Building Empathy is our 2024 Summer Theme!
Empathy is our ability to understand how others feel, and building our empathy skills are foundational for closer friendships and improved well-being. In a world that is increasingly divided, building empathy is vital to cultivating meaningful relationships with people from diverse backgrounds.
Empathy is a skill that can be practiced, and this summer, we will focus on six tools to help campers cultivate empathy:
Our logo this year includes a blueprint drawing and construction tools. A blueprint drawing is one of the first phases in planning and design during a construction project. Just as architects must consider various perspectives when designing a building to meet the needs of different users, developing empathy requires understanding and appreciating the perspectives of others. A blueprint also provides a comprehensive plan for a building, considering not just its individual components but how they interact to create a functional and harmonious space. Empathy requires seeing the whole picture by considering the emotions, experiences, and circumstances that shape others’ perspectives and behaviors.
Just as construction tools are used to measure, cut, and shape materials, empathy involves using various “tools” such as active listening, perspective-taking, and emotional literacy to understand others’ experiences, perspectives, and emotions.A well-equipped construction toolkit contains a variety of tools for different tasks and situations. Just as construction tools are used to build structures that connect people and communities, empathy serves as a tool for building bridges and connections between individuals, fostering mutual understanding, compassion, and cooperation.
This summer, we will talk about how we can build our empathy each day at Morning Assembly, and we’ll be adding skills to our empathy “toolkits.” At campers’ nightly cabin campfires, counselors will facilitate empathy-related discussions, and help campers practice active listening and storytelling through daily sharing.
Building Empathy is about putting less emphasis on “me” and more emphasis on “we.” Empathy builders connect with others in meaningful ways and seek to better understand how others are feeling. Our goal is for campers and staff to become empathy builders in their schools, workplaces, and communities.
Our theme this summer builds many of our past themes related to gratitude, kindness, kindness (Cool 2B Kind), relationship building (Creating Connections), helpfulness (Give a Hand), grit (Growing Grit), positivity (The Energy Bus), a focus on friendship (Find-a-Friend), building up others (Filling Buckets), being our best selves (Be You), appreciating our community (Better Together), and Choosing Kindness (2022).
We can’t wait to build our empathy skills together this summer!
This year’s summer theme, chosen to help guide campers to be trustworthy and dependable friends, cabin mates, and family members, is “Count on Me.”
Our first summer theme was in 2012 when we chose the theme of gratitude. We followed that theme with kindness (Cool 2B Kind), relationship building (Creating Connections), helpfulness (Give a Hand), grit (Growing Grit), positivity (The Energy Bus), a focus on friendship (Find-a-Friend), building up others (Filling Buckets), being our best selves (Be You ), appreciating our community (Better Together), and Choosing Kindness (2022).
An important character trait of a good friend is being reliable, dependable, and trustworthy. We know that it’s important that our campers develop these traits. This year at Gold Arrow Camp, we will be learning how to be people our friends can count on.
We’re thrilled to make our GAC community stronger by helping campers understand the importance of being a person their cabin mates, friends, and family can count on. There are many opportunities at camp to be dependable and reliable. “Counting on Me” means using our words and actions to show others they can count on us:
The pinwheel represents our 2023 theme. No matter which of its blades catches the smallest breeze first, it turns the whole wheel together. It takes less effort to spin as each individual part gathers more of the wind. Without all of its blades, it cannot spin evenly and efficiently. Each blade relies on the others. Working together, the pinwheel creates a mesmerizing display of beauty. It reacts to the gusts that blow its way then it gently returns to rest, ready for what the day may bring.
“Count on Me” builds on the work we’ve done in the areas of positivity, friendship, and kindness. The friendships we forge at camp are special for many reasons, and we know that keeping the focus on being someone others can count on will add depth and richness to our connections. It is our sincere hope that 2023’s GAC campers will take this theme home and continue to be people others can count on in their communities by being trustworthy, reliable, and dependable. You can count on me!
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
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It sounds like such a simple task. After all, aren’t we all just automatically ourselves?
