Summer camp is a great way for young men to grow in many dimensions, as camp gives them an opportunity to independently develop skills in a safe and fun environment away from home. As Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt note in their book, The Coddling of the American Mind, children need the space and support away from home occasionally to independently develop emotional and social responses to situational events with their peers while simultaneously learning independent executive and organizational practices that will support them in adulthood. Camp specifically nurtures kids in these areas through three primary aspects during the summer.
Camp is a great place for campers to try new activities and express themselves in new ways. As camp is set up with a variety of different activities that can be changed periodically, campers have a chance to delve into new experiences and push their comfort zones with support from staff and friends. Shaking up a routine during the school year can be difficult, but a camp atmosphere gives campers new options each week to experience things they have never tried before.
Camp also allows for experiences a child may not have access to at home. Camping in the woods may not be an option for a kid living in a metropolitan area during the school year, just as visiting the beach may not be possible for a family living in the Midwest. Camp gives participants the opportunity to expand their worldview in ways they might not have access to otherwise.
Under the guidance of Eagle Scouts and Gold Award recipient staff, Camp Sequoia offers a rustic retreat program designed specifically to allow campers to explore the natural world through multi-sensory inquiry-based experiences. Whether learning about edible foods of the forest, learning how to fish, both starting and cooking over a fire, or learning constellations, there is much to explore on this two-day, one night adventure.
Often, we find that campers who are reluctant to try this experience will eagerly sign up with a friend they have made while exploring activities in our traditional camp environment. Simply put, campers are more likely to be self-reliant and confident when they recognize supportive peers with similar interests.
Camp Sequoia is proud of our scaffolding success team. This team of social workers, counselors, and mental health professionals understands there is an intrinsic value to empowering kids to become self-reliant. Check out this article in Psychology Today for a good overview on the difference between independent and self-reliant children. The exceptional child (2e, twice-exceptional, gifted but quirky) needs this type of scaffolding to help develop self-reliance even more than the neurotypical child, as we discuss in our blog on 2e kids. A research-based resident camp environment is the ideal venue for this type of development to occur.
The social resilience, confidence and social skills growth that comes from increased self-reliance convey far beyond the time spent at summer camp. The German word for this is Selbständigkeit. This concept is further explored in NBC News articles along with some parenting tips that reflect best practice research for parents and caregivers. These tips can be useful as a child prepares for and returns from camp.
There are many opportunities at camp to organically model responsibility and teach the lifelong habit of responsibility to our campers. The Center For Parenting has resources for parents at home to support the research-based responsibility development available at Camp Sequoia. At camp, young men have the ability to have scheduled tasks that support their group dynamic. For our older campers, this may mean helping to fill water glasses before meals or doing some near-peer mentoring with our younger campers. For middle school students this means there are responsibilities for daily activity choices, personal space and hygiene as well as sorting and making sure that laundry is ready for our wash and fold service to pick it up at the appointed time.
Developmentally appropriate social skills and social interactions are built through social skills groups with Dr. Lew and division and small group shared success reward trips based upon group and individual responsibility. At a research-based camp, social skills development is built upon giving young men the opportunity to make minor mistakes in a social context and learn from those mistakes. Doing this in an environment with a 2:5 staffing ratio and staff trained in social skills development and the research underpinning the values of and methods for modeling and teaching responsibility in children.
Become a Well-Rounded Young Man at Camp Sequoia
Responsibility, self-reliance, and exploration are key ways that young men can grow and develop at Camp Sequoia. In the span of a generation, children are now on average spending less than half the amount of time their parents did outside. This article, published by the University of Virginia addresses the importance of giving children a variety of experiences outside for physical and psychological benefits. We recommend the work of Richard Louv, recipient of the Audubon Medal as a good introduction to this concept for parents and anyone working with kids. Our director has used his work, Last Child in the Woods as a means to teach educators and Master Naturalists of the value of exploration in nature. At Camp Sequoia we encourage campers to participate in Rustic Retreat, an opportunity to do many of the things in the woods (campfires, fishing, boating, hiking, archery, astronomy, dutch oven cooking) that can be lost during the school year behind screens at home and school.
The wonderful thing about learning these skills at camp is that they are learned in an authentic environment, outside of the artificial constructs of a once-weekly activity, standardized school assessments or arbitrary deadlines. Further, exploration done at camp, scaffolded by trained adults provides confidence to engage in similar age-appropriate activities outside of camp. Likewise, responsibility learned in a residential, supportive peer-based community translate well outside of camp to home and school– and ultimately post-secondary life. Self-reliance is cultured and grows in this environment thanks to the work of Dr. Lew, Xena, Bill and their team. With decades of experience (in both human and dog years in the case of Xena), their work with young men allows them to experience all of the joy, fun and friendship of camp while they are exploring a myriad of activities with their peers. This allows them the opportunity to transition home as more responsible and self-reliant young men.