails has given shape and purpose to some of the life skills our young women and girls learn at camp.

Though GROW STRONG is a lengthy acronym (Growing Responsibility in Our World; a Sisterhood Transforming and Renewing Our Never-ending Growth) that speaks volumes about what we accomplish each and every summer at High Trails, this summer we also had specific weekly traits and characteristics the staff have been teaching, emphasizing, and celebrating with each girl at camp.

Our “Words of the Week” or WOW words represent some of the myriad attributes a child gains while at camp.  These skills are essential for community living, appreciation of others, and the development of a secure, healthy sense of self.

Random Acts of Kindness: Helping Carry the Saddle into the Barn

The first week of camp focused on Courage, Flexibility, and Kindness.  We recognized returning campers who were inclusive and kind to new members of their cabin communities.  We helped others see flexibility as a trait that allows groups to reach consensus when establishing guidelines for community living or just being open to trying new foods in a new place.  We celebrated (and continue to celebrate) those moments when our campers make courageous choices: whether taking an unpopular, but necessary, stand when sticking to the expectations or by just pushing themselves by signing up for trips and activities which push them beyond their comfort zones.  We witnessed small acts of kindness everyday: girls coming to the lodge to get board games to help distract a slightly homesick friend, a cabinside setting the tables for the AC’s, older campers carrying weary younger campers on their backs during the Adventure Race, and a thousand others.

Our second week of camp had us developing Empathy, Friendship, and Initiative.  As the girls took the outdoor skills they had learned on their cabinside overnights and applied them to horse pack trips, 14,000 foot mountain climbs, SOLE/CORE experiences,  and more, they also built and practiced the social skills necessary for making and keeping friends from different age groups, cabinsides, and countries.  Developing quality friendships requires a high degree of empathy, or putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and nowhere else is empathy modeled and practiced more than at camp.  While you are trying to climb a mountain, lug a heavy pack, or work with a stubborn horse, the support and caring that emanates from the High Trails staff and campers makes you feel celebrated, appreciated and understood in a way that only seems to happen at camp.  With this kind of empathetic support and understanding, it is no wonder that our campers are motivated and full of initiative: from doing their part during cabin clean-up to helping lead a group on a hike to being the creative force behind the evening skit, we witness our camper’s initiative in countless ways every day.

Working Our Way Up Ouray, Summer 2011

During our long trip week, we sought Resilience, Generosity, and Integrity.  Resilience is the ability to bounce back from hardship, and many a trip last week experienced challenges.  The snowpack was deep and not only created necessary route changes, it actually forced full itinerary changes for some of the trips.  The girls not only embraced the changes, but made the most of the new adventures: they were some of the most successful long trips in recent memory.  The campers and staff were generous with themselves and their skills in large and small ways.  Our Junior Counselors took on significant leadership roles on many trips: they helped navigate, motivate, and create outstanding experiences…and were incredibly generous with their outdoor skills, spirit, and hilarious stories.  Campers were able to see, first hand, what integrity looks like as they watched their trip leaders share leadership roles throughout the week.  Staff were honest and open with campers when hard decisions—like not summiting due to weather– had to be made;  campers learned that personal integrity, from knowing what food I have in my pack for which meal to staying attentive and focused while “hawking” the horses, is integral to earning respect and leads to more opportunities for leadership and autonomy.

THE Pirate Overnight, Summer 2011

And, finally , during our last week, we hope to acknowledge many small (and large) instances of good Communication, Imagination, and a more developed Self-Confidence in each and every one of our High Trails campers and staff members.  Lela Payne (Ridge Leader for Ponderosa and Silver Spruce) led a wildly successful Pirate Overnight during the second week of camp.  This overnight exemplified everything that IS creativity and imagination.  The campers built a pirate ship in High Tor, successfully survived attacks from evil marauders, and spent most of the overnight in some sort of “free play.”  The sequel, like all good pirate tales, is coming this week—and promises to be even MORE imaginative and fun than the last.  Good communication means we speak to each other with respect and caring because we know that our time together is short, so we need to listen and understand as much as we need to speak and think.  And, finally, the self-confidence our campers will leave with next Tuesday will help them navigate the challenges of tweendom, adolescence, college, and beyond.

Summit Success!

Through our Silent Trails, cabin conversations, moments stargazing and more, there have been many opportunities to share and hear how camp has positively influenced these girls and young women.  With our GROW STRONG necklaces, leaves, and charms we hope each one of the girls will be able to speak to you about how SHE grew stronger this summer…and how those experiences will make her stronger in the future, too.

Do we make an impact or an impression at Summer Camp?

Monday, May 17th, 2010

impact [n. im-pakt; v. im-pakt]
influence; effect: the impact of Einstein on modern physics.        
To have an impact or effect on; influence; alter: The decision may impact your whole career. The auto industry will be impacted by the new labor agreements.
impression [im-presh-uhn]
The first and immediate effect of an experience or perception upon the mind; sensation.
About a year ago several of us had the opportunity to attend the ACA National conference, held in Nashville, TN.  One of the many people that connected to me was a keynote speaker named Dr. Rick Rigsby. This link will provide you with the last four minuets of the keynote. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn2-VTNFOUk
Dr. Rigsby spoke about character, values-based leadership, and how theses two, most important traits are vital to making an IMPACT  rather than an impression.   How we live determines how we lead which will determine the impact me make.  Impression, is what we do when children first arrive at camp.  Impact, is what we did that is visible in their lives 20 years later.    Camp creates lifelong Impacts!
“Our greatest endeavor must be to transform this generation by living authentic lives that impact rather than impress!” -Dr. Rick Rigsby