I can still recall the babbling brook and the ancient oak that provided a perfect back rest at the first camp I attended. Since then, campers (and staff) have seen a technological revolution boggles the mind. According to NASA even the now outdated iPhone 5 has 240,000 times the memory than was on Voyager I, the first human made craft to enter interstellar space. Suffice it to say, the world that campers today face is substantially different from the one of my youth. From school systems pushing digital conversation and American children (on average) having their first smart phone before age 11, perhaps there is some wisdom in Bill Gates indicating to USA Today that his children were 14 before they had that level of connectivity. What does this mean for camps?
The research supports that meaningful social skills connections happen with authentic face to face interactions and not through superficial screen time. An authentic camp experience can scaffold the opportunity for social success without a 21st century security blanket of a phone or smart device. Camp can and should be a place to develop smart and socially resilient children in a nurturing and fun environment. Mindfulness and meditation are two strategies that give children back the tools of the awesome power of quietude. Over the last several years, Camp Sequoia has intentionally incorporated mindfulness and meditation training into our staff orientation, established places and systems for our campers to be able to recapture the serenity of a babbling brook, and conscious self-reflection. These programs add to a wide array of traditional camp activities and recognize the value and importance of teaching and modeling a level of personal reflection as we empower our campers to become the best version of themselves.
Specifically, we’ve identified two meditation garden locations, a bench under a majestic pin oak and a “rustic retreat” experience that allows our campers the time to develop the naturalistic intelligence and peace that comes from meaningful interactions with nature. We’ve found that although there is oft some initial resistance to missing an Instagram post or a Facebook needs feed in our unplugged camp community, these experiences give our campers the opportunity, permission, and staff support to relax. Camper and family end of summer feedback to having these experiences has been as positive as the reviews of our STEM program or excitement about our weekly trips. We look forward to continuing these types of programs in 2019 and beyond.
Brian is the owner/director of Camp Sequoia whose work with has been presented at the World Gifted Conference, the ACA tri-states conference and numerous regional venues for parent and educators. A 20-year veteran of camping, he is a licensed K-12 gifted educator dedicated to the meaningful growth of exceptional populations. Details about his program can be found at www.camp-sequoia.com or by phone at 610-771-0111.