Buckle that Helmet!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Maybe not a topic that you want to read about but, I was thinking as I was walking around camp today that a good many of our activities require helmets.  I feel this is a good thing and allows us to perform these activities in a safe way and is an important piece in the reasonable approach to managing the risk in the activities.  Whitewater canoeing and kayaking, any kind of climbing, horseback riding and of course mountain biking all require a specific helmet appropriate to the sport.  As a child I never wore a helmet or very few of the modern day safety accoutrements.  I made it through life fine but then it’s a different time.  I don’t think that camp has that much more risk than it did probably 30 years ago, but it means we can go about our program knowing that we are more protected than in the past.  And added bonus – as young children we’re getting into good habits for adult participation in many of the same sports.  Years ago when I had hair and first started climbing I would never wear a helmet and rarely wore one when with campers.  Today I climb with a helmet and we require all staff to wear them all the time when in a helmet zone.  These kinds of procedures are practical and reasonable and make good sense in so many ways.  The key to many aspects of equipment in our program is fit and proper use.  We stress this a great deal in fitting PFD’s on children at the waterfront.  It’s very important that a archery bow is not too powerful  for the size child that uses it and we wear glasses when shooting in our archery program.  Horse saddles need constant checks to make sure saddles are tight and stirrups are properly adjusted.  Knots are checked, gloves are worn, eyes are covered, arms bands are strapped on, proper shoes are required, sunscreen, paddle size, bicycle seat height, safe distances, and the list goes on.  This is all done to give your camper the opportunity to try and hopefully succeed in so many activities at camp that they can’t participate in at home.

I was talking to my OLS instructor, Catherine, about teaching a session on using knives, hatchets, and small axes.  It’s a valuable lesson that young people should know before they find the stray implement lying around in a friends garage and learn the bad habits when using these tools.  Hands on learning under the watchful eye of a qualified adult gives children the chance to learn proper technique in so many camp activities.  My staff are constantly role modeling and providing living evidence that progression of skills are learned in a fun and informative way.  The child is like a sponge and they’ve got knowledge and skills  that they can carry with them in later situations.  GV Rescue is a great course because it teaches campers what they might have to do if little brother or a friend fall into the water and can’t swim or needs assistance.  The children learn the proper ways to rescue while not putting the victim or themselves in more danger.

Learning in nature also allows us to understand the power of nature and a greater appreciation of our existence in the environment.  The campers in OLS learn how to do a lightening drill.  They could be at the local tennis courts or on a boat in the middle of a lake and would know just what to do.  Fire is a fascinating source of enjoyment, usefulness and can be a dangerous element when not properly managed.  Every camper loves to be around a fire and almost every camper wants to build or help build a fire.  Managing your fire “place” is just as important as managing your rock climbing site.  Thinking to  look up and survey the trees above before you pitch a tent or tarp is a good idea when camping.  Tree limbs or even whole trees that are dead or dying can be a threat if not observed.  Learning to identify poison ivy is always good medicine.  It’s prolific in our woods and is easily contracted when in contact with the oil of the plant.

So…. Camp is a place that helps us to manage our risks and learn more as we tackle the many skills and venture into the woods and streams.  Time spent outdoors improves children’s immune systems. Healthy children are stronger learners. As children spend more and more time outdoors, their immune systems improve, decreasing time out of school for illness.  Outdoor play increases children’s physical activity level.  Children who play outdoors are less likely to be obese and more likely to be active learners. Children who move and play when out of school are ready for the attention often needed for classroom learning.  Our open air classroom provides the balance that children need in our media and techno driven world.  Ah the simple joys of living at GV.  Stay tuned!