There are two momentous, camp-wide events at Camp Tuku that are filled with teachable moments for our campers: Capture the Counselor and Toucan-a-thon. Capture the Counselor is an “advanced hide n’ seek” game that takes place early in the camp week. Toucan-a-thon occurs at the end of the week, and we’ll talk about that event in an upcoming blog post. You might be wondering, just what are the teachable moments that come from a game based on finding a counselor whose hiding out somewhere around camp? Read on to find out…

Teachable Moment #1:  Teamwork Gets the Job Done

Since you may not be familiar, let’s review the premise for Capture the Counselor. One counselor from each bunk is given a stamp to take with them to a hiding spot within specific camp boundaries. The counselor with the toucan stamp is worth the most points. Counselors with other animal stamps are worth varying points. The idea is for each bunk to work together to

(1) find as many counselors in hiding as possible
(2) be the bunk that finds the counselor with the toucan, and
(3) have the most points tallied at the end of the night to be declared the winning bunk.

One other task:  When a counselor is found, the campers have to ask questions about which animal stamp they counselor possesses. That’s right–they just get the stamp for finding the counselor, they have to use reasoning and creative thinking to discover that information!

Once all counselors are in hiding, a whistle is blow to indicate it is time for the bunk teams to go seeking. The game starts after dinner and ends at dark, so there is limited time to work with. The campers have to strategize their search and they can’t separate into smaller groups. So the first teachable moment in this advanced game of hide ‘n seek is to learn the value of teamwork to get the job done.

For some teams, getting started was the hardest part:  While most teams, quickly identified leaders or co-leaders and hit the ground running with a game plan, others could not agree on which direction to move in first. A few teams struggled to identify a leader. And in other groups, the identified leader was challenged by quarreling teammates!

Teachable Moment #2:  Mindfulness isn’t Just for Meditating

For the teams that faced internal challenges with excusing a strategy, there always seemed to be group member who brought up a mindfulness skill to help the group refocus:

“Hey, we aren’t getting anywhere with arguing and other teams are going to get ahead of us. You guys need to take a few mindful breaths and quit arguing or we’ll just be standing here all night!” said a member of an 11-12 year old boys’ bunk.

When a designated leader wasn’t quite working out, someone always stepped-up — but not to take over. Rather, to help out and co-lead together. This was seen with a group of 13-14 year old female campers. The designated leader wasn’t really sure of direction as dusk fell across the camp. A teammate saw her anxiety rising and said, “Don’t worry. We’ll do this together. We’ll keep moving toward one of the main buildings to search around there.”  Smiles, hand holding, and the girls were off to the next hidden counselor.

Teachable Moment #3:  Slow-down and Take Turns

When a team found a counselor, the tendency was to bombard the counselor with questions. At times, it was like verbal firecrackers going off so fast, the counselor didn’t know which kid asked what question or who to answer first. One wise 9 year old boy finally — and loudly — told his team “Slow down and take turns so she can hear the questions and we can all hear the answers.”

The teams also learned to do something else quite well:  slowing-down and watching other teams. If it looked like a team was successful, they knew to move in that direction. They also strategized “decoys” to keep other teams off their trail to a hidden counselor.

We can’t imagine a more fun way to teach kids how to strategize, communicate, work together, and use logic and reasoning along with creative and mindful approaches to playing a game.

Below, our counselors really found some great places to hide!







When your kid writes home from Camp Tuku, you will hear all about what’s cookin’ in the Camp Tuku kitchen and around the campfire. Chef Mark teaches life skills alongside cooking skills as he guides kids of all ages through the steps involved with cooking a variety of amazing entrees and desserts. 

From the famous (or is it infamous) TikTok upside down pastry to octopus pizza to campfire quesadillas and the “best ever” open-flame popcorn…campers become chef-scientists when they enter the Camp Tuku kitchen. (Check-out all the camp activities and how we mindfully integrate science, creativity, and fun into all that we do!)

