The Sign Says It

October 20th, 2017

One of my favorite interviewers asks all of his guests a question at the end of the interview. It’s a simple one that requires people to truly think. Here’s the question:

“If you could put anything on a highway billboard sign, what would it say?”

Because I travel to meet families interested in sending their children to Weequahic, I see a lot of signs. Most of them are the plain-old ‘stop’, ‘yield,’ and street names and numbers. However, every now and then, I see one that really stands out.

Recently, I’ve seen a few road signs that actually made me think. Not so much about ‘Stop’, or ‘Yield,’ ‘Exit,’ etc. Those come and go and I certainly pay attention but they don’t make me think.

However, three signs I’ve passed on the road lately have made me think a bit more and I wanted to pass them along.

Create

The first of those was a sign I saw outside our hotel during a recent trip to Custer, South Dakota. (The Black Hills are ton of fun, FYI….)

Our little hotel was full of surprises: a huge wall of board games to enjoy, free panc

ake breakfasts with 15 different toppings, and a warm cookie ‘Happy Hour’ every day at 4pm, just to name a few. They did a lot of big and little things really well.

On the way out for another adventure in the area, we noticed their letter board sign for the first time. This is what it said:

Create the Life You Love

I had to talk to the owners. This place was just too much along the lines of what we try to do at Weequahic. Turns out, there were three owners and all had worked together for years at different hotels. They had learned the business inside and out and decided to head off on their own to create the experience they’d want as a guest.

The sign, they said, was simply what they were doing. And, it showed!

Thankful

I drive through a number of towns that have churches with the billboard signs. Most of them are cute reminders of what they are about. Driving from camp to NYC a few weeks back, one of the churches had this out front:

We don’t need more to be thankful for. We need to be more thankful.

As a camp family, we have a lot. We have great people, fantastic campers, supportive and engaged families, a beautiful setting, and really good camp food. The opportunities we get on a daily basis would stagger the mind of anyone who didn’t ‘know’ camp.

And, the more thankful we are, the more we’ll enjoy it. And, we can be even more thankful. Which leads to more enjoyment. The wheel just keeps on going.

Grattitude

The first time I saw this sign, I was driving from LaGuardia Airport to Weequahic. Cruising up I-87 in the Harlem area, the Grattitude sign loomed. This was several years ago and just one summer after we had first introduced our GAC values. So, as you could imagine, I took note.

The second time I drove by, I was with a friend who could take a picture of the sign for me.

However, upon looking at the result later that night, I realized the sign was misspelled – there is an extra ‘t.’

Turns out, the artist responsible for the work added the extra ‘t’ to, in his own words, ‘turbo charge the grateful feelings.’ It could also be thought of combining both ‘gratitude’ and ‘attitude.’

As it stood there for several years, the sign was a fantastic reminder of timeless idea: adopt the attitude of gratitude and you’ll have a happier life. I miss the reminder.

What’s Your Sign?

How about you? What would your sign say?

But don’t stop just at figuring out would it would say. Rather, go further and think whether you live it or not. Because, really, your own actions are the sign you choose to show the world on a daily basis.

So, what’s your sign? Have a great week!

– Cole

The Comparison Trap

October 13th, 2017

I’ve been reading a lot about anxiety in our nation’s youth. Getting to work with kids all summer, I’m blessed to see it on the other side; if our campers arrive anxious, they leave relaxed, engaged and connected.

But, as a camp director and parent to middle school boys, I’m concerned about the rise of anxiety amongst our kids.  And, it’s certainly on camp directors’ minds. Just in the past week, the subject has been raised to me three different times by different colleagues.

Because I don’t know what I really think until I write it down, here are my thoughts on what it’s all about and few ideas on how we can move forward.

The Comparison Trap

As never before in history, humans are literally bombarded with information. We have access to more information about more events around the world in every sphere of activity – governments, markets, sports, arts, and more.

