Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Building Better People--One Laugh at a Time

How can we develop happy, healthy, and successful kids who, in turn, become happy, healthy, and successful adults? More and more resources, studies, television programs, blogs, journal articles, “expert advice”, and educational theories are disseminated on the subject every single day. Sometimes, it’s more than I can absorb or handle.

For me, learning to live with, work with, and respect others are essential skills I use everyday as a wife, mother, employee, daughter, and friend. I practice relationship building, relationship management, and relationship repair almost daily.

How can we as parents, educators, youth development professionals, and leaders teach relationship building to kids? We must nurture their growth, give them tools to deal with the obstacles, and celebrate their successes. We must provide them with varied communities where they can grow and learn and experience different people and different ideas. We must let them try, practice, and fail—then try again. We must be wise and thoughtful in our own relationship building, because our kids will practice what they see. Most of all, we must share a belief in our shared humanity—one in which we have more in common than not—no matter how our ideologies have shaped us.

Laughter and play are two of the most basic commonalities we all share, and in order to be able to successfully work with or live with others…it is also essential to be able to play with others.

Icebreakers are an essential part of building relationships, building communities, and learning to play together. A good icebreaker does four things:

• Facilitate the learning of names
• Help to draw shy individuals quickly into a larger group
• Make everyone feel more at ease with new acquaintances
• Is darn fun.

There are name-learning icebreakers (great for first days of school, conferences, team development, opening days of camp); shared interest icebreakers (finding out we had more in common than we thought); active icebreakers (we learn names faster if we use multiple learning modalities); sensory awareness icebreakers (which help us practice better listening, and hearing); and facilitated icebreakers (where the group shares hopes/fears about the upcoming shared experience).

One of my favorite name-game icebreakers is called The Blanket Drop, and this is how you play:

• Divide any size group (big is good) into two teams and separate the teams by having two people hold up a blanket between the teams. The blanket should be large enough to prevent players from seeing what is happening on the other side.
• Each team then selects one player to creep up to the blanket.
• The blanket holders (an important responsibility) drop the blanket on the count of 3, leaving the selected players from the opposing teams staring into each other’s faces.
• Each of these two players tries to be the first to shout out the name of the opposing player.
• The fastest name-shouter gets to bring the losing player over to his side of the blanket.
• Then the blanket is raised and two new players are sent forward by their teams.

In the case of a certified tie (determined by the blanket droppers) both players go back to their original teams and the blanket is raised for a new round.

To provide variety, the blanket droppers may also ask each team to send more than one contestant for some blanket drops.

The game continues until everyone is on one team, until everyone knows everyone else’s name or until everyone is laughing so hard it is impossible to continue.

What is YOUR favorite icebreaker?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Because of Camp...

The American Camp Association celebrates its 100th year in camping next month at our annual national conference in Denver. The theme of this monumental conference is “Because of Camp….”

I took a few moments to think about that phrase and what it means to me as a one time camper/assistant counselor/counselor/odd-job woman/ridge leader and now program director of the place which has so intimately shaped me over the last 24 years.

