Cool Weather and Cool Counselors!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Day two of Session dawned bright, cool and beautiful and our temps were chilly this morning about 8:00.  52 degrees registered on the thermometer here in our office.  Campers and staff wore their sweatshirts to breakfast and by 10:00 and the start of activities, everyone was peeling layers and enjoying the sun drenched morning.  I went to farm in time to see campers feeding the baby calves, gathering eggs, cuddling the new borne goats and even mama goat to feed the babies by bottle.  The also visited Big Mama Pig and held many of the baby chicks before heading out into the vast garden ocean of fresh produce.  I left just before the harvest and continued onto horse back riding where young people were trusting their balance and their horse and learning to trot and canter.  For those who don’t know horse lingo, that means an easy gallop.  The origin of the word comes from the short for Canterbury, or to ride like that of the Canterbury pilgrims.

From there I went to the lake watching our young kayakers go through their first wet exit drill, turning upside down in the kayak and bobbing to the surface.  Being upside down, disoriented and surrounded by water in a lake can be a challenge.  All came through with flying colors and will continue with strokes and familiarity with being in the Porche of boats. Pushing ones limits is always a good thing in a controlled environment.  Children look at some activities with a view of “perceived” risk and we’ve done our homework to take the “actual” risk out of the equation.

All of this is helpful in the developmental needs of children.  Going away to camp give children the opportunity to test limits, forge new relationships, gain independence, solve problems and develop a strong sense of self.  While we are no substitute for parents, I do believe camp is uniquely suited to meet many of the needs to build on the framework of making the best children into the best adults.

Much if not most of this is due to our staff.  They are the uniqueness I refer to above and the ones who care for your children 24/7.  Most of you may be wondering what to expect of your camper’s counselors.  It’s an important question as we care for your most prized possession.  We are only as good as our staff and one of our goals is to partner with you.   I can be the best director in campville, have the finest facility and program, but if I don’t hire the best staff to guide and nurture the campers, I have failed.  Good camp counseling provides the same values that you expect at home.  It’s packaged a little bit different and comes with more than just two parents who become the new cool parents that all kids really want.  That’s not to take anything away from you all.  The camp “parents” are talented, they’re fun, patient, kind and energetic. Over the next week or so I will share with you what makes a “great” camp counselor. I’ll start with these two:

They are consistent disciplinarians.  This is certainly not their easiest task.  They know the guidelines at camp and know they will be challenged by campers.  This consistency will help mold campers ideas of what is fair and just and they will see this daily, whether choosing teams for a game or delving out jobs for cabin cleanup.  Both cabin counselors will be together on what is appropriate so there’s no “good cop/bad cop”.

The “Golden Rule” reigns at camp.  Treating campers with kindness and patience will show compassion.  In turn their behavior as a counselor, will cause campers to treat others in the same fashion.  Politeness and manners in our culture are important when so many people interact on a daily basis.  Less and less our culture communicates person to person with one another, so it’s important that building relationships is key in our camp life.  Camp is a great place to extend the hand of civilized behavior with one another and again it pays forward.

As I think about the months ahead and the fact that we have an upcoming election in Nov.,  maybe we should require all those running for office to attend several weeks of camp where you’re not the center of attention and you don’t have any more pull than that person in the bunk sleeping above you.  My hope is that many of our young people who attend GV are learning how to live in an ever changing and challenging world.  The principles of camp combined with good counseling and partnering with good parenting can go a long way in our times.  Stay tuned!

B Session Opening Day!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Opening Day for B Session was the best.  Great cool weather in the morning was the perfect way to open our next session for the summer.  After a good lunch we presented activity skits for our morning “Discovery” programs to help campers decide what they wanted to take over the days ahead for their morning activities.  This is important because there is so much offered in the morning and in the afternoon.  Over the course of 6 days of Discovery they have 4 activities in the morning and two different ones each afternoon.  For those new to GV, morning sign-ups are for building skills and afternoons more for the experience, possibly adding to those skills and trying new things.  Swim assessments were scheduled this afternoon along with activities.  It takes a while to get through all those but it’s worth it and allows us to determine which campers need some help with their strokes.  After sign-ups our major activities in Main Camp were open and running. Activities offered this afternoon were Pottery, Sports, Fine Arts, Mill, Horseback Riding, Crafts, Swimming, Camping Skills and Nature, Climbing, and Farm.  Activities just for today were pre-assigned and get children right into the flow and tomorrow we start on the choices they made today.  Many more activities are scheduled for tomorrow.