This gives us unheard of amounts of knowledge. And, it gives us the ability to compare ourselves to everyone else, all the time.

Where did this person go to college? What is this person wearing? What did my friend do yesterday that is so cool? Why didn’t I make the same grade What team did she make? What a cool car/job/house/vacation….

We’ve always compared ourselves to others. It’s a human trait. However, up until a few years ago, the comparison has been to the guy or girl sitting next to you. Now, all of the sudden, we can compare ourselves to EVERYONE.

One of my oft-quoted writers is Mark Twain. He had a lot of wisdom amongst his witticisms and one, in particular, seems apt now: “Comparison is death of joy.”

Personally, I have a hard time with this myself and that’s after 43 years of life experience. I’m barely prepared to handle the information and opportunities coming at me. If that’s the case, what do you think this does to our middle and high schoolers?

The effect on them has been devastating. To me, the constant flow of information leads to constant comparisons. And that, to echo Mr. Twain’s words, steals a young person’s joy.

Possible Anxiety Antidotes

As one my teachers recently said, comparison won’t get you where you want to be. Here’s the quote from Bernadette Jiwa:

“It’s doubtful that comparing yourself or your work to someone else’s will get you to where you want to go…. (Y)ou can’t own your unique identity if you’re spending the majority of your time looking over your shoulder.”

As with a lot of Bernadette tells me, I agree. And that, to me, is the beauty of camp. Here are a few lessons from camp that I think may help our anxious young people. (They might be helpful for us… more experienced people!)

Presence

I recently listened to a podcast about getting out of your own way. The teacher, Gary John Bishop, was comparing the host’s view on life with his young daughter’s:

“At four years old, she has freedom to be. There are no constraints. She doesn’t have to be this way or that way, that way or this way. She’s way more present to the miracle of life than you are because, she is connected to what’s happening right now.”

That is the joy of camp. We totally unplug, stop the comparisons, and stay in the present. Campers are thinking about engaging right now with what they are doing and with whom they are doing it. Those moments are filled with joy, challenge, laughter, and friendships. These full moments of presence happen every day, no mindfulness or meditation needed.

Competence

Kids need to learn that they can do things on their own. This means not only making their bed, cooking a meal, changing a flat tire or unclogging a toilet. (Yes, our campers learn all of these things.)

Competence also means working through uncertainty with friends, learning how to ask questions, standing up for what you believe and learning how to learn when you are wrong.

These situations and learning build competence. And, when you have learned how to learn, this transfers to other situations.

Connection

Our kids need to connect to something larger than themselves. We humans are connective creatures – we thrive on working groups and have since the dawn of our time on earth. These connections need to be authentic, lasting, and honest.

Our current culture gets children (and adults) to start navel-gazing a lot. This comes from the comparison trap: look at that one, compare yourself, and nit-pick everything that doesn’t measure up.

Instead, our campers need to connect to something they love, which loves them, and creates a launching pad for further adventures. That’s what our counselors, division heads, and program heads do on a daily basis.

Last Thoughts

Here’s the thing: I’m just a camp director. All I know comes from working with kids and staff, reading a lot, and the experience we’ve had over 16 summers in camping.

Having said that, I do know the experience our campers have enjoyed has been incredibly positive on the whole.

Upon reflecting ‘why’, I believe it’s for these three outcomes found at Weequahic : presence, competence, and connection. (And, yes, I think talking about gratitude a lot helps, too!)

While maybe easier at camp, these outcomes are something our kids can pursue at home. Being completely present, building competencies, and forging connections certainly help to mitigate the feelings of anxiety. They all fill the space of comparison and fill our children with a deeper understanding of their own gifts. In our experience, they leave our campers with that joyful glow that leads to great memories, friendships, and outcomes.

Let’s all shoot to those goals.

Thanks for joining me around the campfire. Have a great week.

 

 

Appreciate the Moment

October 6th, 2017

Our first five summers at Weequahic are a blur to me. We were so focused on taking our great traditions, a property that had seen some better days and make CW an incredible place for our campers.

