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Monthly Archives: April 2012

If Only Every Child Could Go to Camp Jorn

Making "campfire apple pie" for our LITE (Learn It This Evening) night

After each session of resident camp, we ask parents and kids to let us know how the Camp Jorn experience was for them.  We are eager to hear about the things we can work on so that we can make the changes we need to make, and we also love to hear what we’re doing well so we can keep doing that!

We thought we’d send out a “feel-good” blog post today with some of the wonderful feedback we’ve heard from campers and their parents in the recent past.

Enjoy!

From Parents:

My daughter had a wonderful time and experience.  She loved her time at camp and we hope she has the opportunity to participate in the future.  Thanks to everyone for all of your efforts!

My daughter had such a good time she didn’t want to come home!  She asked if she could go 2 weeks next summer!  Way to go Camp Jorn!  You guys rock!!!  The lessons you teach the children are just phenomenal.  My daughter not only learned to be independent, but she learned that having fun doesn’t have to include video games, iPods and cell phones.  I LOVE the fact that you guys keep them busy all day long doing actual activities.  I would recommend Camp Jorn to everyone I know that has a child.  I LOVE you guys!!!

I love to hear the stories [my child] tells when she gets off the bus, and how excited she is to tell us.  I think Camp Jorn’s staff is doing a wonderful job with these kids!

Camp was a great experience overall.  It was my daughter’s first time and she will be back next year.

Keep up the good work.  You can tell by the pictures that he is a happy kid while he is there.

Great camp- she had a fantastic time!

Everything was great, and the staff was awesome!

This was her first away from home resident camping experience.  She had a wonderful time and was disappointed on Saturday morning when she had to board the bus to come home.  Thanks to everyone for making her first experience an enjoyable one.

I was unsure at first about sending her for two weeks…  BUT I must say your staff all around helped me be more comfortable with her gone.  She had the best summer experience anyone could have ever given her.  Thank you again from the bottom of my heart.

This was the best experience for my daughter who left shy and reserved but returned full of life, independent and eager to make friends.  Thank God for Camp Jorn!

The experience is better each and every time for my children and they are planning on attending next year already.  Thank you for all that you do.  You absolutely make a huge difference in the children’s lives.

Top notch!  My kids loved it!

This has been an awesome experience for my son.  I haven’t seen him this happy in a long time.   He’s looking forward to being in camp next year.  Thank you once again.

Great job…  thanks for treating my daughter with kindness.

Everyone in our group grew personally from their CJ experience–  thanks to the staff for a job well done!

From Kids:

What did you like best about camp?  EVERYTHING!

I loved bonding with my fellow TEVA girls!

I loved the overnight camping, waterskiiing and sailing.

I like being away from my usual schedule and being able to do things that I wouldn’t be able to do at home

I liked meeting new people and learning how to make different crafts.

Friends, activities, FUN

I liked meeting new people and making friends, the beautiful scenery, and fun classes

Friendly people, my counselor, and I was busy all the time

I like being around kids my own age that treated me with respect.  I LOVED horseback riding and water skiing.

I feel like I belong at CJ

Camp Jorn is changing lives!  Tell us how it’s changed yours!

 

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Kids and New Experiences – Why Camp Never Gets Old

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Whether your child has been to Camp Jorn in the past, or any camp for that matter, going to camp is still a “new experience” each time around.  As a parent myself, I love to see my kids trying new things and meeting new people-  I think it helps them grow in ways they normally wouldn’t during their everyday routines.  New experiences can be exciting and scary at the same time, but if there’s one thing I believe in wholeheartedly, it’s that the camp experience is one of the best opportunities out there for kids!

 At the website “sandbox-learning.com,” I read about 7 Strategies for Preparing Children for New Experiences.  I think most of these strategies are relevant to the camp experience as well, and they have some great ideas for parents to help their kids make the transition to something new (my “camp” notes are in italics):

1.  Help Children Understand When an Event Will Occur – Children can become very excited about activities.  They may ask days or weeks in advance about plans.  Help children gain an understanding of when an event will occur by marking it on the calendar and having a countdown.  This is a great tool- count down the days to camp!

2.  Set Expectations – New experiences often come with new rules and expectations.  Be sure to set rules and expectations in advance.  Prepare children by reading books on or role playing about the new experiences.  A good strategy- for camp, you can go over the Camper Handbook with kids, check out the Camp Jorn website, and look at photos and information on this blog and our Facebook page.  You can even “pretend” to be at camp the first day, and talk about what your child might experience then.

3. Let Children Participate in Planning – Children will have more ownership in an event if they are able to help plan it. These kinds of activities teach planning and independence skills that apply later in life.  The camp experience will “belong” to your child- let them check out the “what to bring” list and pack a lot of their own clothes, talk about activities they want to participate in, and go over how to take care of their things at camp.

 4.  Build on Existing Skills and Familiar Experiences – When children relate past situations or expectations to new ones they are able to build on existing knowledge. This allows children to have a parallel for their expectations and draw on their past experiences.  Sometimes it’s tough to draw a parallel to camp, but it can be related to school field trips in which you have a lot of fun, but need to remember to stay together and follow the directions of your leader/teacher, or a family picnic where there will be a lot of people and fun things to do.