Tonight’s dinner was noodles and marinara sauce along with broccoli and salad from our farm and a giant cookie for each table in the dining room.  Campers sit as cabin groups until tomorrow at lunch and then we all go to different tables and you get a chance with folks that are not in your cabin.   After dinner there were after supper activities and then all campers attend our first campfire for the session.  Cabins were introduced at campfire tonight via Cabin skits which are always great.

Mountainside had their closing ceremony tonight and Anne went up to the MS shelter to honor them and their time at GV.  Several  of those campers have been at  camp for as many as 8 years.  What a great crew up on Mountainside and also a great staff.  Hat’s off to the staff for putting together such a great session.   Thank you for sharing your Mountainside campers with us for the last 10 days.  I think they’ve had great experience and we look forward to having them back next year either back on Mountainside or in our Riverside program.

As morning activities kick off tomorrow know that your children are learning and “living the GV dream” as one camper said.  This is our 81st year of camping and many more to follow.  Camp takes children to a new level of community life that even school and family can’t always imitate.  Campers have a chance to make choices and become independent in their time with us.  Camp creates a sense of confidence and resilience.  Camp also offers a sense of belonging to something that is greater than oneself where we still practice the GV values of simplicity, acceptance, a strong connection to the natural world and in a non-competitive setting.  We’re looking forward to a session of the simple joys of childhood for the days ahead.  Stay tuned!

Closing Day A Session!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s hard to believe that our first session of the 2016 summer has already ended! The families of our A session campers started to arrive after breakfast. Happy reunions were seen all over camp this morning as children ran into the arms of their parents and showed them their favorite activities and spots around camp. Cabin groups (and their families) had a final friendship circle in the cabin and then went down to the lodge for our Closing Campfire. Through skits and songs, farm and mill reports, and recaps from our head counselors, we do our best to summarize the session and help parents understand everything that has happened over the last week. Of course, it’s hard to explain the magic of camp to someone who has not lived it, but we do our best.

Today was also a closing day for our first week of Day Camp. Parents and grandparents gathered this afternoon for the closing. Much like the Main Camp Closing Campfire, campers sang songs and performed skits to explain all the fun they had this past week!

Mountainside 1A campers are still out on their Adventure, and we eagerly await their return tomorrow! For tonight, only Riverside campers, Young Leaders and our A–>B Session gypsies are still in camp. These two groups are doing their best to take advantage of all the wide open spaces around GV. I forsee some excellent lake time tomorrow.

It’s fun to have the run of camp, but we are really looking forward to having another  full session starting again on Sunday when our B session campers will arrive!  Thank you again for sharing your children and providing us such great kids to work with.  Hope you all arrive safely wherever your destination.  Stay tuned!

Lions, Mice, Pillowcases and Pizza With Brownies!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s been a full day at camp and unfortunately the last full day of Session A.  We just finished our evening campfire program which is always called Friendship Campfire on the last night of camp.  It’s been a super session and we celebrated by showing many of the pictures that you all have been viewing this week.  Our camp photographers Sara and Jacob, have done a great job with capturing your children over the past 6 days.  Anne and I 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 take part in some songs and also be the audience for our GV thespians as they performed The Lion and the Mouse.  We also recognized those who have attended camp for more than one year and especially those who have been here 4 years or more.  We’ve been quite fortunate with the weather this week even though it’s been quite hot.  We had just enough rain and could use some more next week.  It does fair well for Mountainside as they began their journeys and adventures today.    Riverside was back in camp today and also spending some quality down time after their 4 days climbing in Tennessee.   I will spend a little time with them on the lake tomorrow to hone their skills and see what they’ve retained from previous paddling adventures here at camp.  They will take off again on Sunday.

