This Is What Camp Is All About

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We’re in our second full day of Session A and we couldn’t ask for better weather and a great start to our summer. I just spent some time with our mountain bikers and Dr. David, Molly and Jed who are overseeing that program. It was a group of 7 campers who were mostly beginners and barely fit on our smallest bikes. There was a spread of skill but not too much of a gap between the riders. Getting used to switching to hand brakes instead of coaster brakes was a challenge for some. With that in mind we stayed on grass to start off and worked our way to more smooth trail like situations. Everybody was motivated to a higher skill level which is always gratifying for the rider and the teachers. Thanks to our staff, campers were way more confident in braking, shifting, and simple handling skills of turning and moving up and down small hills. The basketball court was free so they used a smaller space to work on spacing between riders, tracking behind one another and doing some figure 8’s in traffic which pays off when riding some of camp’s single-track trails. 

I love it when you can see the improvement and accomplishment in campers when trying something new or perhaps an old skill not frequently used. The looks on their faces, the boost in confidence, the circle surrounding fear growing smaller and just an attitude of “I can” instead of “I can’t. I sometimes think that the “t” in “can’t” means tell me, teach me, and take me to a new skill level. Keep in mind, biking is an activity where you’re not tethered to an instructor say like climbing and the instructors have to sometimes be off their bikes and spotting a moving object to make sure that safety and security are part of the learning curve.

Each activity carries varying degrees of risk and we take those and either eliminate them or reduce them to minimal results.  Earlier this morning, I spent time over with the Blacksmith crew. Scotty has been our rock in that program each year and comes in before campers arrive to train our staff and mentor them through our opening session. Our small forge has slowly grown since it began 7 years ago. We now have 4 anvils and have added on to our building incrementally to grow the program. Speaking of risk, what lad or lass doesn’t want to handle and hammer on red hot iron fresh from the fiery furnace and shape it from just a square rod into hooks, rings, leaves, twists, turns and even Harry Potter wands. I think it’s the primitive side of campers that are attracted to the forge. Whatever it is, there’s excitement, mystery, and the ancient use of tools that most of us never handle in a lifetime, that makes it so attractive to our campers and staff. As I watched today, you could just see the eyes literally light up through the safety glasses as shapes and objects began to form through step-by-step instructions from our 4 blacksmiths. Nathan will be running the program when Scotty leaves at the end of this session. He is from England and is self-taught but has been introduced to the Scotty method of teaching children and has shined since day one. Our Blacksmiths have no trouble signing up recruits. You have to be 10 years old and above to participate and the program is one the most anticipated aspects of Gwynn Valley for younger campers. Whenever a project is completed all participates and Blacksmiths ring and bang on a large bell as a symbol of conquering hard metal using hot and cold to create their masterpiece. You can hear it all over camp. It’s part of the ceremony and we need more moments like that to celebrate each others achievements going forward. I’ve never participated and it made me want to jump right in today as I watched these young boys and girls eye their work in progress.

This is what camp is all about! Curiosity, excitement, newness, seeing one another succeed, and sharing great stories and objects at the end of an activity or at the end of a day. Mary Gwynn said, “try something difficult everyday”. We’re working on it and these experiences give us wings to fly. Stay tuned!