It’s December! The trees are pretty bare, the wind is starting to swirl with flurries form the cold North winds, and people in the mid-west are cozying up in their big sweaters while eating all things pumpkin spice and peppermint mocha. Camp counselors all over the land are reflecting on the previous summer while experiencing flashbacks to warmer days and song filled moments of joy.
Being retrospective about the summer is a hugely important part of our own personal evaluation and growth process, allowing us to apply the lessons we've learned to life in the here and now. It can also throttle us forward in the planning process for next summer; Assisting camp leadership with ways to improve next year by sharing what we experienced and what we learned.
But wait… we often look back at the summer as a big wonderful picture with rose colored glasses and forget the effort it took for us to get through each day. To help us process our experiences and gain valuable insight it's important to learn how to celebrate our successes, big and small. There’s a quick nod of appreciation or a social media post congratulating us on completing the summer but do we really celebrate the small victories that helped us complete the bigger picture?
Let's take a moment and consider those smaller accomplishments. Those can go almost completely unnoticed! Maybe you figured out a better way to coordinate evening activity, or shared a really hilarious moment that allowed your co-counselors to shake off the stress and get to know you better – those little moments are just as important as the big, game changing wins. Every success is worth celebrating, even the smallest act can have a big impact. For example, on an average day you probably don’t notice how many times you blink, a blink may mean nothing to you but to your eye it’s a welcome drink and protection from the elements. Try not to blink for a full minute, or even 30 seconds and you’ll understand. Small moments have big impacts, a blink goes unnoticed but regular blinking keeps our eyes healthy and allows us to focus on the more important things like reading, just like all those small successes at camp will eventually lead to a big shift, and a great big win.
Take a few moments, grab a piece of paper and write down all the WINS you had this past summer, big and small. Then read and re-read your list. Just sit for a moment and allow yourself to get excited about the things you have accomplished! Now take a moment to organize this list of WINS into the following categories; program, campers, meals, facilities, camp leadership, staff, health & safety, and list the things you're proud of in each section.
So now that you have quietly acknowledged your awesomeness – do something to celebrate it! Sing your favorite camp song, text a co-counselor and reconnect, or just do something that will make you happy and remind you of camp; no matter what it is just make sure it’s a celebration!
Next, share what you've learned with the camp leadership team. It might seem daunting at first, but believe in what you have learned and focus on the positives! Sharing these priceless jewels of small successes will ignite the planning process, lift their spirits and give them the insight they need to tackle the issues that need to be addressed for next summer. Go ahead and email your list to Caroline@campsconnect.org.
So, What’s your favorite accomplishment of the summer? Do you have a special way of rewarding yourself for the big and small victories? Tell me about it in the comments below!
- Jenny Fehn, Media
Maria Miller is a CYO Girls Camper with a passion for camp and a sweet personality.
I met up with Maria, her cabin-mates, and counselors on August 7th at CYO Girls Camp. It was a hot, sticky day (some would say uncharacteristically so this summer). It was hot, but Maria and her cabin mates were in good spirits as they tackled the task of cooking campfire chili for lunch on the beach.
Q: Maria, I’ve heard you’ve been to CYO camp a few times now. How long have you been coming to camp?
A: A couple of years, and this is my second time this summer. I love it.
Q: What are your favorite activities at Girls Camp?
A: I love to play gaga ball. Another game I really like is nucome. You play it over a volleyball net but it has different rules. I like that you can play with a little or a lot of people and no one is really left out.
My third favorite is Arts and Crafts. Lanyards are fun to do anywhere when you have free time.
Q: Where do you go to school and what grade are you in?
A: I go to Linden Middle School. I’m going into 8th grade.
Q: So what do you like most about coming to camp?
A: All the fun I have and the friends I make. I try and invite other friends to come to camp but they are too busy so I just come alone. I like making new friends.
Q: How does camp change you?
A: I know I am getting closer to God.
Q: So what’s something that you’ve learned at camp that you can take home with you?
A: That I’m getting closer to God and that it doesn’t matter what people think of you, it only matters what God thinks. I am more confident.
Q: Do you think you’ll come back next summer?
A: I really want to and I hope I can.
Q: What’s something that you will tell another girl about CYO Camp that’s never been to camp before?
A: That’s it’s a lot of fun and the counselors are really there for you. You get to do a lot of cool things and make friends.
Allowing kids to play in an unstructured, natural atmosphere is a valuable component in any camp program.
According to Tom Jacobs' article, The Value of Unstructured Playtime for Kids, "Free play allows children to develop the flexibility needed to adapt to changing circumstances and environments—an ability that comes in very handy when life becomes unpredictable as an adult."