There were a lot of bumps along the way.  Because we were changing things, not everyone was thrilled with us. And, when things didn’t go just as I wanted and envisioned, I complained a lot… to a few people.

It never felt right but I complained anyway. I wanted Weequahic to be great right now, doggone it! I wasn’t being grateful for all the magic and fun around me.

But then my whole attitude turned on a dime. Why? Because I read a very short statement from a very smart man.

Enter Dr. Hawking

Stephen Hawking studies astrophysics, math, and a whole lot of other things. His work has revolutionized our understanding of how the universe works. He is one of the smartest and brain-abled humans on the planet.

And, he is confined to a wheelchair. In fact, he’s so debilitated that he cannot speak without the aid of a computer. However, that’s not stopped him from teaching classes, writing books, giving speeches and more. How is this possible?

I think he’s done so well because he’s decided to be grateful and positive. Here’s the quote that turned me around:

“When you complain, nobody wants to help you.” 

And, you know what? He’s right.

Focus

If you spend your time focusing on the things that are wrong, and that’s what you express and project to people you know, you don’t become a source of growth for others. Rather, you become a source of distraction.

The more you complain, the more you drag everyone around you down. And while pulling people down around you so that they feel the same way may feel good for a moment, it just makes things worse for everyone.

Dr. Hawking projects gratitude and inclusiveness and growth and humor and a

wickedly sharp intellect. It’s not just Dr. Hawking who approaches things with humility and gratitude.

A Stunning Fact

Speaking of humility and gratitude, here’s an odd question: which professional sports team has the highest winning percentage in history?

Here are the leaders in their sports:

·      NFL Denver Broncos: 58%

·      NBA San Antonio Spurs: 61%

·      NHL Montreal Canadians: 59%

·      MLB Yankees: 57%

Only a few of you may even know this teams name but they are famous in their sphere: the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team. They’ve won 83% of all their matches. That’s just straight-up domination.

The All Blacks are the best of the best of the best. And you know what they do after every game, no matter if they’ve won or lost?

They clean their own locker room top to bottom.

The All Blacks want to leave the place better than they found it. Each man who wears the shirt wants to leave the organization better than when he joined. They are grateful for the experience of competing together and take nothing for granted.

These men don’t complain. They are grateful for the growth.  They appreciate the moment, each and every time. And, they win.  A lot.

Gratitude at Camp Weequahic

Are you appreciating the moment?  This is a question I often ask at Campfire.

At Weequahic, we get to play. We get to build deep friendships. We get to do things we’d never dream of at home. There is a lot to appreciate and it’s easy to do.

This attitude can become a bit more challenging at home. We are all so busy – school, work, after school activities, homework, a bit of free time…. I know because that’s our own family’s schedule. The problem with being “busy” is that it often gets in the way of appreciative the opportunities and friends around you.

Take your moments with a grateful heart. Enjoy the little things because one day you may look back and realize they were really big things in disguise.

Let’s have a grateful week!

Cole

Drop the Rope

September 29th, 2017

Today at sundown marks the start of an important day in the life of many of our camp families.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement in English, is one of if not the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar. It’s a day for examining your actions and thoughts over the previous year, asking for forgiveness from both God and those you’ve wronged, and pledging to do better. It’s also a day for charity.

Asking for forgiveness and atoning for one’s digressions is important. First, it shows that you recognize that you’ve done wrong. Second, it allows forgiveness to enter into the equation – both you forgiving yourself and allowing the other you’ve wronged to do the same.

Sometimes, this means letting go of anger or jealousy or contempt or fear. Carrying those emotions around is like a big block tied around your neck that you’ve got to lug around. Recognize what it is, ask for forgiveness, set that puppy down and walk away from it!

That leads me to story that is applicable and, I hope, useful for you.

Elephants May Not Forget….