But it’s actually not as simple as it seems. We all feel pressure to fulfill expectations, fit in, go with the flow, look and act a certain way, and do what everyone else is doing.
Sometimes all of that pressure can lead to feelings that we’re not enough just the way we are. Confidence can be eroded when we feel like we’re falling short.
At GAC we believe in encouraging campers and staff to accept and celebrate our own and others’ strengths and unique traits. “Being You” is one of our core values, and many kids tell us that they feel freer to be themselves at camp than in other places. Campers and staff often report that they feel like they can “be themselves” at camp.
Each year, we pick a theme to help guide us through camp. This summer, even though we won’t be together at camp, we’ll be exploring and sharing about what it means to be our true, authentic selves.
We’ll encourage campers to explore what it means to be their “best selves” with questions like these:
When we spend time talking and thinking about the interests, traits, and strengths that make us who we are, we gain self-awareness, which is an important aspect of emotional intelligence and one that helps us be a better friend to others. Self-awareness also builds our confidence and ability to understand that we don’t need to be an expert or be perfect at everything. No one is!
When we support our friends by pointing out their strengths and the unique, cool things we like about them, we strengthen our friendships, too.
This summer , not only will we be learning about how to be our best selves, we’ll be learning about how to help our friends be their best selves, too!
Our “Be You” theme for 2020 gives us the opportunity to take advantage of our extra time for reflection (because we’re all stuck at home) and reconnect with what makes us awesome just the way we are.
Check out Monkey and Soy’s formal announcement of our theme (back in January, before we knew we’d be stuck at home this summer), complete with many “b” based puns, enjoy this video:
This year’s summer theme, chosen to help guide campers to be the best versions of themselves, is “Filling Buckets.”
Our first summer theme was in 2012 when we chose the theme of gratitude. We followed that theme with kindness (Cool 2B Kind), relationship building (Creating Connections), helpfulness (Give a Hand), grit (Growing Grit), positivity (The Energy Bus), and 2018’s focus on friendship (Find-a-Friend).
One thing that makes life at camp special is that we live in a community where our shared experience is full of face-to-face, positive interactions with each other. At camp, we are shielded from input and news from life outside of GAC and we take a break from the pressures of social media. This unique setting provides us the privilege and responsibility of maintaining our own positive and encouraging atmosphere.
Every interaction we have with another person is an opportunity to have a positive, negative, or neutral impact. It is easy to be too self-focused and worry about our own agenda and needs. Encouraging others and actively seeking opportunities to have a positive impact are noble challenges we are excited to embrace in our community.
Tom Rath and Donald Clifton of Gallup Strengthsfinders introduced “The Theory of the Bucket and the Dipper” in their bestselling 2004 book, How Full is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life.
Carol McCloud’s 2015 children’s book Have You Filled A Bucket Today? presents Rath and Clifton’s concept in a simplified version and is our inspiration for this year’s theme.
Here are some of the 2019 GAC staff reading Have You Filled a Bucket Today?:
We’re thrilled to make our GAC community stronger by helping campers understand that encouragement makes others feel valued. Together, we will experience the joy that comes from making others our focus.There are many opportunities at camp to fill other people’s buckets through kindness and encouragement. Filling Buckets means using our words and actions to show how much we care:
Filling Buckets builds on the work we’ve done in the areas of positivity, friendship, and kindness. The friendships we forge at camp are special for many reasons, and we know that keeping the focus on lifting each other up will add depth and richness to our connections. It is our sincere hope that 2019’s GAC campers will take this theme home and continue to make positive changes in their communities by being kind and encouraging with everyone they encounter. Everyone deserves a full bucket!
On Episode 12, Soy is joined by Bambino, and they talk about the theme for 2017, Hop on the Energy Bus. Bambino is the man who brought the Energy Bus to camp in the first place, and he shares about his experience sharing the book with 13 and 14 year old boys. There’s also a Joke of the Cast, TSwift, and Soy reads WOWs and a haiku. As always, you can send suggestions or WOWs to email@example.com