It’s the little things…..

We’ve had a great start to the summer! The weather has been wonderful, the staff has done a phenomenal job and the campers have been having a blast. Over the past eleven days we have sent out five Linden canoeing trips, three Maple cabin trips, one Maple optional trip, a Boundary Waters canoeing trip, an Isle Royale hiking trip, and two sea kayaking trips. Fourteen campers have taken and passed the Red Cross lifeguarding class, the campers devoured over 600 s’more pockets for desert on Saturday and we have had eleven amazing evening programs.

Many other big events have happened at camp and while all of these things are important, it’s the little things that really make a difference at camp. At Birch Trail we don’t applaud when people do good things, we say “How.” This tradition goes way back to before our camp was started, our founder brought this tradition from the camp he grew up at. It takes a little getting used to, but the kids and staff really love this tradition (and many people find themselves saying “How” long after they return home from camp to the real world at the end of the summer).

Aside from using the word How in place of clapping, campers can give each other a How. After meals we have a few minutes where we make general announcements. Campers and staff can come up to the microphone and give someone a How for something that they did. A camper will say who they are giving a How to and what for and then the whole camp will say “How” in unison. It’s quite powerful and can be a great way for a camper to practice public speaking and show appreciation.

Some of the How’s given today at lunch were:

“I would like to give Sara a How for always being a team player.”
“I would like to give Jane a How for helping me finish my tutu in fashion design.”
“I would like to give Jenny a How for getting up on water skis for her first time.”
“I would like to give Lindsey a How for helping me during cabin cleanup.”

What I enjoy most about this tradition is that it’s totally camper driven. No one coaches the campers on how to give a How or when to do it. They approach the microphone and stand in front of 200 campers and 140 staff and put their feelings into words and let the entire camp population know why they appreciate their friends. This is so important to our camp community because it’s a very clear example for everyone to see of the type of behaviors that we expect at camp and they very behaviors that get praised and create friendships.

At Birch Trail, we believe that children want to do good. We also believe that children take their cues from us. All too often when it comes to behaviors people only focus on the negative. Let’s pretend you are going to a swimming pool, there are probably going to be some rules listed. Think about those rules for a second, will they be positive or negative? In every pool I have been at they all start with No. No running, No horseplay, No food.

We believe in talking frequently and positively about the behaviors that we value at camp. Our rules at camp don’t start with No; they are positive rules that show campers exactly what we want them to do or say. Our feeling is that if campers know what specific positive behaviors we are looking for, they are more likely to do it.

We also know that campers don’t want to hear a list of rules from adults (it’s just not cool). How’s are a great way for campers to establish and reinforce the positive behaviors we want to see in our community. By having our campers and staff tell each other what we value and having the whole camp praise these behaviors loudly and as a group, we are reinforcing these positive behaviors multiples times at every meal. It’s the little things that add up and this summer, they are quickly adding up to a wonderful summer.

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