Has America Fallen? I believe that we can all agree that in the past 3 years or so, our society has become less civil. We use more profanity in public. We are more polarised, it's We VS Them. Life has become a Win / Loose debate, never a Win / Win scenario. It seems like the fall has started. Yet, recently Senator Susan Collins has suggested a Summer Camp staple to help solve the world's ills. Yes, it is the talking stick. A simple concept, when you hold the stick you talk and others listen. Yes, listen - something America is short on these days. Sure, you can call it childish or not needed. But if we look at what Summer Camp teaches our children to become better adult, it is something all parents strive for and it all starts with a talking stick.

Here are just a few of the positive atributes taught at an overnight summer camp:

Affirmation:  Sometimes one simple word of affirmation can change an entire life. Recognition from outside can turn into recognition from the inside, also known as confidence.
Art: Everyone who wants to create… can. The world just needs more people who want to, and a child who is free from the pressure of competitive achievement is free to be creative.
Challenge:  Encourage a child to dream big dreams. In turn, they will accomplish more than they thought possible… and probably even more than you thought possible.
Compassion/Justice:  Life isn’t fair. It never will be – there are just too many variables. But when a wrong has been committed or a playing field can be leveled, we want our children to be active in helping to level it.
Contentment:  The need for more material things can be contagious. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts we can give children is a genuinely content appreciation for what they have… leaving them to find out who they are.
Curiosity:  Children need a safe place outside the home to ask questions about who, what, where, how, why, and why not. “Stop asking so many questions” are words that need never be heard.
Determination: One of the greatest determining factors of success is the exercise of will. Children flourish when they are given independent opportunities to learn how to find the source of determination within themselves and exercise that determination.
Discipline: Discipline is really a form of concentration learned from the ground up, in arenas that include appropriate behaviors, how to get along with others, how to get results, and how to achieve dreams. Properly encouraged, self discipline can come to be developed into a self sustaining habit.
Encouragement: Words are powerful. They can create or they can destroy. The simple words that a counselor or mentor might choose to speak, can offer encouragement and create positive thoughts for a child to build from.  
Finding Beauty:  Beauty surrounds us. A natural environment can inspire our children find beauty in everything they see and in everyone they meet there.
Generosity: The experience of generosity is a great way for a child to learn it. Generosity is a consistent quality of heart regardless of whether the medium that reflects it is time, energy or material things.
Honesty/Integrity:  Children who learn the value and importance of honesty at a young age have a far greater opportunity to become honest adults. And honest adults who deal truthfully with others tend to feel better about themselves, enjoy their lives more, and sleep better at night.
Hope: Hope means knowing that things will get better and improve and believing it. Hope is the source of strength, endurance, and resolve. And in the desperately difficult times of life, it calls us to press onward.
Imagination: If we’ve learned anything in recent years, it’s that life is changing faster and faster with every passing day. The world of tomorrow will look nothing like the world today. And the people with imagination are the ones not just living it, they are creating it.
Intentionality: This word means the habit of pausing to find the intent behind each of the ongoing choices that comprise our lives. It is the moment of reflection toward one’s own source: slow down, consider who you are, your environment, where you are going and how to get there.  
Lifelong Learning: A passion for learning is different from just studying to earn a grade or please teachers. It begins in the home and school but can be splendidly expanded at summer camp. A camper has fun being safely exposed, asking questions, analyzing the answers that expose more and having more fun doing it all again. In other words, learn to love learning itself.
Meals Together: Meals together provide an unparalleled opportunity for relationships to grow, the likes of which can not be found anywhere else.
Nature: Children who learn to appreciate the world around them take care of the world around them.
Opportunity: Kids need opportunities to experience new things so they can find out what they enjoy and what they are good at.
Optimism: Pessimists don’t change the world. Optimists do.
Pride: Celebrate the little things in life. After all, it is the little accomplishments in life that become the big accomplishments. Pride in the process is as important as pride in the results.
Room to make mistakes: Kids are kids. That’s what makes them so much fun… and so desperately in need of our patience. We need to give them room to experiment, explore, and make mistakes early, when consequences are so much less severe.
Self-Esteem: People who learn to value themselves are more likely to have self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. As a result, they are more likely to become adults who respect their own values and stick to them… even when no one else does.
Sense of Humor: We need to provoke laughter with children and laugh with them everyday… for our sake and theirs.
Spirituality: Faith elevates our view of the universe, our world, and our lives. We would be wise to instill into our kids that they are more than just flesh and blood taking up space. They are also made of mind, heart, soul, and will. And decisions in their life should be based on more than just what everyone else with flesh and blood is doing.
Stability: A stable environment becomes the foundation on which children build the rest of their lives. Just as they need to know their place in the family, children need an opportunity to learn how to make their place amongst their peers. Children benefit from having a safe place to learn how stability is made and maintained outside the home.  
Time: Time is the only real currency.Children can learn to believe to respect the value of time long before they come to realize how quickly it can pass.
Undivided Attention: There is no substitute for undivided attention, whether it comes from a parent, a teacher, a mentor, or a camp counselor.
Uniqueness: What makes us different is what makes us special. Uniqueness should not be hidden. It should be proudly displayed for the world to see, appreciate, and enjoy.
A Welcoming Place: To know that you are always welcome in a place is among the sweetest and most life-giving assurances in the world.
Along with lifelong friendships, the recognition and development of these attributes is the lasting gift of a child’s experience at summer camp. A summer at camp is the most fun possible way a child gets to experience what it is to be human.
Summer camp is usually thought of in terms of all the traditional activities and facilities that come to our mind, and those elements are indeed part of what makes the experience memorable. But the true essence of the experience of summer camp is human connection. The attributes in this article are qualities that are rediscovered and expanded by interaction with counselors, staff and other campers in a natural setting. The best summer camps are carefully staffed and creatively programmed by directors with this concept in mind.  As one director put it, “Our hope is to give the world better people one camper at a time.”  Learn more about Swift Nature Camp at http://swiftnaturecamp.com