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 campers had sign-ups this morning since our Discovery’s were over.  All activities were open and many campers got to do things on the last day to complete their Tajar Card.   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”.  As I circulate through camp each day I witness the magic that is played out by those who are experiencing new things for the first time.  I’ve seen children turn from shy to talkative with our table family, show resilience in tackling new challenges, and push themselves in ways that helps to raise the bar for future endeavors.  Camp is a stepping stone for life skills and building a sense of confidence in an outdoor world.  All of this has happened without the aid of screens or other distractions in this short session that will end tomorrow.  In an environment created just for them, they’ve learned real life skills, developed self-esteem, and gained a sense of independence and community.  By playing, exploring nature, conquering new heights, and becoming part of a camp family, they have created some memorable moments this week.   I call it creating camp DNA.

As you arrive tomorrow morning, we look forward to seeing you and hope you will hear many wonderful stories over the next few days from camp.  This session is always full of lots of new campers.  Seven 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 81 years old this summer and we hope to see everyone back again for another year of the simple joys of childhood.  Stay tuned!

Happy Birthday Tajar!

Dear Camper Families & Friends,

Today happens to be a very special day at Gwynn Valley. It’s the Tajar’s birthday! No one knows for sure how old the Tajar is, but he has been around Gwynn Valley for a long, long time. The Tajar is part tiger, part jaguar, and part badger. The Tajar is a very curious creature who lives in an old tree somewhere near camp. He is really a very nice guy, always willing to listen to a story or help carry firewood or do anything you ask. But sometimes when the moon is just right or it happens to be his birthday… the Tajar can become full of folly! Today was one of those days. On their way to the dining hall this morning, campers discovered a kayak in the mill pond, canoe paddles spelling “TAJAR” on the Green, cups and bowls in the trees around the dining hall, and too many little bits of folly to count! The Tajar even moved a few dining room tables outside so that campers could enjoy some al fresco dining. I saw many wide eyes and astonished camper faces walking to the dining hall this morning. After breakfast all the non-cabin staff set camp right again and we carried on with morning activities and a mostly normal day.

What a beautiful day it was at Gwynn Valley! Although we had a few rain showers in the late morning and just before lunch, the big storms we were promised never really arrived. We enjoyed another sunny, warm, beautiful day at camp. Even with the rain, all of our activities were in full swing. Most activities carry on unless there is a threat of thunder and lightning. Many places around camp have ‘natural umbrellas’ like the hemlock trees where our climbers ascend to the very top and the many leafy trees that shade our creeks where the Camping Skills and Nature group were searching for salamanders and crawdads. Other places have man-made roofs like our crafts areas, our climbing tower, the Lodge (where we do fine arts), the Mill, etc. And of course all our waterfront activities don’t mind if it rains because they are already getting wet!

This evening we had a big birthday party for the Tajar. Everyone dressed up in costumes to that the timid Tajar might also be able to dress up and join us for an evening of fun. We started with a big cook out: hamburgers, hot dogs, watermelon, coleslaw, potato salad… it was a feast! Then we had a big carnival style party with hay rides, face painting, guessing games, darts, a strong man competition, bubbles, darts, corn hole, and a slip’n’slide. There were lots of other games and quite a bit of dancing as well. At the carnival campers also enjoyed some homemade mill ice cream, made from scratch cookies from our kitchen, and homegrown popcorn. Everyone had a big time and when we closed down for the night campers left happy but ready for bed.

Our Older Programs, Mountainside and Riverside, are on the move today and tomorrow. Today, Riverside returned safely from four days of climbing in Tennessee just in time for dinner and Tajar Ball. The Riverside crew was all smiles and excitement telling me about the walls they climbed, the waterfall pool they swam in, and the big repel they each did. Riverside is a smaller community of 10-12 campers and they spend 4 days out of every 7 in the field either rock climbing, white water canoeing or backpacking. It’s always a treat to have Riverside back in camp and to hear about their experiences in the field.