 5.  Leverage Opportunities for Learning –Events offer a multitude of opportunities for developing skills.  Use naturally occurring events to teach new skills or develop emerging skills.  Talk with your child about all the things he or she will be learning at camp- not just how to water ski, or paddle a canoe, but also how to live and work together in a cabin group, how to make new friends, and how to appreciate nature.

 6. Use Visuals – Photographs, drawings, or lists can be used as reminders for rules, expectations, or schedules.  Visuals can be viewed before, during, and after an event to set expectations, keep children on track, and review the experience.  Make sure the choice of visuals is simple, understandable, and easy to access.  This is an easy one for camp-  check out the Camp Jorn website, Camper and Parent information, this blog, Facebook, the brochure, and any surveys or communication from camp before and after your child’s session. We love to hear from you, and it helps Camp get a better idea of who your child is and how we can make his or her experience the best it can be!

7. Reinforce Appropriate Behavior –   Consistent and immediate reinforcement of appropriate behavior gives children a clear understanding of what they are doing correctly.  People tend to note when children do things wrong rather than right.  Asking your child open-ended questions before and after their camp experience helps you better understand where your child is coming from, and will help you process the experience later.  Also, we strive to be sure that things your child learns at camp will be useful to them in other parts of their lives- things you can positively acknowledge and reinforce with them, like independence, compassion, and self-worth.

Finally, celebrate your camper’s new experiences by listening to their stories, congratulating them on their successes, and giving them a big CJ hug!!

Trippin’

Hi CJ Family!

As we get closer to the most amazing summer of 2012, one of the things we think a lot about is the trips that all of our campers will go on!

Trips have always been an important part of the Camp Jorn experience.  Canoe trips on our beautiful chain of lakes, hiking trips to the Bay, or even day trips on camp property are opportunities to grow and learn.

Some people really love trips.  Some people get annoyed by the weather or the bugs.  At Camp Jorn, we believe the great things about trips heavily outweigh the challenges!!

As a Camp Jorn camper, you will definitely get a chance to learn some true camping skills.  Our staff are eager to teach CJ campers about things like how to set up a tent, how to gather different kinds of wood and start a campfire, how to cook a meal over a camp stove or fire, how to paddle a canoe or pack a backpack properly, and how to leave your campsite looking like no one was there.  It’s the art of minimum impact camping, and we’re proud to show it off!

Usually, our younger cabins go on a “day trip,” or a short overnight trip close to camp as their first trip experience.  Fox Island is a great place for these kinds of trips, as is the Bay, and even the athletic field in the middle of camp!  Some of our younger cabin groups have even been known to set up a tent in their cabin!  In any case, younger campers learn some of the basics about camping, and they play some fun games with their cabin in the process.

Older cabin groups go on a one or two night trip, and learn a bit more about what it takes to live in the wilderness for a short time.  We are so proud watching these campers go out with their counselors and JCs in canoes or on a backpacking trail!  Although sometimes it rains, or the mosquitoes come out to play, everyone who comes back from their trip can say “I did that!”  These kids learn the value of working together to get where they want to go, provide their own meals, and get along in a small group.  And they usually have a great time, and have some great stories to tell when they get back!!

TEVA campers go on a 3-4 night trip when they’re at camp.  CITs are gone for 5-8 nights on a canoe or backpacking trip.  The sense of self-confidence and accomplishment these leadership campers gain while on this trips is clearly evident when they get back into camp.  And the close-knit feeling of the group is a bond that can’t be broken- ask any of the TEVAs and CITs you know!!

Not only do trips help increase self-esteem and bring a group closer together, but research shows that trips help kids learn self-efficacy, or the concept that we can control our own functioning, and the events that affect our lives.  Check out this link for an excellent article on this concept.

I especially like this excerpt from the article:  “An individual’s positive judgment based on their efficacy promotes active involvement in activities and contributes to the growth of competencies needed in that activity.”  In other words, the self-efficacy learned on the trail carries over in a positive way into the life of the child outside of camp.

Let us know your thoughts on trips! We’d love to hear what trips you’ve been on, what you learned from them, and encouraging words for our campers who have not yet experienced a trip!

A Camp Jorn Story

This story came to us from a social worker who wanted to express her feelings about what Camp Jorn YMCA can do for kids.  It can be hard sometimes for those of us who have experienced Camp Jorn to put into words what camp means to us, but this story embraces the essence when we think of our Camp Jorn.  Enjoy.

I first became aware of Camp Jorn YMCA when, as the classroom social worker, I asked the students in my classroom who would like to attend camp that summer.

Immediately, Peter shot up from his seat. He knew exactly where he wanted to go. Well, not exactly, he had to scramble to recall the name of the camp since it had been two years, back in the 4th grade, when he had attended Camp Jorn.   When we pulled up the Camp Jorn website, surprisingly we found Peter’s picture on their home page.  It is also worth noting that when I asked Peter’s junior high classmates who of them were interested in attending camp, only Peter responded. I sadly noted that even by junior high, some children had lost their hope or enthusiasm for the pleasures of good things to come….. but not Peter!

