Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Sensible Mission

To live together in the outdoors, building a sense of Self, a sense of Community, a sense of the Earth, and a sense of Wonder through fun and adventure.

I love our Sanborn Western Camps mission statement. It is rich and varied; succinct and pointed; it represents both years of summer camp experience and the vibrancy of each new camp season; it celebrates the individual and the team; it embraces and enhances our connections to each other, ourselves, and to the world as a whole; it reminds us that growth is intensely personal, but is maximized when shared; and it isn’t a didactic lecture, delivered by the learned professor--it is an afternoon studying multi-colored lichen on some high mountain rocks, a leisurely walk through elk-chewed aspen groves, a game of hide-and-seek among the montane grasses and trees, and children laughing, talking, and growing around a Colorado campfire.

Our mission statement is transcendent and universal…we want it to share it in as many ways as possible. We want every child and adult to understand what gifts they can gain when they spend a summer at Sanborn, when they spend a lifetime in the outdoors. We want the Sanborn mission statement to “make sense” to our staff, so we have designed a set of “Six Staff Senses” to help make the mission statement real. Parents, teachers, outdoor advocates, experiential educators and more can use these “senses” to help bring the life lessons, values/ethics, fun and adventure of the summer camp experience to your every day life. Enjoy.

The Six Staff Senses

1. Seeing/Vision: To "see" both the outside and inside of every child; being able to see/know everything all at once; the past, present, & future; seeing through different lenses—what do parents see, what does the camp community see, what do the campers see, what do I see; visualizing the impact of the natural world and the camp experience on campers—seeing through the goals you set for the campers and for yourself.

2. Hearing/Listening: REALLY learning to listen and HEAR campers and their needs; hear the words between the words; hear the hurt/fear/frustration behind the action; pause to listen to the lessons of camp; allow yourself to listen to your heart and your gut...good judgment comes from within.

3. Smelling: Olfactory memories are some of the strongest around; make sure and have your campers stop and smell the trees/grass/morning/evening/post-storm/flowers/desserts etc.. Smell is also a complicated memory maker—it has to be associated w/ other elements to become memorable—so take TIME to sculpt those memorable (and fragrant!) moments.

4. Taste/Food: Eating is VERY important at camp; it is respectful community building in our family style/campfire meals; it is ritual in our plate scraping/mabel waiting; it is celebration in our song/birthday parties/theme dinners/banquets/post-climb meals; it is analyzation in our end-of-the-day dinner discussions/observations of kids eating; it is nourishment for the body and the soul—be present, be aware.

5. Touch/Feeling: “The shortest distance between two people is a smile.” “A smile is the light in the window of your face that tells people you're at home.” All summer long: BE PRESENT. The benefits of hugs, smiles, nods of affirmation, high fives of celebration will not work if you are not there to share those feelings, share the physical connections, share the summer with your campers and yourself.

6. Wonder: Each day is a god—make it be so in everything your do.

Make the mission make sense--the more you practice and play, the less abstract this job and the world will become.

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