Mountainside is bigger and slightly younger group of 40 campers. That group has spent the last 5 days in camp sampling the different adventure options (mountain biking, rock climbing, white water canoeing, and backpacking). Each member of the Mountainside community picks one of the four adventures to specialize in. Tomorrow morning, each adventure group of roughly 10 campers will head their separate ways for 3 days and then the group will come back together to close out the session. I just finished watching the sunset with Mountainside as part of their Adventure Send-Off Ceremony. The campers wrote letters to their future selves and talked about their hopes and fears for the Adventure ahead. They are all ready and excited to head out tomorrow morning!

It’s hard to believe that we are at the end of another day at Gwynn Valley. So much happens each day, but the time passes very quickly. I often have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy the little moments or else the session (or the summer!) will slip by unappreciated.

Rain Is Good!

Dear Parents and Friends,

We finally got some relief with rain just before dinner tonight.  It really rained for almost two hours and is letting up as I write.  It’s been the hottest driest spring that I’ve seen in many years.  Usually this time of year is much cooler.  Asheville which is nearby, has set record high temperatures this week.  We’re lucky because we have shade, but the rain really helped cool things off.  With that rain came thunderstorms and I’m sure your children will tell you about our Thorguard system here.  It’s a lightening detection system that we’ve had for about 4 years.  It really takes the guess work out of trying to predict the weather.  When Thor goes off (15 second major horn blast) we get indoors.  We wait until it clears and that is signaled by three five second blasts.  It’s much more accurate than me or my staff sitting in front of a computer watching radar which is about 10 minutes behind what we’re experiencing.  It’s actually saved us time in the long run and used throughout the US by the NFL, Little League of America, many golf courses, multiple colleges and universities and many camps.  We’re doing our best to keep things safe.

I spent some time at horseback riding this morning watching Kerrie and Rachel and your children atop the noble beasts of the ring.  Horses are big and I’ve never been a fan.  My wife has ridden all her life and we used to own several horses.  It’s just not my cup of tea.  I’m always amazed how just a little pressure with the knee or foot and flick of the reins can control the animal.  It takes confidence to ride and many of these children were gaining that today as they walked and trotted around the ring.  Those with less experience had a leader with them and those with more were amazing.   They were working on balance, heels down and getting your bottom off the saddle.  It was ok to hold to the reins and the horses mane as they balanced.  I never knew that horses couldn’t feel when their mane was being pulled on unlike our own hair.  At camp we’re learning every day.

All activities were running wide open with campers continuing in their Discoveries and lots to choose from in the afternoon.  Web of Life was having some fun up in the Cabin in the Sky before they took off on their hunt for elusive GV critters. One of the best places to find salamanders and crawfish is under the Lodge.  There was a group under there yesterday and today.  It’s dark and the perfect place to undercover the giant grand daddy crawdad. Children were also creek hiking in Carson Creek today and enjoyed the cool water stepping cautiously from rock to rock as the sunlight and shade provided a backdrop overhead. The creek that runs the length of camp is one of our treasures that has endless possibilities for exploration.  All of camp’s water sources feed into it from the tiniest springs to the bigger creeks and come from all directions on the property.  Hiking up the creek through the many waterfalls makes you feel as though you could be in deepest depths of Pisgah National Forest, but you’re just a few minutes from Main Camp.  Creek hiking is a staple here and everyone learns to keep three points of contact when walking upstream over the big slippery rocks.

