When the voyageurs set out on their journeys for many months at a time they had to carry -on their back or in their canoes- all the gear and supplies they would need. <strong>Their initial preparations, along with their ability to work well together and to make the most of their abilities, were usually the difference between a successful, enjoyable trip and one which was not.</strong>
Camp Buckskin creates an environment where our campers – and staff – can effectively work with others, to adapt well to change, and maximize their talents, because these abilities are as crucial today as they were for the voyageurs. In short, we want to help these young people be prepared to become successful, happy people now and for many years to come!
The 3 R’s – Responsibility, Resourcefulness, and Resilience
How do our campers reach that successful, happy destination? We believe education is extremely important to becoming successful. Most people know that the traditional “3R’s” of school refer to reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. The voyageurs didn’t need to make extensive use of these abilities. They had to read a map or calculate whether they were paid correctly for the goods they traded, but that was about the extent of their need for “the 3R’s.” However in our world, reading and writing are the foundation of education and education is key to success. As such, we have included them as part of our daily core activities.
We also believe academic knowledge alone is not enough to ensure success. While it is important to know reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, it is crucial to be able to use knowledge and get along with others. We refer to these abilities as the New 3R’s’ – Responsibility, Resourcefulness, and Resilience. Since these abilities are so vital to success, we focus a great deal of our efforts towards helping our parents help their children to develop these abilities as well.
If our campers are to improve both their traditional and new 3R abilities, it is necessary to help them make changes in both attitudes and habits. To help them produce the greatest change, it is imperative that they are able ‘to do their best.’ Many young people and particularly our campers can face significant challenges learning in a ‘traditional’ environment. Our site and location provides an excellent therapeutic setting in which to learn and grow.
Even with plenty of structure, we know it usually takes some time for our first-time campers to settle in and adjust to the new setting. Psychologists have shown that it takes a minimum of 21 days to unlearn old habits and begin learning new ones. Because of the time needed to adjust and our want to provide as many opportunities to learn and succeed as we possibly can, the program is 30 days long. We offer two 30 day sessions each summer. If it was possible to teach and then have our campers practice social skills in less time, we would.
Similiarly, if there was a ‘quick fix’ to increase our campers self confidence and enhance their self concept, we certainly would use it. But improving self confidence and self concept is a by product of learning and achieving, and this takes time. We believe – and our over fifty years of experience have shown – that our campers can make substantial progress in one session. But we recommend they attend both, as their gains are significantly increased with the additional repetition and reinforcement. Our parents’ experience indicates that the changes are of a greater ‘magnitude’ and stick with them better.
The 3 Rights – The right to be safe, to learn and enjoy…
The final philosophical concept we want to share, the three rights, is relevant to parents, campers, and staff. The concept of the three rights is central to life at camp, and applies equally to everyone, from the youngest camper to the oldest staff. First and foremost is the right to be and feel safe. Second is the right to learn as much as you want or are able. The third and final right is the right to enjoy yourself. The rights are listed in this sequence according to their importance. So while fun is important, learning is more important and safety the most important. The rules at camp are based on these three rights. A ‘poor choice’ is words or actions that interfere with someone else’s enjoyment of one or more of their rights.
It is our belief that most of our campers social skill difficulties stem from a lack of awareness or lack of understanding. They don’t accurately perceive and process how their words and actions affect others, particularly peers. We help our campers understand why something was a ‘poor choice’ by referencing the three rights. This helps these young people, many of whom have trouble comprehending the ‘gray’ of the world, to discern it into more black and white terms, which gives them the best chance to truly understand. By cultivating this understanding, it will give Camp Buckskin campers the best opportunity to become a happier more successful person.
Choices and Consequences
Choices are usually the result of attitudes and habits. The more entrenched the habit, the harder it is to make a different choice. We strongly believe in accountability and responsibility. At camp we strive to employ natural and logical consequences. This helps children develop an understanding of how the real world will work.
We understand that no one is perfect and that mistakes will happen. Mistakes actually are an important part of the learning process, as they produce ‘teachable moments’ where our campers can learn a new skill or better way of meeting his or her needs. We give our campers opportunities to fix their mistakes or ‘make things right’ – and our staff encourages and guides them in the process. This puts it back on the child and enables them to work on their 3 R’s – Responsibility, Resourcefulness, and Resiliency.
Last but certainly not least is the extremely important concept of positive reinforcement. Our staff are constantly trying to catch our campers ‘doing well’ by recognizing them for the good choices they make. Campers are reinforced daily for the achievements they make not only in activities, but also for the gains in their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. This is vital in helping our campers increase their self confidence and improve their overall self concept.