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The Social and Emotional Long-Term Benefits of Summer Camp

 Summer camps help children to foster social relationships without the aid of a parent.

NEW YORK CITY - Children spend up to 180 days in school, not counting weekend functions, school-sponsored extra-curricular activities and socializing with friends. For most kids, it’s a huge part of their world.

Camp offers your child a different environment in which to grow their social skills and expand their friendship circle.

The primary feature of most camps is that they offer recreation and creativity in a structured environment.  That structure usually provides for downtime to just hang out.

Here, are a few of the many positive features of going to camp.

 

Another Opportunity to Develop Social Intelligence
According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, who coined the term, social intelligence is broken into two parts:

Social awareness is the ability to monitor our inner world — our thoughts and feelings. Social awareness refers to qualities including empathy, attunement to others and social cognition.

Social facility, on the other hand, refers to how we use our internal social awareness to interact with individuals and groups successfully, such as self-presentation, influence and concern for others.

Camp is a key opportunity for kids to develop both sides of their social intelligence by offering them a way to practice becoming adept at socializing by offering them access to many new people and environments.

The more children can practice their social intelligence, the more smoothly they can incorporate the skills for the rest of their lives.

Emotional Challenges
The structure of camp presents an ideal environment for children to build resilience. As I’ve mentioned before in my Mental Wellness column, resilience is having the ability to take failures in stride and retain a positive outlook on life and one’s abilities.

There are a myriad of examples where resilience can be fostered while at camp, whether it be on the losing side of an athletic competition, navigating the social waters of cliques and peer groups, or (in the case of sleep-away camp) not being able to lean on a parent’s intervention, thereby learning to “smooth” things out on one’s own.

Camp also allows children to experience the full range of emotions in relationships in a compressed time frame of several days to several months. Children get to experience the nervousness, excitement and, eventually, the sadness that comes from making new friends, connecting with those friends and then having to say goodbye at the end. This experience will repeat itself over and over again across one’s lifetime and it is a different experience from the cycle of the academic year.

Expanding the Definition of “Who I Am”
For good or for bad, we often times get labeled early in our lives as an athlete, an artist, musician, as gifted or talented, as a “brainiac,” or other, more derogatory, things.

