The Excellence Boys Charter School of Brooklyn was recently featured in a 60 Minutes story about the Robin Hood Foundation of New York. Keewaydin connected with the school in 2012, enabling two scholars to attend Keewaydin Temagami last summer. Those boys’ experience, combined with a presentation by camp Director Bruce Ingersoll, helped cement a partnership between Keewaydin and the Excellence School. This summer, the partnership will enable five boys from the Excellence School to attend Keewaydin camps; three at Keewaydin Temagami and two at Keewaydin Dunmore.
There is nothing quite like getting outside after a long winter; the sun on your shoulders, the smell of freshly cut grass, the sound of birds singing. The British National Trust recently came out with a list of 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 3/4. This list of family fun adventures is completely Keewaydin approved and are activities inherent to Keewaydin’s summer camp programs. But, since we want to encourage kids to get dirty, be silly and enjoy the wonders of the great outdoors year round we thought we’d share this list with you.
Recently a number of articles have surfaced publicizing research that indicates cognitive, physical and emotional advantages to spending time immersed in nature. Admittedly, it can be challenging to get outdoors everyday and perhaps sending your children out the back door is a thing of the past, with encroaching roads, disease carrying insects and a high priority placed on after school curricular activities. But, are our fears of mosquitoes and time spent on computers, i-pads and phones doing America’s children more harm than good? Startling research suggests so.
The average American child spends just 15 to 25 minutes playing outside each day, while spending nearly 7 and a half hours in front of a screen. Eighty percent of 5-year-olds are computer users. For most of human history, people spent their days outside, chasing down food, planting crops, and learning about Mother Nature. This time outdoors endowed people with Vitamin D from the sun, fitter physiques, healthier hearts, and lower stress levels. Even today these are ingredients to leading a happy and healthy life. In less than a century, millions of people divorced themselves from nature, but at what cost?
Richard Louv’s 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods” coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe the consequences when humans detach themselves from nature. Louv argued that the behavioral problems which seem to plague today’s youth could be caused by how little time children spend in the outdoors. Louv writes “kids who play outside are less likely to get sick, to be stressed or become aggressive and are more adaptable to life’s unpredictable turns.” In fact, studies show spending adequate time in nature may actually boost the immune system.
Mary Brown, M.D., former member of the board of directors of The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) explains, in the past, the morbidities threatening children were primarily infectious disease, which have been reduced by the development of vaccines and technical advancements. “Today’s morbidities are much more complicated, but equally threatening to our children and grandchildren. These will take more than a parent, a pediatrician, a teacher, and a ‘village’ to solve.”
Recent studies have shown the negative impact of stress on early brain development that can have lifelong effects on metal, physical and emotional health. Children’s brains are particularly sensitive to emotional, social, economic, and demographic stresses. The structure of children’s brains is permanently altered by these types of unfavorable childhood experiences. Currently, 14 million children and adolescents have some type of mental health disorder and suicide has become the leading cause of mortality in adolescents. But nature can HELP!
Spending time playing in the outdoors can lessen the impact of stresses on a child’s life and develop children’s imaginations and creativity. Countless pediatricians and researchers emphasize the importance of safe, unstructured play in developing happy, healthy children who will turn into happy, healthy adults ready to contribute to society. Positive experiences in nature have proven to have lasting effects on the development of self-esteem, independence, leadership, values, and willingness to try new things. By understanding mankind’s innate connection to the natural world and emphasizing the positive effects of spending time in nature we can combat our societal battle with depression, obesity, behavioral disorders, drug abuse and unhealthy risk taking.
So, this Earth Day, grab your kids and go outside, take a 15-minute walk or just sit and soak in that Vitamin-D; you might just be surprised about how good a little time in nature makes you and your children feel.
 Timothy Egan, “Nature-Deficit Disorder,” The New York Times, March 29, 2013, sec. Opinion.
 Mary Brown, M.D. , ” ‘Vitamin N’ and the American Academy of Pediatrics,” The New Nature Movement, February 2, 2012, blog.childrenandnature.org/2013/02/02/”vitamin-n”-and-the-american-academy-of-pediatrics/.
Inspired by a recent article in Parent Magazine, these are 12 tips designed to help parents and their child prepare for the summer at one of Keewaydin’s camps.
1. Follow the Packing List
This is pretty easy. The camp Directors have prepared a comprehensive packing list for your review. Study the list carefully to make sure your child has everything he or she needs.
