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Nature Program

Gold Arrow first introduced the Nature program in the summer of 2016, but this summer, we’ve taken the program to a new level, focusing on specific goals in order to help campers learn the most and make the most of their nature experience.

Some of the goals of the new nature program have been to get kids to appreciate more simple ways of life, to get kids to have fun with and be more aware of their surroundings, and to help kids develop a moral concern for the environment. In order to achieve these goals, Nature counselor Yogi designed activities for kids to participate in that center around observation, identification, and connection.

A few activities used to help kids in their observation skills have been the “Hundred Inch Hike,” where campers use rulers and magnifying glasses to slow down and look for new things in such a small space. Another activity used to help kids is the “Silent Hike,” where kids use their senses to observe nature around them.

Several activities have also been used to help campers in their identification skills. Campers go on nature hikes, where they use books to help them identify trees, flowers, bushes, and other plants they might find. Campers also participate in “Plant Tag” during which campers are only safe from being tagged when they’re touching a plant that they can identify.

The “connection” part of the program aims to help campers see the connection of each of the smaller aspects of nature to the greater ecosystem as well as their own personal connection to nature. Campers are asked about their favorite aspects of nature and their most memorable experiences in nature. Sometimes campers play “Web of Life” where a ball of yarn is passed around the group and each person represents something different in nature. By passing the yarn around, campers discover how different aspects of nature are actually all interconnected.

In addition to these activities, campers sometimes decorate tree cookies, figure out the ages of trees, and use special nature print paper to capture the intricacies of the plants they find. Many campers have sported their tree cookie necklaces throughout the session, and the nature program as a whole has helped campers both be more aware and more conscious of the nature around them.

Paddle Ceremony

For the past three summers, we’ve celebrated our graduating campers – campers who are coming to camp for their final summer – with a special ceremony held after the dance each session. All campers entering their sophomore year of high school are invited, in addition to all of their counselors from that session. While all the campers sit around a campfire, the group counselors say a few words about each of their graduating campers, including specific strengths they’ve seen and how they’ve watched each camper grow over the course of the session or their entire time at GAC. After these words are shared, campers receive a paddle with their name engraved on it, as well as a Sharpie so that campers can write notes and sign one anothers’ paddles.

Campers then have the opportunity to share how they’ve grown because of camp. While it is optional to share, many campers are very open about how camp has affected their lives. The paddle ceremony gives campers a chance to reflect upon their camp experiences and say goodbye to their camper days. While many campers may return later as Junior Counselors, OLC participants, or counselors, there’s nothing quite like being a Gold Arrow camper.

Session 1, 2017

Session 2, 2017

Session 3, 2017

Tigger’s 30 Years at GAC

At the end of Session 2, we said goodbye to Tigger for the summer. Tigger has worked at GAC for thirty years, and we honored her at Appreciation Campfire with a gold arrow necklace. Tigger has brought so much insight and wisdom to camp due to her extensive experience working in education as a special education teacher. Hundreds of homesick campers over the years have had “Tigger Talks” full of encouragement and perspective, and several counselors mentioned the help that Tigger provided them with when they were campers.

Tigger wrote a poem and shared it with camp after being honored for her many years of service at GAC:

As I look back on my last 30 years

I’ve shared many smiles and shed a few tears

My first days as a counselor a long time ago

I saw joy and wonder and it started to grow

I knew shortly after I walked on these grounds

I had fallen in love; a second family I’d found

But never in all of my wildest dreams

Did I think 30 years later I’d be on the GAC team

I’ve had different jobs in my life through the years

But they just can’t compare to my GAC days I fear

For the memories I’ve made and the lives that I’ve touched

Each day that I’m here, why they all mean so much

The activities are great; this place is supreme

But it’s the intangibles that touch you and here’s what I mean

The wonder you see in the eyes of a child

Or the smile you get when you’ve known them for a while

Or the hug of a counselor as they say “Hey –

Thanks a lot; you made my day!”

These are the things you can’t touch but I know

They’re the things that stay with you; the reason you grow

Enjoy each second because this I know

The times you spend here are the best of your life

Days filled with love, and not with strife

The days you spend here are the best times of all

Good times to be had, so just have a ball

But it’s the people that matter the ones you call “friend”

They’ll touch your life and be with you till the end

So cherish those friendships and your time spent at GAC

I’ll see you next year; you can bet I’ll be back!

 

A Thank You Note

Every so often, parents take the time to write us a thank you note. This one, from a long-time camper family, meant a lot to us. Thank you, Harris Family, for taking the time to let us know what GAC means to you! We appreciate your kind words!

Dear Gold Arrow Counselors and Staff –

As we approach the end of our five weeks of empty household, and realize that our children are approaching the end of another wonderful GAC summer experience, we would like to take a moment of your summer to express our thanks for all that you do to make Gold Arrow Camp so special. 

We hear the sense of building anticipation in our kids’ voices for about 10 months of the year.  They look forward to so much about GAC:  the friends, the fresh air, the scenery, the activities, the food and the escape. 

