ACA Camp Blog

January 17, 2012

Sometimes in life one is blessed with an “out of the blue” moment. It is when something or someone comes to you that is unexpected and initially appears to be unrelated to everything else that may be going on but provides a tremendous profit in spirit or support. If one pays attention, one realizes its import and critical value to not only that moment in time but, if treasured, many moments yet to occur.

Out of the blue moments are often gifts of the greatest nature. Today, unexpectedly, I received a package. I have been blessed a number of times in my life with notes or phone calls offering out of the blue inspiration and support. The package received recently from Norman Friedman was another such moment — out of the blue. I admire Norman for all that he has done in his life to protect children and youth, and I feel honored to consider him a friend.

But why the out of the blue package? I have to believe that he knew it was going to be important to me. I doubt that he knew how or why, but there it was. Norman sent me a small book called The Dash, Making a Difference with Your Life by Linda Ellis and Mac Anderson. I sat back in my chair and paused to glance through the book. It caused me to take a calm moment — important in and of itself considering the day. When I got to page 55, there it was — just what I needed. How did Norman know? Do any of us know just how important out of the blue moments may be to someone?

But there was the quote by Nelson Henderson on page 55: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” I suddenly realized that I have been planting trees each summer on my property for nearly two decades. Yet, the last two years as I did so, I realized I might not see those trees mature. I didn’t stop planting — instead, I recognized it did not matter because my children or others would one day enjoy the shade of the trees I was planting. My enthusiasm about the trees did not diminish but actually grew with the thought.

When I read that quote I was reminded of those thoughts but realized something else — the camp community each year plants seeds in the hearts and minds of millions of children. We may never personally see those seeds flourish, but without question others enjoy the “shade.” We make our world better for tomorrow. Plant a tree this summer.

January 10, 2012

In today's global community, the world is made smaller by technology, and we are allowed to connect across countries and continents. The idea of "community" is taking on a new meaning each day. Because of this, camp is important now, and even moreso in the future — Forming community is one of the "basics" at camp. We recognize and support the human instinct for community, agreement, and belonging.

And even beyond that, we use exchange, contribution, and meaning to honor individual need within the context of the larger community. We know how to share space. We know how to bring people together regardless of differences. We understand our sameness. At camp, we strike the balance of individualism within a shared community.

January 3, 2012

How do our camp experiences make such a profound difference in the lives of young people?

It isn't rocket science, although if you read the adolescent brain research you can understand why our communities are so incredibly successful. Or if you read what we know about hope and the human spirit — the camp experience makes sense. Consider the following:

  • Fundamentally, we still believe that having fun is an excellent way to learn. Fun, and specifically humor, is the highest form of abstract thinking. Fun keeps the brain alert and engaged.
  • We believe in the outdoors as a natural and incredibly dynamic learning environment. We are a part of nature and are soothed when we return to the intimacy of the natural world.
  • We understand that as humans we need real relationships and will seek them out and, in fact, suffer if deprived of human contact.
  • Finally, we value active participation at whatever level physically possible. We are human powered, heart powered, and organically designed to excel and thrive in nurturing environments.

The quality camp experience is single handedly unique in all of these attributes; and it is because the camp experience offers so much in these areas that I believe it plays a vital part in the preservation of the planet and children.

December 20, 2011

I believe the camp experience should be a part of every child's developmental growth and education. As such, ACA supports those who create exceptional futures for children and youth through quality camp experiences. Even after 150 years, today, a quality camp experience makes the world better by creating 21st century leaders who understand character, community, collaboration, and citizenship.

Yet, maybe more importantly, in a world that is consumed by a tsunami of fear that causes us to consider keeping young people hostage in academic institutions 24/7, the camp community has the ability to encourage intellectual courage — a courage that recognizes challenge, imagination, and innovation. We encourage young people to seek solutions and alternatives. We appreciate and understand that mistakes teach important lessons.

At the same time, the quality camp experience instills moral courage — a courage that demonstrates conviction and supports the use of one's voice to make a positive change in the world. Maybe today, more than any time in our history, young people need positive camp experiences.

December 12, 2011

So many young people are without adequate food and shelter this season. I know those of us who can will remember to be generous with others in order to help fill stomachs, cloth bare heads and feet, and support those without a home. But let's not forget to fill the heart and spirit.

You know the sheer joy a young person receives when given a colorful package with shiny ribbons. The fun of ripping open the package to find a small toy or stuffed animal is immeasurable. And consider the bonus if attached to that toy or stuffed animal is a scholarship for a camp experience! Fill a heart — it could be a joy of a lifetime.

Read more about the gift of camp in CAMP e-News, ACA's newsletter for parents. And don't forget, ACA's Send a Child to Camp Fund is always available as a way for you to give the gift of camp to a deserving child who will benefit greatly from the camp experience.

December 5, 2011

Jule Sugarman asked me once: "When do you think, Peg?" I fear we fail to provide children and youth the time or space to simply think. Why is it I often come up with good ideas when driving alone? How can young people know what they think if they haven't the time to be quiet and reflect?

Besides, it is also good to learn to spend quality time with yourself every once in a while. If you can't stand to be alone with yourself, how do you expect others to tolerate time spent with you? Quiet space can be managed even in the most robust community . . . such as camp.

