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.
From 2015, watch Session 4’s Cabin 10 perform a remake of “Party in the USA” GAC-style during Big Campfire!
“Hopped off the bus at GAC with my trunk and my duffle bag.
Welcome to the lake of Huntington.
Am I gonna fit in?…”
When GAC campers arrive at their campsites on backpacking trips, they unload their packs and set up camp before changing into bathing suits for a dip in the fresh mountain lake. But first, all of the “group gear” is unpacked, which includes camping stoves, pots, pans, and ingredients used to make the next few meals. Within a pile in one lucky camper’s backpack are ingredients for one of our favorite treats to make at camp – s’more quesadillas, also known as a S’MOREDILLAS!
Often on the minds of campers as they’re unloading the assorted chocolate chips, marshmallows and graham crackers is the delicious s’more they’ll be having. A s’moredilla is a delicious spin on a classic treat!
After a long hike, what could be better than warm, melted chocolate and marshmallows tucked between buttery, toasted flour tortillas, fried and dusted with cinnamon sugar? The answer is nothing! That’s why s’moredillas are one of our favorite treats to make at camp!
GAC Camp Director, Sunshine, and her son, Owen, a GAC camper,made a home version of this yummy treat and took pictures to create a step-by-step at-home recipe for s’moredillas. Now you can make them at home with your family!
First, lay a tortilla flat on a piece of tinfoil. Add whichever ingredients you choose! The combination of everything is what makes it really yummy! We often use crushed Oreos instead of crushed graham crackers, but any favorite cookie treat will do — or just the chocolate chips and marshmallows are yummy!
Next, fold the tortilla into three parts. You can also make a s’morrito – a s’more burrito, if that’s easier. Whatever shape, it’s all going to melt together to be gooey and delicious!
After you’ve folded your s’moredilla (or s’morrito), cover it with the tinfoil to make sure the entire tortilla is covered! Once it’s complete covered, you can then put it on your stovetop, or in your campfire!
Keep your s’moredilla on the stove or fire for about two-three minutes and then flip. CAUTION: it’s going to be really hot, so make sure you use tongs or an oven mitt! Once you’ve cooked evenly on both sides, take off the fire. Let your s’moredilla sit for five minutes, or until it’s cooled. Eat and enjoy!
Did you enjoy making this recipe with your family? Let us know! Share a picture of your fun family cooking adventure on social media and tag #goldarrowcamp!
Most of us know the importance of family dinners:
Kids who regularly eat dinner with their families are more emotionally stable, are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, get better grades, have fewer depressive symptoms, and are less inclined to obesity or eating disorders.
It’s certainly a compelling list. But what can you do if your family dinner isn’t that great? If people just “eat and run” or don’t really connect? One answer might be turning your dinner table into a campfire pit. Not literally, of course, but group campfires at summer camp offer a great example of fun, engaging activities that have helped make dinners at our house last longer than the ten minutes it takes my boys to shovel down their food.
Here are some ideas:
Sharing highs, lows, and “gratitudes” (I know that’s not a real word, but that’s what we use)
One way we’ve found to get everyone talking and contributing at our dinner table is consistent sharing time. We find out what’s going on in our kids’ lives (and in the lives of unsuspecting visiting friends) and we as parents share what’s going on in ours. For children who are quieter and generally don’t “take the floor” as often, this consistent discussion helps them open up. And for those who don’t naturally focus on the good things, it helps them see the positive in their day.
Around the campfire, it’s an activity called “High & Lows,” or—as it’s now evolved in our family—“Highs, Lows, and Gratitudes.” It’s very simple: Each person has a turn (uninterrupted, with everyone focused on that one person) to share
• their HIGH point of the day,
• their LOW point of the day, and
• their GRATITUDE—what they’re feeling grateful for.
For a twist, we sometimes make rules for sharing: a “high” might be limited to three words, or a “low” might have a one word limit. It creates a fun challenge and makes us think. If we can’t come up with a low, we share another high.
Sometimes, we interrupt, tell long stories, or go off on tangents, but that’s okay. We’re connecting, sharing, and discovering what’s happening in each other’s lives. Our dinners last much longer than ten minutes, and our kids know they won’t be excused until everyone shares.
