Posts Tagged ‘life skills’

Resilience, Research and MORE at Sanborn

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

BMWs: Beautiful Mountain Women

Last year, High Trails campers participated in research on the development of resiliency in girls through the camp experience. COEC Director of Research, Heather Huffman, Ed.M. Harvard, Ph.D. UCLA, worked in concert with researcher Anja Whittington, Ph.D. of Radford University to test her newly designed measurement tool, the “Adolescent Girls’ Resilience Scale.” Surveys were administered to a specific population at camp at both the beginning and end of each term and we wanted to share our results with you.

Overall, High Trails campers showed a positive and significant change in their resiliency scores by the end of camp.  Specifically, the girls’ scores increased in the areas of Positive Approach to Challenge, Self-Efficacy, Relationship-Building, and Confidence. Their scores did not change significantly in the area of Positive Peer Relationships. Scores did not decrease in any area. What does this mean, you ask? Read on to learn more about the AGRS scale and how resilience can be defined in the camp environment.

From the Adolescent Girls’ Resilience Scale (AGRS) website:

Simply stated, Resilience is the ability to negotiate and successfully cope with risks, challenges, and/or disadvantages. This includes having feelings of confidence and self-efficacy, being able to approach challenges in a positive manner and developing positive relationships with others.

The AGRS measures several components of girls’ resilience.  This includes:

  • Approach to Challenge: the degree to which girls view challenge positively; respond positively to stressful situations; feel brave and courageous; show persistence, and are flexible when problem solving.
  • Self-Efficacy: the degree to which girls believe that they are capable and believe they have the ability and motivation to complete tasks and reach goals.
  • Relationship Building: the degree to which  girl’s form positive relationships with others, successfully negotiating conflicts in relationships, and feel comfortable with and supported by other girls.
  • Confidence: represents an adaptive approach to challenge and sense of self-efficacy.
  • Positive Peer Relationships: includes interactions with peers and how one interacts with or feels about their peers.

Teamwork and Adventure

The goal of the AGRS is to measure change in the potential for resilience among adolescent girls (ages 10-18) as a result of participating in a broad range of programs designed to promote resilience among girls, such as adventure programming or camp experiences.  The AGRS was tested over three years with a total of approximately 1500 girls from various organizations.

Both Dr. Whittington and Dr. Huffman’s research is instrumental to determining OUR ability to achieve our mission and demonstrate quantitatively that we actually DO what we say we do at camp. The best part? Dr Whittington and her research team are making the AGRS available to the public for free–with the recognition that it is a measurement to be used in outdoor, adventure programming or camp experiences for girls. Just visit www.agrscale.com to learn more.
In addition, over the last four summers, our campers have participated in the ACA’s Youth Outcomes Battery–a measurement tool that can help us show the specific “take-aways” our campers gain at Sanborn Western Camps. We have aligned the ACA’s measurements with our own mission: to live together in the outdoors, building a sense of self, a sense of community, a sense of the earth and a sense of wonder through fun and adventure. Each summer we focused on one set of outcomes aligned with one of the four pillars of our mission: self, community, earth and wonder. We are in the process of examining all of the results from the last four summers and translating that data into meaningful information we can share with parents, alums, campers, and others who are interested in the benefits of the camp experience.

Courage and Competence: The Sanborn High Ropes Course

We know that our camp experience helps develop resilience in girls and we also know that camp has a positive impact on the development of a child’s independence, perceived competence, responsibility, problem solving-confidence, friendship skills, teamwork, camp connectedness, family citizenship, interest in exploration, and affinity for nature…and we can’t wait to share even more of the hard data that says, “Camp is an important part of a child’s healthy development,” because we have known that for over 65 years.

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.







Evolving Education: how schools can kill creativity

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

(This is an introduction to a series entitled, “Evolving Education,” exploring topics such as children’s literacy, how to inspire creativity, and the our various types of experimental education)

Ken Robinson gives us his hilarious perspective on the education system and gives us some startling thoughts of how education is killing our children’s creativity. So the question is, as educators during the summer months and in schools, what can we do to awaken our student’s imagination again?