November 28, 2011

In today's world, I see the following:

  • Vacuum in the spiritual and moral dimension
  • The deprivation of the natural world
  • The deficit in meaningful relationships
  • The loss of communities

In the camp community, we have the power and ability to address all of these issues, and help our campers learn:

  1. Legacy — accept the job that has been handed down to us to cure, preserve, and protect the natural world
  2. Authenticity — agree to seek and protect legitimate and real human connections / relationships that matter
  3. Humanity — honor, accept, and embrace diversity of thinking and being

Camp connects children with the true HUMANE nature.

November 17, 2011

I recently returned from the International Camping Congress in Hong Kong.

Surrounded by my colleagues in the global camp community, I couldn’t help but ask: What if we could truly be Global Resource Partners for the camp community? What if we used our global wisdom to create a generation of global citizens?

Global citizens are those who are prepared to deliver a global promise — leaders who must address the vexing global problems facing our world today: global economy, climate changes, and the impact of technology on our world.

The best we can do is teach our kids to live with people of different cultures and languages, and to honor what Joseph Cornell called our “ancient community” — nature.

Like nature, the camp community is a complex, diverse, dynamic system that can use creative disorder to find new meaning. We can synthesize our intuition and our creativity to discover harmony.

November 14, 2011

If we have bequeathed saving the planet to our children, how do we help them with this legacy? As a result of technology and disappearing access to nature, I fear our innate DNA with the natural world has been buried.

That said, if we want to restore an intimacy with the out of doors, we must be more intentional than ever. Our efforts must exceed simple exposure and include experiential activities, integration of such into everything we do, and shared language that articulates the ecology of nature.

We must incorporate science in order to ensure understanding, embrace spirituality to cause it to be emotionally welcome, and respect mystery in order to secure appreciation of nature's awe.

We have the best vehicle to help our children manage the legacy: the camp experience.

November 1, 2011

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education defines dispositions as: “professional attitudes, values, and beliefs demonstrated through both verbal and non-verbal behaviors . . . .” How does one’s disposition impact their ability to work with others, impart knowledge, and manage life? 

When we are hiring or training, do we give equal time to assessing "dispositions"? I believe dispositions have a powerful role when working and sharing space with others. I am sure it impacts the quality of the experience. 

What is your disposition? What impact do your counselor’s dispositions have on camper experiences?

October 24, 2011

Most of you know that I have been fascinated by the teen brain research. Lance Ozier (who has made contributions to Camping Magazine on the topic of the camp and learning connection) shared a fascinating article with me that he found in National Geographic Magazine, authored by David Dobbs. I highly recommend it!

I loved Dobbs’ article because it gave me a new perspective on teen brain development. We need not think of a teenage brain as simply “not fully developed.” Instead consider what Dobbs writes: “The brain undergoes extensive remodeling, resembling a network and wiring upgrade.” He talks about many attributes of teen brain development that explain why the camp experience is SO PERFECT for adolescence.

For example, Dobbs describes teens as a “highly adaptable creature[s] wired almost perfectly for the job of moving from the safety of home into the complicated world outside.” At this stage of brain development, the urge to meet more people and the love of novelty are high . . . there’s no better time to experience camp and all that it entails.

We are good for adolescent brain development!

October 10, 2011

Our Jewish friends in the camp community celebrated Yom Kippur this past weekend, the holiest of Jewish holidays. The holiday culminates ten days of reflection and is an opportunity to start anew — a fresh beginning for the new year. What a perfect time to celebrate the children and look forward to the future with joy in our hearts! Even in the differences that any of us may have, we share so much. When we are able to do so, we give so much to our children and the future.

I sit here in the Midwest watching the leaves turn colors realizing in another part of the country they have received an early snow. Regardless, whether weather or belief, seasons change . . . affording us the opportunity to reflect on what we have done well, where we need to improve, and how to capture the opportunities of tomorrow.

October 3, 2011

We are all asking ourselves how the new market forces are causing us to think differently . . . That said, I hope we don't lose the "HUM."


Without the essence of HUM, market forces or not, moving forward won't be easy.

September 22, 2011

I have a big magnet on my desk that says, “Whatever you can do or dream, you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” It made me wonder if we fail to embrace boldness today. There are two definitions of boldness. One is more negative — related to brazen, brassy, or insolent. But the other is relates to being courageous, valiant, sturdy, and plucky.

Have we let the negative connotation of boldness usurp the positive possibilities? If so, what might we be losing? I so long to be plucky! Do we not want our children and youth to be able to muster up the courage and determination to face life’s inevitable difficulties? With all the fun at camp, do we not also teach kids to be plucky? I hope so. I so long to be plucky . . .

September 19, 2011

We really don’t say those words out loud, but often our behaviors get our meaning across quite clearly. We have to deal with so many complex and difficult situations that we just grow tired of “self-regulation.” Don’t you just want to throw a good old fashioned temper tantrum sometimes? But learning how to pause, “count to ten,” and consider alternatives is critical if we are to maintain a civil society.

The camp experience is a wonderful vehicle to help kids use their brains to practice “self-regulation.” Every time we are exposed to a new situation, we experience a low-level stress response. As parents and educators, it is our job to expose kids to new situations in safe and responsive settings so they can learn to manage feelings of discomfort without getting angry, fearful, dismissive, or even by becoming a bully. Discomfort is not necessarily a bad thing; rather, it’s an opportunity to learn.

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