A few years ago, a family traveled to India to learn more about the country and culture. In their travels, they stopped at an elephant preserve where, they were told, one could walk very close to the enormous beasts.

As they entered, the father noticed the attendants walking the world’s largest and most powerful animal around by a short length of rope.

Concerned for their safety, the father cried out, “What are you doing?! That elephant can snap the rope anytime it wants and trample us all!”

“Sir,” the attendant replied, “please calm down and let me explain.

You see, when all the elephants here are born, we place a rope around their leg and tie the other end to a large tree. The young elephant is not strong enough to break the rope or move the tree.

Over time, the elephant learns that the rope controls it and this knowledge changes the elephant forever. While it’s certainly strong enough to break the rope, these elephants don’t know it.”

Drop the Rope

Imagine that – a small rope holding back one of the most powerful animals in the world. If the elephant only knew, it would be off to the races and fast!

But, the elephant would have to recognize the rope for what it truly is – a small thing, which could easily be broken or dropped, that has been given inordinate power over their actions and beliefs.

How about you? What ropes have you allowed to be placed on your leg (by others or yourself) that are holding you back? How you deal with your friends or family? Feeling guilty about something in the past or future? Being angry, lazy, rude, or jealous?

Regardless of your beliefs, spending a hour or day thoughtfully reviewing your past deeds and atoning for transgressions is a useful and beneficial practice. It will lead you to places you may not want to visit inside yourself or with others. However, the power of forgiveness is an awesome thing and I wish you all to experience it.

Talk with you next week.

(This story came from Joshua Medcalf’s Pound the Stone. I highly recommend it to all.)

Building Confidence Through Commitment

September 22nd, 2017

I’m so lucky to have tons of opportunities to connect with our campers throughout the summer. While all are a lot of fun, one of my favorite evenings each summer is spent with our rising 10th and 11th graders.

On separate nights for the young ladies and young men, we gather at the beach, cook together, and sit around the campfire to talk and laugh and learn about big issues.

This past summer, one of our CITs asked an important question and I didn’t do a very good job answering it. So, I’m going to try to do better now.

The question was:

How do you become confident?

It’s important question, especially for young people. It’s important because there are going to be a lot of times in our lives when you don’t feel confident but you really, really want to be.

Here’s the thing: when you are interested in something, you come up with all these excuses and plans and reasons and circumstances on why you can’t or it won’t work.

But if you are committed to something, you find a way.

So, to me, the more important question is ‘What are you going to completely commit yourself to?’

Creating the Future

Now, that’s a bit dangerous because it requires you to think a bit about the future. You can’t truly commit to something unless you can clearly envision what your world will be like when you get there.

The most common way to deal with the future is to try to predict it. To be in the right place at the right time with the right skills or investments.

A far more successful and reliable approach is to invent the future. Not all of it, mind you. Just a little part. But enough of a part to make a difference.

And, how do you invent that future when you don’t have the right skills/background/experience/knowledge? You do it by controlling two things you have total and complete power over:

Your attitude and your effort.

You can bring more generosity of spirit, more enthusiasm, more kindness, more resilience, more positive energy, more bravery and more curiosity to the situation than anyone else. Ask for help, accept your mistakes and learn from them. Get back up over and over and over again.

Because you choose to. Because you are committed.

And, one day down the road, after you’ve gained experience through the pursuit of that commitment, you’ll find yourself confident.

The Next Question

So, the next question would be, “What do you value so much that you are willing to put in that much effort, time and passion?” Just like Weequahic’s program, it’s your choice….

Have a great week!

Teaching Trees

September 15th, 2017

Did you know the oldest living thing in the world is an almost 5,000 year old tree named Methuselah? We know it’s in California but not exactly where – the Forestry Service keeps that secret.

Another interesting fact – the LARGEST living thing in the world is also a tree – the General Sherman tree also in California. It’s 275’ tall and 36’ around at the base. It’s enormous. Huge.

