We’re thrilled to announce that we’re partnering with The Energy Bus Leadership Journey for Schools to bring The Energy Bus to GAC 2017! As the pilot camp to join the program, we’ll be working closely with the staff of the Jon Gordon companies to develop fun ways to present The Energy Bus ideas to our campers. We believe that many schools and camps would benefit from getting both their staff and campers to live out the positive ideals of The Energy Bus, and we’re excited to be on this bus!
Our journey with The Energy Bus began during the summer of 2016 when counselor Tyler “Bambino” Munoz shared Jon Gordon’s best-selling book The Energy Bus with the young men of cabin 28 by reading it aloud over each session. At the conclusion of each session, he invited his campers to join him on The Energy Bus by giving them a printed bus ticket.
To read Bambino’s whole story and learn about the positive impact he had on his campers, read “Hop on Bambino’s Energy Bus,”
We were so inspired by the impact The Energy Bus had on that small group of campers that we decided to make “Hop on the Energy Bus” our theme for all of camp in 2017.
The Energy Bus book is an allegory for our lives, and shows how making some small, positive changes in how we view the world can make a world of difference. This message of ownership over our lives is a powerful one for children of all ages. In a world that too often sends the message that they will be important “when they’re older”, The Energy Bus shows kids what a big impact they can have on themselves and others right now. By making positive changes in how they see and react to the world, they can and will change it for the better. One of our core values at GAC is “Bringing Positive Changes to the World.” We’re certain that by introducing our campers to the concepts of The Energy Bus, they will be catalysts for positive changes at home, in school, and throughout their lives.
Jon Gordon, author of The Energy Bus, has this to say about why his company started the Energy Bus trainings for schools: “In a world where negativity pervades our education system and schools, we have created a proven model based on The Energy Bus where positive administrators work together with inspired educators to develop positive student leaders who together create an a dynamic and contagious school culture.”
Gold Arrow Camp has been recognized as the first ever Energy Bus Certified Camp, and we have been working closely with Energy Bus Schools director Niki Spears to tailor the program for the camp setting. Sunshine and Bean will be attending a training in March, and Niki will be training our counselors in June to prepare us to lead our campers into a summer full of positive energy!
Energy Bus Schools
To learn more about The Energy Bus, visit Jon Gordon’s website, where you can see many resources related to the program, including the 10 Rules for the Ride of Your Life.
Animated Video Preview of The Energy Bus Training Program
Energy Bus Posters
Pog-Cast Episode 2
On Episode 2 of the GAC POG-CAST, Soy’s back with WOWs and Joke of the Cast, Sunshine shares a GACspiration, and we have an interview with former camper, Junior Counselor, and OLC (Outdoor Leadership Course) participant Will “Quill” Kellogg.
Will was a camper for 7 years, spent a month at camp as a Junior Counselor in 2015, and competed 45 miles of backcountry backpacking in the High Sierra as a member of one of our 2016 OLC trips. Will talks with Sunshine about developing grit at camp, and shares some stories and wisdom about trying things even when they are extremely challenging.
Subscribe to the Pog-Cast here (iTunes).
Pog-Cast Episode 1
On Episode 1 of the GAC POG-CAST, Soy interviews Baboon, a three-year veteran GAC staff member who’s brought a ton of positive energy and fun to camp. You can read more about Baboon in his Meet our Staff article and in the article about him receiving the 2015 Coach’s Award. And, as in every episode, you’ll enjoy a joke of the day, WOWs, and a little GACspiration (inspiration, GAC-style). Enjoy the POG-cast!
Subscribe to the GAC POG-Cast on iTunes!
Meredith “Mocha” Monke is a senior at Westmont College and a three-year veteran GAC counselor. Because her parents (Audrey “Sunshine” and Steve “Monkey” Monke) are the camp owners/directors, Meredith spent all of her childhood summers as a camper. She wrote about her own “grit growing” experiences as a child for a recent creative writing assignment.
