Re-Wilding Your Child!


We just completed a great summer here at Gwynn Valley. This was all made possible by the great staff that guided your children and the fact that you as parents sent us wonderful groups of children this summer. We hope you are hearing stories from camp that will create great memories for summers to come. Camp plays an important role in children’s lives that can’t be repeated in most homes or at school. We believe that a camp experience is part of an overall whole education of the child as they grow and mature.

I recently read an interesting article in Outside Magazine called “We Don’t Need No Education”. Double negatives aside, it was an interesting read on how one set of parents living in rural Vermont are “unschooling” their children. The two boys, ages 9 and 12 (typical GV aged boys) don’t attend traditional school and don’t participate in a regular home school type education. The boy’s father dropped out of school at 16 due to “traditional education boredom” and has made a decent life for himself and his family. He did get his GED and spent several semester’s in Vermont’s State University system. They own a small farm in Vermont and spend much of their time tending their farm, living a sustainable lifestyle and the dad has just written a book: Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting Off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World. He blogs at

He and his wife advocate that the boys experience living life on the farm as a form of traditional education. They utilize their math skills in many different ways and with dad being a writer, I’m sure he watches how they speak, read and write. When their first son reached the age of 5 they tried some home school methods observed from the Waldorf curriculum. That didn’t work with that son andthe moment we quit trying to teach our son anything was the moment he started really learning”. The article goes on to talk about some of the folks who have influenced this type of educational philosophy that the parents have embraced. Really the most interesting part of the article is the day to day life the two boys lead and how their strong connection with the natural world and relating that to some traditional education themes of the 3 R’s.

Very few of us have taken this path with our own children and the vast majority are doing fine in the traditional educational system. As a person who is fairly close to nature and the out-of-doors, it’s exciting to read about the day to day lives of these boys. There are many children who would love to live this lifestyle. It is the ideal classroom in many ways. Several years ago we took a family vacation to the Virgin Islands and stayed in a campground on the beach at St. Johns with our 4 children. We decided to charter a sailboat through friend of a friend and had a wonderful time being out on the ocean for a day dropping anchor in deserted coves, swimming and living the tropical life. The owner of the boat invited us all over later that evening and told us that he his wife and two sons had built the boat we were on that day and sailed with their sons throughout the world and visited ports all over the globe.  The boys got their education on that boat and on dry land when in port, but neither attended any type of formal school until college. Now both sons are quite successful in practicing medicine and law and doing well. A happy ending, but obviously not for everyone.

This is where a good camp experience is so important in rounding out a child’s world. After sitting in a traditional classroom a good portion of the year, camp “re-wilds” your child. At camp we are learning new skills each day, challenging oneself, sometimes failing and trying again if you want, and living in a small community where you have to pull your weight and be responsible to multiple groups where you’re not the center of attention. I can say this having been an only child. (Maybe that’s one reason why I own a camp.) Camp does a world of good for children and exposes them to some of the aspects that these two boys from the article are experiencing in their rural unschooled life in Vermont. Unstructured free-play is something every child needs and our meadows and woods are the perfect environment for that to happen in. Campers become acclimatized to the outdoor world that we’ve grown farther away from while spending too much time looking at screens. They begin to see how important the WEB of LIFE is and add to that, a few trips to the farm really hones in on where our food comes from and how important it is to eat a balanced non processed food diet.

All this and more at Gwynn Valley allows children to develop under the watchful eye of those who are not parents. As parents, we are pretty cool but not as cool as those counselors at camp. These are the folks that lead us on adventures and teach us where the clay comes from that forms into a pinch pot, why we need to treat drinking water in the woods, learning a knot that may one day be useful in a whole different way than climbing, learning that Jewel Weed is a good remedy for itchy bug bites, and certainly but not finally introducing us to activities and hobbies that we can do for the rest of our lives. The Simple Joys of Childhood really fits us and our program. We are pleased to be entering our 80th year of operation and look forward to serving many children for years to come. Thank you again for sharing your children with us. We look forward to seeing you again next summer at Gwynn Valley.

