North Star Camp for Boys

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Sundays Equal Learning

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a popular catchphrase and it has recently come under some political scrutiny, but we wanted to define what social emotional learning means for us at North Star. The idea behind SEL (according to CASEL) is to promote 5 sets of skills:

  1. Self-awareness

  2. Self-Management

  3. Social Awareness

  4. Relationship Skills

  5. Responsible Decision-Making

The nature of the camp experience makes many of these lessons inherently ingrained. The quantity and intensity of the time our campers spend with their peers helps reinforce these skill sets through social feedback, both positive and negative. So while we greatly appreciate the natural growth that happens through life experiences, at North Star we set out to use dialogue and reflection to intentionally promote this growth in alignment with our values. 

Some of the tools we have codified into our camp routine include Meaningful Check-Ins, SEL Self-Reflection, SEL Counselor Evaluations, Parent Letters, Friday Night Services, mindfulness opportunities and our Sunday night program, which includes Unorganized Free and Sunday Night Campfires. With our first Sunday night this evening, I want to share with you an earlier blog about our weekly Sunday programming:

We begin our Sunday evening program with what we call Unorganized Free. Unstructured free play has tremendous benefits for kids of all ages, and those times have been disappearing for kids with perilous effects (read here, here or here). Unorganized free is meant to combat that. The rules are simple: Go Outside and Play. This is not something kids are used to hearing these days. In a world where their schedules are getting tighter and the stress levels are getting higher, this child-directed free play was an exciting, out of the box experience. There were two rules - 1) Everybody had to be outside, and 2) The counselors are to supervise for safety, not to play or organize. At announcements, one of the Junior Village campers asked, “Does that mean we could play a huge game of hide and seek?” The kids went crazy when we told them that that is exactly what they should be doing.

The second part of our Sunday evening was Cabin Campfires, which are designed to help our boys process their experience, build self awareness, and teach so much more. Much like our opening night candlelight ceremonies, these "cabin meetings" are an opportunity for open, honest communication and sharing. So every cabin took to their campsite, built a campfire, and began this fireside chat. The format was as follows:

1) Accomplishments - everyone should take a moment to recognize the things they have accomplished in this past week.

2) Compliments - a chance for cabinmates to praise the positive things they have seen in each other.

3) Personal Growth - a time for each person to consider a way in which they have grown or a lesson that they have learned in the past week

4) Discussion - an opportunity for the group to discuss issues, problems or challenges and work together to find solutions.

5) Reflection - a few dedicated minutes of time to oneself to think about how to be a better friend, cabinmate and camper in the coming week.

6) Goal Setting - to conclude with a tangible plan for the week ahead with both individual and group goals.

7) S'mores - how else could you end a campfire?

With both the Unorganized Free and the Cabin Campfires, we were upfront with the boys about why we were doing what we were doing. Not only did they understand it, they appreciated it. We heard from many of our campers how nice it was to be able to have time like this, where they could just be kids in the woods. And many of our staff explained that this time has been of tremendous importance to them as campers and counselors alike.


COVID-19 Update

We also wanted to share that, like so many camps and communities at this time, we do have cases of COVID-19 in camp. As of today, we have a couple of campers who presented with symptoms and ultimately tested positive, joining the handful of staff as well. You would have been notified if any of the cases were in your child’s cabin.

We are committed to continuing our camp program while continuing our efforts to mitigate spread among our community. The campers’ daily schedules are not changing. With the guidance of our medical experts, we are modifying our testing strategy to target symptomatic cases while using our testing resources to safely return positive campers and staff to full action as soon as safely possible. Utilizing the latest recommendations from medical professionals and other camps alike, we have adapted some of our earlier plans in order to simultaneously minimize transmission and maximize the camp experience. 

In other news, we had our first Green-White Series last night. Our new campers and staff were given their Green-White teams and competed in all sorts of competitions from soccer to Kan-Jam for the kickoff of our summer long competition. Campers and staff alike traded in their green and white yesterday for their flannel today. It was our coldest day of the session so far, which some of our staff decided to turn into flannel day. Everyone grabbed their flannel pajamas, shirts and jackets to sport their best Northwoods Lumberjack fashion. Tomorrow marks the final day of the first week of projects, and the boys will pick their second round of instructional activities.

Trip Report: Cabin S-5 left this morning for their trip on the Brule River. Cabin J-6 leaves in the morning for the Upper Namekagon. And Cabin S-1 is returning from their hiking trip in the Porcupine Mountains.

Today’s Grace:

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

- John Wooden