By Meredith Monke
I think if I hadn’t grown up at camp I wouldn’t be an outdoorsy person. But camp is where I feel free—breathing fresh air, being myself. There was this little nook between a big rock and a Jeffrey Pine tree on the hill beside the Dining Porch where my sisters and I would play after dinner. Little bark flakes would scatter on the dirt and if you cut one in half, it made a sort of auburn chalk which we’d use to scribble on the rock. Sometimes we’d sit on the rock and just watch the people go by, pretending that they couldn’t see us up on the hill, hiding amongst the trees.
One day my older sister, Gretchen, asked me if I wanted to go sailing with her out on the lake. During camp season, activities run all the time, and sometimes we’d just pop by and join. I wanted to be like her, and I wanted her to think I was cool and adventurous and brave, so I agreed, even though my stomach was flip-flopping just thinking about setting foot in a tippy boat with no one but my sister.
There were a few different kinds of boats, bigger ones in which to fit lots of littler campers and smaller ones for campers to ride in on their own. One time I had gone in the bigger boat with all the “scared” campers and the boat had capsized. A great way to thoroughly convince a bunch of scared kids to be even more scared of sailing! But Gretchen and I were just extra tagalong people that day, and the sailing staff was busy, and Gretchen was confident. I begged to take a bathtub boat and Gretchen looked at me, seeming to say, Seriously? We called them “bathtub boats” because they resembled bathtubs, deep and exactly opposite of what one would call “sleek.” But my favorite thing about these blessed boats was their smooth, slow and steady speed and their unwillingness to capsize, even with the most inept driver. I thought they were a beautiful invention, but my sister wondered what the point of sailing was if all I did was venture in a bathtub boat.
Despite her desire to sail in a faster boat, she accommodated me. Mixed in with jabs about my love of slow speeds were giggles, moments of pretending to be mermaids, and hair blowing in the wind. We hardly made it anywhere in that boat. She steered, and I pulled in (to speed up) and let out (to slow down) the sail. Of course, I was more focused on letting out the sail.
A few years later I was back at the sailing dock with my cabin mates—my peers. They were pairing everyone off to go in smaller boats, but this time, the faster ones. We hopped in a boat, and unlike past sailing experiences, I was put in charge of steering. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, accustomed to my brave big sister taking charge. I squinted my eyes to focus on a rock across the lake, finding a spot at which to aim the boat. We swerved, the waves rocked the boat, and my heart dropped like I was on a roller coaster. I pushed the tiller one way, and the boat would swerve the other way. Then the boat would be straight until some waves decided to angle us in a different direction.
We sailed farther out into the lake than I’d been before, and I saw the sun’s white reflection on the blue lake. I felt the breeze on my sunburnt face. My toes rested in the pile of water in the base of our boat. I chatted and laughed with my friend in the boat. I was free. That’s when I realized that things become less scary once I take the time to figure them out. When I calmed my nerves long enough to look beyond my tunnel vision of the rock across the lake, I experienced the joy of whooshing and splashing across crystal blue water.
My sister, though she teased me at the time, met me where I was in my level of comfort and sailed with me anyway in the slow bathtub boat. Now my sister and I sail together whenever we get the chance, and we cherish those moments flying across the lake. Countless other family memories have emerged over the years because of camp, and now I know to be grateful and to cherish them. They have shaped me to be who I am today.
Join Sunshine for this 30-minute online parenting workshop to:
• Learn the specific social skills researchers have determined are most important for successful friendships and other relationships.
• Identify your own child’s social skills strengths and deficits.
• Gain tools for coaching your child to improved social skills.
This is a free, online workshop offered for Gold Arrow Camp parents and Sunshine Parenting readers. Please feel free to invite other parents to join in on the discussion!
The workshop will last 30 minutes, and Sunshine will stay online for additional questions and discussion after the workshop concludes. Mark your calendars and join Sunshine on September 29 at 11:00 am PDT!
RSVP here to receive the meeting link, a reminder prior to the workshop,
and a pdf handout of notes after the workshop.