Thank You E Session for a Great Ending to our Summer!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Thank you for a great ending to our summer and a fantastic Session E. We’ve had a wonderful summer and a great time with your children. We will carry lots of good memories from those that were here for the 8 days that you’ve shared them with us. Looking ahead, you will receive an evaluation via email, sent to you by the camp and we hope you will take the time to fill it out and send it back.  This provides us with feedback to help make our program better.  The eval will come through a service called Mail Chimp.  They will not solicit you in any way and you get only one correspondence from them.  We use their services and design the form here at camp.  We appreciate you taking the time to help us keep Gwynn Valley an outstanding program.

For those of you that have arrived home we hope that your child’s experience has captured all the magic of what camp can be. We know you will hear stories and songs as the weeks go by and camp becomes a great memory. Placed in the hands of a mature staff a camper really gains a good bit from “playing outside which produces growing inside”.  From all of us, thanks again for a great session.  You as parents provided wonderful children, combined with a great staff and the Simple Joys of Childhood at Gwynn Valley, makes for a super camp experience!  Hope to see you next year!

P.S.   We’ll be making our yearly pilgrimage to an area near you, and we hope to see you in the fall or winter at one of our camp shows. Bring a friend and spread the good news.  Stay tuned!

Making Camp DNA!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s been a full day at camp and unfortunately the last full day. We just finished our evening campfire program which is always called Friendship Campfire on the last night of camp. It’s been a great session and a great summer. What a way to end our summer at GV with these campers. We celebrated by showing many of the pictures that you all have been viewing this week. Our camp photographers Emery and Jane, have done a great job with capturing your children over the past 8 days. Anne and I really appreciate our staff who have cared for your children this week and made sure that their experience at Gwynn Valley was one that will bring about great memories of the good times we all had.

Tonight’s campfire allowed our campers to give back to camp in their own special ways. There were songs, skits, dance and instruments played. Backing up a bit in the day, we held pillowcase day at the pool where campers can bring their pillowcases and learn how to make them into a float. Everyone in camp comes to the pool. All Main Camp campers had their final day of Discovery this morning. The expected rain today fell tonight during dinner so all activities were open and many campers got to do things on the last day to complete their Tajar Card. Everyone including Mountainside and Riverside were back in camp today. It was nice to have them at singing today and also tonight in the Lodge where we honored campers who received their 4th and 5th year recognition.

It’s been a great session and the children have made lots of new friends, explored the world around them, and learned that “I can” is much more powerful than “I can’t”. Magic has happened in their short time with us. In an environment created just for them, they’ve learned real life skills, developed self-esteem, gained a sense of community and showed resilience and grit by taking on new challenges. By playing, exploring nature, conquering new heights, and becoming part of a camp family, they have created some memorable moments this week.   I like to call this camp DNA.

As you arrive tomorrow morning, we look forward to seeing you and hope you hear many good stories over the next few days from camp. Cabin Friendship Circles will be at 10:30 in each cabin on Main Camp. Parents are encouraged to join. Mountainside and Riverside campfire begins at 10:30 in the Center for Riverside and the Mountainside Lodge. This Main Camp session is always full of lots of new campers. Eight days is such a short amount of time in our adult world but to many of our first year campers it is perfect for their first experience. We wish we could keep them longer but it’s good to leave a place when the timing is right and you want to come back. Gwynn Valley is 79 years old this summer and we hope to see everyone back again for another year of the simple joys of childhood. Stay tuned!

Soggy With a Sunny Side Up!

Dear Parents & Friends,

If you’ve been watching our weather you know that it has been a rainy day, but no worries mate, as they say down under , camp goes on despite the weather. It was soggy everywhere today. I left early this morning to go with Mountainside paddlers and it began raining before we left camp around 8:00. We hit a lot of rain on the trip over to the mighty Tuckaseegee. The good news is when you’re surrounded by water and it’s falling from the sky, it’s not a big deal. Everyone had enough clothes and rain gear so we all stayed warm. Our group got on the river at about 11:30 and it poured rain for most of our trip. Everyone had a great time and we even had time to stop at Jump Rock which is a huge rock over a very deep pool that folks jump into. The campers did an exceptional job on Railroad Rapid, Pyramid, Moon Shot, S Turn, Double Drop, Snickers Challenge, and other minor bumps along the way. I was able to get some Go Pro footage but couldn’t get out the video camera because it was too wet. Lunch along the way gave everyone a chance to tank up again and stay warm in spite of mother nature.