Tonight was our second campout night and several cabins had to cancel because of the rain.  It’s one thing to send campers out in a drizzle and get a fire going.  Tonight was a downpour for a while and it would have been next to impossible to get dinner cooked.  We also had thunder and lightening and we never want to present the outdoors at its scariest moments.  Children who have never slept “outdoors” before should have a good first experience and not one that leaves them with some doubt about camping. Also the natural noises that campers encounter out in the woods are closer and more distinct than they are in the cabins.  Those of us who live here and work here are used to the cacophony of crickets, frogs, peepers, birds and more at night.  For the child that lives in an air conditioned quiet home it’s quite different.  Campers I think get used to those sounds and soon it becomes part of the background.  Rain on the cabin tin roofs is pleasant unless it’s a downpour and then it’s loud.  The weather after bedtime looks good for sleeping tonight.  No rain and cooler.  Along with the sounds will be lightening bugs and we’ve seen a few already.

The rain should really pump up the garden and vegetables will be screaming to be picked.  We had fresh broccoli tonight from the farm.  Crops are a little behind with the lack of rain.

The week is beginning to fly by and it seems that the first couple of days went by very slowly and now everything is moving faster as the session progresses.  It’s hard to slow camp down but we do manage to do so.  Mealtime provides a relaxed time for good food and conversation at the table.  Conversations can range from what super power would you like to possess to what pets you have.  I like listening to children tell their own stories and watching their eyes light up in the process.  Another example of the simple joys at GV.  Stay tuned!

Brilliant Days, Camping Out and Mountain Dancing !

It was a brilliant morning and the sun was slow warming us up this morning.  Children at my table were talking about how cool it was in the cabins and it seemed some pulled their sleeping bags over them to burrow in.  Our mornings sometime have everyone in sweaters but usually by 10 or 11 we’re down to T-shirts.  Many activities are in the shade and Gwynn Valley has no lack of trees here on the property.  I would say about 90% of our trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding are shaded.  It’s a great piece of property with lots of water to help cool things down.  Activities for B day came off without a hitch and campers had a chance to take their other 2 morning Discovery activities.

Mountainside continued their day participating in two more of their mini adventures and will soon decide on the adventure of their choice. Today concludes their four minis and they have all tried mountain biking, pioneering, climbing, and canoeing. They looked great out on the lake learning their pry and draw strokes, learning to paddle tandem and practicing their teamwork. I went up to their campfire a couple of nights ago which is right next to Carson Creek.  Mountainside parents will get to be a part of this site on closing day of their session if the weather is nice.  The Mountainside Cove is a great spot to live and play in as you will see. Riverside is having good weather at Foster Falls on their second day of rock climbing.

Half of Main Camp camped out tonight and fixed dinner over an open fire.  It was the perfect night for sleeping under the stars with no rain and lots of dry wood to collect in the forest.  Actually the campers and staff sleep in shelters that are three sided platforms up off the ground. It can be difficult to get a fire going when it’s been raining but I’m sure they all had a roaring fire in no time.  Good food served outdoors and topped off with smores ends the perfect evening for some who are maybe going on their first campout.  It’s always fun to smell the campers when they come back from camping out.  They smell like smoke and woods and showers are a welcome way to enter the land of camp civilization again.

For the past couple of days our WaterMat on the lake has been a popular activity.  We’ve had 2 of these previously and this is our third and most durable.  They are so much fun and you can get as many as 15 or 20 small folks on it at once.  Everyone wears a PFD (personal floatation device) and it’s quite fun to run the length and perform your best jump into the lake.  It builds confidence for those who have never been in deep water on a lake.  When one can’t see the bottom it can be a little intimidating.  The WaterMat is like a floating island sanctuary for those needing that safe place above the fishes and turtles.

Our wonderful days give way again to the cool of evening and we topped off the evening with Mountain Dancing in the Lodge.  Debbie played the piano and I called the dances as she played.  We danced the Hokey Pokey, Sasha (a Russian Folkdance) and Going to Kentucky.  There was a lot of laughter and fun had by everyone.  We concluded the evening with a couple of Tajar tales.  The Tajar is soon to be revealed later for those of you new to GV.

It’s that time of day when all of camp has wound down.  As one young man at my table said this morning, “I don’t think it took me more than a minute to fall asleep and I didn’t wake until I heard the wakeup bell.  I compare this to a pack of 215 young puppies, playing all day long and just collapsing into deep sleep and dreams of more to come tomorrow.  We hope you have pleasant dreams as well.  Stay tuned!