“What these things have in common is that kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. Am I right? They’re not frightened of being wrong. Now, I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original — if you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this, by the way. We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities. Picasso once said this — he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it. So why is this?”


“But something strikes you when you move to America and when you travel around the world: Every education system on earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one. Doesn’t matter where you go. You’d think it would be otherwise, but it isn’t. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on Earth. And in pretty much every system too, there’s a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are normally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There isn’t an education system on the planet that teaches dance everyday to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think math is very important, but so is dance. Children dance all the time if they’re allowed to, we all do. We all have bodies, don’t we? Did I miss a meeting? (Laughter) Truthfully, what happens is, as children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side.”

- Sir Ken Robinson







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.

“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







Opening Keynote: ACA Conference 2011

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Chip Heath: Opening Keynote at the ACA National Conference 2011

In the opening keynote of the 2011 ACA National Conference, Chip Heath, co-author of Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, said camp professionals need to “look for the bright spots” in camp to ascertain what aspects of our youth development are effective and successful.

Humans have the tendency to always see the negative (but, really, HOW positive can you be when it is -24 degrees when you wake up in the morning?), so the trick is to see those genuinely good experiences and build on them by examining how, when and why a certain activity, trip, event at camp, or even staff member is successful.  This is both a skill that takes self-reflection, and—perhaps more importantly—a “growth mindset.”

In Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, she examines Fixed vs. Growth mindsets.  Kids need to develop resilience and persistence in order to function well in adulthood–and to deal with the ups and downs of daily life in their middle, high school, and college experiences.

Do you have a growth mindset?

Yet many kids are NOT gaining these essential life skills–and Dweck attributes this to the mindset they have learned (or not learned).

Some of the key questions she asks to determine if one has a “growth” or “fixed” mindset are:  How do you tackle challenges? With a can-do, excited attitude about finding new solutions…or with a sense you are already somewhat defeated just because there IS a challenge?  How do you react to correction?  With an open mind and desire to improve…or with defensiveness and denial?  How do you react to failure?  With the knowledge that every failure leads you closer to the path of success…or with the resignation of final defeat and the fear of judgment, ridicule, or loss of personal status and power?

Chip Heath and Carol Dweck both see the power of teaching growth mindsets to kids–and encourage us to teach ourselves and our children that “the brain IS a muscle–and we have to use it or you will lose it.”  We have to teach our kids not WHAT to think…but HOW to think.

Camp is an excellent place to learn how to think because, in many cases, it is the first time a child is afforded the opportunity to make decisions and choices on his own…and that process can be both terrifying and empowering.

The conventional wisdom says that change is hard, change is futile, and that people resist–no, even HATE–change.  But Heath says if we look for the bright spots, we will see where change can be easy, and we will empower to our campers, parents, staff, and our camp culture as a whole to embrace new ideas, ways of thinking, and opportunities for developing persistence, creativity, problem solving skills, resilience, and more in our kids–creating happier, healthier, and successful adults in the future.

Kids ARE Strong

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Stronger Than Ever!

Amy Chua is right about at least one thing in her controversial new book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”.  She

“assumes strength, not fragility” for her children.  We agree.  Children are inherently strong—we have seen this over and over again in our 60 + years of running a long term residential summer camp.

“But my child can’t be away from home for a month!”  Of course he can.  Given the opportunity, he will first survive and then thrive.  He will learn that he can make his own way in the world, that he can make friends, that he can find his own shoes, that he can work with a team and make decisions for himself. He will gain a solid foundation for self-confidence based on the knowledge that he can be independent.

She will learn that she can saddle a horse, carry a 30 pound backpack for five days along mountain paths, climb to the top of a 14,000’ mountain. And along the way, she will also gain self-confidence based on achieving real and challenging accomplishments.  No one needs to offer praise to a young person who stands on the summit of a Fourteener—the accomplishment speaks for itself.