It was a little soggy at the farm today, but life goes on at GV and there was corn that needed to be harvested and animals that need to be fed. We are picking vegetables in anticipation of your arrival with us on Sunday for lunch. There will be a big spread with most of the lunch meal coming from our farm. More news about that later. As we wind down our Discovery activities in the morning children were showing off their talents and skills from every aspect of camp. Climbers were taking on some more challenging climbs today and those in our weaving class were able to pull their material off the loom to see what it looked like. There is something special when you make something by hand and are able to take it home. Most everyone does a tie dye while at camp and the colors and patterns are spectacular as you will see. The methods we use keep the colors fast and non-fading so it’s ok to wash with other articles of clothing. Candles were also in abundance in the finished product category. The campers can make scented candles in molds or dip candles which are equally as creative. We of course encourage them to check with parents before lighting them at home.

Probably the highlight of today was the fact that it was Tajar Ball. We awoke this morning to lots of Tajar Folly. There were kayaks on the Green, teacups hanging from the trees, and hula hoops hanging everywhere and of course that was just the tip of the iceberg. To celebrate the Tajar’s birthday we have a large masquerade ball. Everyone is dressed up and no one knows who the Tajar really is. It’s like a giant carnival with all kinds of activities and food. Carnival stations included: Tin Can Toss, Sponge Toss, Corn Hole, Duck Sling Shot, Guess the Number of M&M’s, Face Painting, Balloon Animals, Slack Line, Soccer Shootout, Penny Drop, Hay Rides, Toilet Paper Toss, Slip and Slide, Minute Challenge, Strong Man Bell Ring, and of course the infamous Dunk Tank. A good time had by all and lots of food after our meal of burgers and hot dogs with all the trimmings. After the Ball we had an appearance by Walt Disney and he introduced our play that was a mish mash of Disney stories with a twist. Our young thespians did a great job singing and acting.

It’s hard to believe we only have one full day left and more great things are happening tomorrow. We’ll keep you posted so stay tuned!

Full Days and More to Come!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Another great day at GV! I must be the luckiest man in the world. We are having so much fun this session and I get to witness most of it. I was just at the Lodge shooting some video of Mountain Dancing. About half of Main Camp was there and the other half was camping out tonight. We’ve been lucky with the weather this week. Both our campout nights were sunny and clear. We may get a few showers tomorrow but this week has been great. I was able to swing by 4 cabins that were camping tonight. I visited Playhouse, Chipmunk Hut, Peter Pan and Seventh Heaven. They were all at different campout shelters and all were in the process of cooking dinner over an open fire. Smores were also on everyone’s menu and then sitting around the campfire and enjoying the night sky, crickets, music and stories. The girls in Peter Pan were working on a play and I was able to see the first act. Playhouse girls were already in their PJ’s and enjoying dinner and working on smores. Seventh Heaven was across the road and had finished dinner and the boys were out on the field at Day Camp playing soccer. The view from there is spectacular and one can see all the way to Parkway, just over 6000’. Chipmunk Hut was just beginning to down their dinner and one young man was just starting to read aloud the second Harry Potter book with a different voice for each character. The boys were quite attentive despite the fact they were quite hungry.

I took a few hours off last night and took a trip out to Dupont State Forest to check on our Mountain Bikers. It was a good excuse to bike to their campsite and get a ride in for myself. They were having some trouble with their cook stove and I wanted to check on it. All it needed was a little lube on the pump and they were ready to roll. They had been cooking over an open fire and were riding some great trails in Dupont. Tomorrow I will be going out with Mountainside Paddlers and doing some video boating as we say. Good excuse to get to the river, as well as see how the troops are doing. Head Counselor Josiah was out with the Pioneers on Wed. Riversider’s are out on the trail and will be coming home tomorrow.

