Often, people view summer campas a collection of fun experiences to occupy a few weeks in the summer.   The reality of camp is much deeper and far more lasting.   At Circle F Dude Ranch Camp, we approach our program with the understanding that every activity, friendship made, and experience directly effects the camper’s development.

Child Development at Circle F Dude Ranch Summer Camp

I think when choosing a summer camp, it is important to understand the camp’s approach to your child’s development.   At camp, we have several priorities.  Number one is your child’s safety.   However, just as important is creating a fun experience that promotes positive outcomes on their development. We talk a lot about this at camp and with parents.    I feel the phrase “positive outcome” is spoken daily by me to the staff.   What does positive outcome really mean?   What does it look like?   Most important, how does Circle F Dude Ranch create a fun program that can produce these outcomes?  I believe the foundation of our program begins in the outdoors.   Being centered in the outdoor moves campers into nature.   Multiple studies have shown that time spent in nature relives stress, releases endorphins, and promotes healthy growth.    We also know the value of not relying on electronics to foster creativity, but instead allowing the child to be creative without assistance.  The tactile experience of building a sand castle is unmeasurable against creating one a computer screen.   Tie in building a castle with a friend at camp and we begin to venture into a whole new level of growth in communication, friendship, and shared goals.

How Do We Structure Growth

Everything we do in our daily life is an opportunity for growth.    At camp the same is true.   The program of climbing, riding, swimming, sports, arts, and hiking to name a few allows us a starting point.   As we structure these activities, we look at both the hard skill and the soft skill.    A hard skill is something that the activity teaches.   For example, learning to aim a bow during archery activity.   A soft skill is an underlying development skill that you learn from an activity.   For example, archery also teaches self-confidence.Teaching staff to look at both hard and soft skills allows us to build a program that helps with development.   Staff look for soft skills and actively use positive reinforcement and praise to acknowledge the skill.   We extend this out from not just our activities, but to the whole way camp operates. During staff training we teach what soft skills look like and how to identify them.    When we want to focus on ideas of leadership within campers we have to look at the skill set.   A leader is someone that takes initiative when they see something that needs to be completed.   A camper that gets up in the morning and does his or her chores without being asked takes initiative.      Counselors are then able to praise that camper for being a great leader in the cabin. Not only do they praise him or her.   They are very specific with their praise.   Making it clear to the camper that doing chores without being asked is taking initiative and great leaders know to do this.   This focused way of approaching our campers helps us to develop the positive outcomes we discussed earlier in this article.

Positive Outcomes Matter

We want Circle F summer camp to be more than just a camp; we want it to be a positive influence on your child.    Our approach of recognizing that each moment matters at camp gives us the ability to really make a difference.   The foundations that we teach at camp are not pass or fail; they are bedrock ideas that help individuals be stronger and more positive members of their community. Every time a camper has a positive outcome, no matter what it might be, it helps step them in a direction of future success.   We are so lucky to have this opportunity each summer.  We are also so lucky to have amazing parents and guardians who believe in the process.    As summer approaches a world of new possibilities stand before us.   We look forward to seeing your camper soon.Ben Moss is the Camp Director at Circle F Dude Ranch Camp and Outdoor Education Center in Lake Wales, Florida.   The outdoor education center hosts thousands of students every year from private schools across the state of Florida.    He has over 20 years of youth development experience working in the camp and outdoor education industry. 

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