The end of the school year is always a frenzied scramble, as final exams and camp preparation come to a crescendo.  We know that while we are going through this scramble, you are in the final stages of preparing to give our children a summer experience they will never forget.  We don’t even see a small fraction of the preparation you do.  Then the camp letters and camp photos start to arrive.  In just a matter of days, their lives are transformed. 

GAC is an annual reminder to them of hope that there is lots of good in the world:  good people, good places and good experiences. This is in sharp contrast to the backdrop of constant negativity in their increasingly complex world.  By going to GAC, the kids learn how to connect with other people, meet them where they are, find commonalities, celebrate differences and enjoy each other.  If everyone in the world could spend a few weeks per year at GAC, much of the world’s problems would quickly disappear. 

At GAC, the children build confidence.  From the timid goodbyes as they board the camp bus, aware that they are leaving the safe confines of their family and homes, to the ear-to-ear grinning pictures and roaring laughter just a few days later.  They learn (sadly) that they can be happy away from their parents, and that they do not need to rely on their parents to feel good about themselves and thrive.  At GAC, the children recharge.  Wow are their lives more complicated and busy than ours were!  The children relish the opportunity to unplug from their existing social fabrics, get away from the pressure of school and extra-curriculars and get away from their watchful parents! 

What you do at GAC makes a difference in our children’s lives, or else we would not entrust them to you for almost 10% of the calendar year.  Your work is meaningful and impactful.  The children return home from GAC feeling better about themselves, better about their families, and better about their future.  Two of our children are approaching the end of their “GAC careers” but they will always carry GAC around with them.  GAC is living proof that a summer camp is more than a piece of property and some equipment.  You put your hearts and souls into getting to know these children, helping them grow.  For that, we are forever grateful. 

Thank you for another wonderful summer and for being such an integral part of our kids’ childhoods.

Sincerely,

Tim and Kim Harris

The Giant Paddle Board

We’ve added a new activity this summer: giant paddle boarding! Though we still have our super fun regular-sized paddle boards that can fit one or two campers, we’ve also been enjoying our giant-sized boards, too. They can fit an entire cabin and can also be used as floating slip-n-slides. Many campers enjoy trying to push their counselors off the board or performing an entire song (complete with dance moves) without falling into the water. These giant paddle boards have been especially fun for our younger campers, who can work together to paddle through the water rather than being on individual boards. Whether we’re having a dance party or a swim party, the giant paddle boards have been a hit!

Reading at GAC

Back before cell phones, televisions, and computers began taking up most of our free time, books were in large part our source of entertainment. They were read aloud and read individually. Our minds were swept away to other places where we could imagine what characters and places looked like for ourselves rather than watching stories take place on screens. Our imaginations were exercised and our capacity to be empathetic toward others grew as we saw stories through a variety of different perspectives.

Lately, for kids it seems as though reading has largely been associated with something they have to do rather than something they want to do. Reading has often become associated with schoolwork, and technology with fun and free time. However, many bookworms still reside at Gold Arrow, campers and counselors alike, and we’ve decided to embrace and encourage the love for reading that is still alive for many of our campers.

Starting this session, we’ve begun hosting Reading Time in Chipmunk during free time. Rather than going to an activity after dinner, campers have the option of sitting in comfortable pull out chairs in Chipmunk, a central location in camp, and reading a book of their choice. They can bring their own book or be provided with a book from our camp library or Little GAC Library, also located in Chipmunk. After a long day of activities, sometimes sitting and reading is the best way to wrap up the day. We love being unplugged, and we’re hoping campers can see how reading can take you to another world just as well as a movie or television show. While we’ve always had counselors read books aloud to their campers right before bedtime, we’ve decided to take our love for reading to the next level, and we’re excited to see where it takes us!

11 Ways to Help Kids Create REAL Connections

By Audrey “Sunshine” Monke, Camp Director

In addition to keeping campers safe and healthy, forming close connections with our campers is our counselors’ most important job.

I’ve written extensively about our Connection Before Connection philosophy and about how forming REALationships with campers is the most important thing great counselors do.

As parents, I believe connecting with our kids is equally important. I’ve compiled a list from some of my favorite resources about ways to foster close connections with our kids – and everyone else we care about.

1. Acknowledge feelings

2. Empathize

3. Make people feel seen, heard, and valued.

4. Hug often.

5. Play together.

6. Give your full attention

7. Daily debrief

8. Smile

9. Use screens to foster connections.

10. Be you

11. Daily rest and reflection

READ MORE AT SUNSHINE PARENTING. 

Activity Spotlight: Horseback Riding

By Gretchen “Gem” Monke, Horseback Riding Director

Horseback Riding Director, Gem with Ellie Moeschberger (daughter of camp directors Bean and Soy)

Yeehaw from Gold Arrow Camp!

Our fun and hands-on horse program offers campers the opportunity to care for our horses, learn horseback riding basics, and participate in breathtaking lakeside trail rides.

