Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hooray for Camp!

For the past week, our staff has been happily inundated with information. They have participated in Wilderness First Aid classes, taken CPR/First Aid and lifeguard training courses, gone on a two day backpacking trip around our incredibly green and wildflower-filled 6,000 acres, taken horseback rides, flown down the zipline, climbed rugged Pikes Peak granite, learned facilitation techniques, learned about the homesteaders and the Ute Native Americans who once lived on this land, practiced tools to work with children, and realized a great deal about themselves.

Tonight we played “How Well Do You Know Your Co-Counselor”—a game show style activity that highlighted some of the trivial facts one can learn about someone in the course of a few short days. Questions ranged from “Coffee or tea?” to “What is your co-counselor’s biggest pet peeve?” The laughter, constant conversation, and sheer number of right answers demonstrated that this group of staff is as committed to each other as to the campers they will be working with beginning Sunday.

I recently read a quote that said, “You can learn more about a person in one hour of play than during a year of conversations.” I believe this is true. I also believe you will learn more about yourself, too. Because these women and men have chosen to work and play together with children this summer, they will take away many growth lessons from their time at Sanborn Western Camps.

Some will be lessons of triumph, perseverance and celebration. Others will be lessons of missed opportunities and some regrets. As I spoke to a senior staff member tonight, she said that she knew that supervising and mentoring her peers would be challenging, but she hadn’t realized how much of the process would require looking at herself through a more focused lens. She said she has already had moments when she wished she would have done something differently, made a different decision—and the look on her face told me that she isn’t used to “failing”.

But this type of growth isn’t failing—it is trying. Research shows that kids who are given encouragement for their efforts tend to work harder, and longer, to succeed than those who are given praise for their successes and intelligence. Feedback becomes easier to give and receive when individuals are accustomed to feeling good about what they have learned from a given situation—and when they are asked “what would you do differently next time.” Because, in the end, in this great laboratory of human relations that is camp, and IS life, there will always be another opportunity to try again.

So we will spend the summer playing, learning, and growing together—and, because of these moments, these men and women, and the boys and girls they will work with for the next three months, will be on the path to become the happy, balanced, thoughtful, caring, wise, successful, nature-loving, objective, empathetic, inclusive, strong, and productive adults the world needs them to be.

Hooray for camp!

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