The Variety of Camp Life

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Dear Parents and Friends, 

The sun is out, the clouds are fluffy and it’s another exquisite day here at Gwynn Valley. Someone once said that “variety is the spice of life”. As we started our third full day of camp, it seems that all campers are involved in an assortment of activities that point toward skill, confidence and yes Fun, with a capital “F”. It’s almost impossible to participate in every aspect of camp and that’s certainly true in one session. However, why not get in there and try out as many things as you can! I like to advise children to participate in the activities that they wouldn’t normally have access to at home. 

It’s wonderful that campers get to make these decisions on their own, which plays out later in life when making other small and large decisions affecting outcomes. What they enjoy, what sparks their passion and what enhances their own talents are crucial questions to explore when developing a sense of identity at this formative age. Developing the whole person is a focus for camp which exposes us to so many creative outlets and even cultures, since we have a portion of our staff from different countries. 

In a similar way, relearning skills can build on previous experiences that take them to the next level of a crafts project, a harder climb, a different horse, or just remembering how and where to hold the bottle when feeding a baby calf.  Feeling secure and safe as we learn is a way to instill confidence, grit, independence and a host of other character building attributes. Knowing and recognizing when and where to nudge that camper into a growth zone is the mark of a great teacher.

Equally important in camp life is our direct contact with the sensory side of camp and our natural surroundings. Campers residing in our screened-in cabins gain full access to the sounds of nature from early morning birds calling, creeks rustling and bubbling, breezes that make the trees sing to us, and rain or dew falling on our tin roofs.  Walking a trail early in the morning can mean feeling harmless spider webs on your extremities with an initial yuk or ewww feeling.  We soon learn that these webs are feeding grounds for a harmless variety that is certainly not trying to trap us, but that insects are part of their food chain. While the unknown can be fearful, it can also be an enlightenment for us and produces a sense of wonder and awe that makes us realize how truly small we are in the vast network of nature. We learn to conquer our fears not so much with courage but understanding how things work like a safe eddy in the river, or recognizing poison ivy, when to rest in the middle of a climb, or walking a challenging biking trail first without your bike. All these experiences really take the “t” out of “I can’t” and turn into “I can”. 

The variety continues each and every day here at Gwynn Valley. Riverside will be winding up their climbing trip in Tennessee. Mountainside is gaining new skills to equip campers for a grand Adventure that will culminate their session. Main camp rolls on with special events either camping out or going Mountain Dancing, joined by the rhythms of Debbie’s piano in the Lodge.

Camp life is a good life. For those that are in their first year here, we hope for a successful and enjoyable session. For those returners, we hope you’ve been challenged and can build upon previous years of skill. I see the evidence of camp life in my staff who were campers here. They get it. They are helping us to build that whole child into a strong confident teen and then into an outstanding adult. Thanks for sharing your most prized possession.  I hope you will hear wonderful stories at the end of our time together and lessons that will linger on.  Stay tuned!