2. Book Your Doctor Visit ASAP
Medical forms are an important tool for keeping your child healthy at camp. Keewaydin requires a physical within the past 12 months. So if your child needs a physical before camp this summer, make sure to get them in before your local doctor’s office gets booked up.
3. Label, Label, Label
Label EVERYTHING with your child’s name. This is the best and only way to assure your child doesn’t lose their belongings. Keewaydin families often use the clothing label company Stuck on You for iron and stick on labels.
4. Provide a Sneak Peek
Help your child to maximize their camp experience by explaining to them what sort of accommodations they can expect at camp. Keewaydin’s website has photos and maps of each camp that can help your child feel ready and excited for the summer.
5. Do a Test Run
Planning a sleepover at a friend’s can help your child remember they can have fun, thrive and survive without you. If possible, arrange a night when they can camp in the backyard or a day when the family can go for a paddle. This could help them to see the outdoors as fun and exciting rather than scary.
6. Make it Easier to Make Friends
One of the things kids are often worried about is if they’ll make friends at camp. Of course, camp is the perfect place to make new friends, but sending them with tools to break the ice can help too. While staff will facilitate icebreakers and team building games it never hurts for kids to have their own cache of tricks. Cards, travel games, crosswords and magazines are all great ways for friendships to develop organically.
7. Prepare for Homesickness
Most kids feel at least a little bit of homesickness at some point during the summer, and that is normal. Keewaydin staff at each of the camps are trained by the renowned child psychologist Michael Thompson, who teaches them all sorts of tools to help kids overcome their homesickness. Preparing your son or daughter by reminding them that homesickness is a totally normal emotion everyone experiences can be helpful. If you are worried about your child at camp or have a case of “kidsickness” pick up the book Homesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help a Child Grow by Michael Thompson. Thompson’s book is a vital guide to helping parents with this brief loosening of ties.
8. Stay in Touch the Right Way
Kids LOVE getting letters at camp! But remember letters from home can also bring up small bouts of homesickness. Keep letters light and happy, avoiding descriptions of events they may have missed out on or anything overly emotional.
9. Don’t Panic
Keewaydin will periodically post pictures to the website. If you don’t see your child’s photo posted everyday or in every posting try not to panic. Keewaydin’s camps are busy places in the summer and our staff couldn’t possibly get the perfect shot of every kid each time photos are taken and posted. To see photo’s of your child’s personal camp experience send them with a digital or disposable camera, that way you can relive your child’s fondest memories with them at the end of camp!
10. Don’t Redecorate
While your child is away for the summer they will have a blast, but when it’s time to go home they want to go home. Transitioning from camp to “real life” can be challenging and big surprises can make this transition more challenging.
11. Be Prepared to Be Surprised
A summer at Keewaydin is a life-changing experience. Be prepared for your child to have 100 stories to share and new skills to show you. Many parents also notice their children develop a greater sense of confidence and independence while away at camp.
12. Warning: There May Be “Campsickness”
Leaving the camp community behind can make children feel sad or bored. To help your child with this transition encourage them to connect with camp friends, look through camp photos, and enjoy the things they could not while at camp. Once your child is rested keeping them busy will help fend-off “campsickness”. Ice cream and the summer blockbuster are known to send post-camp blues running.
Spring is in the air meaning we are one step closer to summer! This is one thought for the day, by writer and environmentalist Sigurd F. Olson, all canoeists can appreciate. Photo by Lauren Sayer.
In an age when regions of the Canadian North had hardly been discovered, Prentice G. Downes, a Harvard graduate and a teacher at the Belmont School outside of Boston, chose to travel alone by canoe to explore the Great Barren Lands. Sleeping Island: A Journey to the Edge of the Barrens, originally published in 1943, is an account of Downes’ canoe trip in northern Manitoba and the southern Northwest Territories in 1939.
In Sleeping Island, Downes describes a landscape and a people untouched by the modern world. His account captures the excitement of wilderness canoe travel, the enchantment of discovering new lands, and the deep connections Downes made with the people he met along the way. Downes was a very astute observer of native lifestyles and culture, as a result he was held in very high regard by the Cree of northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
The 2011 edition of Sleeping Island has a detailed biographical introduction of Downes and extensive footnotes. The edition also features illustrations and maps from authentic sketches and mesmerizing photos of his adventures.
Sleeping Island is a favorite book of Jason Pigeau, the Director of Facilities on Devil’s Island and an avid canoeist /outdoors man. The book is highly recommended by outdoors enthusiasts, scholars, and history buffs alike.