Because of camp, I journeyed over 600 miles away from home without my mom, dad, sister or pets…when I was 12.
Because of camp, I realized I WASN’T exactly like my mom…I LOVED horses.
Because of camp, I overcame the grade school taunts of “duckie” “pudgie” and climbed a 14,000 foot mountain…11 of them, actually.
Because of camp, I made friends who were more diverse, interesting, opinionated, and different than my friends at home.
Because of camp, I appreciated my strong legs, ability to carry a heavy pack, and the admiration I earned from my friends and counselors for being a little kooky.
Because of camp, I remembered odd facts about odd things at odd times…did you know that the dust on aspen bark has an SPF of 4?
Because of camp, I had role models who took time to know me, laugh with me, share themselves and their lives with me.
Because of camp, I found out I was truly an alto…or maybe a tenor.
Because of camp, I decided it was easier to ask for permission than to beg for forgiveness.
Because of camp, I felt grace and true harmony for the first time.
Because of camp, I watched women eat…and eat…and eat…because eating together was a celebration and a communion—celebrating all the hard, physical work we had done together.
Because of camp, I figured out that experiences are more valuable than things.
Because of camp, I learned how to be a leader by simply being myself.
Because of camp, I accepted responsibility for mistakes I made, and altered my path to avoid making the same mistakes again.
Because of camp, I watched hundreds of unique sunrises and sunsets…and remember every one.
Because of camp, I know what it feels like to genuinely believe in someone so strongly, that she feels like she can do anything.
Because of camp, I understand the power of women to both tear down and to build up…and, at camp, there is a lot more building up than tearing down.
Because of camp, I listen to triumphs and heartbreaks with thoughtful ears, and not a boastful mouth.
Because of camp, I see a uniquely, personal gift in each Colorado blue-bird summer day…and the other 300 campers, 120 staff, and 59 support staff feel the same way.
Because of camp, I am a better mother, wife, and daughter.
Because of camp, I have become the woman I always wanted to be.

Now, your turn.

Because of camp…..

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Raven Raindrops

This morning, I was feeling extra cabin-feverish, but didn't have the time to go on a full on hike before heading off to work.  Instead of shrugging my shoulders and pushing the urge out of my mind, I decided that rather than starting the car and heading back inside until it warmed up, I would take a short walk down the road in front of my cabin.

I headed toward Pike's Peak, crunching through the snow.  Enormous black ravens circled over my head ominously.  They squawked, "CAAW! CAAW!" an ugly sound, I thought, from an ugly bird.  So much for my peaceful three-minute hike.  I reached a patch of sunlight and stood facing it, absorbing the warmth.  "CAAW!  CAAW!"  I tried to block the sounds out of my mind.  But then, I heard another sound.  It was familiar, yet not quite something I'd heard before.  It came from above me, like a raindrop, the dripping sound of water into a small pool, but amplified.  I scanned the trees.  It was the raven.

Amazed, I listened.  There it was again.  "Ker-PLOP!"  It was incredible. 

I have since searched the National Geographic and Audubon Society websites and the only scientific proof I can find regarding the capability for a Raven to produce this sound is that ravens can vocalize "a sharp, metallic tock."  Ravens, I learned, are able to learn sounds--even the human voice.  I suspect that this particular vocalist must have had an affinity for the sound of raindrops.

My point is that a short, three minute hike truly fed me.  I was inspired by this species of bird I'd so erroneously dismissed before.  I was in a better mood on my drive to work.  And it only took three minutes.

It's something that any of us could do, really, with the kids before loading them into the car or on our own down the street in front of the house (there's plenty of nature to be found in a subdivision, too!).  Too often we get into the mentality of all-or-nothing: if we were to commit to hiking once a week, it'd have to be a substantial distance to a substantial vista in order to be worth the trouble.  Not true.  Creating a small habit that only last for three minutes, one morning per week is absolutely better than not doing it at all.  The secret is approaching it with an attitude of openness, of wonder.  This attitude is something we can practice every day, in any climate, even in the mundane moments of driving the kids to school or walking outside instead of sitting in the break room for lunch.

So I would pose a challenge to all of us: Take three minutes out of one weekday to engage with the outdoors in some small way.  Give it the opportunity to become a habit.  Who knows what wonders you'll find singing just outside your window!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tell the DOED: Get Kids Outside and Learning!

I received this information in an email from the Sierra Club regarding the No Child Left Inside Act, which is currently being looked at by the Department of Education (DOE) for reauthorization.  The No Child Left Inside website states that the DOE is requesting comments on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, the official name of the act), as they draft new language in the bill.  The following is a sample e-mail provided by the Sierra Club that you may wish to personalize and send to the DOE at ESEA.comments@ed.gov.

