Our Wilderness Home
Everyone knows the value of getting away from routines and technology to spend time in nature. Around the world, kids feel a different kind of energy take hold as their camp busses roll off highways through camp gates each summer.
Six of those camps are located in Algonquin Park, one of the world's greatest nature preserves. And if getting into nature helps kids hear themselves think, living in Algonquin Park helps them hear their hearts sing.
Algonquin is a wilderness, a 7653 square kilometer refuge of lakes, rivers and forest. Tepee Lake, our home, is deep in the interior of Algonquin, far from the buzzing of speedboats, cottages and other development.
Camp's pristine wilderness setting plays a key role in helping children open up to deeper friendships and to their own growth. Walking on silent forest paths and paddling the crystal waters where loons sing us to sleep and Mother Nature smoothes our rough edges is an opportunity to find, get to know and restore ourselves. Daily.
Why Children Benefit from Learning Camp Skills
Arowhon is not a camp where kids sit around all day and socialize. Camp's activities have a dual purpose—for kids to have fun and to learn skills. We organize our activities to give campers individual attention and personal teaching at their level so that they commit to learning skills. That's because we believe that an active, learning child is a happy child, a child who goes home walking taller and feeling prouder, and with important new skills—not just the skill to ride a horse or windsurf across the lake or scramble up the high ropes course... but confidence that will be with that child for life:
skills is fun
You know what's fun? Feeling good about yourself.
And you know what makes people feel good about themselves? Challenges. Focusing on and puzzling through them. The physical effort inherent in addressing them. Stretching ourselves. And trying again, with that little bit more confidence, experience and new skill.
We teach activity skills intensely because when children master new skills, they fall in love with learning. A child who develops any measure of proficiency in an activity goes home with something more important than sailing or canoeing skills - they pick up perseverance, they've made friends with challenges and they'll never forget how much fun it is to try something new and succeed.
How We Motivate Campers to Learn Skills
Campers choose their own program daily—from a changing "menu" that ensures everyone tries new activities and experiences a broad range of activities. The only thing that's not on the menu is doing nothing.
Rather than using competition as a motivator, we prefer the rewards of accomplishment... and the Arowhon awards system. Competing against ourselves. When you achieve your 3rd, 2nd or 1st class award in an activity and the entire dining hall cheers for your accomplishment, it's incredibly motivating - for everyone! Because of being inspired by instructors to commit to learning goals at camp activities, campers go home loving learning, seeking challenge and more confident in their abilities.
An Arowhon Instructor has a Mission to Teach
Activity Instructors are trained to teach children from absolute beginners to experts. Their mission is to make learning fun, to motivate campers to want to learn.
We teach the instructors how to deliver specific lessons for beginners to help them develop comfort, skills and confidence at the activity. We also teach and supervise the instructors to make the learning fun and to manage risks so the activity is safe. Instructors inspire campers to persevere and challenge themselves so that they achieve success at activities.
Tools to build
Happy campers & cabin groups
Algonquin gives us a place to hear ourselves. Skills-based learning helps us trust ourselves.
But it's our approach to the community that helps us support each other. Camp staff are trained and mentored—-before and during camp—-to support kids socially and emotionally, using the Camp Arowhon Social Safety Tool Kit.
The Tool Kit is the manifestation of the mission carved on the three tall wooden pillars standing at the entrance to camp: Caring, Respect and Learning. It comprises the steps we take to deliberately turn everyday elements of camp into opportunities.
The Tool Kit informs how we use activities as a vehicle for growing confidence. It helps us turn living together as a group in a cabin into a golden opportunity for campers to learn to work out their conflicts, enjoy friendships that thrive and grow, and live together with respect and inclusion.
Some of the tools in the Tool Kit are:
Cabin Circle - Every cabin in camp reflects on their day nightly at bedtime. Each camper talks about the good and not-so-good stuff and what they learned in their day - which builds a foundation of both talking about your feelings and listening respectfully to others.
Talking Circles - Once a week cabin groups gather for facilitated conversations about issues like friendship, pressure, identity, and other challenges of growing up..
Peacemaking - Counsellors help campers talk through conflicts in a non-judgmental way that helps kids find their voice so they can solve their problems.
Bully Interventions - When bullying happens, staff are there to intervene and to support kids' relationships to keep everyone emotionally safe.
As a result of all these supports, campers learn to solve social problems and develop emotional intelligence. They go home more caring, confident and resourceful.
Staff are on the Lookout for Campers' Well-Being
Arowhon staff are trained and supervised to be on the lookout for their campers' well-being both individually and in their cabin group. Having caring staff who are always looking out for you is what makes camp such a safe place for every camper.
Staff Training and Supervision
We accomplish that by choosing professional, caring staff with a proven track record in respectful attention to children's needs, and then training them extensively first to see what's going on for every child and second to support and mentor every camper to thrive and find success.