Yesterday I was opening the mail that had piled up last week while we were all away at the American Camp Association Conference in New Orleans. I opened a hand drawn Illahee pine branch with Thank You on the front. The letter from our 5th grade camper began,
Dear Camp Illahee Staff…..Thank you…. Every day at camp we all pass a sign, ‘Be A Great Girl’….camp teaches us independence, from the daily “chores” to being able to go places and learn routes by myself. Camp teaches us loyalty, through friendship and learning how to be an amazing friend. Camp teaches us flexibleness, and I don’t mean the splits. Camp teaches us to have flexible brains so we can problem solve and compromise.
Wow! I would have thought that she must have attended the conference with us! One of our keynote speakers was youth development and parenting expert, Dr. Deborah Gilboa who spoke of the “Happiness Pressure” that youth feel today. She also spoke about how much the camp experience offers opportunities for character development particularly Respect, Resilience and Responsibility. Gratitude, curiosity, grit and self-control are all “character predictors” and the camp experience offers many opportunities for practicing those traits. The thank you note from our Illahee girl illustrated first hand an “attitude of gratitude” and awareness of her own growth at camp.
Illahee is accredited by the American Camp Association, a nationally based organization for professional development and camp standards. Among the six of us from Illahee, we attended 60 educational sessions during the week. Some of my favorites were Motivating Change with Chris Thurber; The Culture of Perfectionism: How School, Social Media and Stress Affect Today’s Girls; Superb Supervision: The Powerful Things Supervisors Should Do Daily; Decisions in Camp Health Services; Best Practices in a Camp Riding Program; Training Your Staff to be Risk Managers; How to Get Staff to Master Positive Communication that Teaches Essential Life Skills to Campers….so many great sessions and great ideas!
We also enjoyed an enthusiastic gathering of Illahee girls for camp movies as well as – gumbo, fried oysters, baked fish, red beans and rice, beignets and bananas foster….yes, it was a week fueled by great food as well as great ideas. We are happy to be home putting those ideas into practice for the next Best Summer Ever!