Campers become Chef-Scientists at Camp Tuku

Chef Mark approaches cooking with the campers with a flair for creativity, abundant enthusiasm, and the goal to teach kids self-sufficiency, kitchen safety and etiquette, and a touch of science. After all, cooking a great-tasting dish is all about the source of the ingredients, reactions between mixed ingredients, and kitchen “conditions”. And while we consider the Camp Tuku kitchen to be a “teaching kitchen”, equipped with just about everything a young chef’s heart could desire, the kids are having SO much fun, they don’t even realize they are in a hands-on science lab.

camp tuku campers make macarons in cooking class.For instance, the preparation of one of the camper’s favorite desserts to make: macarons. In the days before campers arrived at Camp Tuku in Arizona, Mark was testing his recipe to account for the level of humidity in the kitchen along with the conditions outside the kitchen (which seeped in every time the door opened to let the next class in). 

Six batches later, he had figured out how to get those cookies to rise properly…and how to teach the lesson and show the campers what happens when kitchen conditions aren’t right for a given recipe. You’ll be glad to know that every class of campers did make their own batch of colorful, delicious macarons!

For the youngest campers, aged six to ten years old, one of their recipes was the “tik tok puff pastry” that went viral for its ease of creating a delicious treat. They filled their pastries with local honey and fruit. That is something Mark always encourages kids to think about:  Where do your ingredients come from? Are they locally sourced? Organic or processed? What are the best possible ingredients for your recipe, without breaking the piggy bank?

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before the campers start prepping ingredients, they learn age-appropriate kitchen safety rules such as removal of objects that could be a fire hazard (loose, long sleeves) or that could get mixed-in with ingredients (long hair!). Next, they  learn about the equipment and ingredients that will be used. They get to ask questions, observe a demonstration, and then follow instructions to create their own delicious masterpiece. 

What Happens If I Don’t Do that Step in the Recipe?

Often, young campers will want to go “off recipe”. In one class, a young cook didn’t want to aid fruit to his pastry–just honey. Chef Mark described that without fruit the sugar fromThe honey would burn and turn the pastry dark. He asked if the camper was ok with that outcome–and potentially poor flavor. In this way, the camper gets to understand the natural consequences of changing the recipe. They are given the opportunity to decide if they want to proceed without following directions as given. This camper found a middle ground – he added two small pieces of peaches to the honey. “Just so it won’t be burnt.”

When working with older campers, Chef Mark spends additional time to allow a camper to ponder the effects of variable kitchen conditions, ingredient changes, and cooking process.. This provides the campers with an opportunity be inquisitive and to think critically about how different ingredients interact, how the environment affects the cooking process, and, as they move onto mixing the ingredients, understand the chemistry of cooking.

Cooking at Camp Tuku doesn’t just happen in the kitchen. In the class, Campfire Cooking, Chef Mark supervises campers over the fire-pit where they whip up campfire quesadillas, open-flame popcorn (sooo good you’ll never want boxed or bagged ever again!), and s’mores galore!


Camp Tuku’s cooking classes are available at both locations–Arizona and New York. We’d love for you to get in touch with us to learn more about our upcoming session or to get on our mailing list for camp information.


It’s no exaggeration that Camp Tuku is a summer camp like no other:  At Camp Tuku you’ll find all the traditional activities of summer camp (sports, arts, outdoor excursions) plus the opportunity to learn mindfulness practices that support each camper’s social-emotional wellbeing.

Every year I’ve gone to Camp Tuku (I’m on my third year), I’ve learned something new–a craft, a hobby, stress management skills and found a way to use it in my life back at home. More than that, I’ve learned how to navigate difficult situations with a lot more calm and a lot less stress. And that says a lot, for me, anyway, because I’m kind of a high-strung kid. My home life had been really rocky, especially during and after the pandemic. And, I don’t always have the best grades. Since I started coming to Camp Tuku, though, a lot has changed for me.

Don’t get me wrong…I wasn’t at all sure about the mindfulness stuff when I started with camp at age 10–and it was online because of the pandemic. I made a deal with my mom to give it a go and she promised me a new basketball hoop (not a small thing for her, as a single parent). I did learn a lot that first year–about focussing, and being open-minded about new things, and giving myself a chance to learn more about myself.

I learned even more in year two and in this past summer at Camp Tuku in Arizona. I really gave the mindfulness practices a chance. It was really neat to see that I could use those skills while studying or in class, or even while practicing or playing soccer. Not only that, I was becoming less high-strung and that made me a better brother to my little sister and easier to get along with my mom.

