Dear Parents and Friends,
Tomorrow Feb. 9th, several of us on our leadership team head out to the American Camp Association’s National Conference in Atlanta, GA. It is 4 days of sessions, speakers, other camp directors and middle management staff all together for the purpose of creating the best possible camping experience for children. We try and attend this conference every year because it is full of quality education, social and issue based sessions, a lot of networking, and is a boost to everyone’s professional development. Creativity abounds and the sharing of ideas flow freely as we immerse ourselves in the world of enriching children’s lives through camp.
The key to this, as Anne says, is to come home and really implement much of that wisdom that we’ve soaked up. It’s so easy to just keep doing the things we’ve been doing for years and it takes more work to implement change. The theme for this year’s conference is “Envision”. The world is changing fast and “Camping” has changed a great deal since I got involved many moons ago. Summer camp is actually much better for the child than it’s ever been. We know a whole lot more about child development and what makes children tick. And children do tick differently in the camp environs. It’s a proven fact. Add some great programming to that and the learning and fun begins.
And while change and vision are good, some aspects don’t change like the values that make Gwynn Valley a great place to spend a session of camp. Technology has crept into how we run camp but it stops at the office door and does not interfere with gaining a greater sense of self through relationship building in a nature focused environment. Through the years we’ve added new programs like mountain biking, ropes courses, stand up paddle boarding, more sophisticated arts and so on. The essence of all these is learning through doing and gaining confidence and resilience in our human powered environment. We empower children to seize opportunities, to make new friends and try new things independent of parents. Children at camp learn to create their own fun without the aid of electronics and sometimes with the simplest objects they can collect. We do a great job of teaching camp skills as well as real life skills. Where the real growth comes is when they are working with one another in a cooperative relationship and building trust and competence in communication, acceptance and a greater appreciation of the simple joys of childhood. Of course all this is done under the guidance of a great staff. As Maggie says, “The camp environment creates the best version of ourselves”.
Life moves fast and our value of simplicity speaks large in slowing us down to learn where our food comes from and how much work it takes to get those potatoes out of the ground and to the table. When you get your hands dirty and find those balls of carbohydrates just below the surface, food takes on a whole different perspective. How many children will ever get a chance to feed a baby calf or milk a mother cow. That whole circle of life theme can be found every day at our farm.
Camp does children a world of good and we aim to fill our cups this week and bring back more of the good for Gwynn Valley. Stay tuned!