Kings of the Mountains

Children are not only strong, they are inherently resilient.  Much more than 90% of the relationships they form with peers and college age counselors at camp are based on friendship, teamwork, and positive communication.  Camp friendships often last through life—and these friendships are formed in an environment where there was no parent watching over the interrelationship as it developed.

And, what about the 10% of relationships that create a challenge?  Here is the perfect opportunity to learn positive conflict resolution skills—skills that an astonishingly large number of adults still have trouble with.

We’re not drilling math problems or providing practice sessions on the violin, but everything we do at camp celebrates the strength of young people.  And the skills we practice in this environment are the social and emotional skills which young people need to learn to grown into happy, successful adults.  What could be more important?

The Next Generation of Cowgirls (or Legendary Women) in Training

Monday, January 24th, 2011

High Trails Cowgirls

Yesterday in The New York Times Magazine, Rebecca Traister wrote an article titled “Cowgirl Country.”  In it, she examines some of our current female politicians through the romanticized, and somewhat marginalized, American myth of “female strength and individualism”: the cowgirl.

Up here at Sanborn Western Camps, we have our own brand of cowgirl—and though she is not typically an outlaw—she often embodies the frontier and pioneer spirit of the very women who helped settle the West (and who started SWC as well—thank you, Laura Sanborn).

Even Cowgirls Get the (power of a) Bluebird, Colorado Day

Since “frontier womanhood has emerged as one of the only historically American models of aspirational femininity available to girls,” it is not surprising how many of our campers and staff—like Traiser’s frontier women “who pushed West, shot sharp, talked tough and sometimes drew blood”—love the West, are very intelligent and sharp, can be tough on themselves, and sometimes draw (their own) blood during our high mountain adventures.

Yet our cowgirls transcend the “only tradition in which America has historically been able to celebrate its mighty women” by embodying all of the strengths of a cowgirl, with all of the insights of a wise woman…or, more accurately, the wisdom of a group of strong women.

Our Cowgirls=American Spirit...and so much more!

Last summer, we kicked off the “Grow Strong Project” at High Trails Ranch for Girls.  “Grow Strong” is an acronym for Growing Responsibility in Our World; a Sisterhood Transforming and Renewing Our Never-Ending Growth.  Throughout the summer, campers and staff alike were celebrated for traits they had and choices they made which demonstrated specific characteristics of a girl or young woman who was “growing stronger” at camp.

From the Grow Strong Journal:

Our challenge as a staff is to inspire our campers and help them implement what they learn during their time at High Trails into their everyday life.  It is our goal to inspire action that goes beyond our 6,000 acres into their daily routines, into their communities, and into our world.

We must challenge them to go beyond conversation, to actually show us (and themselves) what they are doing, the action they have taken, and the impact it has had (or will have).  We must also look at ourselves and how our internal character and value development is evolving over the summer through our actions as role models and leaders.

Some of the character traits we are hoping to model for, instill in, and celebrate with our campers are:

* Loyalty * Respect * Responsibility * Honesty * Perseverance * Initiative * Resilience * Flexibility * Trust * Communication * Service * Generosity * Modesty * Grace * Kindness * Problem Solving * Leadership * Patience * Knowledge * Courage * Discipline * Dedication * Awareness * Stewardship * Friendship *

Strong Women Make Strong Role Models

By recognizing our strengths as individuals and as a community, we are able to see the power, wisdom, leadership and beauty of women—and “to expand our vision of how women might, and do, embody America’s spirit.”

Our High Trails campers and staff DO embody America’s spirit in every adventure, every smile, every hug, every whoop, every triumph, every challenge, every laugh, every story, every lesson, every moment they grow stronger by being in the outdoors and being with each other.

It is with awe and wonder I reflect on each summer I have spent at High Trails because I know that these “camp cowgirls” do not only “hint” at “other kinds of mythic female strength”—they live the “collaboration, friendship, and support” day in and day out.

