Swift Nature Camp is just a microcosm of the real world. Of course we believe that we have an unusually high percentage of nice kids at SNC, however, when you bring 10 children together from all over the world you are bound to have conflict situations happen in a cabin. A conflict could be a simple thing like sitting on another camper's bed without asking permission or saying an unintentional hurtful or disrespectful word to another camper. It could be a more complex matter like stealing or 2 children falling into a pattern of constantly not getting along.
Because we understand conflict happens in life it is our goal to equip children with the skills needed to resolve differences in a kind and respectful manner. Whatever the case may be, we have probably seen it before; after all these years, very little is new to our experience.
Should a conflicts arise, it is brought up and discussed at our daily staff meeting. This is a perfect opportunity for all staff members to give their input into any current situation and refresh their skills for conflict resolution. Our goal is to help each child with personal growth. You can’t accomplish this goal by assigning blame and punishments. The only way to make true change is to help children see the impact of their choices and to encourage them to find a replacement action so they will know how to react to the same situation in the future. This gives them an opportunity to try again and we praise the progress made toward the correct response, all the while reassuring our trust in them to make the right decision.
This approach often is met with success. However, it requires: time, sensitivity and energy. Our dedicated staff along with our small size and close staff to camper ratio provide us this luxury. If for some reason a resolution approach does not work, we may ask the campers and counselor involved to come and chat with us, the Directors. We stay consistent with our goal and make every effort to help the camper see the seriousness of certain actions and why they really do not work here at our summer camp. In some cases once we come to an agreement, we write it up as a contract for all to sign. That way, every participant feels the importance of the resolution and are equally aware of what might happen next if the agreement is not kept. If that agreement breaks down we might then call the camper's parents and ask for advice. We might have the camper call his or her parents and explain what's going on at camp. A camper call to parents for disciplinary reasons happens very rarely - once every few years.
As a last resort, if after all these steps no improvement is made, or if other campers feel frightened or bullied, we will talk with the parents about a camper going home early. Because our campers really are amazingly good children, this sort of action has only happened a handful of times since we became Directors in 1996.