Day Two of the Journey of Imagination and Creativity in A Session!

Today was a great start to our regular days here in session A.  We started our Morning Discovery Activities and burst right into the afternoon as well.  I visited with Sports this morning as they played the most popular game in the world – soccer or football or futbol depending on where you come from.  It was a small game with about 6 a side but none the less active.  The morning shade on the field helped to keep the energy high.  Just near the soccer field is our mountain bike skills course which has been revamped over the winter.  We had a full house both sessions this morning in Discovery and everyone did quite well.  This session we have a guest instructor named Christian Jackson.  Christian is an outdoor educator who teaches at Appalachian State University and is also a Level 3 Mountain Bike Instructor and came in during our staff training to teach our staff.  He’s here for one session and getting us off to a good start.  Today after some checks of the bike, which you should do before each ride, and some general skills he worked with about half of the group on lifting your front tire slightly over objects.  You “load to explode” was one term he was using.  I would have to use a whole other paragraph to explain this but it was fun to see how quickly everyone caught on.  As I said in last night’s blog, combining those physical skills picked up by listening and watching is a great way to learn.

The morning was a flurry of active learning as campers headed off to climbing, horses, farm, mill, batik, dance, archery, pottery, weaving, creek hiking, kayaking, outdoor living skills, and more! The archers managed a few bulls eyes after the initial practice shots, but even those who didn’t snag a bulls eye managed to get closer to the middle as the lesson went on. Every potter I saw had muddy hands and happy faces; they were working on making a variety of shapes and things to take home at the end of the session. The very enthusiastic kayakers were working on their wet exits and forward strokes up until the last second of the lesson. Farmers split their time between harvesting veggies and meeting the newest babies on the farm (so far 16 calves, 7 goat kids & 20 or so chicks). Farm folks also got to milk a mama goat and collect eggs from the chicken coop. Everyone was plugged into activities where they were meeting new friends and learning new skills!

Mountainside began their mini adventures today staying on site to bike, climb, paddle and learn some pioneering skills.  They of course are trying some activities “on” to see which adventure they will choose to end their session.  It would be a hard choice for me and yet I feel that some of them have already made up their minds.  There’s a group that attended Mountainside last summer who have chosen based on what they participated in on last year’s adventure.  Riverside took off early this morning to begin their climbing component at Foster Falls in Tennessee.  With the hot weather, climbing near the bottom of a waterfall is a good place to be.  I’m sure they will take advantage of daily swim opportunities.

Main camp ended their evening with skits in the Lodge to introduce themselves to camp.  Imagination and creativity always play a major part in our cabin skits.  Our imagination is our ability to form new ideas. The innovations, wild notions, and original concepts we dream up are thanks to us putting our imagination to work. Creativity is the process of realizing our imagination with action. It sets the processes in motion that bring a new idea to life.  Most of us think of imagination and creativity in terms of entertainment or the arts, but creative people use their resourcefulness in any situation, starting at a very young age. Pretending  and make-believe comes naturally to children, who create whole worlds in the blink of an eye. Pretending is where children first learn to engage their imagination and express their creativity.  Children who are encouraged in imaginative play, making art, or solving problems and puzzles are more likely to use this creative thinking with confidence as they grow.  In every field of work or study, imagination and creativity are assets to growth, positive change, and success. We’ve all heard the phrase, “think outside the box?” This means be creative and use your imagination to solve a problem. Creativity and imagination are essential to being more collaborative, open, and accepting with others. They allow us to see the big picture, learn to take initiative, and find a way to get things done when no one else can find a solution.

We start this right away by simple things like handing a child a piece of wood to make their name tag.  Not many conventions, trade shows, or cocktail parties bring that to the “get to know you” table of creativity to identify oneself.  In Cabin Primavera George and Josh have made all their boys Prince. Both young men are from England, so it does bring some pomp and imagination.  I think you get my point.  Evening bedtime routine is when you are serenaded by the mystery counselors just outside your cabin.  It’s a nice way to go to sleep. The good life at GV and the simple joys of childhood – you can’t beat it.  Stay tuned!

