Towering Pines Blog

One summer down, one school year to go…

And just like that the summer came and went. Did it seem quick to you? I have a hard time believing that it’s done already, but at the same time, it is also hard to believe that just a few weeks ago we were all celebrating our successful summer together at the TP banquet. Like you, I am now getting myself prepared for another school year. As I start another busy semester teaching and researching at UW-Milwaukee, I like to put my summer into perspective so I feel more prepared to move forward.

Now that the season is changing, it’s time to think about all the things we’ve seen and done and how they will help us in the school year to come. So I thought I’d offer some thoughts on the benefits of camp. Here are five ways in which camp experience will directly help you in the new school year!

Take it from these guys; sometimes getting along is a lot of work…

Interpersonal skills: Whether it’s making new friends, rejoining old ones, or just dealing with someone you aren’t a huge fan of; camp has prepared you to better interact with others. Life is typically more complicated than taunting other players in a battle royale video game, and you won’t always be able to just hang out with the people you like. At camp, the nature of the program gives you ways to interact and figure out how to get along with all kinds of different people. When you live and play with a diverse group, you need to develop better social skills and strategies, whether you like each other or not. Interacting with classmates should be super easy after that! You can apply lessons you learned at camp to reduce conflict and get to know each other better.

Steady as she goes…we’ll get it this time!

Routines: While your friends back home were binging on videogames or Netflix, you have been practicing the essential skill of time management. You may not be as busy as you were at camp now that you are back home, but there are still important routines that you need to follow. Don’t forget how important things like cabin clean-up and knowing what to expect from your day were! School may not be as exciting as your daily camp activities, but it follows a predictable pattern. And even if it seems boring to go to the same classes and walk the same paths every day, there is always something new to see or do. Just like going to the same camp activities every day allowed you to try new skills and practice old ones, similar attitudes will help you succeed in even your most boring class. Not to mention that those free moments between classes and scheduled tasks are great for sneaking in important planning, napping, doodling, or daydreaming. I know I owe thanks to camp for learning the value of a five-minute nap!

Risk-taking and rising to challenges: One of the best things about camp is creating a safe place for you to try something new. In fact, camp’s so good at that, you may not have even noticed it happening! But take some time to think about even one new thing you tried this summer…how did it go? Did you succeed? If you didn’t, you probably still learned something. What could have gone better? Do you know what went wrong? Did you try again? The point is, the school year will be full of less obviously challenging challenges, so remembering something like successfully riding a massive zipline or diving to the bottom of Clear Lake can give you the confidence to try something new now; whether trying a new club activity, talking to someone you don’t know that well, or taking a chance on a new social event. So get out there and see what new adventures await in the school year! It can’t be as hard as the ropes course or getting your Gold Archer.

Independence and confidence: When you get down to it, all of these different benefits of camp have an overall effect of making you a more independent and confident person. You should now be better prepared to make choices and act on them on your own, and that understanding should give you confidence. You’ve been riding bikes, riding horses, sailing boats, shooting rifles, making your own schedule, and then executing that plan. That is awesome! And these are all things that many other people just plain old don’t get to do.

Not to mention, the enthusiasm: Speaking of things in your control, enthusiasm thrives at camp, but it all stems from you! There are going to be times that you feel helpless or bored at school, but that is an illusion. You have a choice every day to take advantage of your situation or not. You can choose to be excited about learning new formulas in math or reading a book that wouldn’t be your favorite. The excitement can stem from that same sense of independence: you are in control. Remember when Jeff or I asked you to give your schedule one more day and see if you could find something you liked about it (that’s how I got so good at sailing; Jeff encouraged me not to quit!), believe it or not, taking a situation you aren’t excited about and making the best of it is a sign of personal strength AND it will make you much happier in the long run. Whether it was a bad choice you made in gym or a class you have to take for requirements, you still have another choice as to how you handle it. That takes independence and confidence in yourself, and you can choose to make the best of it.

Now, it may not always feel like these benefits are happening naturally, that’s why I think it’s worth taking the time to think about now! So take a moment to pat yourself on the back. But also remember that all the benefits I’ve listed here are there for you to take, if you want. You don’t have to, and while some of these benefits are happening without you even thinking about it, if you do take the time to think about them and make use of them, it is much easier to succeed.