Rob’s wonderful essay “How Camp Builds Grit” has been playing to warm reviews. Here again is the link to it if you missed its debut last week.
Below are photos of Kingswood boys revealing passion, determination and, well — grit. Captions are direct quotes from Rob’s commentary. Enjoy.
At camp, boys are attracted to activities that are well presented and have a reputation for being spirited, fast-paced, and fun.
Clinics at camp are about trying new things and enjoying the moment- there’s no test at the end and no one cares if at first campers do not succeed.
Many clinics culminate with a camper becoming “certified,” which qualifies him to practice that activity on his own during supervised free time. Example: windsurfing
Camp is a place to gain experience with new peer groups, to develop flexibility and stamina, to be exposed to new potential interests, and to learn basic skills not likely to be offered elsewhere.
However, to find a safe, nurturing environment where children naturally encounter a bit of situational discomfort- and where this temporary hardship inevitably is tolerated successfully- is a great strategy to help kids mature.
Situational discomfort varies for each boy according to his age, temperament, physique, and experience. A young camper learns to tolerate swimming in lake water that is cooler than he has experienced before.
At Kingswood we have learned that many young campers return home after camp a bit more independent- and they even keep their rooms a bit cleaner too; the older campers recount hiking trips as epic adventures where hardship was conquered and they are among the heroes.
Another example is the forging of friendships in a community where at first a boy knows no one. Sleeping in a strange bed, eating new foods, trying a new activity where a guy has to put himself out there as a novice – all help to strengthen emotional grit.
Counselors are trained to be supportive, engaged, and empathetic, without immediately swooping in to completely eliminate any camper’s discomfort.
We also acknowledge to the boys that learning is a process- one where failure is expected at points along the way in the journey towards success.
Then, once measurable headway has been achieved, we commemorate the actions as the big deal they really are. The Kingswood name for these public recognitions of success is “kudos” which are usually given the in the dining hall during announcement time after meals or at evening campfires.
By helping children find and fuel their passions, expand comfort zones, learn to tolerate some discomfort and celebrate genuine progress, the adults in their lives are providing the scaffolding, and environment that build grit.
Armed with grit, youngsters have a huge leg up on success.
And, here’s the icing on the cake- boys at camp are usually having so much fun in the process that they are scarcely aware of the resolve and fortitude blossoming within them.
What a win-win for all! What could be better than that?