I thought a lot about trees this past summer and used them in one of our Campfire talks. In fact, as I was walking around camp one evening thinking about the upcoming talk, a story from one of my teachers popped into my head.

Lessons from the Orchard

One day, a lady was walking down a beautiful country lane. To her left were fields of vegetables. On her right, there was an incredible apple orchard. Trees as far as the eye could see and all full of apples.

As she walked along, she came to an apple tree lying on the ground. It was huge, and old, and had more apples than any other tree. But it was laying on the ground.

She hopped the fence to inspect. Did the wind knock it down? Were there too many apples on it? In a few moments, the owner of the orchard pulled up and greeted the inquisitive lady. When she asked why the tree fell, the farmer pointed out the worms and the rot that toppled the tree.

“What do you do know?” she asked the farmer.

“The only thing you can do,” he replied. “Collect the fruit and burn the tree.”

(The crazy thing about this lesson popping into my head on a late Wednesday night is that the very next morning one of our oldest, biggest crab apple trees fell at Weequahic!)

Lessons in Life

We all make mistakes – and we are supposed to! The only learning or growth that happens is on the other side of ‘comfort’ or your current knowledge.

The bigger mistake is failing to look at the lessons from the mistake and move forward. Rather, a lot of times, we spend hours or days obsessing about the failure. We beat ourselves up about the mistake or we glibly move on without a second thought.

I feel both responses are mistakes. Remember, everyone makes mistakes. Don’t compound the mistake by failing to learn from it.

We need to be more like the farmer – collect the fruit and burn the tree. Take the lessons from your mistake and move forward with humility and purpose. It’ll make for a better life down the road. Have a great week!

Profiles in Courage

September 8th, 2017

The following was adapted from our final Campfire talk during Summer ‘17. With our families in Houston and South Florida dealing with the forces of nature, I thought it would be appropriate. All of our thoughts and prayers are with y’all!

It takes courage to…. Remain Hopeful

A bit more than 100 years ago, Ernest Shakleton decided he wanted to be the first to cross the Antarctic by land.  This was well before good heaters, engines, and safe/fast boats as we know them today.

The goal was a big deal in England and elsewhere. In fact, his advertisement for staff is almost as famous as what later happened:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant threat of danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.”

Shakelton and the 27 men signed on set sail on his boat Endurance for the South Pole. All was going well until disaster struck at the very edge of Antartica – the Endurance, one of the strongest boats on the seas at the time, was trapped by ice.

Over the following week, the boat was slowly crushed and destroyed leaving 27 men thousands of miles from home, stuck on the ice with little food, few supplies, and no ability to call for help.

How does Shakelton respond? The expedition’s doctor documented the explorer’s words:

“It’s a pity but that cannot be helped. It’s the men we have to think about.”

Over the next 22 months, Shakleton’s team lived on the ice, battled the elements, made an impossible sea voyage to an island 800 miles away to find help for the whole party, climbed over and down a mountain having not eaten in weeks, found help, and sailed back immediately to get his comrades.

The most amazing thing? Every one of Shakleton’s men made it home safely. His courage led to hope not only for himself but also for those for whom he cared.

It takes courage to…. Stand Up for What’s Right

In 1955, our country was not in a good place. There were terrible laws in some states requiring people to sit in different spots, use different water fountains, and go to different schools because of the color of their skin.

One woman, Rosa Parks, had been affected by this system of repression for her 42 years of life. Coming home one evening from her job as a seamstress, Mrs. Parks was asked to move from her seat to make room for a white man. She said ‘No.’

She knew what would happen and it did – she was arrested and taken to jail. Can you believe that? Just for not moving to the back of the bus.

Some thought she must have been tired, the reason for her not moving. Mrs. Parks responded:

“I wasn’t physically tired… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

This was a courageous thing to do. What is courage but being fearful and doing the right thing anyway?

But, Mrs. Parks was not done yet.

