Blog 1

In the swing of things

Hello from camp,

We have been having a great second session. The weather has been perfect the past few days and our second session color war, TIAD, was almost too much fun. If you want to read more about TIAD please click on this link to read an earlier post:

The kids are fully settled into their routines at camp and you should be getting lots of fun letters from camp. Hopefully those letters are full of information and stories. Maybe there is a need for us to fill in the blanks when it comes to parts of our daily schedule. In our last blog we talked about meals and cheering, today let’s take a look at a little more of our daily schedule.

A Day in the Life of a Birch Trail Camper:

Wake up at 8:02 (and for real at 8:16)
Why? As children grow toward puberty, their internal rhythms change. The times at which their brains release cortisol (the wake-up hormone) and other time-sensitive brain chemistry starts to change, causing them to feel awake later in the evening while struggling to get up early in the morning. Though we’re careful about enforcing reasonable bedtimes, we know that part of the pattern (and fun) of overnight camp involves some talking and settling in after “lights-out.” We choose to let the campers sleep a little later every morning than they normally would during the school year, ensuring that our schedule matches their internal needs as best we can.

Cabin clean-up
Every morning after breakfast, the campers get their daily chores out of the way before heading off to projects. In addition to gaining more practice being responsible for their own area and belongings, they also contribute to the smooth running of camp as a whole by taking on responsibilities that benefit the entire group. These chores are not just a box to be checked—they make up a crucial part of our work to ensure their future happiness and success. According to the Harvard Grant Study, the best predictor of workplace success is whether that adult had chores as a child. One very respected commentator on the study (and Dean at Stanford) summarized it this way, “[a] roll-up-your-sleeves- and-pitch-in mindset, a mindset that says, there’s some unpleasant work, someone’s got to do it, it might as well be me … that’s what gets you ahead in the workplace.” Further, these chores touch on the most fundamental SEL interpersonal skills: sharing, helping and cooperating.

Instructional Activities
The first three activity periods of the day are based on the choices you and your daughter made the previous March, and focus on developing specific skills. No matter which activity your daughter attends, each is designed to help her pay “intentional attention” to the learning, improve her working memory, and practice her cognitive flexibility. Camp is a place where she can identify an interest and pursue it without the pressure of having any level of proficiency; we’re here to help her gauge her own interest and work towards that mastery. This strategy of passion-driven learning (Harvard has an entire institute dedicated to the concept) has been proven to excite students about learning in general, well beyond the particular topic they currently study.

Rest hour
Can you imagine over an hour in the middle of your day to relax? Every day? This sounds like a luxury, but at Birch Trail we know it’s a necessity. According to many studies of daytime siestas, we know that they improve alertness, memory, emotional self-regulation, the ability to learn and even cardiovascular function. Further, 60-90 minutes rest in the afternoon has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety in everyone, with particular benefit to children and teens.

Prime Time
A camper favorite, this designated free-play hour changes each day—or never —as each camper chooses. She has the flexibility to pick any offering that suits her, and to let that inform her decision the following day. This kind of autonomy and flexibility has many advantages for your daughter. She will get valuable practice connecting emotion and behavior, as well as evaluating her own response and experiences in order to inform future choices. Her critical thinking skills will improve, as will her willingness to be open to new ideas. Further, research shows that autonomy helps protect children and teens against sadness, low self-esteem and isolation. Best of all, she’ll be less likely to expect you to schedule every moment—she will be well-practiced at finding ways to keep herself exactly as busy (or not busy) as she wants to be.

As you can see, so much of what we do at camp is intentionally crafted to help our campers grow and learn from each moment. There are so many opportunities for growth at camp and we want to make sure that our program is designed to help them maximize their ability to learn and achieve at camp. Reading through this daily routine makes me realize how amazing each day sounds …and we’re not even done yet. There’s still evening program and bedtime, but that will have to wait for another blog post. I’m off to supervise a waterfight.

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