Folks ask me, “Why have I dedicated most of my life’s energy to camp in general and Roughing It in particular?”. Simple answer: I believe that we make very real and important differences in the lives of campers, parents and the staff we work with throughout the years.
From the Classroom to Camp – Education for Life.
Ann and I began our careers as educators, teaching at the elementary and college levels. We were pretty good at providing young people with the academic skill they needed to succeed. But we had been spoiled by having been at camp. We had seen how important the social and character skills were for children to succeed. We loved being educators but were much more interested in character education and group living skills.
School – Half of a Child’s Education. Schools do a pretty good job of providing children with basic educational skills in the area of math, science and social studies. Most would agree that over the past years schools have not accepted the role of educating the child in other important areas, including: character, group living, decision making, health and values. There are many reasons for schools not emphasizing these important areas of a child’s development and there are many who would not trust the school to take the needed care and concern in these areas of child development. Still, it is very important that we as parents provide our children with an opportunity to learn and practice these important skills. Roughing It and other well run camps can provide valuable skills and experiences in these areas of the other half of your child’s development.
The Other Half of a Child’s Education – The Most Important Half!
I believe that Roughing It is an educational institution. We have the goal of educating children and providing them with a variety of skills that they will use throughout their lives. I continue to be much more interested in educating children in the social/character skill than in the teaching of academic skills.
I call this “the OTHER half of a child’s education.”
I believe the Other Half is the more important half of every child’s education. It is the half of their education that will bring the most success, the most happiness and most meaning to their lives.
Schools teach the 3 R’s well and Roughing It adds a 4th and 5th “R.”
Respect – The 4th R. Respect at Roughing It means caring greatly enough about the people, the world, the environment and life to help improve the condition for all. Children at Roughing It learn respect through the modeling of the staff and other campers at Roughing It. We all practice respect all of the time and we actively share our high standards of respect, care and love. Roughing It will not stand by and ignore disrespectful behavior, “put downs,” rudeness or any behavior that hurts another. We also take a very active stance against the aggressive and disrespectful behavior so prominently encouraged in modern media (TV, music, fashion, internet, games, etc). It is our experience over these past many years of working with children that they cherish and feel much safer in an environment that demands respect of its members.
Responsibility – The 5th R. Responsibility at Roughing It means realizing that we all are in control of our lives, our behavior and that our actions have a great impact on the world around us. We strive to make this impact as positive, helpful and beneficial as humanly possible. We all make many mistakes as we live our lives and we learn at Roughing It that it is all right to make a mistake and that it is alright to fail. We learn that what is more important is that we take responsibility for our actions and when we do make a mistake that hurts another that we say we are sorry and try to make things right. We all learn from our many mistakes and Roughing It provides a safe and respectful environment where children can learn to take responsibility for their actions and can fully empower themselves for both the many successes and some failures of their adult lives.
Learning to Participate. Way too much instruction in the classroom is individual and non-participatory. Roughing It is participatory in nature and our whole program is built on group focus. Campers become active members of their camper group and practice important group living and decision making skills through participation in Roughing Its program. “There are NO Spectators at Roughing It” and campers learn how important “joining in” is to success and enjoyment. Counselors and other campers encourage and support new camper’s participation. Older campers play an important role modeling and encouraging younger campers’ participation in camp activities. We believe that one of the very greatest gifts that Roughing It provides campers is this strong, positive tradition of participation. Many camper parents mention that their campers return from Roughing It to school with an increase enthusiasm for joining into to new and challenging activities. This is a skill that Roughing It campers will carry with them for life.
Roughing It – Program With a Purpose. Roughing It takes great care and great effort in designing its program to ensure that campers gain as much a possible as they can during the summer. The Roughing It program is PURPOSEFUL in that we are constantly reviewing every aspect of our program to make sure that it contributes to the growth and development of our campers. Counselors and instructors design formal programs for their respective programs areas and these program/lesson plans are reviewed by our program supervisors and administrators. Our program administrators, program supervisors and Ann & Hobie spend many hours each day overseeing the various program areas to ensure that there is both purpose and meaning to the activities being offered. While most other camps resemble the chaos of recess at school, Roughing It provides an organized set of activities that ensures that campers actually gain the important social skills they will use through out their adult lives.
Friendship Skills. One of the most important areas of social skill development that Roughing It emphasizes in every aspect of its program is that of friendship skills. We know how very important the skill of making, keeping and improving friendships will be to all of our campers as they grow. Campers have numerous and continuous opportunities to practice their friendship skills through out their many years at Roughing It. We have many program and group activities that provide campers friendship opportunities, including: ice breakers, group challenges, initiative games, cooperative games, team-building activities and more. Our staff is trained in a variety of strategies to support and enhance our campers friendship skill development, including: goal setting, questioning strategies, as we go activities, values sharing, cheer leading, positive reinforcement, positive strategies and group debriefing. One of the strongest traditions that has developed at Roughing It over these past many years is that of older campers who helping younger campers. This behavior is even modeled by our younger campers who eagerly begin to help even younger campers at Roughing It. It really is something to see a little first grader helping a kindergartner put her jacket back into her backpack.
