Great Day of Program and Going Down That Road to Self Reliance at Camp!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s been a beautiful and hot day here at camp and we jumped right into Discovery programs this morning.  I visited a lot of program this morning just around the center of camp, which included: biking, climbing, soccer, pottery, the Mill, weaving, batik, camping skills and nature, horseback, and archery.  I enjoy my time out in program because I’m looking for some good video and also checking in on program to see how our campers and staff are doing.

One of my first stops was biking where they were learning to check their bikes over to make sure everything is working properly.  We have a checklist that we go through each period with campers and by the time they’ve been to one or two bike sessions they know what to look for.  It’s fairly simple, but could mean the difference between a fun or not so fun experience.  They were also getting used to braking with hand brakes and shifting in a grassy field that allowed them some incline to pedal and coast on.  They learned the attack position and a bit more but not too much, because we wanted to warm them up and get them ready for the single track experience which includes some uneven ground, rocks and roots.  We provide a taste of this on the skills course which is partially built of wood with some natural challenges. We probably have about 3 miles of single track on camp property and have other wider trails we use as warmup areas.

In pottery they were making their first formed or coil pot.  This is not any easy task in learning to roll the clay out properly and get it even. Every time I go to pottery I want to participate.  It’s rewarding to work with your hands and create something that’s just yours.  They will work on these pieces for the next couple of days, culminating that experience by glazing and having the piece fired in the kiln. Many of our arts and crafts really focus the children on the task at hand.  Weaving is an activity where you have to think about the right pedal to push and keeping the weave tight.  Again, you’re creating your own piece which brings a lot of satisfaction.  These activities are not about instant gratification, which permeates our culture.  I will say that some activities do fall into the quick results category like archery, where you get to see where your arrow lands on the target.  Take that information in and hopefully the next one is a better shot.

And then there’s working with an animal like a horse, which introduces a whole other dynamic and personality.  They are big animals and sometimes have a mind of their own and just want to eat grass or follow their best horse “friend” around the ring.  Learning to control the reins and using slight nuances with your body and legs make all the difference.

All of this builds independence while here at camp.  This sense of independence will give our campers  confidence in what they do and the courage to go out on their own to try new things. Camp is a great place for children of all ages to become more independent. Our new setting they will be in and the new people they will be surrounded by, will help them to speak up for themselves and to make decisions on their own. The sense of independence they develop here at Gwynn Valley will serve them for the rest of their lives.  Following are some ways camp instills independence.

You’re away from home, sometimes for weeks! For a lot of young campers, going to camp is the first time they are away from home. It can be a big adjustment for children. By starting camp at a young age children will be more comfortable being away from home, as they get older. This comfort in new places will allow children to be themselves no matter where they are. It will really benefit them when they are leaving for college or other similar experiences. Your child will feel confident beginning a new experience in a new place.

You’re with new people. Similar to being in a new place, first time campers will also be surrounded by mostly new people, both campers and counselors. We have lots of siblings who come together and also friends, but they will certainly meet new friends.  They will learn how to interact with others in the cabin, at the table and in activities.  Relationships aren’t always easy and they may be faced with people with whom they don’t get along. They will learn that people are different in some ways.  Being able to be civil and respectful of those people will show a sense of maturity. Surrounding yourself with new people helps instill independence because you have to learn how to communicate with others and be confident that you’ll be able to make new friends.

You have to try new activities.  It’s easy to only do activities that you know you are good at, but trying new activities will help you become more independent. For example, if you attend a specialty camp you may get to focus on a skill that you may not be exposed to in a more traditional camp setting. Exposure to our farm and the animals there is a new experience for most campers.  Trying new activities will get you comfortable with trying new things later in life. You will meet new people and have to test yourself with these new activities and while it may be daunting at first, trying new activities will be one of the many stepping stones to help you become a better person.

You have to speak up for yourself.  To be independent, you have to be able to get by on your own. An important part of this is being able to speak up for yourself. As young children, we are dependent on our parents to meet our needs. However, at camp, without their support, you have to be able to ask for things yourself. This will ensure that you have what you need and are taken care of, which is important once you are living on your own.  We do our best to partner with you as parents and on some level hope to provide the same care as you do, but it’s not the same.  It’s been said that one teacher can’t meet the needs of every child.  We have lots of teachers and mentors here.  We must work together to achieve this goal in making great children.

You have to make decisions for yourself.  Learning to make smart decisions is an important part of growing up. We are constantly learning from our mistakes and learning what decisions will give us the best outcome. At camp, without parents there to help, campers have to make decisions on their own. They can be minor things, such as what you should have for dinner; to larger ones like what is the risk of me turning upside down in my kayak.  Being able to make your own decision and to tell the difference between right and wrong is an important aspect of independence. It sets up a belief in yourself that you can trust your instincts.

I’ll get off my soapbox and finish this up.  We see all of this happening each and everyday here at GV.  Everywhere I turn I see this and more developing in our campers.  It’s a good feeling.  Camp does a world of good for children!  Stay tuned!