We Are One: How our summer theme informs our approach to bullying…
Co-Authored by Dana and Matt “Fish” Eisenman (of our Leadership Team)
As we gear up for summer 2016 we consider the impact our summer theme has on our daily experience at camp. This year’s theme holds the potential to guide us toward an ideal in our overall camp experience. Intentionally, our leadership team has decided to leave ambiguous the group defined as “we.” We are one cabin, one unit, one camp, one Blue Star, one community. In the real world of camp, our campers and staff face many challenges in the social work of community building, and occasionally this includes the act of bullying.
At Blue Star, we define bullying as repeated unwanted aggressive behavior that involves a power imbalance. We also understand that testing the accepted social boundaries to establish one’s role in the group is a developmentally appropriate behavior. That said, while these behaviors are age appropriate, some of them are not acceptable in an intentional community. Rather, the real work of camp is to scaffold and support all children in coping with these challenges and learning from the experience to help them discover their best selves.
To encourage campers to take ownership over their camp experiences, one of the five adults directly responsible for their social-emotional well being will lead them through these social challenges. Because both the “bully” and the “victim” will learn and grow in this evolving process, we avoid labeling campers and work to help all campers identify their role in the social world of camp, allowing them the opportunity to make their own positive changes.
Additionally, empathy becomes a key component of our approach to social challenges. Of course, our staff model mindful listening and support the child who feels uncomfortable by addressing both their immediate safety and their need to feel known, needed and cared for. Empathy also plays a key role for campers exhibiting bullying behavior to see the impact of their words and actions. In the tech-heavy lives of our campers, they often do not have the opportunity to see how their behaviors impact others. At camp however, the responses are immediate and personal, and with guidance from a staff member, campers are able to feel the impact of their actions.
Further, our theme also teaches inclusion. We use that word, and not tolerance, as inclusion requires the camper to go beyond tolerance, or simply putting up with someone. Inclusion encourages them to learn about others, empathize, and become part of one community. Camp is the ideal place to reflect on and learn from all experiences and return to home and school with a renewed sense of self with the compassion and love of a caring camp community. We are One…
*For more information on bullying, see stopbullying.gov