Group Decision Making. The vast majority of a camper’s time at Roughing It is spent participating in activities as the member of a camper group. This is by design and is one of the most important elements of to Roughing It approach. Campers have many opportunities every day to practice and perfect their group decision making skills. We feel that this is especially important in our modern world since most people will spend the vast majority of their adult life participating in groups (work groups, families, communities, government, church, teams, organizations, etc). Roughing Its goal is to EMPOWER campers to make their own decisions and we provide many opportunities for camper groups to practice group decision making, for example: deciding on the group name, designing a group skit, planning their own activity, developing their group’s code of living, finding a group fort, etc. Group decision making is a skill that grows through constant practice and learning.
Putting Education Into Practice. Roughing It provides campers a wonderful opportunity to put much of the formal knowledge they obtain during the year in school into action. We try to make learning and education “real” and meaningful at Roughing It. Learning to use a map and compass or to measure the height of a tree demonstrates the utility of some of the dry concepts learned in school. All of Roughing It’s staff share a common passion for learning and knowledge and share their excitement with campers. Our staff members are recently graduated from college or still attending college and we encourage them to share their learning experiences with the campers. Staff constantly organizes mental challenges and contests to encourage camper learning.
Physical Skills & Fitness. Only one sixth of the students in California elementary schools can pass the minimum state physical education standards. Most of us appreciate that today’s children lack both the physical activity and skills necessary for a healthy and happy adult life. Roughing It’s all outdoor and highly active program provides both a model and the specific skills for campers to adopt an active physical lifestyle. Campers grow to seek healthy and very physical activities. Our active games, contests and sports provide great opportunities for campers to expand their physical skills and interests.
Healthy Lifestyles. Our counselors and staff model healthy lifestyles to campers and openly encourage campers to lead healthy life. Counselors adhere to a formal dress and grooming code and represent the positive image that parents desire for their children. Counselors are selected based on their health and are specifically trained to model positive health in all they do, including: eating healthy lunches, participating in highly physical activity, grooming, cleanliness, getting adequate rest, pacing their activities, healthy leisure pursuits and more. Counselors will bring to the attention of camp administrators and the camper parent any concerns over a campers health and wellness. We all will work together to help every camper develop healthy lifestyle habits that will carry forward into adulthood.
Safe Risks & Overcoming Challenges. Roughing It is filled with new experiences, new challenges and healthy risks. We work with all of our campers to help them safely meet and successfully overcome new challenges. Campers learn to comprehensively assess potential risks, employ acceptable safety management and to make healthy choices when accepting challenges. Campers can learn to manage their own safety and to monitor the safety of those around them.
Environmental Education & Stewardship. Roughing It takes place in an ALL OUTDOOR environment by design because we feel that it is mandatory that campers learn to care for, respect and protect the natural world. There are so many lessons to be learned by living, playing and working outdoors for the whole day. Campers learn to live and function in the outdoors and gain important outdoor living and safety skills including: sun protection, hydration, energy management, heat/cold protection, weather conditions, outdoor travel, and outdoor living. Campers participate in formal environmental education activities that improve their understanding and respect for the natural world. Roughing It stresses a sanative (improving the environment by our activities) approach to all our programs at camp.
Problem Solving – Learning to Learn. One of the most important reasons for our designing the Roughing It program in a group format is that such an approach provides many wonderful opportunities for our campers learn how to solve problems together as group and to develop important problem solving strategies. Counselors are specifically trained NOT to provide solutions to campers but rather to facilitate the campers developing and testing their own solutions to problems. Locating a hidden “treasure,” hunting for another camper group’s secret fort, deciding what the group wants to do during a free period and other group problems offer campers continuous opportunities to practice “real world” problem solving. Camp administrators and program leaders develop formal group challenges to offer camper groups even more opportunities to practice problem solving.
Sharing Your Knowledge & Views. Everyone comes to Roughing It with different backgrounds, different experiences and different views. This is true for campers, counselors, staff and administrators. We encourage everyone to share their knowledge and their views with everyone. Learning to share your thoughts and knowledge is another important life skill that is learned at Roughing It. Shared knowledge and shared experience is what makes to group more powerful than the sum of its members. Sharing our knowledge and diverse background is what makes a democracy work so much better than other forms of government. Roughing It’s uniquely organized program and group centered curriculum allows campers to practice and perfect these most important life skills.
Life Skills – Skills That Last a Lifetime. Every year we find more strategies and more specific activities that help campers practice and learn social skills that they will use through out their life as adults. We refer to these skills as Lifeskills and we are developing them into a formal curriculum for helping campers grow. We also realize that a great deal of the learning of life skills is learned through campers modeling the life skill behavior of our counselors. That is why Roughing It is so very selective in recruiting staff and so comprehensive in the orientation/training of our staff. It is also why we are so focused in our supervision of staff by our supervisors/administrators. Parents are constantly commenting on the positive growth their campers make in these social skills that we refer to as Lifeskills. The mastering of Life skills by our campers is one of the most important contributions that Roughing It makes to its campers and a very unique difference between Roughing It and other camps.