by Jenn Gingery, Director of Camp Health Services
The problems of our times vary widely. With global issues, childhood obesity, and the amount of time kids spend looking at a screen, the next generation has a lot to deal with. “The average American child spends 270 minutes watching television, 82 minutes on the phone, 27 minutes on the computer, and 80 minutes playing video games every single day” (Elmore, 2012). Add that up and it comes out to 2,712 hours or 113 days per year. That probably plays into the statistic that the CDC has, stating there has been a 17% increase in childhood obesity since the last generation (CDC, 2013, para. 13).
We intuitively believe camp is good for kids, but what does the average week at camp look like with screen time and childhood obesity in mind? Well, it all starts with check-in, when kids give any electronics for staff to lock away so that they are not stolen or misplaced. There have been times when the rebuttal against giving up phones and IPods is pretty strong. But the thing is, while here at Wolf Ridge we want the kids to disconnect from technology. We want them to be present with those who are physically around them and to engage with nature.
All week students participate in Rock Climbing, Adventure Ropes, Canoeing, Swimming, Lake Study, Fisheries, Farm, Voyageur Life, and so many more! Three-hour classes allow kids to learn new skills and experience nature in a different and exciting way. As they hike to mountain-tops, swim and canoe in lakes, and try new activities, many campers discover interests they will continue to enjoy into the future. I am not about to say that every child enjoys each activity, but I would be hard pressed to find a kid who did not enjoy most them.
Another favorite time each day is the campfire before every meal. All of the different cabins and groups gather together and sing a silly camp song. The group noted to be the most enthusiastic often heads for the dining hall first. Sometimes short games are played too. Kids enjoy the fun and really gain a sense of belonging.
Kids need good food to fuel their active days at camp. In our dining hall, meals are served cafeteria style. Chef Barret Stavseth creates delicious and nutritious meals referencing both his biology background and chef-school training. My personal favorite is a Caesar Wrap. With this meal there are basil wraps filled with Caesar Salad and chicken. Carrots, celery and a fruit are served with this meal, along with bread, sun butter, jelly, humus. What makes the meals even more delicious is the fact that we grow many of our own vegetables at our farm. Ingredients that are not grown at our farm are often purchased from places within the Minnesota/Wisconsin area. Since locally grown foods are fresher, they are often more nutrient-rich. For those with dietary restrictions, we serve meals that fit the vegetarian and gluten free lifestyles. Allergies are also accommodated.
After lunch there is a bit of quiet time before heading out for more outdoor adventures. Older campers will pack up canoes, backpack, or kayaks and head for wilderness overnights. Learning camping skills gives them more ways to explore and learn about the world, and more ways to enjoy and active lifestyle as they grow up.
One of my favorite parts of the week happens on Friday night. There is one last hurrah! All of the groups that are leaving for the week come together for a final farewell campfire. This is a chance for all of the campers to have fun and be silly with the new friends that they have made. These campfires, unlike the campfires before meals, are themed. The theme may vary from Olympics to Disney to Survivor. Counselors come as characters and there are MC’s, skits, songs, and s’mores. Each group makes a skit about their week at Wolf Ridge. At the end, we all sing “On the Loose,” a tradition here at Wolf Ridge.
Camp is a time to run and play. It’s a time to try new things and meet new people. It’s a place to take safe risks and think without distractions. And it’s a place where tough decisions and circumstances can be expressed freely. It’s a place for kids to be kids. And as they check out and we give back all the items they checked-in with, I have heard kids say, “I forgot that I even had a phone.”
*Title quote from “The Power of Camp”, 2013.