Selecting a children's sleep-away camp is a very difficult process for parents. It is a process that in the end has parents entrusting the most precious things in their life to relative strangers. Even though Andrea and I have more than 60 years of combined experience in working with other people's children, we still marvel at what it takes for us to trust others with the care of our three daughters. We are so very humbled and honored so many families place that trust in us! We often hear from parents that they cannot distinguish between camps because the words used to describe what each does are mostly the same. But while most camps are all very similar in the experience they hope to provide, they tend to be very different in the approach. The similarity is that if organized and managed right, most children are able to get a look at their best self. Camp becomes a place where they can grow, learn, discover, experience while also having the values taught at home re-enforced by trust family partners. Below are 10 good reasons parents choose Southwoods:
1. Campers should have the opportunity to learn how to navigate the tricky social situations we all face the rest of our lives. At Southwoods they get the opportunity to learn how to be a part of and engage in what we like to call “dinner conversation”. They learn how to meet new people of various demographics; age, race, religion, nationality and develop the skills to create appropriate and positive relationships. They learn that it is not necessary to be best friends with everyone in the group to function well within the group and yes still have an amazing time. They realize the world provides them with endless possibilities and they get to play the leading role in writing the story of who they become. They learn that their value, their sense of self-worth should not be based on how good they are at something, rather it is all about how good of a person they are. And yes, sometimes they will not say the right thing, they may not win or they may feel left out of a group. True growth comes from learning how to deal with these things and from how they are taught and guided through these situations.
2. Campers should have the opportunity to explore nature in a way that is different than just being set loose in the back yard. At Southwoods we get to learn how and where to pitch a tent, the best way to cook over a fire, catch frogs, slip n slide in the mud while it is raining, pick up trash, love the natural world around us and so very much more. A great camp teaches children to use all of their senses to experience the world around them. At Southwoods campers unplug and explore in ways that surprise them and their parents. We often get a shocked blank look when our campers share in front of mom and dad that one of their favorite activities at camp was frog catching or caving! Things many parents would have been positive their child would not have enjoyed.
3. Campers should come home from camp having had the opportunity to find out they are strong. At Southwoods campers find out that they are strong enough to fall down, scrape their knee and their ego, then get up and wipe one or both off, and keep on going. They develop the skills to be away from their parents and their home and learn that all is still okay! They build independence, confidence and self-esteem all of which which sets them up to take advantage of the many other opportunities their parents will be able to put in front of them as they grow and mature.
4. Campers should have the opportunity to find out that it is fun to embrace their creative abilities. At Southwoods we do this in many different ways; musicals and plays, talent shows, bunk airband performances, campfire skits, dance recitals, themed camp dances, various evening activities like Rainbow Warriors and Panic, Tribal sing and cheer, arts and crafts, wood working, glass blowing, cooking, dance, photo and videography...and many other unplanned ways.
5. Campers should have the opportunity to find out that life is really about participation not perfection. At Southwoods our campers are surrounded by wonderful, college age young adults and fun loving mature older adults doing crazy things outside of our comfort zones on a daily bases. This helps our campers feel more comfortable taking social risks and find success in things they may not feel comfortable or skilled at doing in the beginning. We see campers learn how to include other campers rather than exclude them for self-serving purposes. They select electives they know they are not good at because our environment allows them to learn without judgement the pressure to be the best. Every day we see, campers find themselves and awaken new passions they never knew they had! It is truly one of the most special parts of Southwoods.
6. Campers should be introduced to new experiences every day at Camp. From the moment they step on the bus we strive to immerse campers in a world of discovery. At Southwoods, meeting new friends that they’ll hold dear for the rest of their lives is common. Trying new foods that they would never be willing try at home. The freedom to choose and participate in a host of new and different activities on a daily basis, and of course other silly things like bathing in the lake, smearing mud on their face 40 feet below the ground in a cave, riding a bike through tall grass, catching a frog in a stream, making a cake, eating a wild blackberry, passing a deep water test, jumping both wakes behind a ski boat, standing on stage in front of 400 people and singing a song. The list truly goes on forever!
7. Campers grow their ability to appreciate and embrace others by having the opportunity to be exposed to different cultures from around the world. Southwoods has staff and campers from many different countries. At line-up we hear the Spanish word of the day, the Turkish phrase of the day, the sushi of the day and so much more. Our campers are exposed to the amazing shrinking world. We hear the national anthem of different countries and enjoy cuisine prepared by staff from all over the world. Some of our favorite campfire songs have been brought to us from other countries!
8. Campers should have the opportunity to learn the value of teamwork. At Southwoods we are exposed to this important life skill in a multitude of ways. From simple cabin activities such as air-band performances and campfire skits to our inter-camp teams and Tribal War games. Look at air-band…days working as a group to select the perfect song, choreographing the dance moves and the practice to finalize the performance, all yielding 2 minutes of on stage performance and 45 seconds of applause from the crowd. This is followed by a lifetime of remembering that crazy air-band we created our lower-inter year…! Everything we do at Southwoods is designed to be fun learning opportunities.
9. Campers should learn the meaning of getting and giving a warm inner glow. At Southwoods we practice this every day. The personal knowledge that you have given of yourself to make someone else's day better! We work hard to teach children how to recognize when someone needs you to do something nice while also teaching children how to recognize when someone has done something nice for them. Nice things happen, because someone makes them happen! And giving and getting Fuzzies is all about learning how to do these things!
10. Campers should have the opportunity to learn the value of traditions. Millions of campers from all over the world return year after year to camp and each of them has something they can't wait to do or take part in making happen. Things like Tribal break, overnight camping trips, campfire songs, evening activities, gaga on the spring floor, Carnival, special out of camp trips, inter-camp games, head staff dunk tank, silent dinner, candy hunt, musicals and plays, closing circle and the list just goes on and on and on. Traditions and special moments that they represent will live on generation after generation and allow us to reconnect with our childhood as we hear and see them through the eyes of our children and grandchildren.
Both Andrea & I and all of our staff, thank you for trusting us with the most precious things in your life. Malcolm Gladwell shares in his book, "The Outliers", that life is about taking advantage of opportunities. We look forward to making sure your children have amazing opportunities and are encouraged to take full advantage of them all!!!