Another week, another conference. This time a bit closer to home.
The Skelton 4-H Center at Smith Mountain Lake in Wirtz, Virginia, hosted the 2017 National Camping Environmental Education Institute. The Skelton Center is on a beautiful piece of property, and was a fantastic place to spend of couple of days learning and meeting other camping professionals.
The big draw of the conference was keynote speaker Bob Ditter, a camping guru. He is a therapist, trainer, consultant, and highly regarded by all in the camping industry. Everyone I know in camping raves about Bob Ditter and says he’s a must see. They’re right.
His keynote was filled with his famous stories (leaving tears in my eyes), science, and new trends inside and outside camp.
Ditter, Not Twitter!
The focus was technology — and most of us know the power of tech in an ever changing world. Screen time is climbing higher for every age group. Phone use is growing…sort of. Kids use smart phones as phones less than a third of the time. Meaning more than two thirds of the time young people spend on phones is not talking, but on social media and Internet sites.
Phone use, social media, and the like are addicting. We crave the feedback we get, and children are the most susceptible. All the stimulation that comes from screen time is rewiring our young people’s brains.
That’s where camp comes in. Camp gives our kids the chance to disconnect, to forget about social media for a little while. At camp they form deep, meaningful connections with others. They gain interpersonal skills that will never come from looking at a screen. For a few weeks they break the cycle of addiction to technology, and come together as a tent, as a unit, and as a camp as a whole.
We build community based on face-to-face interaction, through activities, and shared experiences. Bob Ditter left us with lots of ideas to facilitate those connections and relationships in his keynote and sessions he led the following day.
While much of the conference was geared to 4-H camps, camping is camping, and I came away with lots of good ideas and new connections of my own. It was two days of friends, songs, new games, and great learning. I left with ideas for new evening programs, for the coming Leaders-In-Training Program we’re developing, and new ways all of us at camp can connect with campers.
As every day brings summer a little closer, I get more and more excited to get to camp! Less time looking at a screen and more time on the river, in the woods, and connecting with the best girls around — ‘Ghany girls!
— Casey Tucker, Program Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls