Acceptance, simplicity, an appreciation of the natural world, and a non-competitive program.
From our farm to table philosophy, to the activities we offer, to our site management practices, our values are the foundation of everything we do at camp.
We strive to create a community where diversity is celebrated and campers can be themselves. Camp is a place where you can be the best version of you. This starts in the cabin and permeates throughout the rest of camp. The friendship circles that the counselors lead each night before bedtime help the cabin group bond together. The activities and programs we lead create an environment where all are valued. We have campers and staff from different ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds. Thirty percent of the staff we hire are international and we celebrate a different country’s culture each week with an International Day. Our campers grow and develop strong friendships while at camp because we create a strong foundation of acceptance.
One of the most significant ways we embody simplicity is by having a technology-free environment for our campers. This allows them a chance to focus on the “simple joys of childhood”. We emphasize the importance of making friends, talking through conflicts, experiential learning, and immersing one’s self in nature. Many of our activities nod back to simpler times because we value the experience of doing something with your own two hands. Our 1890’s grist mill is a truly unique experience for children to learn about grinding corn and then cooking with it. Our farm allows children the chance to see where their food comes from, harvest it, and then actually eat it. Our cabins are simple structures; they are comfortable and functional but not extravagant. In striving for simplicity, we strive to focus on what’s most important: the inner growth of the camper (aka character development).
Appreciation of the Natural World
It’s easy to appreciate nature in the beauty of our valley. Not only is the camp property stunning, but the surrounding area of western North Carolina is a truly unique treasure of biodiversity. Our county has a tremendous amount of protected public lands filled with waterfalls and endangered or threatened species. To ensure that our land is to be enjoyed by future generations, the camp property is held in a conservation easement (read more about the easement on Our Land). We proudly teach and practice Leave No Trace ethics with our campers when in the woods and recycle as much as we can here at camp. All of these practices show our appreciation for nature, but the most significant thing we do to foster an appreciation of the natural world is to simply allow children to play outdoors.
Many camps have traditions rooted in competitions like Color Wars or pranking. Our camp was established in the very beginning with a different focus. Mary Gwynn wanted to ensure that children could explore their sense of self by creating a program that was non-competitive. We encourage children as Mary Gwynn did to “Do something difficult every day” and embrace a “Challenge by Choice” philosophy in our program. This means that children are encouraged to try something that might be challenging to them no matter their skill level. While competition has it’s value and place, we shift the focus to cooperative skills here at Gwynn Valley.
“Because of camp, I’ve gotten to know people from all over the country – actually, all over the world. Camp is a place where I can escape all of the stereotypes and cliques and just be myself.”