I’d begun working with Peter during his 6th grade year. He came across as a bouncy, sweet kid, but I knew from reading records that his past had been laden with significant family turmoil, displacement from his parents’ home, poverty, as well as a learning disability. At the time he was living with his grandmother. Finances were so tight that when the electric bill went unpaid, the family lived without electricity for a few weeks. Despite family struggles, Peter flourished in school during 6th grade. He went from an impulsive, not very directed kid, to a boy who was conducting himself in a more meaningful, thoughtful manner. Things were looking up. And now he would top off the academic year by returning to Camp Jorn.It was clear in working with Peter’s family that they not only needed the financial support to plan for camp, but also the “maternal function” of someone working out the details between camp and home – that was me.  I was warmly and ably assisted in this process by Camp Jorn’s Registrar, Emir Butler. She and her lovely Irish lilt were my first personal contact with Camp Jorn. She was personal and personable, interested in Peter, and ready to assist me in the many ways needed to support him.

Peter was so excited to return. Earlier, toward the end of the 2010 academic year, our Special Education District of Lake County (SEDOL) classroom that Peter attended was closed. I’d had to inform Peter that not only was our classroom team of teachers, aides,  and  support staff disbanding, but that he would be moving to a classroom several towns away. He’d looked at me and said, “Every time something good happens to me, it gets taken away.” We both had tears in our eyes. Since that 6th grade year, Peter had not yet regained his grip on being the student he had become. He continually found himself in a vicious cycle of depression, lack of focus, and limited motivation. But then Camp Jorn returned for him. From about March to June, the largest part of our work together was preparing, with his father, to attend camp. We made decisions about TEVA, locating camping clothing and supplies, and just being excited together. His excitement filled me with happiness for him and renewed hope for his future.

I had heard from a colleague that Camp Jorn offered a one-week camp scholarship if a social worker professional donated time to the camp. So I volunteered to spend a week at Camp Jorn, which gave Peter an extra week added to the two-week scholarship from SEDOL, I knew that the longer Peter was in the camp environment, the less likely that he would fall prey to all the difficulties a boy in his circumstances can find themselves in when they have three months of free time and no structured recreational activities available. 

If you’ve ever seen the 1954 movie Brigadoon, that’s a bit of what I felt as I entered Camp Jorn that Saturday in August. Brigadoon is this magical place that emerges out of the fog once every 100 years. The town’s people come alive and merriment ensues. For some kids, more fortunate than Peter, I imagine Camp Jorn is the icing on the cake of their lives. For kids like Peter, it’s much, much more.. Last summer, when I experienced Camp Jorn firsthand, I understood why Peter reports to me that going to Camp Jorn is the best part of his life.

There are many factors. First of all, the beautiful setting. The land and the water are novel and a wonder for many urban kids. Things in their urban neighborhoods can be treacherous and unmanageable. At Camp Jorn they learn to feel the magnificence of our world in a manageable way. They are given opportunities to explore the environment, engage with others, and succeed in ways often unknown to them. 

Kids, in the school environment, are primarily there to learn, but Camp Jorn is designed to put the cares of life, sometimes lives burdened with worries, loss and limitations, off to the side and focus on play and friendship building. I know for Peter, and I imagine for other kids, school can be a place where students with learning problems or family concerns are forever feeling lesser than others. Not at Camp Jorn. Camp Jorn programs and activities are set up for children to succeed, not necessarily in all areas, but in many. These successes can and do linger with Peter throughout the year.

The counselors are terrific. Many of the camp counselors, counselors in training, and even some of the  administrative staff have attended Camp Jorn in their youth. They have wonderful memories of their experience, know what it has done for them, and want to provide it for others. Many of the counselors  are high school or college students themselves and, therefore, “tell it like it is,” which I believe promotes a sense of realness, a sense of alternative family, a sense of community, and above all, a sense of playfulness. The ability to play is an essential ingredient for developing creativity and a joyful life.

Even though his second experience with Camp Jorn was as wonderful for him as the first had been, Peter has continued to struggle. During his rough 7th grade year, Peter and I maintained contact in a slightly different way, not as the direct therapist working with him in the classroom, but as an outreach worker. Whenever we speak about Camp Jorn, Peter lights up.

This spring, when beginning our planning for Peter’s next summer at Camp Jorn, Emir asked me what would happen to Peter and Camp Jorn when I no longer worked with him. She reported that repeatedly she has seen a camp “regular” fall off the radar, never to be heard from again. I was so moved by her personal investment in this child. Attitudes and dedication like this among Camp Jorn people are ultimately what makes it such an important experience for kids like Peter.

I’ve learned from speaking to Peter over these past years and observing him at Camp Jorn this past summer, and observing Camp Jorn itself, that in the right setting, with activities thoroughly orchestrated to enhance fun, skill building, playfulness, friendship, and community, the participants at Camp Jorn are exposed to the sweetest experiences in life. The thoroughness and the duration of the Camp Jorn experience actually set in motion, for youths like Peter, a sense of hope, and in my experience as a social worker, hope is one of the most valuable things we can give to our kids.