In Main Camp today we had what we call our second round of “open houses”. This is where a team member (director/head counselor) and activity leader goes into a cabin to meet with just the campers. Cabin counselors are not there and the purpose is obvious; to check on the cabin to see how the staff are doing and how the campers are getting along with one another. I went to Sunrise today and visited with Primavera yesterday. Both cabins gave their counselors high marks and everything is going very well. As I told the boys in Sunrise, life at camp starts in the cabin and works its way outward into program. You belong to many different groups at camp and the most important group is your cabin group. It’s important that a cooperative living environment exists and that everyone including the staff is pulling their weight. Most cabins this week have gone “off program” as we call it where they do something together as a cabin unit. It’s good for cabin bonding and getting to know one another better. Sometimes you end up in activities with your cabin buds, but most often not.

This afternoon I was able to get up in one of our Hemlock trees that we use for climbing. I shot some video and still from the 50’ feet in the air perspective. I love being up in the tree and seeing the campers make their way toward the top and high five the top of the tree climb. If the weather holds tomorrow our climbers will venture over to our Arborists Trees where a whole different type of climbing will take place. We don’t actually climb the tree via the limbs but ascend a rope using certain knots to inch our way up the rope. This is how many big wall climbers move up and down on climbs like those in Yosemite, but they are using mechanical ascenders and we’re using arborist knots to get up into the trees.

Our days are full as you can see and as one young man put it at the end of one of the dances tonight, “Whew, I’m tired”. On cue we settled everyone down, read them a couple of Tajar Tales and sent everyone off to end another great day at camp. The simple joys of childhood reign here at Gwynn Valley. We are having a great time in Session E and there’s more to come. Tomorrow evening is Tajar Ball which you will hear all about. We’ll do our best to keep you posted. Stay tuned!

Twilight Play: playing until the stars come out!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Today was a smooth and sunny day here at Gwynn Valley! It is now day 4 of the session and everyone seems to be in the groove of camp life. Everyone knows the lyrics to songs that we sing before meals or in the lodges so the volume is turning up and enthusiasm is headed in that direction as well. Everyone is relaxed with their cabin, table and activity groups so you hear more chatter and laughter around camp. Even the new campers seem to know the schedule well enough that there are few surprises in routine or confusion about where to go during transition times.  Today it felt like we were in the zone or in a state of flow. This is something we talk about with our older programs on the individual or small group level, but it can also apply to large groups or teams. There are typically moments or days of camp each session that we experience as whole camp where all of the various elements of program and people and place just come together to create these moments of being positive, energized, and aligned as a community — and that is exactly what today felt like!

This morning campers went back to their A-day discoveries for the 2nd time. Day 1 of discoveries is all about beginning something new, starting projects, and being introduced to basic skills. Because campers have already been to this area once to begin a project or to learn the base skills in a particular program area, on Day 2 of discoveries campers can focus on progression and growth. For weaving, this means adding length to your project. For pottery this means glazing your wind chimes or trimming wheel thrown objects. For the musical this means finishing up script writing and practicing lines or selecting costumes. For mountain biking this means getting on some single track trails around camp rather than the green and our skills course. For white water kayaking, this means jumping in with your skirts and focusing on skills, gate drills and games.

This afternoon the sun continued and sign up activities were a blast! As always in the August heat, waterfront activities were very popular. We had a sign up creek hike and sign up sit-on-top kayak trip down the tubing section of the French Broad. We also ran white water kayaking, zip and traverse line, and free swim at the lake. All the normal sign-up activities ran as well: archery, hand-building pottery, ice cream making and fishing at the mill, tie dye with cabin groups, tree climbing, mountain biking, hiking with outdoor living skills and more!

