Former Campers Discussing How Well Camp Teaches Life SkillsMay 19, 2015
As I wrote yesterday, this past weekend was the start of our annual camp counselor training. For three days we worked with this summer’s Junior Counselors in a conference room in Stamford, CT, helping them understand the many facets of being a successful camp counselor. We talked about how you create a physically and emotional safe community for children. We gave them hands on experience running and coaching sports periods. We asked them to brainstorm the best (and worst) counselor attributes. It was intensive and grueling and simultaneously a tremendously fun bonding experience.
To open the training weekend Scott posed this question to our Junior Counselor: Of all of the things that you learned at Camp what was most valuable to you? After two years away from our from our community we were curious to know how they viewed their years spent at our summer camp in NH. Here is some of what they said:
The importance of learning to share and compromise
Living with other people is really important. Being in a bunk with 7 other kids your age when you’re 9 years old – it’s a lot of practice learning how to communicate and compromise. That’s helped me a lot as I’ve gotten older in a lot of situations. If feel like I’m more ready for college and living in a dorm with roommates than most of my friends.
Becoming more independent and self-sufficient
It’s helpful learning how to be self-sufficient without your parents, which I assume is going to be really important in college. So much of that comes from what the counselors taught me. I learned to take care of myself more and rely less on other people.
Healthy risk assessment and growing comfortable trying new things
Being confident and being able to try new things. It seems like something really small but being comfortable jumping in the lake or leaping off of the zip line. Trying new things that you wouldn’t be able to do, or wouldn’t feel comfortable to do, at Camp. That’s what Camp is all about. That’s what our camp is all about.
Developing lasting self-confidence
I wouldn’t say that it’s just, like, the actual things that you do, it’s also the things that you do with other people. This is going to sound really stupid but learning to be courageous for yourself. My camp friends know that I’m going to be myself at Camp and they are always going to laugh with me, not at me. We can always joke about things. You can just be yourself at Camp in a way that you never can when you are in school.
Improved critical thinking and reasoning
I think it’s about learning to be open minded. I mean, I know that I never would have jumped off of the bridge on the canoe trip but I did. And…it’s just not necessarily doing things that made me feel uncomfortable…but it’s like that limbo between “I don’t know if I have the courage to do that, and I don’t want to do that”. Camp helped me sort through those moments. I couldn’t do that before.
I think that Camp gives you the opportunity to make mistakes more than any other place. It helps building confidence, being able to make mistakes. I think you learn more, too. Camp was an environment where I could make as many mistakes as I wanted to and end up better off. I learned from my mistakes in a way that didn’t have a massive negative impact on my life, my grades.
Social and Emotional Intelligence
I feel like because of Camp when I’m in a situation, like at my job, if we have a new person come in I’m always the first one to walk over and say “Hey, my name is Danny, welcome to the job”, or if my boss needs someone to get helped out I’m always the first person she goes to. Camp has been a big part of my life…so I think that ever since I was a little kid, with Camp being there for me, it’s taught me to stretch out my hand to others and want to be more supportive than most people.
A values-driven community with real role models
At a lot of places it can be cool to put someone down or something, but at K&E not only is it not cool it’s decidedly uncool. We shut that down. We don’t shun the person, but we shun the behavior. No one becomes more popular at Camp by being mean. So even if it’s not just people being friendly to you, you’re being friendly to other people, just looking around and observing what’s considered good behavior you pick up on when people are doing the wrong thing and when they are doing the right thing.
Conflict Resolution and Problem Solving
I think for the girls you kind of have some drama sometimes, but as you get older you really learn that it’s not worth it and you kind of learn to deal with your problems. You learn when to put them aside because we’re all here at Camp to have fun and you learn at Evergreen that the drama just isn’t worth it. You learn how to solve your problems in a more mature or productive way.
Each of these quotes comes from of our most recent graduates. After spending their childhood in our intentional community, and then leaving it to explore the world, these are the most valuable lessons that they learned at our overnight camp. As you read, these were profound, life-altering lessons and skills that they developed during their camper years. Even as high school students they recognize that these life skills give them a distinct advantage or leg up on the rest of the world. That is what we work on every day at our brother-sister summer camp in New Hampshire, and the outcomes we hope to foster in each of our campers.