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Birch Trail Wilderness Trips

Hello from camp,

Today is our first cabin day and it’s a perfect camp day. The sun is shining, there is plenty of wind for sailing and it’s a great temperature for water activities. All the campers in camp are having a wonderful day.

But I wanted to talk with you about our campers who are out of camp today, the campers who are on wilderness camping trips. We offer two different types of trips at Birch Trail: cabin trips and optional trips. Our cabin trips are a progression starting with an overnight trip, followed by a three-day van trip, a canoeing trip and a hiking trip. Each year a camper returns to Birch Trail, she gets the chance to experience something new and different. There are optional trips for every age group and these trips allow our campers to experience new adventures such as: rock climbing, horseback riding, hiking, canoeing, sea kayaking, fishing, mtn biking and more.

In keeping with this year’s theme of brain science and the why of camp, let’s unpack the idea behind our trips program. Our trips are often the highlight of a young girl’s summer. Each trip is tailored to the developmental level and abilities of the girls in the group and allows for a great deal of experiential learning and skill-set advancement. The sense of accomplishment gained from doing things on their own proves to each camper that she is capable of more than she knew.

Fostering a growth mindset, which has been proven to create in children the willingness to risk failure and to believe that working harder is the key to unlocking ability, makes our kids stronger and more likely to succeed in the face of future challenges. Our trip program is the perfect vehicle for cultivating a growth mindset in our campers and a big reason why we devote a portion of the camper experience to it.

Each trip forms a unique, shared bond that comes from obstacles faced and overcome together. These wilderness trips are functional examples of the benefits documented in the most cutting-edge research on building self-esteem and life skills. Studies of students find significant improvement in overall motivation, life skills, interpersonal relationships, capacity for hope, self-confidence, and emotional control—both at the end of such a unique experience as well as six months afterward.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the letters, phone calls and emails we receive from our alums each year. These notes are filled with stories of women who were facing an obstacle and didn’t know how they would get through it. The obstacles in each story are different, but what’s consistent is the source of their strength and courage–the memory of their trips at Birch Trail– and the sense of accomplishment they felt after completing their trip. It’s truly amazing to be on the receiving end of stories that showcase the positive impact Birch Trail trips have played in the lives of our alums.

As I’m writing this we currently have two sea kayaking trips, two Isle Royale hiking trips, a Boundary Waters Canoe trip, a Quetico canoe trip, a Maple cabin trip and a Linden cabin trip all out of camp. Two more Maple trips and an optional Linden backpacking trip will leave tomorrow. While we miss the campers when they are out of camp, we are so thrilled to think of the growth and new skills they are achieving.

You can read more about the studies here:
https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/09/therapy-wild.aspx
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1053825915626933?journalCode=jeea
https://www.obhcenter.org/
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/nurturing-resilience/201202/summer-camps-make-kids-resilient

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