Opening Day Summer 2016 A – Session!

Dear Parents and Friends,

What a day at GV!  Opening day for the summer was hot but wonderful.  I just returned from Mountainside’s campfire and Anne just returned from Main Camp’s campfire.  Maggie, our assistant director had dinner with Riverside as we tried to cover all the bases of our program.  Our Young Leaders program is winding down in the Gatehouse Field just outside my office.  The silhouette of the mountains is a reminder of our long days here at camp that are full of wonder, discovery, new challenges and the many chances to expand ones world while here.

Our first day is full and we don’t waste any time getting into program after lunch.  Campers came to the Lodge just after lunch to sing and learn about all the program offerings available.  After many activity skits there was some time to reflect on what they wanted to sign up for.  They chose six activities and will end up with four for the week ahead.   These are called Discovery’s and you will have two each morning every other day.  In the afternoon campers chose each day what they would like to tackle in the PM.  The choices are endless and each day there are different offerings.

We spent time today getting swim assessments and going to several staple activities here at camp.  Among those open were the Mill, Sports, Fine Arts, Tie-Dye, Climbing, Crafts, Pottery, Horses, Camping Skills and Nature, Lake Fun, and of course The Farm.  There was little time to think about home and surrounded by lots of new friends, campers were full on engaged with staff and program.  With our full day and travel to get here, most if not all are well on their way to dreamland.

I want to thank you all for sending us this group of great campers.  We’re excited to have them and know that camp does a world of good for children.  I was talking to a parent today about the benefits of being outdoors.  There is so much conclusive evidence that learning in the outdoor environment is so good for children and most of us.  Sending a child to summer camp is good for children’s brains and promotes independence, confidence, friendship-building, resilience, character and grit, according to Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, co-author of “The Whole-Brain Child”.  As electronic devices become a greater part of our lives, the need for fresh air and play is increasingly important.  In the book, “The Second Machine Age” MIT’s Eirk Brynjolfsson points out that technology is replacing skills now as children are spending more and more time with screens.  Creativity and innovation are becoming competitive advantages in a machine-oriented world, because machines can’t be creative themselves.  I feel that camp provides that “unplug to truly connect” to one another, our natural world and a sense of self away from parents and the culture of abundance.  At GV we emphasize the “simple joys” of childhood, we honor unstructured free play and time for the creative and imaginative mind to roam free.

I supervised and watched a group of young boys tonight try out our new “Swurfer” swing here at camp.  It’s a swing you stand on and it’s very different from regular swings because it can “swurf” in circles and swings to the side instead front to back.  For most, it was a new discovery and required different physical ways to adapt.  All did well with their new challenge as it required balance, a little daring and some strength to hold on to the large wooden dowels adjustable for all sizes.  Camp offers new experiences every day and really stretches our bodies and our brains.  Activities cause collaboration of the two that we don’t often get in the classroom and certainly not with most screen time.

At camp tomorrow always holds more.  It’s kind of akin to exploring the nooks and crannies of life at our feet and all around us – that web of life.  Touch a part of it and it opens like a book to reveal more and more.  And.. of course this is guided by a staff that is just beginning this process for the summer.  We feel we have prepared them well and as I roamed activities this afternoon, I could see the evidence of almost two weeks of staff training for many of them.  As we ended our campfire the night before you all arrived, I told our staff (borrowing from some Dr. Suess), “…….so today you are you, that is truer than true and tomorrow you’ll rise up because they’re knocking on your door of knowledge, skills, nurture, patience, and more.  Lifeleading and lifeguarding, assisting, plying the whitewaters of life using the eddy’s of safety and the rapids of excitement and challenge; you are the archer and bow shooting the camper arrow toward their bullseye experience here at camp.

We’re aiming high and look forward to the days ahead as we get to know your children.  Thanks again for sharing them and stay tuned!