Growing With Each New Experience!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s been a beautiful day here, a little warm but no rain or thunder storms which is rare so far this summer.  Campers dove right into their Discovery activities this morning with gusto.  It was a fine morning to visit with programs, so I started close to Downtown GV at the Mill (our oldest part of camp built in 1890).  As many of you know the Mill has been restored and continues to grind the corn meal and grits we grow and serve in our dining room.  This is all done by your campers and our staff.  Water power continues to be a sustainable resource that takes us back over a hundred years to a simpler life, when the Mill was much more than a novelty.  This morning they were grinding and cooking Johnny Cakes over an open fire.  A J-Cake is a simple concoction that can be cooked over an open fire or on your stove at home.  I’ll include the recipe at the bottom of this writing.

From there I went across the alley to Pottery where they were forming their first coil pots.  Coil pots are primitive, but effective in getting started in building your first piece – hand building as it’s called.  Some folks had big coils and some had small ones; each artist to his or her own.  Just behind the Pot Shop at Yanderside they were marbling paper which no two pieces look the same and the colors and designs are amazing.  I’m always astounded at the things one can do with simple colors and design.  From there it was onto Shady Grove where weaving all kinds of materials makes for many wonderful things.  First hour this morning they were weaving on our looms, which require hand and foot coordination and a keen eye to repetition and keeping your thoughts on thread count and your personal design.  The bare thread that hangs in hanks on the wall when entwined on the loom are beautiful and again each one can be different.

As the morning wore on, I could understand why you might want to be near the water if you were not  in a shady crafts building.  SUP boards were learning the in’s and out’s of SUPing as they moved gently on the tops of their boards.  Every now and then you would hear a splash as one member might try shifting their weight to turn or change position on the board and would feel the gentle cushion of water as they plopped into the lake.  Kayakers were experiencing their first time on the water sitting in a cockpit not much bigger than a chair seat and getting used to water, water everywhere and new paddle strokes.  A kayak is like a sports car and it responds so quickly and surely.  They will advance to wet exits on their next time.

Out of the sun and back into some shade I visited with Mountain bikers as they learned about riding single track and techniques like braking, looking out and down and not just 3 feet from your front tire.  Pete did some cool things where he had the campers walk the trail with their hands just below their eye brows so you only saw what was right in front of you and then walked the same trail with your hands just slightly below your eyes where you couldn’t see your feet or things close to and out from your feet.  When riding you need to constantly be scanning forward and close to see as much as you can.  Sometimes way out front and sometimes close.  Focusing too close may make you lose your balance or not allow you see the next obstacle.  I think the campers really learned from this exercise and biking skills went up a notch.  They will continue through the week to strengthen their confidence and skills in progressively more difficult trails.

Mountainside and Main Camp climbers were at the wall this morning and learning knots as well as belay techniques.  I took a few pictures while there and noticed when I got back to the office that everyone had their learning face on.  Campers were really concentrating on learning and focused.  While smiles are important for you to see, it’s also important for them to be present when staff are going through all the techniques and safety measures.  We work on making these skills easy to learn and fun.  The learning curve goes way up when you can just walk up, put on your harness and helmet, tie your own knots and be able to articulate the belay signals.  As always a staff member is double checking it all as you go through the items one by one.

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 and learn “I can” instead of “I can’t”.  In our new setting, it 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.  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.

We see all of this happening each and everyday here at GV.  Everywhere I turn I see campers becoming more than they thought they could and shining the light of confidence.  It’s a good feeling.  Camp does a world of good for children!  Stay tuned!

Gwynn Valley Johnny Cakes

3 eggs

1 ⅓  cups milk

⅓  cup oil

2 cups Gwynn Valley Cornmeal

1 cup all purpose flour

¾  cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

  • Mix well and cook on a medium hot griddle until golden brown on both sides.