After I finished graduate school, I worked at an academically-oriented summer program for high school kids, located on a major college campus. It was a very LGBT-friendly environment, and many of the LGBT students expressed that they felt most like themselves at this program. This was in stark contrast to their school experiences where they felt they had to “hide” their true selves, due to fear of judgment, ridicule or violence. The students were very grateful for this camp.

Like those LGBT teens, kids of all kinds can find a place to expand or change their label at the right camp.

In the age of specialized summer camps, children who excel or have an intense interest in a subject can spend their summers exclusively pursuing their passions. A secondary gain from this is that the other kids attending camp are also the ones labeled in the aforementioned ways back home. As a result, your child can be defined less by their passion, or what they “do,” and more by their character and the other traits that go into their “true” sense of self.

If the child has had negative experiences at school or in their neighborhood, they get exposure to a different world that may feel more accepting, walking away with a belief that there is a place for them in world.

The Investment
Sometimes summer camp can be a costly financial investment for parents, particularly when it comes to food and lodging and travel at camps such as sleep-aways.

But whether it's a free camp or a paid camp, a good one requires kids to invest in their experience, whether it's through their intention to build friendships or their willingness to push boundaries to the unknown.

If a child spends the summer growing their social network, building resilience, developing a positive sense of self which helps them be who they really are, then the money spent on summer camp is a priceless investment in your kid’s future.

Overnight Children's Camp arts & craftsNow is the time to Commit! You have heard about all the benefits Overnight Summer Camp can provide a child.  Still, it seems a strange concept to send your child away to Swift Nature Camp and in other people's care. Yet time and time again, parents see that their child returns home different (better) than before he or she left. How can this be? What is this Camp Magic?

As a parent, these are the questions that went through my head as I sent my child to a different overnight summer camp. Does sending my kid away mean I do not love them? Does it mean I am selfish? Does it mean I am a BAD parent?

Actually sending your child to Overnight summer camp means none of these things. Often parents need to hear again all the benefits of summer camp, here are a few:

 

9. Kids are active – These days a child's life is sedentary in school, online and inside. Every moment at camp is filled with motion, from play to learning or even walking to the bathroom.

8. Experience successes – Camp's main goal is to build kids up. So at SNC we find what kids can succeed and that helps them feel more confident.

7. Gain resiliency – Life is filled with setbacks. At camp setbacks can be handled in a positive way. For instance, a group may have a difficult canoe trip, yet together they persevered and made it. Knowing you can make it is an amazing lesson.

6. Unplug – Technology has taken over our life. No time in history have children been so connected to it. In the old days kids watched TV for 2-3 hours a day now a screen is watched 7-9 hrs a day. Get back to real connections.

5. Independent – This day and age kids are scheduled most of the day. Camp gives children the ability to make choices for themselves. A skill needed in life. Wrong decisions can be gently handled and right decisions applauded by peers and non parental units.

4. Play – In nature animals learn by play. We all love watching the wolf pups play, but they are really getting ready for life. Same is true with children, they learn by having unorganized free play. Something that was a staple in kids growing up in the past. Camp still provides this in a safe, child friendly atmosphere.

3. Social skills – Living in a communal setting, like camp, provides amazing opportunities for children to learn personal skills like, empathy, resolving disagreements, teamwork and healthy communication.

2. Enjoy nature – Kids lives have become an indoor life. Nature is missing and all the research shows this is having a negative effect on today's kids. Higher stress, obesity and insecurity. Nature supports healthy child development and enriches kid’s perception of the world.

1. Friendships–Swift Nature Camp has only one mission to help children be their best. We do this in a fun and supportive way. By building friendships with people that truly care. we help child make better friends. Campers will tell you their best friends are at camp. Why? When you live with people, you learn to accept them, you build tolerance and over time your difference become bonds.  The result is a summer family.

 

So as you are thinking about the adventure your child will be on this summer, don't rule out the Northwoods of Wisconsin and Swift Nature Camp.

Winter

25 Baybrook Ln.

Oak Brook, IL 60523

Phone: 630-654-8036

swiftcamp@aol.com

Camp

W7471 Ernie Swift Rd.

Minong, WI 54859

Phone: 715-466-5666

swiftcamp@aol.com