Free unstructured play helps children build a wide range of skills necessary for success in school and out, from making friends and negotiating to problem solving, thinking creatively, and practicing self control. Parents that send their kids to camp are take a solid step to ensure that they have plenty of time to get out there and play, especially during the more leisurely summer months.
Here's How We Do it at Camps Connect
What Kids Can Learn
The advantages your child gains from play may seem a mystery when he's tearing through the yard with sticks in hand, but he's growing in mind, body, and spirit by leaps and bounds:
Character virtues. Children develop a unique sense of resiliency from being creative. While finishing a stick tower, for example, they may encounter a moment when the tower refuses to stand. It may even topple a few times. By trying again and again, kids learn about perseverance and gain courage and confidence in their own problem-solving abilities.
Social skills. Research shows that make-believe games provide kids with opportunities to learn about group dynamics. Give kids of almost any age a ball and a few miscellaneous objects for instance, and they'll create their own game, and in the process hone their ability to collaborate, cooperate, lead, empathize, and control impulses.
Physical development. Babies learn how to crawl, to stand, and eventually to walk. You watched your preschooler figure out how to hang from the first rung on the monkey bars (with perhaps a boost from you), and then work his way on his own to the second rung and the third, and so on, as he also builds up his physical development with strength, coordination, competence, and sense of body awareness in space. Given the space and time of free-play in a camp environment children hone those large and fine motor skills while sifting through sand for seashells, practice shooting hoops, or blowing bubbles.
Self-discovery. Kids need time to be kids — to write, think, dream, draw, build, dance, fantasize. That's how they discover their likes and dislikes. Be sure to allow your child this special kid time.
Creativity. Above all, creative play is a simple joy that is a cherished part childhood. Creativity in adults is highly valued in our society. Personal creativity contributes to inventiveness, innovation, social and cultural change. The creative child is an innovator, a problem solver, an entrepreneur, an artist. Allowing children the opportunity for creativity help them to achieve their life goals as adults and teach them to enjoy the journey. After all, where else can you be the mud queen?
To learn more about our summer camp, outdoor education programs, and rental opportunities visit us at www.campsconnect.org
ANNA BLACK MORIN, Camp Director of Pine Forest Camp in Greeley, PA recently received national attention when she wrote about the truths she's learned about being a fourth-generation camp director, new mom, and the incredible things that kids are learning at camp. Written with her wit and wisdom, by asking your camper a few leading questions you can discover how camp has given your child independence, resilience, and confidence.
Morin's article is a great resource for parents so much so that we want to share it with you. We also encourage you to ask your camper these leading questions, to discover just how powerfully they have changed with the light of Christ.
What's One thing you learned about God that you can apply at home?
When we meet Jesus, not only does He change our present, He changes our future.Sometimes life leaves us in confusion - head down, discouraged, and without hope. The pressures that kids face today can make the dreams of becoming something or someone great seem so distant. When you fan the flame of what your child has learned about God at camp you give them an encouraging reminder that they can shine!
What has God taught you about the truth of who you are?
Everyone loves a good story.
Gripping stories can launch us to the edge of our seat championing for the underdog to win the big game. Then, bring us to tears when injustice befalls the innocent. And then sigh with contentment when everything turns out alright in the end. God has a purpose for your child's story. In Mark 4:21-34, Jesus reminds us of the power He has given us in our personal story. It echoes the purpose for the light He has given us - to shine!
How can you let your light shine?
See the theme here? Asking your child how they can apply the theme of summer camp to their life at home reminds them of who they were at camp.... the courageous song leader, the supportive cabin-mate to a homesick friend, the star of the stage, the camper praised for helping others, or the camper who conquered their fears on the high ropes course. The identity that kids earn at camp gives them the opportunity to become the best, happiest, truest version of themselves as they rejoice in the reality of who God created them to be!
When we ask our kids about camp and how it has changed their life, we are sharing more than words - we’re sharing the most valuable gift, the Gospel!
This post was originally published on the Gary Forster Camping Newsletter and is being republished here with permission. www.garyforster.com
Why do we sing camp songs? Willy Therrien is one of the great philosophers of camping, and past director of Camp Takodah in NH. I asked Willy for his thoughts on how “intentionally” he and his staff used camp songs. He replied: “Here are a few reasons why we generally stick with traditional songs and hold off on using current pop songs for singing at camp:
1. They sound better.
Great songs can be sung unaccompanied. The great folk songs of the 1900's and pop music written in Tin Pan Alley could be performed on a street corner or in someone's living room or parlor - sometimes with a small guitar or banjo. Today's pop music is crafted differently - it relies on instrumental hooks and rhythm tracks that marginalize the role of the singer. Vocal parts are more ornamental and designed to show off a vocalist's talent rather than to carry a melody. And those vocal parts sound pretty weak without an accompanying band or karaoke tape.
