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BT Meals and Cheering

Hello from camp,

We’ve had a great first week of second session. As the kids are getting settled into their routine I want to spend a few minutes telling you about the why behind what we do at camp. During the first session we started a theme for this year’s blog posts of social and emotional learning (SEL). To read more about SEL and why it’s important at Birch Trail, please click this link:

For today’s blog let’s take a look at part of our daily routine at Birch Trail and why it’s structured the way it is.

Family-style meals
We serve meals “family style” with campers sitting together along with counselors (most often by cabin group) where they pass and eat the food at their table. As outlined in the Institute of Medicine’s 2001 Prevention Policies, this method teaches children self-awareness of hunger and allows them to practice self-regulation as they serve themselves foods they’d like to try, knowing they may get more if they so desire. Family meal time also has many SEL learning opportunities for practicing communication. Listening and storytelling are constant around the table, and the counselors model openness to new ideas, empathy, and making connections, while honoring each girl’s participation. As the campers learn the rhythm of taking turns, answering and asking good questions, supporting each other in their ideas and emotions, they become more confident communicators with higher self-esteem, all while improving the self-esteem of others.

Meals at Birch Trail are fun! The campers have many choices of what to eat and they have so much to talk about. They go over what they did during their activities, what they are going to do the rest of the day. They talk about what they are excited for in terms of evening programs and trips and of course they chit chat about a million other things. Meals at camp are such a wonderful time to see group dynamics in action.

One of my favorite parts of being in the lodge is watching the campers “stupee.” Stupee is a camp term for “waiter.” It’s one of the chores that our campers do each day. The counselors demonstrate how to be stupee the first two days of camp and from then on, there are two stupees each day. The stupees come in a few minutes early and set the table, get the main tray of food and clear the dishes at the end of the meal. It’s really amazing to be in the lodge and see each cabin working together, but to have the campers be the ones in charge. Of course the counselors are there for support and help as needed, but the girls really feel accomplished and do a great job.

I would say that our campers’ favorite part of the meal is cheering! If you have ever been at camp during our lunch and dinner cheering, I’m guessing you would agree with me.

Most meals end with a ritual that brings our girls together as cabins and our cabins together as a whole community. Many of the cheers we repeat have been handed down through “generations” of campers, giving each girl both a sense of belonging to a group and the pride that comes from moving up through the ranks. She will recognize the cheers of the villages she’s grown into and out of, while experiencing the excitement of advancement. Research shows that, while having a large number of friends does not improve self-esteem, belonging to a group—or several groups—that she connects to her social identity does directly improve the way each girl sees herself and her own value.

As you can see meals at Birch Trail are more than just a chance for nourishment, they are a chance for growth and plain old fun. To see a video of some Birch Trail cheering please click on this link

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