One of the themes of camp is creating connections. From activities to evening programs, our campers learn how to interact with one another and navigate the challenges that arise. One of the challenges that we have seen over the past two weeks is that our campers are remembering how to spend time with their peers in a way that used to be commonplace. Our campers have been interacting with peers, older campers, staff and younger campers around the clock. That’s a lot of socializing for children who haven’t had much opportunity for social time these last 16 months!
This process of learning how to create and maintain connection comes with some growing pains. Many of our kids are learning (or re-learning) that being a friend is sometimes just a matter of being a good listener. Camp is a wonderful place to refresh social skills and it has been a pleasure to watch our campers reclaim their social skills. In many ways, camp is designed to help our campers work through big feelings and learn how to verbalize their needs. We have a support system in place and we have trained our staff for these very needs. During staff training we brought in our friend and parenting expert Dr. G (Debi Gilboa) who talked with our staff about trauma informed care and resilience.
I suspect that our campers will be far ahead of their peers when they return to school in the fall. In fact, they will be far ahead of almost everyone else in the world in terms of re-establishing connections.
All of this learning does not look like the learning that takes place in a classroom. Our evening programs are designed to promote BT-style goofiness and fun. We love that brain science reinforces what our instincts already know–that the lifelong advantages of spending time in fun, teamwork-oriented, and emotionally safe space are vast and lasting. Evening programs improve understanding of social cues, self-expression, communication, impulse control, perspective taking, and cognitive flexibility. Perspective taking teaches us to see things from another’s point of view and is a crucial component of both resilience and the capacity to have an open-minded discussion with people of opposing opinions. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to switch between thinking about two different concepts, and to think about multiple concepts simultaneously. This mental skill is developed as we tackle questions and solve problems; a practice that happens often at Birch Trail and is widely held as one of the biggest benefits to a summer spent at camp.
Here are some examples:
Recently, we opened up camp for an all-camp game of Biffer. For those of you not familiar with Biffer, it’s basically a wild and crazy game of tag combined with a semi food fight of powdered sugar and whipped cream. The whole point of the game is to get messy and have fun. It’s a great way to celebrate the freedom from having to dress or look a certain way and embrace the silliness and worry free lifestyle that camp creates.
Saturday night was BT Idol, which is a wonderfully fun program that teaches our campers about conflict resolution through the veil of creating a dance routine. Please click on this link to learn more about BT Idol. https://birchtrail.com/dancing-and-conflict/
We had an epic 4th of July celebration on Sunday. The day was packed with a mix of old and new traditions, and everyone had a ton of fun. From our traditional camp wakeup, waffle decorating, and waffle/whipped cream breakfasts to our frosting fight it was a wonderful morning. The afternoon featured a new BT waterpark with a dunk tank, potentially the world’s longest slip and slide, and so much more. We enjoyed a campfire and fireworks on the beach to wind out the day. The weather was warm, but the multitudes of smiles and good times beat the heat. I got dunked in the tank over and over again. Even though it was a hot day, the water was still shockingly cold! ☺
That’s it until next time. It’s hard to believe that the first session is almost over. We’ll continue the fun and learning until the busses roll out.