Tonight for evening program we had “Twilight Play” where we run an extra period of activities after dinner. Campers were able to sign up for all sorts of activities – some of which we run during normal time and some of which only happen during twilight play. We had a Tajar scavenger hunt, farm fun (mostly potato picking and piglet playtime), white water kayaking, mountain biking, kumihimo, tie dye, unicorn chasing, tower swing at the high ropes course, a corn shuckin’ party at the mill, banana boat extravaganza at P2, creek hiking and fairy houses, and many more! I was walking around doing video, and – maybe I’m just getting nostalgic for a summer that’s almost gone – but it was a truly magical evening at camp. Everywhere I walked I could hear the sounds of campers laughing and playing mixed in with the evening sounds of bull frogs all enhanced by the the “golden hour” of fading light as the sun went down and the stars and lightening bugs started to come out. We played and played until 8:40 PM when we finally called it a night and gathered on the green to meet up with cabin groups and head off to bed.

Campouts and Adventure Programs Start Their Adventures!

Dear Parents & Friends,

As we complete our second day of activities the weather has shined and so have our campers. We’ve got everyone participating in new Discovery activities this morning for the first time and I spent the morning walking around shooting some video and taking pics on my travels. Mountain biking was learning how to use their brakes, as many children aren’t used to two brakes on the handlebars. Both are needed for mountain biking with our hilly terrain and need to sometimes stop fast. From there it was on to the climbing tower where first time climbers and a few veterans were learning the ropes, how to tie knots and signals for climbing. Whether you’re on the wall, real rock or tree climbing, you should have a command of the communication that occurs between the belayer (counselor holding you safe) and you the climber. Wearing a helmet is a must in all climbing situations. There are several other activities at camp that require helmets including whitewater paddling, horseback riding, biking, and of course as mentioned above any type of climbing.

Outdoor Living Skills was cooking this morning at Smores Heaven (one of our shelters on the property). Besides helping to get a fire going they were cooking tin foil banana boats and learning the different ways to start a fire. Banana boats are peeled bananas sliced down the middle and filled with chocolate chips, then wrapped back up in their peel and tin foil, then cooked over hot coals. While boats were melting those chips Catherine showed campers how to start a fire using a nine volt (transistor battery) and steel wool. It’s a fascinating process if you’ve never done it. Just make sure you don’t have the steel wool exposed to the terminals on top before you are ready to proceed. Minutes later everyone unrolled their boats and it suddenly became very quiet as everyone enjoyed their morning snack.

As the wheel turns at the Mill, we are taken back in history to a time when life was simpler and we’re still reliving some of the old ways by grinding our camp corn there. The Mill was built in the 1890’s and most of the building still stands as renovations have taken place through the years. Campers learn where the water comes from and how it powers the wheel that turns the Mill. They grind dried corn from the corn crib and turn it in to grits and corn meal. While a group grinds and sifts what they’ve ground, another group fishes from the small pond below the Mill. The trout we catch, we eventually eat as part of our farm to table meal that is furnished by the camp. Fish and cornbread from the Mill, cabbage and other vegetables from the Farm. Campers shucked fresh corn today after lunch and we’ll have that for dinner tonight. Nothing could be better than fresh corn on the cob.

Mountainside and Riverside programs took off today and went in many different directions. Our dining room is a little emptier for the next 4 days with 52 campers plus staff out of camp. Mountainside bikers went to Dupont State Forest, Climbers headed over to Linville Gorge, Hikers went up into Pisgah National Forest near Shining Rock and Paddlers headed to the Green River. Riverside is on their last outdoor component of the summer and will be hiking on the Mountains to Sea Trail here in our area. Mountainside and Riverside are small programs with 40 and 12 campers respectively. Both programs focus on a smaller age group so campers really get to know one another within their programs. I saw two boys from Mountainside walking with their arms around each other’s shoulder this morning and saying goodbye because they were going on different adventures. It was nice to see the friendship they’ve developed from different parts of the country and different ethnic backgrounds. Relationships and making friends is what I consider to be the essence of camp. Some people make friends at camp and stay friends for life. I had two visitors come by this morning who are now good friends and met at another camp where I worked many years ago. One was one of my campers and the other one a young staff member we hired when she was 17. They’ve remained in touch through the years through a friendship that started at camp.