2. They're portable.
Campers sing camp songs all over the place - in the cabins, in the Dining Hall, in the shower, on the car ride home... Songs that sound good unaccompanied can get carried anywhere.
3. They leave some mystery.
Remember when, as a child, your parents would talk about some things that you would understand ‘when you got older?’ By referencing adult themes like sexuality, violence, criminals, and death, old-time songs tend to use metaphors and innuendo that keep some mystery in the song. Old time songs also tend to refer to the consequences of dangerous acts in ways that resemble Roadrunner Cartoons - winding up in jail, having 48 kids, and blowing up the planet - rather than the explicit images in the lyrics of a lot of songs on the radio.
4. They're unique to camp.
If you can hear it on the radio and sing it with your friends at school, what's the point of going away to camp? Things at camp should feel different, and songs from another era - or songs written at your camp - lend to that feeling of living in (and belonging to) another world.
5. Feeling a part of Tradition.
As songs are passed from generation to generation, it's pretty cool for kids to go home singing the same songs their grandparents once sang. It gives families something to connect with one another about. That's important, since so few of our grandparents went to a camp that had a Ropes Course or Windsurfing...
6. Challenge and Rewards.
When campers master learning some of the tongue-twisting lyrics and tricky melodies of a few of our camp songs, they feel some real accomplishment and mastery. It's also created a tradition where campers teach one another songs rather than staff having to teach kids - it gives them a kind of ownership in the camp experience.
7. They can change.
The words to these songs changed dozens of times before they even arrived at our camp. We have multiple songs that go with these same melodies. The folk tradition lends itself to change, and that has made it easy to alter or omit songs when they don't fit well at camp. Some of our oldest camp songs had some racist overtones in them when I looked back at old word sheets. Glad to see they could evolve as our country's social awareness and morals evolved.
8. Camp Pride.
We must have a dozen "pride" songs about how great our camp is. People can't spell our camp name without singing the words to in their head. There's nothing like hearing our campers roar some of these songs and cheers in the Dining Hall at the end of a great session at camp.
“Finally, I can't overlook the benefit of "new" camp songs. Songs don't have to be "Old Timey" to work at camp, though most of our songs are over 60 years old. We have some campers from other nations and ethnic backgrounds that have brought some great, positive music to camp that will be with us for decades. I can't wait to learn some new ones this summer.” -- Willy Therrien firstname.lastname@example.org
Summer staff training has begun at Camps Connect, and that means a flurry of activity taking place on the camps. From greeting new staff members from Michigan and beyond, to participating in new name games and activities, this time of new beginnings is filled with hope and promise for our 2014 summer camp staff!
So why do we do staff training? In a nutshell we do it to experience camp life before the campers arrive so that we can share with them the same experiences we have as staff members; being the new person, playing name games, and building a team through activities and initiatives are all important steps that we take to relate to our campers.
Having a properly trained staff is also an important step in reducing the risk of accidents and injuries on camp. Safety training is an essential part of every activity area and embedded in the culture of Camps Connect. Staff are required to take a 3 hour course on Protecting God's Children. After all, we are in fact taking care of someone else's gift from God when we act in loco parentis, which literally means, "in place of the parent."
The number one concern of parents in staff qualifications and supervision. This week and in the week to come we'll be diving into a variety of training sessions to ensure that our staff have the skills and qualifications to be entrusted with their most precious children. In addition, staff will learn to facilitate camper health, opportunities for communication with children, camper expectations and behaviors, and camp program logistics to ensure a smooth and successful summer camp experience for each child.
So stay tuned! We've got lots to share as we journey into Summer Camp 20141
For more information about Camps Connect and our summer camp programs for boys and girls ages 7-16 on the shores of Lake Huron please visit: www.campsconnect.org
As we mentioned before in our last post, staff orientation is just days away! Today our admin staff arrive at camp and put the finishing magical touches on all the great stuff happening this summer! We still have more summer staff to introduce...
Hi, I'm "Blossom"! I currently work at a preschool and I'm from Oxford, Michigan. I've worked at camp since 2011 and I'm excited to be a counselor at CYO Camps this summer!
I love working at camp. It's like my second home. I am really excited about meeting the new campers and staff and seeing who is returning to camp this summer.
Hi, I'm Trevor Harnden and I'm from Marlette, Michigan. I've been working at camp since 2012. This summer I will be a Team Leader at the CYO Camps.