“Big Campfire” is a camp tradition dating back to GAC’s earliest years. On the middle Saturday of each two-week session, the entire camp community gathers at our beautiful Big Campfire Amphitheater to enjoy lively entertainment featuring our campers and staff. At Big Campfire, every cabin group gets on stage to perform a skit, a song, or a dance in front of the live audience. For many kids, this is their first time on stage. For others, they love being on the microphone. Either way, it’s a great bonding experience for the group to come together and plan and practice for the “big” night!
This summer featured many original songs and skits and showed the creativity and performance skills of our talented campers and counselors! Here is just a sampling of a few of the skits and songs from summer, 2016. To see even more videos from the summer, visit the 2016 Videos page!
To see more videos from the summer of 2016, visit our 2016 Videos page!
Join Sunshine for an online workshop,
Coaching Your Child to Better Social Skills,
Thursday, September 29, 11:00-11:30 (PDT)
“Friends are everything. They are always there if you have a problem or if you get hurt,
they can always help you up.”
– Patricio, Camper, Age 8
The commonly accepted trajectory of do well in school -> get into a good college -> make a lot of money -> flourish in life is not exactly accurate. You only have to know one unhappy wealthy person to know that’s not the path that will lead to happiness or fulfillment.
What is a more accurate trajectory? good interpersonal (social) skills -> positive relationships -> flourish in life.
Michael Thompson’s statement, “Friendship is the gold of childhood,” stuck with me long after I attended his conference session on the social lives of children. Friendship is not just the gold of childhood, but also of life. In my research for my Master’s degree in Psychology, I looked closely at studies related to friendship, social skills, and well-being. What I found was not surprising. For children, and adults as well, positive relationships are the best predictor of overall happiness and well-being. As parents, teachers, and counselors, we should be putting a primary emphasis on helping kids develop the social skills they need to make and keep friends.
Unfortunately, our culture is not supporting the development of healthy, solid friendships between kids. Friendship is more important than any academic subject or athletic skill, and yet the way our kids spend their time does not reflect this importance. For many kids, there simply isn’t time in their lives for developing strong, close friendships.
What are our kids learning about friendship in this Instagram, Snapchat, and texting era of “friends?” Many boast hundreds, even thousands, of “friends” and “likes” on photos. Yet some of those same kids don’t have one single person in their lives that meets the criteria of a true and trusted friend. Face-to-face social skills, such as being able to read non-verbal cues, are learned through practice. If communication is primarily through media, then those skills are not being honed.
Another cultural factor that is counter-productive to the development of solid friendships is the constant, high-stakes competition our children are constantly in with their peers. Who’s ranked higher at school? Who made the “A” team? Who’s more popular? Often, instead of being truly supportive and encouraging of each other, kids want their peers to fail.
“Friends are those rare people who ask how you are and then wait for an answer.”
– Author Unknown
Making friends, and being a good friend, doesn’t come naturally to all people. And, coupled with the crazy culture we’re in, it’s no surprise that many kids are struggling to form strong friendships.
Friends are the reason campers and counselors return to Gold Arrow Camp year after year. “Make Friends” is one of the three main goals we chant at the opening of camp each session. At camp, there is time for friendship — precious, relaxing time to get to know each other, spend time making memories, and communicating face-to-face. Our whole camp community is built around inclusion, respect, and kindness. There is no competition at camp, no “A” team or “popular” group. Just kids having fun together and learning to live and play with each other, work out disagreements, and become better friends to each other.
Counselors are trained to help kids connect from the moment they get on the bus until the last good bye. Long talks at meals, around the campfire, and under the stars in sleeping bags are uninterrupted by cell phones and other technological distractions. Campers can’t “tune out” by putting earphones in. They stay engaged with each other and learn to connect. Counselors gently coach campers who need to develop social skills in areas such as listening skills, empathy, sharing, flexibility, initiating conversations, and understanding non-verbal cues. They encourage campers to be intentional about being good friends to each other and observant about what they appreciate about their friends.
On the final day of camp, campers are each given a “My Camp Friends” booklet, where they can keep track of each other’s contact information and write each other encouraging notes. Our hope is that our campers will keep their camp friendships strong by staying in contact throughout the school year.
