There are times when I'm talking about our summer camp community that people give me a look that says "but realistically, could your campers really that nice to each other?" Sometimes they even come out and say "just because you tell them to care about the other members of the community doesn't mean they actually do it". During these conversations I wish I could show them moments like I saw yesterday at our New Camper Party in the Boston area. In such a short time we were already seeing how effectively our staff can teach a group of kids be more empathetic.
You may not be able to tell from the picture above that these 9 year old girls and their counselor are leading a song. They were part of camp last summer, and they elected to join the event to welcome some of our newest members. Knowing that it can be a little intimidating to arrive at Camp on Opening Day and not know some of our most popular camp songs, they decided to teach every one of our new female campers "We are the Girls of Evergreen". It's one of their favorites, and we sing it at campfires, bus rides, sporting events, and even walking to and from activities.
I was so proud of them for coming up with this idea, and for taking the risk to lead everyone in learning this song. It's in moments like this that our campers not only demonstrate their love for our community, but how they learn to become effective leaders and also how the demonstrate empathy to others. Great work, girls!
I saw something similar on the boys' side during the rock climbing portion of the New Camper Party. Thankfully, I was able to capture it with my iphone.
Mike, our longtime head of Woodshop and Furniture Building, paused for a moment to teach a brand new camper how to safely use something called an Auto-Belay Device. Then he cheered and supported this camper as he began climbing. The young man made it to the top, beaming with pride over his accomplishment.
Moments later that new camper saw another boy struggling with how to use the safety device. He walked over and kindly offered to help the boy in the black shirt, and them gave him the same encouraging pep talk he had heard from his counselor moments before.
The boy in the black shirt made it successfully to the top of the rock wall. Once he was down he saw another boy unsure of how to use the device, and modeling what had been taught to him, nicely helped another boy attach the device. As soon as the boy in the dark blue shirt began to climb his pal stood beneath him giving him pointers on how to ascend the wall, always using nice, encouraging words. Yet again, another new Kenwood climber made it to the top of the wall with the help of his peers.
Imagine learning to treat others like this in a matter of minutes, and not in a classroom or through a lecture, but through simple sort of interactions that happen in our summer camp 1,000 times a day. And imagine repeatedly experiencing the admiration and respect you earn when you pause to help another human being? These are the sort of moments that begin to shape who you are and how you interact with other people.
This is what our overnight camp community is all about. From their very first interactions we work at positively modeling 21st century skills like leadership, kindness, and problem solving, which in turn prompts all of our campers and counselors to meaningfully support one another. This is the true power of our overnight camp experience.
If this can happen in a 2 hour New Camper Party, imagine how transformative a 7 week summer experience at Kenwood and Evergreen can be for your son or daughter?