We just finished our evening of Mountain Dancing with half the camp. The other half of our cabins are on campouts scattered throughout the property. Just before the dance I visited with Echo boys and Mountain View girls who were camped at Pioneer 1 and Pioneer 2. The campsites are on the way to Connestee Falls and are several hundred yards apart. You would think you’re in deepest Pisgah but you’re actually only about 2 minutes from Main Camp. Everyone camps out at least once every session. The sites are three sided shelters with a wood floor and built up off the ground. Each site has a fire ring to cook over which is how they make their dinner. And of course there are always smores. This will be the first time some of our campers have camped out and for many the first time they have camped out without parents. It’s good to stretch oneself a bit while at camp. Miss Mary said that campers should do something difficult every day. She was obviously talking about building resilience and grit. It’s all a part of being at camp.   Stay tuned!

Sun Showers Bring Beautiful Flowers!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Here we are at the end of the first full day of E Session, and what an exciting day it has been! As one of our shorter sessions, E session is full of first time campers and today was full of firsts!

At 8:30 this morning, we enjoyed our first breakfast together in the dining hall: cinnamon toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, pears, orange juice and water. At 10:00 AM we began our first morning of discoveries. These are the program areas that campers will attend 3 times over the course of the week to build skills or finish a multi-day project. Campers are placed into 4 of their top 8 activity choices (which they turned in yesterday), and for the most part everyone seemed very excited about their A-day placements. The groups I saw the stables and the farm seemed over the moon to be meeting new human and animal friends in their program areas. Those in the musical were excited to plan out the performance they will share with the rest of camp later this week. Everyone on the waterfront (kayakers, divers, junior lifeguards) was splashing around and having a great time soaking up all the AM sun!

At 1:00 PM we met our new table groups for the first time and chowed down on some delicious spagbol (spaghetti bolognese), salad, freshly baked bread, and sauteed farm veggies! At GV, we eat with our cabin groups for the first couple of meals, but as of lunch on the first full day we transition into eating with our assigned table groups. These include a mix of genders, ages and program areas to include a well rounded mix of 7-8 campers and 3-4 staff. Honestly, meal times include some of my absolute favorite moments of camp life. For those staff members who run a program and aren’t assigned to a cabin, this is their chance to really get to know a group of kids. And for kids, this is a chance to meet new friends from all over camp and mix with other age groups. There’s something really honest about sharing a meal with people, and often table groups grow very close. Personally, I enjoy the conversation piece the most, which can range from your standard favorite moment of the day to imaginative exploration and creative problem solving. Today at lunch, two boys at my table invented the “edi-bowl” which is a hollowed out piece of bread filled with something like pasta sauce, which they felt was a better (maybe just more fun?) way to eat the meat sauce.

At 2:00 PM, after wrapping up our second afternoon of singing in the lodge, we begin our first round of sign up skits, so that campers could know which activities to chose from for the afternoon. Sign up activities are free choice activities that campers chose on an individual basis each afternoon. Activities can vary from day to day, but certain programs are always offered: farm, horses, climbing, biking, water play, various crafts, etc.  After selecting their afternoon activities, campers settled down for their first rest hour, during which time they wrote letters, read, played quiet games and/or napped depending on the camper. At 3:30PM, campers came down for snack and to meet their afternoon activity groups. Soon after, we experienced our first thunderstorm of E session. Fortunately, most groups had already collected campers and headed out to activities so many of the indoor activities (Mill, pottery, tie-dye, beads, fine arts, etc.) carried on as normal. The outdoor activities shifted indoors until the storm blew over when we could carry on as normal.

At 6:15PM, we enjoyed our second meal as table groups (chili, corn bread, salad, corn, and pineapple) and our second evening of after supper activities. Just before campfire, we took a sibling photo (for the first time this summer!) and I was blown away by how many sibling pairs we have a camp right now! What an incredible shared experience to root sibling relationships as they grow and mature. Tonight’s campfire marked our second evenings of introductory skits. During the first two nights of camp, each cabin group gets up on stage to introduce themselves with a skit or song. Largely thanks to an extra day of planning, tonight’s skits were quite good. Ten cabins introduced themselves, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind: Rosebay girls acted out a typical day at camp while their counselors narrated speaking only in hashtag. 7th Heaven drew on their Outdoor Living Skills experience and introduced the audience to both the campers and various bathroom styles while out in the woods. Island Ford played Jeopardy and every girl introduced herself in the form of a question. Echo (our youngest boys cabin) was absolutely adorable as they performed a song & dance number.