I want to work at camp this summer to give kids of all ages, one of the best weeks of their lives., and give them an experience they will always remember. I also want to help kids, either grow their relationship with God, or even just learn more about God and the the word of the Bible. I also want to learn more about myself, and maybe find some new talents I never knew I had.
I'm really looking forward to being around nature and getting away from technology for a while. Just having a fun time with the campers, and staff. I am a musician, (I write music and I can also play, piano, ukulele, guitar, drums, accordion, bass.) Other hobbies include soccer refereeing, video games, telling lame jokes, going to festivals, dressing up in costumes, juggling, D.J.
When I grow up I want to travel around the world, doing something I love.
My name is "SASQUATCH"! I'm from Clinton Twp., Michigan and a recent graduate of Wayne State University with a dual major in English and History. I want to be a high school teacher. I like reading, swimming, video games, and CAMP!
I've been working at camp since 2012 and this summer I will be a counselor at Camp Ozanam. I can't stay away! These past two summers have been the best of my life and I can't imagine not coming back again.
This summer, I'm really looking forward to EAGLE'S EGGS!
St. Vincent DePaul Detroit enrollment for 2014 Summer Camp is well underway. The Vincentians have been busy meeting with campers and their families and getting them registered for Camp Ozanam! The 9 scheduled enrollment gatherings have already been held and there is still room for campers ages 8-12 in trips 3, 4 and 5. Adventure Camp is filled!
Camper applications should be returned to your Vincentian and they will be forwarded to camp upon approval.
For more information about how to enroll a camper in this program visit: svdpdet.org/need-help/camps
Can you believe it? The start of summer camp staff training is just DAYS away!
We've been busy with Camp Ozanam camper enrollment gatherings and doing our last minute preparations for Summer Camp. But there are still more staff to meet... so sit down, relax and think summer as you read about our newest Camp Ozanam staff member!
This week we'd like to introduce Sara Hartshorn, from Harrison, MI! Sara is new to Camp Ozanam, but she's not new to the summer camp scene. She's enjoyed the summer camp environment for many summers as a kid.
"I'm really looking forward to helping the campers have some of the same great experiences that I had. I am excited for the opportunity to help them learn, grow and get to know God.", says Sara.
As a counselor this summer, Sara is "looking forward to meeting and getting to know all of the fellow staff members and the campers. I'm very excited and eager to learn about the camp traditions and try new things. I'm especially looking forward to waking up early, going to chapel, singing camp songs, spending time at the lake and going to campfires!"
Sara has a lot of energy and enthusiasm for life, and that spills over into her relationship with God. She tells us, "I'm really goofy and silly and I like to make people laugh," and she's looking forward to sharing the Gospel this summer through the opportunities she'll have to create fun memories with Ozanam campers.
Sara likes to sing, cook, go hiking and kayaking, and hang out at the beach.
"I'm a huge nerd - I love super heroes (Thor is my favorite!), Harry Potter, dinosaurs, and Disney movies!"
Welcome to the Camp Ozanam family Sara!
Our first session of summer 2014 campers arrive in just over 25 days!
Our summer camp program, offered at Camp Ozanam for both boys and girls ages 8 to 14, provides the benefits of a traditional summer residential camp in a safe, fun-filled atmosphere where campers are inspired by the gospel of Jesus Christ. SVdP offers a free one week summer camp program for children who present an identifiable need such as death in family, foster care, underprivileged, and/or economic hardship.
Do you know a child who needs camp? Click Here to learn how to enroll a camper!
In light of the social and societal challenges that kids face, it is no wonder that parents are scrambling for ways to ensure their child's success as adults. Its encouraging to know the experiences that kids have at camp make them more resilient to life stress. Summer camp is a place of discovery which can have a life-long impact on a child’s development.
After all, there are not too many places where kids can explore carefully calculated challenges without a parent’s input.
“So which experiences, then, are most likely to make children resilient? The best camps do not provide cookie-cutter solutions to what kids need. Instead, great camps understand that the factors that make children resilient are cumulative. One experience contributes to others, expanding a child’s psychosocial resources exponentially.”
There are the simple challenges of conquering the mudslide, starting a campfire, and mastering a ropes course. Then there are the more complex challenges of learning how to ask for help from others, becoming a cabin team with a group of people you have never met, or having the influence to lead a group of peers for the first time. These skill-based and social-based learning experiences can introduce them to new ways of doing things and give them the confidence to handle new situations on their own. The “can-do” attitude is a trait many parents want to instill in their kids. However, this can only be achieved if they are faced with new challenges on their own.
