by Gordon Porter “Port” Miller, Owner
In our observations of campers over the past decade the words pressure and focus come to mind whether in academic or other endeavors. It is not unusual for eight or nine year olds to be urged to excel in school and athletics and this translates into academic tutoring, athletic clinics, and even the quest for the latest in high tech communication options.
As parents you are familiar with the above trends. In my view, this presents a great opportunity for summer camps. The upshot of the above pressures is that the preoccupation to excel may narrow a youngster’s willingness to try new things, to take risks. In short, to stretch beyond his or her comfort zones. The fact that behaviors such as bullying, rudeness, disrespect, me first, and entitlement demands are so prevalent in our world today that our young people are apt to grow up in a less than inspiring environment.
So, why camp? What does Moosilauke do to deal with the above? It all begins with a commitment to our mission, “Fun with a Purpose.” Any camp can deliver the ”fun” part by offering go-carts, paint ball battles, daily TV access and even frequent trips to shopping malls. As you know, we offer none of the above. Rather, we achieve fun through purpose. Purpose for us means learning, dealing with things that might initially feel uncomfortable or even discouraging, growing emotionally and physically, and yes, communicating effectively without the benefit of the latest in texting devices. As a really old school person the last item’s absence is a great comfort to me!!
So, how do we create an environment that inspires, an experience that impacts on the grounding of young people? Here, in brief, are the elements of an environment that inspires:
- Establishing clear expectations: What does staff expect from campers, what campers expect from staff and what campers expect from bunk mates? It is virtually impossible for kids to understand limits and boundaries critical to a successful experience without being clear about expectations. Yet, what was the last time you asked a person important to you, “How am I doing? Am I meeting your expectations?”
- Challenging tasks: This can involve developing a new skill, dealing with a person you don’t especially like, or putting a worm on a hook, or making your bed pass inspection. Here campers learn that a bad outcome is simply an opportunity to discover a better way of doing something.
- Autonomy: Achieving competencies that encourage venturing into non comfort zones and having confidence to act on your own. Here we also work on thinking about consequences before taking action.
- Meaningful recognition: Improvement is the focus and the message is you can’t lose by trying. Trophies for simply participating are not part of the reward system.
So, in this climate, kids feel safe pursuing more options, for taking new risks, for being themselves, for gaining confidence and really living Moosilauke’s mantra of fun with a purpose!