Take a look at these photos from Camp Tuku Session 1, June 2023 and you’ll see why I love being here.
— Jamie, age 13*

Excitement at Camp Tuku

The excitement of being dropped off at Camp Tuku can’t be described with words–this camper’s expression says it all!






Kayaking always looks easier than it really is. Here are some friends learning to communicate and collaborate, mindfully, so they don’t tip the kayak and wind up in the muck!


Horseback riding is a favorite activity for a lot of kids at Camp Tuku. We learn horsemanship skills along with horse care. The most important lesson–keep calm and ride on. Horses are very intuitive about people’s emotions. This is why horses are used in therapeutic programs, which I think is really neat!


Paintball is an exciting sport that I don’t get to do back home. I love the stealth aspect, working as a team, and winning!




Believe it or not, mindfulness can often be the best time of the day. It gives everyone a chance to settle down. For me, it gives me a chance to let go of some of the harsh things I sometimes say to myself. I always feel better after mindfulness.



The counselors at Camp Tuku are absolutely amazing! These guys supported me and my bunkmates all the time–even when we gave them or each other a hard time. They kept their cool and were great role models. Plus, they really got into the color wars during Toucan-a-thon…the big event at the end of the week. That’s what’s going on in the photo below…


*Jamie’s journal entry is a vignette of several camper’s statements made during interviews and conversations with our camp communications team.

Woodworking isn’t a hobby most kids encounter in their digital-focussed lives. To some degree, it’s a lost art form. Not so at Camp Tuku where woodworking brings forth campers’ creativity, enhances attentional skills, and sparks interest in a potential lifelong hobby.

Safety First in Woodworking Class at Camp Tuku

In every woodworking class at Camp Tuku, campers learn the proper and safe use of woodworking tools that they will use to carve a pre-shaped figure with features of their own interpretation. This summer, campers selected a mouse or a bird figure to work with.

Class begins with campers donning a safety glove and sturdy protective apron. Campers assist one another securing the aprons for one another while the instructor teaching the class checks that they have choses a properly fitting safety glove. 

Once everyone is situated with their safety attire, they learn the safety rules they need to follow while working with the carving tools:  

+  proper hand placement on the carving object
+  proper positioning and handling of the knife
+  being mindful that they have a sufficient personal work zone

Following these safety procedures requires that campers pay attention to details, communicate with their classmates, and check with the instructor about any concerns for space and positioning with their tools. 

Once there is assurance that everyone has what they need and the space within which to safely work, then the campers receive instruction about the project. They not only learn how to work the carving tool to embellish the animal shape with features, they also learn why they have to do things in a certain way. This may be for safety reasons, but it may also be because moving the carving tool in a certain way creates a different effect.

Creative Decision Making Learned in Woodworking Class

Before campers begin using the carving tool, they pencil sketch features they want their mouse or bird to have. This is where creative interpretation of the project comes into play for each camper: 

  • Do they want their mouse or bird to have realistic features?
  • Will it have round or pointy ears?
  • Is the beak long, short, straight, curved? 
  • Are the eyes small and beady or large and curious? Maybe one eye is winking!
  • What line directions will they use to add the impression of feathers or fur?
  • Should the tail be long or short; flat, pointed, rounded, squared at the end?

This type of creative autonomy in a class such as woodworking equips each camper with the power of decision making and a sense of ownership of the outcome.

Campers often report that the woodworking class is one of their favorite activities at Camp Tuku. Many pick-up the hobby even after they return home. Parents love the woodworking class for their child because it helps their child focus on something other than a digital device. 

Devices Down, Creativity Up! at Camp Tuku

Would you like your child to put down their devices more often, pick-up a new hobby, and make cherished friendships? Consider sending your child to Camp Tuku in the Catskill Mountains in July 2023.

You might be thinking about sending your child to Camp Tuku in New York or Arizona. Maybe you’ve pursued our website and seen our photos and videos, but are still wondering “is Camp Tuku a good fit for my child?” We’d like to share a bit more about how we embrace the uniqueness of each child who attends Camp Tuku.

