The first weekend of September is such an odd time here at MTC. Camp looks amazing, the weather is ideal, the lake is the perfect temperature. All that is missing is the campers. But the calendar doesn’t agree with our assessment that it’s a great time for camp. The calendar says - summer is ending (and camp along with it) and school is starting. Our cultural norms say that it’s time to get serious, forget all the summer stuff, focus on school. But we think that is a mistake, and that by intentionally practicing some of the summer stuff, the benefits of summer can flow all year long.
During the summer we talk about what it might mean to make the world a little more camp like, what things they can do in their own lives and communities that reflect the values and ideas of camp, how campers can do small things to keep the benefits of camp going just a little while longer. Because the truth is that the really good camp stuff is actually just really good stuff. We gain some lived experience in camp, and hopefully we use that experience to inform the decisions we make after the summer.
So let’s quickly address some of the lessons of camp that may not necessarily make a campers world more camp like, but might help them a) carry some of the good feelings of camp through the school year, and b) have a positive impact on their academic lives (it should be noted that these are not really separate things).
Getting close to nature would be the most obvious and immediately beneficial aspect of camp that we would encourage campers to seek out during the school year. Exposure to natural spaces has a host of mental, emotional and physical benefits, but the most compelling one might be – kids who spend time around trees do better in school. The mechanism isn’t well understood yet, but the evidence is pretty clear that exposure to nature helps kids do their best in school.
A good nights sleep is another aspect of camp that helps campers feel and do their best. While schedules outside the camp bubble have many more demands, prioritizing sleep as a means to being an effective and happy individual is a skill we hope campers can generalize outside the months of June-August.
Moderating our use of technology. At camp we have a wonderful time not despite, but because we aren’t surrounded by consistently intrusive technology. Understanding the role tech plays in their lives, and making intentional choices about their relationship with it, will pay dividends in every aspect of campers lives during the year.
Making and maintaining connections. One of the most enduring and gratifying parts of camp is the friendships and connections campers make. These friendships extend the value of a summer at camp into a lifetime. It is not just the friendships made at camp though. The skills learned or practiced in making those friendships are essential life skills.Campers who learn how to make the courageous choice to meet a new friend at camp, who make the same choice in school, become better connected, build community, and make their academic year better for themselves and others.
Finally, we hope that our campers take from camp a lesson that is so obvious, and apply it broadly across all aspects of their lives.That it is not a spectator sport.Camp rewards effort directly and in multiples. Living this experience each day, we hope that every camper who spent time here this summer has an expectation for themselves – to give every opportunity a whole-hearted effort, understanding that the results will then take care of themselves.Don’t worry too much about what’s going to happen, focus on what is happening now, and make the most of it.
Good luck to all for the start of the school year. We hope it’s wonderful.
Matt, Monique & NickyRead More...