Carpe diem. And happy happy 2017! We hope everyone is enjoying a sweet and positive start to this New Year.
Creativity. Developing broadly as a human being. Independence.
In the midst of all of the transition we all are experiencing, we wanted to start this year with a
re-focus on how best to facilitate and support our children’s development. We are inspired to deepen the good work we have set out to do, remaining firmly committed to fostering kindness, compassion and empathy in the hearts and minds of our campers. As has been a pattern recently, a thoughtful Blue Star alumnus shared the following article from the parenting section of The Washington Post. In it Laura Clydesdale argues forcefully for the unique power of the sleepaway camp experience to help instill the three main attributes listed above, all of which lead to a positive competitive edge in life. Going against the tide of hyper focus on resume building experiences (for children of camper age!), Clydesdale cites wide-ranging research and thought leaders who identity these attributes as actually helping a child stand out in the crowd, and more importantly, be able to stand confidently on their own two feet.
At Blue Star we intentionally set the stage for daily experiences that spark creativity. For example, we have expanded our Arts program over the past several years to add more Blue Star Options within which our campers learn to think and act creatively, whether on their own or in groups. Further, all of our campers come up with their own cabin songs (or dances or skits) as part of our evening programs. We believe enhanced creativity also leads to critical problem solving, thinking different(ly), and even seeing the world from other perspectives.
Our Blue Star core outcomes (self-discovery, building community, and doing good) all lead our campers to developing more broadly as human beings. Each summer we have an overarching summer theme, weekly Shabbat sub-themes, and service projects geared toward this very development. Meeting every camper where they are at, we train our staff (and remind them through ongoing professional development) to see every child as unique, helping them grow through their difficult and positive experiences. Clydesdale puts forth, “Studies over the past decade have shown outdoor programs stimulate the development of interpersonal competencies, enhance leadership skills and have positive effects on adolescents’ sense of empowerment, self-control, independence, self-understanding, assertiveness, decision-making skills, self-esteem, leadership, academics, personality and interpersonal relations.” That’s development!
Of course, the most immediately accessible concept of independence can only happen if we let it happen with our children. Michael Thompson, author of Homesick and Happy (and many other youth development books and who we have referenced before), insists that “the only way children can grow into independence is to have their parents open the door and let them walk out. That’s what makes camp such a life-changing experience for children.” As we let our first-time camp parents know right up front, the initial separation often is harder for us parents than it is for our children. Independence yields resiliency. How better to prepare our children for the rest of their lives?!