And whether they become “businesswomen, brainiacs, or feminists,” they will always be visionary, female pioneers (and cowgirls) who know they grew stronger (and taller) from walking with the trees, and each other, at High Trails.

Camp is NOT for Wimps

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

In his New York Times article, “Amy Chua is a Wimp,” op-ed columnist David Brooks poses a series of questions to Amy Chua, whose recent book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” is causing a stir in both parenting and academic circles.  Unlike many of her critics, Brooks believes she is actually “coddling” her children by demanding that they outperform their peers (and practically everyone else) in their socially sterile academic pursuits. “She’s protecting them from the most intellectually demanding activities because she doesn’t understand what’s cognitively difficult and what isn’t.”  In his mind “managing status rivalries, negotiating group dynamics, understanding social norms, navigating the distinction between self and group” are far more challenging than “intense tutoring sessions or a class at Yale.”

Signing Up for Great Trips That I Can't Do at Home

He asks, “Where do they learn how to manage people? Where do they learn to construct and manipulate metaphors? Where do they learn to perceive details of a scene the way a hunter reads a landscape? Where do they learn how to detect their own shortcomings? Where do they learn how to put themselves in others’ minds and anticipate others’ reactions?”  Where, is he asking, do children develop the critical thinking and self-definition skills to work well with other people?

Meeting Your Counselor on Opening Day

The answer is simple: at camp.

The overnight, summer camp environment is unlike any other social environment youth experience.  As Scott Arizala, The Camp Counselor, said during a session, “Where else do you show up, not knowing another soul, and suddenly a smiling person takes ALL of your stuff (“it is going to your cabin”…where? Huh?), asks you a ton of personal questions (“So how do you like being an older sister?”…like it? Really?), makes you disclose your weight and other personal

Learning the "ropes" at the stables on Opening Day

stuff to a smiling nurse (“what a healthy weight! You’re going to love the food here, too!”…interesting, my mom tells me I eat like a goat and my dad has called me “fatty” for two years), has you change (translation=get naked) for a swim/water safety check out, and—if you’re lucky—you get to “head on down” to the stables to ride a gigantic ungulate with a brain the size of an orange in front of people who very well might OWN one of these said ungulates as a pet back home.”

Who knew you would get a standing ovation on your first day at camp?

Stressful?  Yes.  Great for self-definition, confidence building, teamwork, humility, perseverance and an opportunity for breakthroughs in social development?  Absolutely.

Camp is one of those “arduous experiences” David Brooks is talking about.  Learning to live and work together in close quarters for over a month IS challenging—but it is also infinitely rewarding.  As some of our campers have noted:

Prison Ball: Play is Essential for Cognitive and Social Developme

Camp has truly made me evolve into more of an adult and develop skills I never thought I would have.  Sanborn has helped me become better at social skills such as making friends with people and talking to people more openly.  Sanborn has made me figure myself out better.”

“What is great about camp is the camaraderie we all share as we live so close together in these special weeks. The memories and friendships we make at Sanborn will last a lifetime.”

“I had an amazing time at camp this year.  It was so nice to be in such a beautiful place with so many wonderful people.  I have learned many things about relating to other girls that I will value for the rest of my life.”

As Brooks says, “Participating in a well-functioning group is really hard. It requires the ability to trust people outside your kinship circle, read intonations and moods, understand how the psychological pieces each person brings to the room can and cannot fit together.”

Making your bed for the FIRST time on the FIRST day of your FIRST summer camp experience

Though many of the people you meet on your first day at camp are complete strangers and are “outside” of your kinship and normal friendship circles, by the end of the summer many of our campers believe, “Camp is my second home. I don’t just friends here, I have family.”

I hope Amy Chua has a response for David Brooks, I hope she can say that she has sent her kids to camp…if not, maybe she ought to have closed circuit cameras set up in their dorm rooms when they head to college (and at their staff meetings when they get their first jobs)…so she can make sure they are continuing to excel—and can more readily understand why few will want to live with or work with them.

-Ariella Rogge-