“Friends are awesome, because they stand up for you, and they care for you.”
– Joey, Camper, Age 11
At one final campfire gathering last summer, the Randy Newman song, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” came on during the slide show. A group of four twelve-year-old boys sitting on the bench in front of me spontaneously put their arms around each other and started swaying back and forth, singing along to the song. I will never forget that vivid picture of the power of camp friendships.
Want to get some tips on Coaching Your Child to Better Social Skills? Join Sunshine for an online workshop on Thursday, September 29 from 11-11:30 am (PDT). RSVP here and the meeting link will be sent to you!
One of the best things about being outdoors is cooking over a campfire! Especially after a long hike, food cooked outside, over a fire, tastes especially yummy. At GAC, kids have the opportunity to learn outdoor cooking on our backpacking trips, and we also do outdoor cooking as a free time activity on some evenings. Banana Boats are one of our favorite outdoor cooking recipes!
Plastic cutlery (Forks & Knives)
• Slice open the banana, lengthwise, using the plastic knife.
• Place desired amount of chocolate chips and marshmallows evenly inside the banana.
• Wrap the banana in foil and place in hot coals in the campfire (use oven mitts).
• Check if chocolate is sufficiently melted after about five minutes.
• Enjoy your Banana Boat!
Looking for another yummy outdoor cooking recipe? Try S’moredillas, another camp favorite!
Dr. Emily “Fish” Andrada is serving as our Camp Doctor this session for her 10th summer. When “Fish” isn’t spending her time at GAC, she works as a Pediatric Emergency Medicine Attending Physician at the UC Davis Medical Center, where she trains emergency medicine, pediatric, and family medicine residents and teaches medical students at the bedside and in formal didactics. She wrote this article for our 2016 On Target magazine.
My friend (I’ll call her Ann) is very accomplished. She was valedictorian of her high school, finished her undergraduate degree in three years with a full ride scholarship, and then graduated first in her class in medical school. She completed a highly competitive residency program in general surgery and during that time won the “best resident award.” Finally she moved to a well-known northeastern city to complete her sub-specialization at a prestigious fellowship program.
While incredibly accomplished, getting to know her personally revealed a number of entertaining facts. Ann got driven to and picked up at the hospital every day by one of her parents (she was in her early twenties in medical school). She was often in wrinkled scrubs, carrying around her belongings in a plastic grocery store bag. When she moved to the east coast, her mother moved with her “to get her settled in,” but that turned into a four-month stay, because Ann’s mother still made her dinner, cleaned her apartment, and laundered and ironed her clothes. Three months into fellowship, Ann (and her mother) still did not have a bed to sleep on because she had not figured out how to get out to a big box store in the suburbs. You might think, “Yes, that mother has made many sacrifices and as a result her child has been a raving success!” True. Ann is having great success in her career, but she has failed to develop basic life skills…and THAT is what camp is all about.
My three kids and I have been coming to camp for nine years, and while they “have fun, make friends, and grow,” I believe that the most important thing that they gain from camp is a belief in themselves and their own abilities. Most importantly, their eyes are opened to the fact that they don’t need their parents around to help them with tasks or to complete tasks for them. My kids hate when I read parenting books, but I’ve found a good one called How To Raise An Adult. The author, Julie Lythcott-Haims (a former freshman dean at Stanford), along with parents and educators, compiled a list of practical life skills that kids need before being launched into the world:
• Talk to strangers
• Find your way around
• Manage assignments, workload, and deadlines
• Contribute to the running of a household
• Handle interpersonal problems
• Cope with ups and downs
• Earn and manage money
• Take risks
From my little perch in the Wellness Center and during quick meals on the dining porch, I can tell you with no uncertainty that campers at camp practice ALL of those skills. On the surface, camp offers sailing, horseback riding, high ropes, hiking and a bazillion other activities. But in its beautifully subversive way, camp has provided our kids with a multitude of opportunities to master every single one of the life skills that will help them survive once they leave our home. I’ve observed campers meeting new kids and counselors, figuring out the layout of camp, earning special privileges by attending early morning activities, assisting in the upkeep of the cabin, working out disagreements amongst themselves, talking about their feelings, managing purchases in the camp store, and trying lots of new activities.
