Settling into C session: friendship & free play!

Dear parents & friends,

It was another warm day here at Gwynn Valley. The sun and warm weather made water activities very popular. Today waterfront put on free swim at the lake and pool, zip line, traverse line, sit on top kayaks, white water kayaks, swimming through “seaweed” at the pool, water sliding, creek hiking, and a few tubing trips. Several other activities followed waterfront’s lead and incorporated wading in cool mountain streams into their curriculum. The Tajar Times (our daily camp newspaper) set up their writing workshop next to the Hillside Creek where they could be inspired by the cool rushing water, and soak their feel while coming up with riddles, jokes, and word searches and drawing publication worthy illustrations. The Mill crew walked down to the farm to collect blueberries, which will be used to make ice cream later this week. After picking (and eating!) quite a few blueberries, the millers cooled off in Carson Creek just half a mile downstream from the Tajar Times journalists. Web of Life waded around the edge of the lake looking for tadpoles, frogs, and salamanders. Lots of non-water activities took place as well: fire building with OLS, pottery, bead weaving, marbling, mountain biking, tree climbing, farming, fishing at the mill, and many others. For those who were interested, we also showed the highlights of yesterday’s Belgium – USA World Cup game as a 1 hour sign up in the lodge, which is a nice cool space to escape the afternoon heat.

Today was one of those days where you notice how at ease everyone is. We are really into the grove of C session; you can tell how comfortable campers and staff feel with each other when you look around during meals and after supper activities. Laughter is at an all time high, homesickness is at an all time low, the bonds of friendship and cabin unity are stronger than ever, and everywhere you look you see people engaged in games and conversation. I think the cook outs and camp outs that each cabin participates in really helps to bring a sense of cohesion to the cabin groups. Every session, each cabin group goes off program to spend the night at one of our camp out shelters located on camp’s 320+ acres of protected land. We had 12 cabin groups cook or camp out last night, and another 7 are cooking or camping out tonight. The cabin groups cook dinner over a fire and just spend the evening talking and laughing until the fire flies come out. It’s really nothing special – just a night in the woods – but when I ask campers about their favorite part of the session I often hear about memories from the camp out: playing games around the fire, making s’mores or watching the world turn from green to black as the sun sets.

I think part of what makes camp outs so magical is the element of supervised yet unstructured play time. We have some of this time built into our camp schedule every day in the form of after super activities and cabin time, but the camp outs really allow for a full evening of that unstructured free play. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “free and unstructured play is healthy and essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.” To learn more about the power of unstructured play and how to work it into your home life, check out this post by the American Camp Association:

I am always amazed by how much happens in a day at camp. It reminds me of a quote from Richard Jefferies: “Not only the days, but life itself lengthens in summer. I would spread abroad my arms and gather more of it to me, could I do so.” Well at camp WE DO SO! Whether it’s free play or programmed activities, our campers are running around and using every single minute of the day to it’s greatest potential. So here we are, at the end of a very full day, with the world dark and the night sounds of the creek and the bull frogs wafting in through my open office window. With that thought, I wish you all a good night!