Playing Outside and Growing Inside!

Today was a great start to our regular days here in session A.  We started our Morning Discovery Activities and I was able to make it around to a good many of our first day activities.  On the athletic field campers and staff were playing 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 8 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 shop and bike shed.  We had a full house both sessions this morning in Discovery and everyone did quite well.  We’re pleased to welcome back Christian Jackson, an outdoor educator who teaches at Appalachian State University and is also a Level 3 Mountain Bike Instructor.  He has a gift with teaching and mentoring our staff for this first session.  Each year we learn from his depth of knowledge. While he is an expert rider, it’s all about safety first and good riding technique as you learn those basic skills to build confidence.

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 bullseyes after the initial practice shots, but even those who didn’t snag a bull’s 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 coil pots which came out well.  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 many baby calves, a hand full of goat kids and oodles’ of baby 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 continued their mini adventures today staying on site to bike, climb, paddle, learn some pioneering skills and our newest program, earth 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.  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 mountain dancing and campfire time with their cabin where something sweet and sticky got sandwiched between something soft and chocolaty.  Six cabins were on campouts tonight at various shelters on our property.  Each shelter is a three-sided hut with a wooden floor built up off the ground and a campfire circle.  Many of our campers have never camped out before so this is a way to ease them into the experience on our property.  The staff cooks dinner over an open fire and gets everyone fed and then usually the stars are out and it’s about that time to slumber off to dreamland.  I’m sure this experience stretches some of our campers, and it’s so good for building resilience and stepping outside their comfort zones.

Imagination is a big part of our lives sometimes and especially in children here at camp.  Thinking about an experience can excite us or perhaps make us a little nervous about experiences.  Our imagination is also 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?” Creativity and imagination are essential to being more collaborative, open, and accepting of 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.

Near the end of the dance tonight, I could tell that many of the little ones were ready for bed.  Days are long here and we stay on the move.  There’s a lot going on, a lot of information to be processed and it’s not coming from a screen.  I think at the end of a normal day, we are all ready to curl up and catch some zzzz’s.  We play hard outside as we grow inside.  Stay tuned for more of the simple joys!

Opening Day A Session!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Welcome to Session A and another great year of Gwynn Valley.  We had a wonderful opening day here and we’re off to a terrific start.  After a buffet lunch at noon today, we all headed to the Lodge for a bit of singing with Debbie on the 88’s and then made choices for our morning “Discovery Activities”.  These are all skill based and embrace all the programs we teach here at camp.  Swim assessments followed sign-ups and then campers were off to various activities for the rest of day including: Sports, Archery, The Mill, Tie-Dye, Camping Skills and Nature, Crafts, Pottery, Horseback Riding, Swimming, Fine Arts, Climbing and of course The Farm.  We believe in jumping right into activities to provide the campers with a busy first day in case anyone has a touch of homesickness.

Mountainside followed suit and began their mini adventures which will continue for a few days.  Riverside began their ground school for climbing and they will be leaving tomorrow to head over to Tenn. for their climbing component.  Life is full here at camp and especially in downtown GV on the first day.  Tonight we had our first dinner together with all of our groups meeting under one roof in the Dining Room.  We had our very child-friendly spaghetti and sauce with fresh salad from the garden and home baked dinner rolls. First night’s dinner is not complete without the Giant Chocolate Chip cookie that each table gets.  After supper activities followed and then we held a campwide scavenger hunt to find the program leaders.  Rumor has it that the “Tajar” (you’ll learn more about our friend later) enticed all the program leaders to a meeting with brownies and then sent them off in many directions on a goose chase.  The campers “Mission Impossible” was to track them down and bring them back to Downtown GV. From there it was off to bed and Friendship Circles in each cabin.

If you’re reading this, today was National Get Outdoors Day!  I want to thank you all for your commitment to Gwynn Valley in providing this outdoor opportunity to your children.   Our outdoor learning is human powered and hands-on where campers are encouraged to try something difficult every day.  Camp should be and is a transformational experience that is outside the comforts of home and parent involvement.  It’s a place where big ideas meet action that gives birth to reaching new heights and spreading your independent wings.  It’s a place where new friendships are made and flourish.  It’s a place where the effervescence of fun and laughter abound.  We, of course, cannot take your place as parents but we can partner with you in creating a wholesome and balanced experience that will create lots of happy memories for your camper.   Last night at campfire with just our staff, I spoke with them about the awesome responsibility they are about to undertake.  Throughout our training week, we’ve challenged them to be the adult that you as parents represent and not to forget their own childhood and the joys therein.

My personal goal each and every summer was also something I shared with them.  I have it written and attached to my computer, so I see it every day.  It reads, “to foster and reclaim the beauty, wonder, awe, potential, and innocence of childhood”.  Here at camp we simply say, “the simple joys of childhood”!  Stay tuned for nightly updates and glimpses of camp from our eyes and perspective.  We are excited to begin our 83rd summer of Gwynn Valley.  Thank you for providing this great group of campers.