As all the campers are falling asleep in their bunks for the second time this E session, I find myself thinking about how quickly this session will fly by. It seems they only just arrived, and already we are 1/4 of the way through the session! So many memories have already been captured, and so many adventures are brewing in the minds of our campers as they drift of to sleep… waiting for the right moment to come to fruition in the days ahead.


Camp Does a World Of Good!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Thanks for such a great opening day today and hope everyone is safe and sound back home or to their next destination. It was an active and full day here and we jumped right into program just after lunch today. We sang in the Lodge with Debbie at the piano and then learned about all the activities a camper can take while here. In morning Discoveries campers have the choice of 4 activities out of the many offered. There are two 1 hour activities each morning. Following are the morning Discoveries: Farm/Mill, Archery, Martial Arts, Soccer, Horses, Climbing, Musical Extravaganza, Dance Show, Beautiful Beads, Candle Making, Weaving, Canoeing, Water Polo, Diving, Creek Hiking, Junior Life Guarding, Web of Life, Mountain Biking, Pottery, Outdoor Living Skills, Outdoor Cooking Skills, and Whitewater Kayaking. These morning activities are provided for skill progression and last for 3 days. The afternoon activities are 2 one hour activities or 1 two hour activity. They are different each day and children sign up each day for different ones depending on what is offered.

Having all these choices is good for decision making skills and the campers are assisted in sign-ups so they are not taking all of one kind of activity. It’s almost like choosing your courses for college. Whoa, let’s slow down a bit here. But seriously, it is good for them to try different things and step out of their comfort zones in those ways. Mary Gwynn, who founded camp, believed that campers should do something difficult every day. I do feel we provide those opportunities throughout our program. In campfire tonight our head counselors asked the question, how many of you did something today that you’d never done. Many hands went up and we strive to make this happen each and every day.

Camp is a place where you can try and try again and it’s ok to fail and try again. You’ll soon find that someone will have a skill that you don’t and you’ll have a skill that they don’t and then you’ve got cooperative learning. I find it fun and exciting when I see children teaching other children. I’m not sure, but feel that campers might listen better to their peers on occasion. We as teachers and counselors are always working to try and improve what children retain when we’re actively teaching. We sometimes talk too much and I have found this true of myself which teaching paddling on the river or lake. Then there’s the fact that we learn in different ways and we hear or listen differently.

I recently read an article on listening in the Wall Street Journal. Even before the age of digital distractions, people could remember only about 10% of what was said in a face-to-face conversation after a brief distraction, according to a 1987 study that remains a key gauge of conversational recall. Researchers believe listening skills have since fallen amid more multitasking and interruptions. Most people can think more than twice as fast as the average person talks, allowing the mind to wander. Camp certainly has a lot of distractions but we also have supervision which helps in monitoring situations where our campers really need to listen (ex. belay signals on the climbing wall, figuring out gearing on a Mountain Bike, learning to throw a pot on the wheel, or operating a sophisticated loom in crafts). We do repeat ourselves a good bit, but it’s worth it and again we’re always seeking new ways to attract attention when attention is needed.

The good news is camp is full of wonder and exciting and fun activities and new experiences that come each day. The wonder and excitement peaks a camper’s interest and helps them to focus on what’s important and in which direction they will go. As we’ve said before, outdoor play increases attention span. Time spent in play outdoors is a natural attention builder. Often children who have difficulty with pen and paper tasks or sitting still for long periods of times are significantly more successful after time spent outside.Outdoor play also promotes problem solving. As children navigate a world in which they make the rules, they must learn to understand what works and what doesn’t, what lines of thinking bring success and failure, how to know when to keep trying and when to stop.Camp is a great place to experience so much without dependence on parents. It’s a place where resilience and grit are learned and most of all it’s fun and there are many other cool adults looking out for you. We should all be so lucky. Camp does a world of good! Stay tuned!