This and Much, Much More!


Dear Parents and Friends,

A day without rain is a day without sunshine or in other words it rains most every day here at camp.   That’s OK because it comes at the appropriate time in the past few days. It’s not even close to what we were experiencing last summer when we recorded almost 70 inches of rain over our 10 week summer. My glass is always half full as we try to negotiate and navigate our mountain weather. We’ve enjoyed our clear mornings and afternoon rumblings like today while we were eating lunch. We had a shower tonight shortened our outdoor campfire but we’ll make that up on Monday night. I realize we talk about the weather a good bit, but it does control some of our program whether we like it or not. Being outside also allows children to experience the power of our mountain weather as it moves over and around us. As many of you know we have a gorgeous view that faces West North West and can see all the way to the Blue Ridge Parkway most every day. We’re able to watch our weather come in on most occasions as we did tonight as we were holding campfire on the Gatehouse Green. You could literally see the mountain ranges disappear as the rain moved in over a period of about 40 minutes. Lightening was seen near the Parkway and that’s when we asked our campers to head back to their cabins.

Living in a cabin with a tin roof takes some getting used to when it rains. It wakes some campers up and for others it’s as soothing as Carson Creek that runs through the center of camp. The sounds of living in the woods is so good for us. As we get used to it, maybe it tickles those primitive senses that still exist in ourselves, but we rarely recognize them because of our closed up and controlled living environs. I was attending an Open House in one of our cabins today and I always ask the campers, “what would you change about Gwynn Valley”. One camper piped up and said to replace all the screens with glass. We talked about that for a bit and I’m convinced this response is related to a term referred to as nature deficit disorder. Certainly not a serious thing but one that I see more of in camp.

Outdoor play and being outdoors provides a multi-sensory experience where children see, hear, smell, and touch things unavailable to them when they play indoors. The use their brains in unique ways as they come to understand these new stimuli.   Above, I was talking about weather. Time in nature helps children to notice patterns like certain smells before a rain or certain clouds before a storm. The natural world is full of patterns. The petals on flowers, the veins in a leaf, the bark on a tree and pattern building is a crucial early math skill.

I urge camp for everyone and see what good it brings to children’s lives each day. We see that so much here at Gwynn Valley. As I stroll through and around camp each day I see children going to new heights and gaining confidence and resilience in their activities. So what that they didn’t make it to the top of the climbing wall or score a goal in soccer. They at least made it half way up and made several good passes in the game that allowed a teammate to score. Making something with your own hands and just building a fire by yourself can bring assurance to camper that couldn’t quite dodge those rocks on the mountain bike or make it up that steep hill. Being at camp is a great place for learning about what you’re good at and what you can improve on. You get many chances and you’re given the opportunity to progress at your own pace. We can’t always make those giant leaps of learning without taking a few missteps or back steps. Persistence teaches us so much and we don’t always get it the first time. We may want it but it doesn’t come that easy for everyone. That’s when we learn to rely and understand cooperation and realizing others strengths and how we can work together to make it to the top of whatever we’re doing. Cooperative play is an essential skill that happens all the time and in almost every activity. That too, I see from cabin life to clearing the table at meals.

To sum our day here, sometimes there’s just too much going on to talk about everything. Children in trees ascending ropes, glazing your creation in pottery, learning how a Mill works and grinding corn you’ll have in next weeks cornbread, learning that the attack position on a mountain bike provides great maneuverability, learning about the “patterns” of weaving and Kumihimo (ask your children), tying your own knot that holds you fast in your climbing harness, hiking to the Rock and seeing a view of camp hundreds of feet below, standing on your upside down kayak, tubing down the river, and best of all making new friends in the process. This and much, much more happens each day here at GV! Stay tuned!