The horse program begins each day before breakfast with Early Morning Muck and Feed. Campers sign up to help the wranglers feed our ten horses and muck the stalls. Many campers sign up frequently to visit their favorite four-legged friends before scheduled activities.

After breakfast and lunch, campers are scheduled to come to horses with their cabins. Our goal is to give all of our campers a comprehensive introduction to horseback riding. Our wranglers strive to give campers a positive horse experience that includes lassoing, painting, grooming, and a trail ride! At the end of every session, campers help the wranglers feed the horses lunch or dinner. In addition, our wranglers give the campers carrots, watermelon rinds, and other treats as a way for them to say thank you to their horses.

While Lions, Gold Arrow’s oldest campers, are not scheduled for horses, they have the option to sign up during Ultimate Freetime Day. Our wranglers take Lions on a more extensive trail ride and plan a more advanced riding lesson. Many of our Lion campers learn how to trot!

After dinner, campers can sign up for Horses during the Free Time activity (6:15-7:45pm). During the evening activity, our wranglers offer a variety of activities including bareback riding, arena games, grooming, vaulting, and lassoing. Campers rotate through two to three stations to get the full horse experience!

One unique aspect of Gold Arrow’s horse program is its central location. Our horse program is located right in the middle of camp so that campers can visit their neighing-neighbors going to and from activities. Our wranglers look forward to giving many campers the hands-on horse experience this summer!

2017 Wranglers: Cinch, Possum, Gem, Khaleesi, and Rocks

Adventures of a GAC Camper

Eight-year-camper Kate Scibelli is off on a new adventure in Tanzania this summer. Kate is participating in a Rustic Pathways sponsored African immersion program, and her mom claims that the “resilience, independence, empathy, confidence, and courage” that Kate needed for this trip came from her summers at Gold Arrow Camp.

Kate’s program leader is already noting the “positive energy, curiosity, and commitment” that Kate’s group has brought to the program. The group’s main project is building a school dining hall and community center for Njoro village, but Kate has also had the opportunity to work with children during an education exchange where she teaches kids about teamwork and communication.

On top of service work, Kate has also had the opportunity to design her own clothes to be made by the village tailor, cook local foods, and ride through a national park full of wild animals! We are so excited for Kate and her new adventure, and we are happy that Gold Arrow equipped her with the independence and confidence that helped her take the leap for this big adventure. Kate will always be part of the GAC family and we will always be eager to welcome her back, but we are also proud of her for the adventures she has sought out and will continue to seek work. We love you, Kate!

Our Favorite Times of Day

At camp, we like to appreciate the small moments in our day. In the sunny Sierras, there’s so much to be thankful for, from sunsets through the pines to crackling campfires. However, just how some people prefer mornings and others prefer night, camp people have their favorite times of day, too. Everyone has a moment of the day that simply surpasses all others. We asked our 2017 Leadership Team to share about their favorite times of day at camp.

Punkie: Campfire time!

Gem: Sunrise, breakfast, and morning activities!

Goldie: The end of each meal, three times a day. I love seeing full bellies and happy faces. It’s thrilling when all the hard work of the team pays off.

Tica: I love the morning and breakfast time because there is so much anticipation for each new day.

Sterling: Campfire time – it’s calm and relaxing, full of real conversations, and a perfect time to reflect on the great day and appreciate what you have. Nights are simply beautiful.

Sandwich: I love morning assembly because it’s a blast to energize everyone’s day!

Aqua: Breakfast time! Everyone is fresh and excited for the day (especially the first morning of the session).

Rugger: Breakfast time!

Orange: My favorite time of day is chatting with the Junior Counselors before bedtime.

Wonder: I love 7 a.m. because I find that it can set the tone for the day if done correctly by getting everyone up with a smile and prancing energetically to breakfast!

Bambino: Early mornings – camp is quiet, and I can really experience the environment and reflect.

Swag: The time between freetime and campfire!

Lumos: Free time, specifically sunset on the waterfront, is such a magical time of day. So beautiful.

Bloom: I love campfires, where you can reflect on your day and all the highs and lows that happened.

Odd Job: Activity periods – I love seeing kids achieve the impossible.

Bean: I love late night when everyone is tucked in and sleeping peacefully. The stars and creek sounds are the best!

Soy: Morning, right before breakfast!

Grizzly: Sunset at the waterfront!

Bleach: My favorite time of day is campfire with my kids when I hear about their highs and lows and listen to them reflect.

Mocha: I love the end of free time when the sun is setting, and everyone’s walking back to their cabin to get ready for campfire.

Puddles: Campfire – I feel that kids are the most authentic.

Monkey: I love mornings when bacon is cooking, and I can smell it from my office! I also love sunset time because everything is calm.

Sunshine: Dusk – campfires get started, and I always see lots of people gathered around together.

We all have our favorite times of day, but let’s be honest: we all love getting to call this place home no matter what time of day it is! What’s your favorite time of day at camp?