Challenge by Choice and More!

Dear Parents and Friends,

We just finished our first International Day of the summer and celebrated England.  Of course this morning we had a royal visit from the Queen to announce this was a special day at GV.  Her highness was elegantly clothed and instead of her usual hat she wore her crown.  All three meals today reflected our counselors from England and their favorite foods.  Beans on toast with eggs for breakfast;  beef pie and vegetables  and salad for lunch and fish and chips for dinner this evening.  To top it off there was apple crumble and whipped cream for dessert.  More about our campfire later.

Today I was privileged to go to two morning activities: Camping Skills and Nature.  Camping skills is working this week to perfect their fire building skills and they are well on their way.  First out of the gate was to get everyone to make a Firestarter using wax and dryer lint.  Then it was off to the shelter to test their starters and build a fire to cook apples on a stick with cinnamon and sugar.  Success was had by all and the apples were delicious.  Next it was on to Nature with Gus and Austin where they worked with campers on the start of a project to build bird feeders.  There were some great designs.  After that I stopped by pottery and the Mill to see what was going on there.

After lunch and afternoon activity time,  I perched myself inside the climbing tower to take photos and video of our campers who had signed up for climbing this afternoon.  Climbing is a great activity at camp and probably most of us have an aversion to heights.  It’s a great way to test our limits and see what we can achieve.  There’s a great deal of trust that is developed between the belayer (counselor) and the climber.  While physical safety is what we think about when we climb there’s also the emotional safety aspect that is critical as well.   There’s also the psychological risk and the social risk.  The psychological risk is the fear of falling.   To help alleviate some of the trepidation, our staff talks about strength of the harness, rope and all the equipment we use in climbing activities.   We want to appeal to their rational side and perhaps let them all pull on a rope and test it in their own way.  We talk with them about kilonewtons, which is how equipment is rated.

Sometimes emotion is much more powerful  than rationale.  We support the climber through the whole experience.   The more they feel that the belayer is holding them they more they trust.  We get them to lean back in their harness and see that they will not drop if they’re not holding on to the holds on the wall.  This helps to prepare them for the next attempt to possibly go higher or try a harder wall on the tower.   The sociological risk is the fear of failure or ridicule in front of others.   We as staff support each and every endeavor and they will have a chance to try again if they don’t reach the top.  We also teach our campers on the ground to support those who are climbing.  Sometimes your best friend or new friend is your greatest ally in helping you reach the top.  Addressing the psychological fears and the sociological fears is called Challenge by Choice here at camp.  There’s no pressure to reach the top, only encouragement and reassurance.  This approach helps in working with each individual participant to help them set their own goals and set their minds toward “I can vs I can’t”.  I think we learn as much by acknowledging our limits as we do by pushing our limits.  Challenge by choice allows us to know in a good and safe way what we’re really challenged by and expand our comfort levels.

Continuing on an adventure note,  I followed some bikers after climbing today and saw some of the same principles at work in that activity.  Some were more timid with challenging terrain and chose not to tackle some of the trail they were on.  I hope on another day these campers will get to a point to know that staff will spot and help them through a difficult maneuver on unfamiliar ground.

Campfire as promised was a trip down musical memory lane with our campers and staff reeling off some famous English bands and ballads by the Beatles, Spice Girls, One Direction and others.  Of course Simon Cowell was there along with the Queen to set the tone this evening and keep brash Simon in his place.  Our days are full here and there’s no way to describe it all.  I see happy faces all around and know that we are creating great memories here at camp.  Stay tuned and long live the Queen!