Each year after camp (after I have seen first-hand that my kids can function just fine without me), it’s much easier to let go—to let them manage their school work, make their own lunches, feel the burn of being late to school because they did not get up in time, and choose the extracurricular activities that they love. This year was my daughter’s last year as a camper, and while it is bittersweet, she is ready…camp has made her ready. Thankfully my boys have several more years!
I wish you all a great year and hope to see lots of old and new friends at camp next summer!
How Camp Helps Raise Adults,
How to Raise an Adult website
Ready for Adulthood Checklist, Sunshine Parenting
Five Reasons Great Parents Send their Kids to Camp
10 Social Skills Kids Learn at Camp
Five 21st Century Skills Developed at Camp
By Audrey “Sunshine” Monke
One of our treasured camp traditions is reading to campers each evening at bedtime. We adopted the tradition more than a decade ago, because we realized how calming it is and how much even our oldest campers enjoy it. I also know from my own experience how a love of reading comes from being read to and how, with our media- and achievement-focused culture, reading is sometimes going by the wayside these days. There is no better opportunity to get back to reading “real” books than when we’re unplugged AND have more downtime during the summer.
We keep a camp library of good read-aloud chapter books, as well as several Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. Some counselors also bring their own childhood favorites to read to their campers. This summer, one of our oldest boys’ counselors, Bambino (Cabin #28), selected Jon Gordon’s The Energy Bus to read to his 14-year-old campers. He’s on his third reading, and by the end of August, he will have read the book four times to all 40 of the campers he will have worked with this summer. I really enjoyed the message of The Energy Bus when I read it a few years ago, but I decided to download the audio version and listen to it again on a recent long drive. With my current middle-aged memory, I couldn’t quite recall the key points of the book, only that I really liked it. After listening to it again, I immediately went to the website and printed out “10 Rules for the Ride of Your Life” to share with our leadership staff at our Monday morning meeting.
The Energy Bus is an allegory with a powerful message about the profound daily impact of a positive outlook on life. I would never have thought about reading it to or with my teenage sons, but it’s actually the exact right kind of book for their age group. In the story, the central character is having a bad day, which is representative of his falling-apart, negative life. He’s feeling terrible at both work and home. One day, with his wife unavailable and his car tire flat, he is forced to take the bus to work. That one day turned into two weeks during which the bus driver (Joy) and the other energy bus passengers teach him the “10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy!”
Each day, he learns a new rule and applies it to work or home. Then on the next day, he reports his results to the energy bus team. By the end of the story, as you can imagine, he’s managed to turn his life in a better direction. He’s also learned how much impact he can have on those around him (his family and work team) by changing his own attitude and behaviors.
What a powerful message to share with people of ALL ages! For teenagers, I’ve felt for a long time that one of our cultural problems is that we often make them feel useless. They go to school and sports and often have no responsibilities for others. When teens don’t have a job or volunteer area and have few responsibilities at home (because parents feel they’re too busy with school and sports), they can, I believe, start feeling like they have no purpose in life. Understanding how they can be positive leaders and ambassadors of positive energy wherever they are is a powerful message for teens to hear.
This morning, I checked in with Bambino’s campers to hear what they’ve learned so far from listening to him read The Energy Bus. Here’s what some of them had to say:
“I learned that you should say something and that no one can fill the needs that are left unsaid.”
“You’re the driver of your own bus.”
“You can get your bus wherever you’re going but others help you go faster.”
“It’s encouraged me to be more positive.”
“If something bad is happening, you can change it by changing your attitude.”
“Sometimes the worst things in life aren’t that bad and can lead to something good.”
This is some profound wisdom from 14-year-olds, who will head home from camp tomorrow with a bus ticket from Bambino inviting them to hop on their own energy bus!