Better Together – GAC 2021
We can’t wait to be back together at GAC for summer, 2021, because we are so much BETTER TOGETHER than we are apart!
Last summer, we explored the theme of BE YOU, which was appropriate – and hopefully helpful – as all of us navigated a summer without in-person GAC. You can still access all of the resources we shared to help you learn to be your very best self, because being your best self is always a great idea. We sent a BE YOU workbook to each of our campers (let us know if you need us to send another copy!).
This summer, we’ll be having fun, making friends, and growing our skills (as always), AND we’ll be focusing more closely on these specific skills that remind us how we are better when we live, work, and play together:
- Practice Face-to-Face Social Connection & Friendship Skills
- Develop active listening skills
- Celebrate each other
- Practice Teamwork
- Foster Empathy
Practice Face-to-Face Social Connection & Friendship Skills
Unplugging and connecting face-to-face is one of our core values at GAC. This summer, perhaps more than ever before, practicing those connection and friendship skills will be central to each of our camper’s experience at GAC. This summer, we’ll unplug from our screens and focus on the real, face-t0-face, messy real-life relationships that make life meaningful. We’ll work on the skills kids need to make and keep friends, including introducing themselves to others, asking good questions, listening well, celebrating each other, and developing empathy.
Too Much Screen Time? Camp Can Help!
Develop Active Listening Skills
“The way to improve your listening skills is to practice “active listening.” This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, the complete message being communicated.
In order to do this you must pay attention to the other person very carefully.
You cannot allow yourself to become distracted by whatever else may be going on around you, or by forming counter arguments while the other person is still speaking. Nor can you allow yourself to get bored, and lose focus on what the other person is saying.”
How well we listen impacts all areas of life – including the quality of our relationships with others. Active listening is one of the social skills we’ll focus on modeling and teaching campers this summer. Listening well helps us avoid conflicts and misunderstandings.
Five Key Active Listening Techniques (we’ll be practicing)
1. Pay Attention – Give speaker your undivided attention by looking at the speaker directly and putting aside distracting thoughts.
2. Show that you’re listening by using your body language (nodding, smiling and other facial expressions, posture that is open and interested) and small verbal comments like “yes,” and “uh huh.”
3. Provide feedback by reflecting on what the speaker said and asking follow up questions.
4. Refrain from interrupting and defer judgment by allowing speaker to finish each point before asking questions. Wait until the speaker is done to share your perspective.
5. Respond appropriately in a way that is respectful and the way you want to be treated when you speak.
Celebrate Each Other
Responding positively to others’ triumphs is a friendship-enhancing skill that research has proven also enhances marriages and other relationships. If our kids learn to be as happy and excited for their friend’s victory as if it were their own, that’s an excellent relational skill that will benefit them throughout their lives. Throughout their stay at GAC, campers will be encouraged to cheer each other on and celebrate with each other when a friend reaches a goal, overcomes a fear, or tries something new. When campers truly celebrate each others’ accomplishments, their friendships grow stronger.
“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” H.E. Luccock
In this competitive, self-focused era, learning to be part of a team is a valuable skill that is not often taught to children (or adults!). Kids participate on many sports teams, but often that experience does not end up being a lesson in teamwork. Instead, sports teams often become a competitive experience of trying to get the position or play time they want as an individual.
One reason for our focus on non-competitive programs is so that kids can learn new skills without feeling the pressure to win or be the best. We also want kids to learn to be part of a team (their cabin group) and be better team members. The experience of living with a group of diverse people in a cabin group is the first lesson in teamwork that campers learn. Campers learn to work together to keep their living area organized, do daily clean up, and get to where they need to be (meals, activities, etc.). They also learn to support and encourage each other and help each cabin member do their best at each activity.
Youth today are experiencing the highest level of narcissism and mental health issues (depression, anxiety, suicide) in history. The research-backed antidote, and one cure for what ails young people and adults alike, is increased empathy. This summer, counselors will model empathy and encourage campers to practice more kindness and empathy with one another.
Empathy is a social skill that is difficult to teach and, in fact, difficult to define. Generally, empathy is our ability to sense others’ emotions and imagine what they may be thinking or feeling. Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., calls empathic responses “standard-issue, grown-up social skills,” yet even adults have trouble with them. If adults struggle with empathy, how much more difficult must it be for children! But self-awareness, self-regulation, and the ability to take another’s perspective are all skills children must come to know.
Life is more fun and has much more meaning when we are together. This summer we’ll be celebrating being back together and will be practicing being Better Together!
More fun Things
Jack Johnson’s song, Better Together, will certainly be sung and listened to this summer at GAC!