Diversity at Camp Tuku

During any given camp session, many different children are represented in our camper population. Furthermore, any child can have difficulties at camp, not just those with special developmental or health needs. This can include home sickness, acting out, or conflict with a bunk mate.

We do not define a child by their abilities or their disabilities. We embrace who a child is by recognizing their unique qualities, skills, personality characteristics, life experience, and so forth. Diversity is embraced at Camp Tuku.

Campers coming to Camp Tuku have different socio-economic backgrounds, family structures, and some have even come to us as refugees, such as from the nation of Ukraine. All of this adds to the rich diversity of the camp population, but it also means our staff must be attentive to the ways these experiences can affect each child. 

Camp Tuku Staff Training

Because the mix of campers arriving at Camp Tuku can vary for each session, our camp counselors and directors receive training to orientate them to the diverse developmental needs of children. This encompasses a variety of differing abilities and life experiences that can be found among a large group of children, such as (but not limited to):

  • Spectrum Disorders
  • ADHD
  • Challenging behaviors
  • Emotional needs (such as grief/loss, trauma, sensitivity)
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of a parent or other caregiver

Staff learn what are appropriate social-emotional responses to have when interacting with a given child and ways to support that child’s unique needs. This helps to ensure that a child receives the most benefit from their time at camp. 

Training for Camp Tuku Counselors

Before campers arrive for the first day at Camp Tuku, our staff learn and practice techniques for providing instruction, navigating difficult emotions, and resolving conflict. These techniques are grounded in the research behind mindfulness practices and SEE Learning (Social, Emotional, Ethical Learning), trauma-informed practice, resilience tools, and other research-backed approaches for working with children. These techniques can include:

  • Setting and clarifying expectations
  • Checking for understanding
  • Providing alternate instructions or modifying an activity
  • Providing brain breaks
  • Following-through on expectations and natural consequences
  • Nonjudgmental understanding- connect & validate camper’s experience/emotions
  • Neutralizing distressing events
  • Behavioral support (mindfulness skills, grounding & resourcing strategies)

Our counselors always have the support of our exceptionally trained and experienced directors. In this way, we at Camp Tuku can provide your child with a supportive atmosphere in which to foster their social-emotional development, help them thrive through new experiences, and create friendships and memories to last a lifetime. Contact us to learn more about Camp Tuku in New York or Arizona.

Whether working together to figure out how to design props with limited materials or use uncommon materials to build a model boat that will move through water, Camp Tuku’s drama and innovations classes help kids tap into their innate curiosity, strengthen creativity, and learn the value of collaboration.

You might not think that innovations, which is a STEM-based class, has much in common with drama class. So, not true! The skills the kids are learning in innovations carry over to drama, and vice-versa. 

  • The creativity of crafting a performance supports creative problem solving in the innovations class. 
  • Working as a team to figure out how to build an object carries over to the tasks required when building props for a performance. 

Inside an Innovations Class at Camp Tuku

Creativity, critical thinking skills, and the ability to collaborate with others come together in the innovation class at Camp Tuku. Kids need these skills to not only keep pace with rapid changes in society and technology, but also to be able to think outside-the-box when technology fails to work as expected.

Groups of campers engage in specific projects using uncommon materials. This requires them to 

  • be curious
  • ask questions
  • experiment with possible solutions
  • work as a team 

Does Your Boat Float?

One of the challenges campers tackle in the innovation class is how to design and build a boat that will float in the camp pool. The catch? The boat has to be made from popsicle sticks, glue, tape, paper, paper clips and other materials not typical of constructing a boat. 

After listening to instruction, and exploring different materials, pairs of campers work together to draw a model for their boat, determine the materials they want to use, and plan how to put their materials together to shape the model boat. Once everyone’s boat has dried, it will be sprayed with a waterproof adhesive and set to motion in the water. The idea is to create a boat that floats and moves through water without sinking.

Why Do Kids Love Innovations Class at Camp Tuku?