Later that evening, after being bailed out of prison, Mrs. Parks agreed to be the focal point in a lawsuit brought against the City of Birmingham and the face of a boycott that lasted for over 300 days.

In the end, through threats and difficulty, right was awarded and those awful laws were changed.

It takes courage to…. Be Vulnerable

A very smart person named Dr. Brene Brown has spent a long time studying the important topics of courage, belonging, worth, and vulnerability. Let’s start with courage:

It comes from ‘coer’ which is latin for ‘heart.’ In Dr. Brown’s words, courage means to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

And here’s the thing – you are not perfect. You already know this. You have a few habits your want to change, a thought or two you’d like to not have, automatic responses that you would like to be different.

So, you have to have the courage to be imperfect. This takes compassion to be kind to yourself, first. Then, you can build connection to others as a result of your authenticity. But to be authentic, you have to be vulnerable.

It’s not fun but it’s necessary. And, you don’t get a guarantee that it will go your way. But here’s the important thing Dr. Brown found out – vulnerability is birthplace of love, joy, creativity, and belonging.

So, in order to ‘belong’ you have to be vulnerable. In order to be vulnerable, you have to be courageous.

The Need for Courage

As that really old dude said thousands of years ago, “Courage is the first of human values because it makes all others possible.” (It was Aristotle.)

The good news? Courage is like a muscle – the more you use it, the more you’ll have. Start small and start soon. While you might not ever be trapped on the ice for two years, you will have moments in your life that call for a courageous decision made or action taken.

We wish for all of our families (and everyone else) involved with recovering from hurricanes a quick and safe return to their lives.

Why I Can’t Wait to Come Back to Camp

September 4th, 2017

For those who have never worked at a summer camp before, there are many questions to ask and ideas to consider about life at a summer camp, but at Camp Weequahic, returning staff can put all worries to rest about what it is like to work at the most special summer camp this world has to offer.

For starters, working at a summer camp is all about helping kids grow and become better individuals and one of the most rewarding aspects of working at camp is the ability to watch all sorts of talented kids grow and master what they love. More often than not, the staff returns to see the campers they have helped, anticipating all the potential within them for another summer at camp.

Along with the campers, all the staff members look forward to spending another summer with friends they have met from all over the world. Camp Weequahic nurtures friendships not just for campers, but for staff as well, and Camp Weequahic is a place that allows people to strengthen friendships with people from Australia, South Africa, England and any place imaginable.

Because of all the people staff members are able to work with, Camp Weequahic is the most positive working environment, everyone is happy to spend another day of the summer with their co-counselors and campers. It never really feels like work because you always have that much fun wherever and whatever you’re doing at Camp Weequahic. With all these positive elements of working at Camp Weequahic, it’s no wonder so many staff members return each summer to once again feel the magic of Camp Weequahic, a place that is truly worth the ten for two.

 

 

 

 

 

We Either Win or…

September 1st, 2017

So, how do you finish that phrase? There are lots of options.

‘We lose’ is the most often used word for that line of thinking. It’s all about the result: it’s either ‘win’ or ‘lose’; there is no in-between.

As a camp director, I get to help some young people manage the ‘we cry’ reaction. And, yes, they get a lot better about it over the years. You would think it’s all boys but it’s not.

We even hear some people finish the sentence with ‘we laugh’. As a competitive person myself, I’m not a fan of that mentality. I certainly want laughter involved with competition – it is supposed to be joyful to play. But, if I don’t win, I’m not always going to laugh.

Weequahic’s Answer

You may have other ideas on what should finish the sentence. To us at Weequahic, the best way to finish ‘We either win or…’ phrase is this: we learn.

Thomas Edison famously said ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that do not work.’ We all see a great deal better for his persistence in learning. Failure to learn from the situation is the truest failure because it dooms us to repeat the same mistakes over and over.

Now, just because we decide (and, yes, it is a decision) to approach winning or learning in this manner doesn’t mean the lessons won’t be uncomfortable or, at times, painful.

