Reflecting on my 3 favorite Camp memories and the social emotional learnings from them
Lately I have thought a lot about my favorite parts of summer camp and how they have shaped me as an educator. I am not the type of educator that will lecture or put on a video but one who wants to engage in hands-on experience where the campers or students I am working with help to build and run the lesson. Watching students as they embark on virtual experiential learning experiences takes me back to moments where I did my best, deepest learning without ever even knowing it and that was always at camp, in moments I wasn’t aware that learning was happening. The fun and sometimes difficult nature of my experiences at summer camp have unconsciously shaped me into a better person that can help achieve both personal and collective goals. Looking back at my top three favorite activities at summer camp, I see just how much social and emotional learning came out of each of them.
1. Respect and Empathy
Every summer at the start of my summer my entire bunk would sit down to create our bunk contract, this consisted of a poster of guidelines we agreed to live by as we started to build our little community. This poster hung at the front of the bunk all Summer long and would always be the first thing you saw as you walked in, at the bottom of the contract was the intricately placed and decorated signatures of every member of the bunk. This was a fun, chaotic, and challenging thing to do as a nine-year old, but looking back to those memories I can’t help but smile at how many lifelong friendships and long-term skills I was building that continue to show up in my everyday life. Whether it was a rule that you had to do the bunks secret handshake at least once a day or practice and lead with active listening with your bunkmates, these rules made us accountable to one another and we loved making them. We learned to respect and empathize with one another, skills that accumulate from everyday activities at summer camp and ones that campers are seeking more than ever. Spending your summer at camp develops these qualities in a experiential and meaningful ways
2. Learning to stop and smell the roses
All school year-long, as I looked out my window watching the rain pour down, my body would fill with immense eagerness as I repeatedly told myself to try to wait patiently till I got back to camp. In the real world, people frown upon playing in the rain, it can make you sick, it can get you insanely dirty, and it just is simply not practical. At camp, experiencing rain was different. While some of our favorite outside activities like basketball, gaga, soccer and just exploring around had to come to an abrupt end when it rained, some of my favorite time was spent singing in the rain with my camp friends. This was a moment where my bunkmates and I got to throw our social norms to the side and live in the moment, sticking our tongues out, getting soaked and actually taking a moment to feel the rain on our skin. We screamed our singing in the rain song so loudly the trees shook. One time we even brought our shampoo outside and all washed our hair with the buckets of rain falling from the sky. These moments taught me to not always take life so seriously and that in more ways than one, it is so important to stop and sing in the rain whenever you can. Summer camps are one of the only settings in the world where you can truly slow down, stop and smell the roses. All year long kids work toward academic and personal goals, at camp they take a moment to really just live in the moment.
3. Communication and Team building skills
In the middle of the summer my bunk and I would venture down to the far end of camp, which was really a five-minute walk but often felt like 45 minutes to partake in an afternoon of sweaty and extensive trust building exercises. These exercises often caused a cascade of silly fighting that would continue for what felt like months but was really just till the next night. Our trust falls exercises often went awry 13 nine-year olds attempted to catch each other from a four ft drop. While no one ever got seriously injured, a small scratch on a bunkmate required serious attention and empathy, for a non athletic group of girls these trust falls made us feel as if we were at a sports camp that we were definitely not equipped for. These trust exercises helped us build our communication and team building skills. After each trust exercise our counselors asked us to explain how we felt to the group, what we thought went well and what we thought didn’t go very well. Forced to listen to one another my bunk always found a way to work through the bumps, falls and yells that taught us so much about ourselves and our bunkmates while unconsciously building up our social emotional capabilities. At Summer camp, campers get a chance to communicate with one another in a less structured setting while taking on fun and challenging tasks. This establishes communication and teamwork skills in a way school and extracurricular activities often struggle to do.
Reflecting on these experiences and knowing that summer is just around the corner, I can’t help but fill with excitement for all the lucky kids gearing up to attend a Pingry summer camp. The experience campers have as they interact with experiential activities, their counselors and most importantly one another are the ones that will challenge them to continue growing into outstanding and well-rounded people. I for one cannot wait for all the growth and fun to come for all those attending summer camp in 2021!