“I chose the Innovations class at Camp Tuku because I love building things and I wanted to learn different ways to make things with materials that are easy to find at home or in my yard.”  – Chloe, age 13 

“I like making things but it’s hard to come up with new ideas and this class gives me neat things to try. I like that I get to see if what I make actually works, like by putting the boat in the pool.”  – Lena, age 12

“I like that I get to work with other kids and share ideas. It is fun to try to figure things out, especially if everyone is nice to each other.” – Avi, age 9

Mindfulness to the Rescue

And what do the campers learn to do when they aren’t getting along well with their partners, or if they get frustrated with the task at hand? We have a rescue remedy for those moments:

“In mindfulness practice, I learned about going to my calm place to help me focus and try again. That’s a lot better than getting mad. That’s what I usually do.” – Trent, age 10

Drama Class at Camp Tuku

Kids of all ages love drama class. Each class begins with a warm-up activity to help campers tap into their creative mind. They engage in activities that are at the heart of Camp Tuku’s philosophy to 

  • enhance creativity
  • strengthen self-awareness
  • cultivate confidence, compassion & collaboration 
  • support one another’s path to happiness 

Once everyone feels warmed up and ready to go, they begin working in small groups. This year the campers use a mad-libs style worksheet to write an original narrative based on a camp related theme. At the end of their planning time, the small group presents their story to the entire class. The group votes on which story  they want to perform and plans are made for performing the skit in front of camp at the end of the week. 

Story ideas created this year ranged from a zany camp obstacle course adventure, a hike that took an unusual turn, and a cabin mystery.

On Stage or BackStage: Drama Takes Teamwork

Counselors always double check that a child is comfortable performing on stage in front of the whole camp. And if they are not, they can choose a backstage role.  This can include

  • helping other campers learn their lines
  • making props with items on hand
  • narrating from off-stage

This way, all campers feel a sense of agency in identifying a role that best suits them. In the process, they are learning the value of working together, sharing ideas, building confidence, and practicing patience as they plan and produce their performance.

Why Do Kids Love Drama Class at Camp Tuku?

You might say what’s not to love about drama class at Camp Tuku! From “performing with friends” to “being with their favorite counselor” and “just being silly and acting like something different than just being myself”… kids have all kinds of reasons to love drama class at Camp Tuku. 

Your Child Can Tap into their Creativity at Camp Tuku?

Would you like your child to mindfully stretch their comfort zone, tap into their creativity, and learn innovative ways to approach challenges? Join us for a fun-filled week (or two!) of summer camp at Camp Tuku in Arizona or Camp Tuku in the Catskill Mountains…there’s still room! Call Camp Tuku, today at 928-224-5855. 

If your child hasn’t been to Camp Tuku, there’s no better way to get a sense of what happens at camp than peeking into one of our older camper’s photo diary entries. We hope you enjoy this entry.

If you have questions about sending your child to Camp Tuku-Arizona (June 2023) or Camp Tuku-Catskill Mountains (July 2023), please contact us at 928-224-5855

Camp Tuku-Arizona Camper Photo Diary Entry

June 20, 2023
Our days at Camp Tuku begin with a mindfulness activity that is based upon lessons that help me enhance my social and emotional wellness and learn how to make choices that are not only beneficial for me, but also consider others who might be affected by a choice I make. (I learned that this comes from something called SEE Learning: Social, Emotional, Ethical Learning).

Morning Mindfulness at Camp Tuku

Today, program director Cyd led us through an activity with the MIND JAR. The big jar is filled with water and represents my mind. I learned that each moment of the day, from the time I wake to the time I go to sleep at night, all kinds of thoughts, emotions, and experiences come into my mind. I have the power to label my thoughts: Some thoughts are neutral (represented by sand); glitter represented positive thoughts; and pebbles represented negative/heavy thoughts.

Throughout my day, all these thoughts can affect one another. If I focus only on negative things (like
getting a poor grade on a test), then my mind and emotions get stirred-up and the negativity keeps spiraling. This is shown by the swirling liquid in the jar — all the glitter, sand and stones mix together and the liquid in the jar–or my mind–becomes cloudy.  This can make me feel overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious or angry. If I stay like that, it becomes hard to focus on other things, such as my school work or  soccer practice, or even something good like going to a friend’s birthday party. I might even make poor choices like not doing my homework or skipping practice or not going to the party.

Mindfulness practices can help me settle my mind, which makes things more clear so I can focus on what is true (One poor grade doesn’t mean I will always get poor grades or that I am stupid) and what is important for me to do in that moment (talk to my teacher, ask a friend or grown-up for help).