At Camps Connect our three summer camps model how to support each other, to take risks (maybe even struggle or fail at something), but still strive to be the best we can as part of our camp philosophy. Countless experts have discussed the importance of resilience in children as they develop into healthy young adults. The best camping experiences offer these opportunities for manageable amounts of risk and responsibility. Being camp professionals, we know how important summer camp can be for a child’s social, emotional and behavioral growth. Michael Ungar, PhD wrote in the September/October 2012 issue of ACA’s Camping Magazine, “So which experiences, then, are most likely to make children resilient? The best camps do not provide cookie-cutter solutions to what kids need. Instead, great camps understand that the factors that make children resilient are cumulative. One experience contributes to others, expanding a child’s psychosocial resources exponentially.”
How do we provide support for our campers beyond the cookie cutter approach? We believe that one of the most important things we do at our camps is to build and increase self-esteem in each and every camper. We do this by taking the time to really get to know each of our campers right from the beginning. Relationship building is critical at camp, and our staff take the time top model that important skill with our campers. The biggest benefit of building those positive relationships between campers and staff are that the counselors know what each child needs to grow.
So what kinds of cumulative experiences do our Camps Connect facilities offer?
1) New relationships with peers and trusted adults other than their parents. Coming to camp means joining a close-knit community where everyone must agree to cooperate and respect each other. When they live in a cabin with others, kids share chores, resolve disagreements, and see firsthand the importance of sincere communication. Camp builds teamwork and trust.
2) A powerful identity in Christ. Understanding the Truth about their identity in Christ can help children know they are God's special creation, each with a purpose and a hope and many promises of God they can count on. Knowing and choosing to believe what God says about them can protect children from succumbing to depression, anxiety, peer pressure, fear, poor choices, and even suicide. In addition, it can help them fulfill their God-given potential and purpose.
3) Confidence in their talents and abilities. Your child may not be the best on the ropes course, the fastest swimmer, or the next teen idol when he sings, but our camp counselors are going to help your child find something to be proud of that he or she can do well because they have built relationships with adults they can trust.
4) Camps make sure that all children are treated fairly. When children come to our camps they can leave behind all the negative labels they may have at home or school. They are no longer the “nerd” “the poor student,” “always hyperactive,” or some who is measured up to their siblings. There is nothing as influential as being in a positive environment. Our staff are trained to not only to handle bullying issues if they arise, but how to create a positive atmosphere where children treat each other like they want to be treated. At camp they will find opportunities to just be kids who are valued for who they are.
5) At camp kids develop life-long skills. Ideally this is accomplished through fresh air, exercise, and a balance between routine and unstructured playtime. Our camps and competent staff provide the right instruction, equipment and facilities for kids to enhance their sports abilities, their artistic talents, and their adventure skills. The sheer variety of activities offered at our camps makes it easy for kids to discover and develop what they like to do with caring and supportive counselors by their side.
6) Camp offers kids a chance to feel like they belong. In today’s world although we are more connected than ever by modern technology we see kids lacking deep personal connections to others. Kids need help developing social bonds and learning interpersonal skills based on empathy and understanding. Our camps offer a culture of togetherness by engaging our campers in the camp community through small and large group play while helping them to develop healthy connections. Cabin chants and skits, name games, group songs, teamwork, and healthy doses of competition go a long way to offering children a sense of being accepted and rooted.
7) And finally, camp offers children a better sense of their culture as they participate with kids and staff who are culturally diverse. At our camps, kids and staff regularly share in activities such as stories, skits, or times of reflection that provide insight into the values of our Catholic community and their own cultural backgrounds. This gives kids a chance to understand themselves a bit more as they share their own culture and experience others.
At Camps Connect, our camps give children a combination of experiences that prepare them well for life. Our staff are trained to help children embrace these moments, both the struggles and triumphs to develop strength, acquire coping skills, learn how to navigate hardships, and have an anchor by which to face future challenges. This resiliency will help them succeed in life.
I think this perfectly describes what we do at Camps Connect each and every summer. It is our experience that this cumulative approach gives our campers many valuable tools to seek help should they need it, whether that is at camp or at home.
Camps Connect is a true collaboration between Catholic Youth Organization Camps and St. Vincent DePaul Camps. We provide summer camp for boys & girls, family camp, retreat and conference facilities, and outdoor education experiences on the scenic shores of Lake Huron, Michigan. A deep rooted faith and extraordinary service runs through every decision we make. And that philosophy has made a lasting impact in the lives of families and youth for over 90 years! Learn more at www.campsconnect.org
The Journey -About Us
THE JOURNEY journals our Camps Connect story. Camps Connect is a summer camp for boys, girls, and co-ed programs, a family
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