The following is taken from the Sierra Club Website:

America's K-12 students need your support to make sure they have opportunities to learn about the natural world, get outdoors and develop a foundation for success in the green economy.  The Department of Education is currently considering the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (a.k.a. No Child Left Behind) and we need your help to make sure that environmental education does not get left behind.

Subject:  Please Include Environmental Education in the Elementary and and Secondary Education Act

Dear Secretary Duncan,

As you consider strategies to strengthen the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, I urge you to include the provisions outlined in the No Child Left Inside Act (S.866 and H.R. 2054), which would expand opportunities for environmental and outdoor education in public schools across the nation.

Environmental education has been shown to improve student achievement across core subject areas and increase engagement in learning.  A recent major study of experiential environmental education concluded that science test scores of at-risk youth could be improved upwards of 27 percent by outdoor environmental education.

Learning in the outdoors is also known to improve critical thinking, motivation to learn, self-esteem, conflict-resolution skills, problem solving, and classroom behavior.  Time spent outdoors during the school day would also help to promote active lifestyles that can help fight the obesity epidemic that threatens our children.  Furthermore, environmental education will give our students the knowledge and skills to tackle complex problems and succeed in the green economy.

Leaving environmental education out of the administration's priorities for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization would be a missed opportunity to improve student achievement and to address President Obama's priorities of energy independence, a strengthened economy, and a healthier nation.

If you are sending an e-mail, address it to ESEA.comments@ed.gov

For additional information regarding this bill, check out the No Child Left Inside website, the North American Association for Environmental Education site, and  the Open Congress site.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Blogs Sanborn Likes

Yesterday's post mentioned two blogs that we like to read. Today, we've updated the list of blogs we are following. Please check them out - there is some great information and ideas for activities to do with your kids!

We look for blogs that work with the mission of our own blog:
The objective/mission of the Sanborn Western Camps blog is to provide a forum for thoughtful discussion around topics of interest to both our immediate camp community, and to wider communities including parents and those who support the camp experience. By focusing on current trends, we will generate posts that emphasize the value of camp, cutting edge youth development strategies and techniques, and ideas that can have a positive impact on the world at large.

We also take your comments to heart. So if you have suggestions for us or ideas that are aligned with our mission, please let us know!

Monday, January 11, 2010

More Nature Activities

I was browsing the web today and realized there are some great nature blogs with outdoor activities for kids that I haven't checked out recently.

These are some great blogs and posts that I think you should check out:
Grass Stain Guru I love the Mystery Critters posts - if only I was better at guessing. Bethe provides great activities and insights for parents to take their kids outside. Importantly, she agrees that children should play outdoors using their imaginations!

Childhood101 is another fun site that posts include all sorts of ideas and activities to try with your children. The activities from this post are especially fun to for the outdoors.

Over the past year, we also have tried to post various nature activities to try with your children! What are some of your favorites?

I think it is great when parents share ideas of outdoor activities they have tried with their kids. Playing outdoors requires little to no work from parents. Children's imaginations are huge and they love to use them!

What other outdoor activities do you have?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Once in a Blue Moon

A blue moon occurs when a calendar month has two full moons with in it. This will happen about once every two-and-a half years.

I had the opportunity this New Years Eve to ski under the light of the blue moon with friends. As it cast shadows onto the snow, making it glisten and glitter you couldn't help but slow down look around in awe trying to capture the scenic landscape with a mental snapshot. It was a rather cold night, like the ones many of us are experiencing this winter, and the light danced through the ice crystals that were hanging in the air. The trees were heavy with snow and it truly looked like a winter wonderland.

Prior to driving up the pass and strapping on our skis we almost talked ourselves out of it because of the cold, but no one wanted to be the person to make that call so we went ahead and headed up. It was an amazing way to remind myself to take advantage of the season and to enjoy the stark beauty of winter.

Camp is s amazingly beautiful this time of year. No matter where you are don't be afraid to bundle up and get outside.