In The Whole-Brain Child, Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson write about the importance of getting kids to remember their stories. So, instead of asking “How was your day?” which invariably gets a one-word response, they recommend asking “What was the best part of your day?” and “What was your not-the-best part?” Sounds like a high and low of the day to me!
Question or topic of the night
There are so many fun books and table games available, but you can probably just take turns thinking up a fun question for each person to answer, much like counselors do around a campfire. For my birthday a few weeks ago, a friend who knows me well gave me Q & A a day for Kids by Betsy Franco, which has 365 questions (one for each day) to discuss with your kids. We also have used The Enchanted Table (by Memorable Mealtimes) and Table Topics, a box of questions that our kids like taking turns reading.
Family Meeting (once per week)
At camp, we always start the session with what we call our “First Night Campfire.” The counselor has a specific agenda for the campfire, which includes all the kids getting to know each other, sharing a goal they have for camp, and what guidelines they want to live by during their two-week stay. Families need to do the same kind of checking in with one other, so—once a week—we have a “Family Meeting” during dinner. We have an agenda that’s on a legal pad next to the table, and we take turns being the “chair” of the meeting.
On our agenda:
• What’s going on this week? We talk about the schedule for the coming week (any big projects/assignments due, any events, parents going anywhere)
• Goal for the week: Each person shares a goal for the week (something we want to get done, do better, etc.)
• A value or social skill we want to talk about. These have been focused on social skills for the past year in our house, and we’ve talked about things like looking someone in the eye while meeting them and how to chat with an adult. We’ve also used this printable (“10 Social Manners for Kids” from iMom) for several topics. Lately, it’s been a contest to see who can remember all ten!
We’ll hold fast to our family dinner time as long as we have kids in the house; I know it will be over far too soon. In the whirl of the last four years, our family group of seven has dwindled to the “final four”: me, my husband, and our two youngest. The meals we share are nothing like June Cleaver’s pot roast, and they often involve my awesome husband cooking or picking up something easy to eat or make. It’s rarely a big production, but it’s still really big. When we are gathered around our table eating and talking—with no phones or tablets in sight—it doesn’t matter if we have a home-cooked meal or a Panda bowl; as long as we’re connecting and sharing, it’s the biggest and best part—it’s our HIGH point—of the day.
All we’re missing is the campfire.
Originally posted on Sunshine Parenting. If you like Sunshine Parenting, please subscribe to get an email update each time I post (use box on upper right column), or follow me on Facebook or Pinterest for links to other articles and ideas about camp and parenting. Thank you for reading!
Why Family Dinner is Important (Sunshine Parenting)
Sharing our Highs, Lows, and Buffalos (Sunshine Parenting)
Get 10 Social Manners for Kids Free Printable (iMom)
Resources for Teaching Social Skills
Gold Arrow Camp
By Madelyn, a 2014 Camper
I love Gold Arrow Camp. I knew the minute I got on the bus for the very first time that I was going to learn a lot about myself, have a ton of fun and make lots of new friends. That first summer, I went with one of my best friends and we stayed for one week. It went by so fast and neither of us was ready for camp to end. We spent our days paddle boarding, horse back riding, kayaking, rock climbing and swimming. We spent our evenings around the campfire telling stories, making up songs and skits and eating s’mores… yumm. The counselors were amazing and all had nicknames that made me laugh. They were always there for us and kept us entertained and excited about camp life.
The second summer I stayed for two weeks. It was awesome! I had even more fun (with theme days, a later bedtime and a special BINGO night) and got to go on more outdoor adventures. My favorite was a 2-day camp-out on Shaver Island. There, we slept under the stars and spent the days on the lake riding wake boards, water skis and knee boards. We also did an overnight backpacking adventure where we cooked our meals over the campfire, explored a waterfall and swam in the lake. I have so many great memories from that trip!
This summer will be my third summer and I can’t wait to see Sunshine, Monkey, Kona and Rascal and all my fellow campers. It makes me so happy to think about camp. I love GAC and can’t wait to get my three year banner!!
Originally published in Fast Forward magazine, March 2014 issue