We’ve learned a lot over the past decade of running Weequahic and have changed everything from the menu to the snacks to how we do our programming and more. Some of that learning has been joyful but a lot of it challenging. But, I believe we are a better camp for those lessons. And, I know our campers are better off for this mentality, too.

As we approach a new school year, our campers will have many opportunities to either win or learn. (Hopefully, they will learn in both situations!) Our hope is that they’ll work hard to either win or learn in every opportunity they find.

 Good luck to everyone at school this year. We can’t wait to see you back at Weequahic for Summer ’18!

 

21st Century Skills at Weequahic

May 22nd, 2017

As a parent, I find myself falling into the trap of wanting my kids to “grow up” too quickly. In my more impatient moments, I find myself thinking, “Why can’t they make/do/think/etc. like I can?” Why can’t they grow up?

 

And then I see one of the greatest coaches of all time talk about the importance of attitude and joy and the consequences of college kids acting like 12 year olds.

 

Which reminds me – my boys are young! And, while I’ve taught them what it means to make good decisions, treat others kind, be thoughtful of others feelings, know and how to stand up for what’s important, they are still kids and they are supposed to make mistakes.

 

They aren’t grown ups and that’s a good thing. A very sweet story from Fredrik Backman illustrates this point beautifully:

 

“Tell me about school, Noahnoah,” Grandpa asks.

 

He always wants to know everything about school, but not like other adults who want to know if Noah is behaving. Grandpa wants to know if the school is behaving. It hardly ever is.

 

“Our teacher made us write a story about what we want to be when we’re big,” Noah tells him.

 

 “What did you write?”

 

“I wrote that I wanted to concentrate on being little first.”

 

I like that. And, it helps me explain the gift of camp. We want our kids to concentrate on being kids before anything else. They’ll grow up soon enough and we’ll have done our part in equipping them for that growth.

 

But what does that mean? At Weequahic, we think it means:

 

Play

Our campers get to play. They turn off, unplug, and engage with other kids who want to do the same. The get to explore with no expectations other than their safety, adventure without knowing the end result, and laugh without a care.

 

This leads to….

 

Experiential Learning

These big words really just means ‘figuring things out.’ You get your hands dirty. You sweat. You get confused and then break it apart and try again. Then, you figure it out and that knowledge is yours… forever. And, it not just about doing things – its about emotions and handling missing home and everything else. (This is where independence starts to blossom.)

 

This is helps and is helped by….

 

Making new friends

The more our campers get excited about something, the more likely they are to get connected with kids doing the same thing – they want to learn together. They want to build community. They want to reach out and trust and explore with others who feel the same. PLUS, they are surrounded by mentors excited to guide, prod, and team along the way.

 

This leads to….

 

Building Courage

Here’s the thing we don’t realize all the time: Courage is a muscle that is built with use. It’s not about being ‘unafraid.’ Being uncomfortable is the only time we can practice courage. And, the more friends/support we have around us, the easier it is to build those courage muscles.

 

Higher levels of personal courage allows us to be a peace with ourselves, more comfortable in our own skin.

 

This leads to…

 

Practicing Gratitude

It’s pretty simple: grateful people are happier people. And, it actually takes some courage to express gratitude since it might make you feel awkward the first time or two you do it. It takes even more courage to live by those grateful words. But the more we do, the more we get to experience….

 

Wonder and Joy

This is the final step in that ‘what do we campers out of camp’ chain. If they’ve played, learned without knowing it, made some friends, built their courage, and started practicing a grateful outlook, the are MUCH more likely to live with wonder and joy.

 

So, are these 21st Century Skills? Well, I think they are. We’ll still need to be able to cook our meals, change a tire, etc. But, with the rise of automation and technology, we’ll need to prepare our kids to become adults with these important skills. And, to me, camp is a great place to get them rolling.

 

Can’t wait to get everyone to camp! With GAC,
Cole