Mindfulness on Horseback: Insight from a Young Camper

I really liked when Taylor, one of the younger campers told us what she learned during horseback riding: “Not being in the present moment when you’re on the horse can upset the horse and maybe cause you to get hurt.”

I realized that can happen when I go into a test worried about something else (like my parent being mad that I didn’t clean my room). Or if I go to a soccer game thinking about a bad grade on a test. I’m not in the present moment and that can make things worse (my friend will be upset with me, I might miss a goal or get injured).

After the mindfulness lesson, we raise the Camp Tuku flag and head to breakfast. (By the way, the food here is awesome!)

Throughout the day, in each camp activities, we not only learn new things while having tons of fun, our amazing camp counselors remind us of the mindfulness lesson of the day. We do this through group talk, using our journals, or being reminded about paying attention to the activity if we are caught goofing around or getting distracted.

Sometimes another camper gets frustrated and that can affect the group activity. Our counselors do a really great job of helping us use our mindfulness skills. Because of this, I think the campers here all get along with each way better than any other camp I have ever been to. We are more patient with each other and kinder, too. Even if we don’t always get along, we have more ways to figure out how to resolve things because of what Camp Tuku is teaching us while we’re out in the beautiful Arizona mountains.

Here are my photos from the first few days at Camp Tuku!

My group in mindfulness circle to help us calm down after a very long morning of activities.

campfire cooking at camp tuku


The best popcorn ever popped from kernels over the open fire. Also, banana boats that we get to drizzle with chocolate, and quesadillas using leftovers from dinner last night. So yummy!









Capture the counselor is a game we played one night at dusk. Our bunks have to work together and strategize to find counselors hidden around campus. When we find a counselor we receive a stamp of an animal. Each is worth points, with the toucan, the Camp Tuku mascot, being worth the most points. The team with the most points is the winner.

These are local astronomers who brought their powerful telescopes to camp one evening. We were able to visit each telescope and see the moon, Venus, and several constellations and even a nova up close. Us older kids then got to camp out on the field…photo below.

Within every activity at Camp Tuku, campers are learning something new, giving them the opportunity to practice patience, strengthen focus and attention, and enjoy the great outdoors. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at camper experiences in one of camper favorites: wilderness exploration.

Wilderness Exploration: Skills for the Outdoors & the Real World

Wilderness exploration activities are intended to help campers experience the health benefits of nature while learning useful skills they can use in the great outdoors as well as in their lives at home. Campers learn different types of knot tying and the use of a compass. They also have opportunities for fishing, hiking, and kayaking.  

Riley’s Knot-Tying Lesson & A-ha! Moment

At Camp Tuku in Arizona this June, campers learned uses for different types of knots. For example, a slipknot is useful for crocheting, but it’s also useful for reigning in animals in the wild.

They also learned how to make a butterfly knot, and double figure 8.

Here’s what one of our campers, 12 year-old Riley, had to say about their wilderness class:

“I was surprised and really uncertain about whether I would like the activities, but my parents wanted me to be outside as much as possible.” 

When asked how they felt about the activities, Riley added:  “I’m glad that I got to come to the session. I am having  fun learning to use the knots.” 

Will Riley use knot tying back at home? After a moment of thought, Riley’s eyes brightened with an “a-ha” moment:

“Oh! Some of these knots are used to make a friendship bracelet or to tie things around the house.” After a little more reflection Riley said these knots would be useful when she goes camping with her family as they’re doing more outdoor activities this summer.

What Does Knot Tying Teach Campers at Camp Tuku?

  • patience with themselves as they practice and perfect knot tying skills
  • finger dexterity, which also requires concentration/mental focus
  • critical thinking to consider the safe and effective uses of different types of knots

Riley’s final thoughts about learning knot tying at Camp Tuku:  “All my camp friends and I are sitting outside, talking and helping each other when we get stuck. I am really glad I got to try something new!”

Finding Direction at Camp & in Life

With a GPS built into every device, most of us won’t ever pick-up a compass to find our way around. At Camp Tuku, knowing how to find one’s way around with a compass is an important part of wilderness experience. 

When learning to use a compass, campers come to understand the basics of direction and navigation. Once they feel comfortable with their knowledge-base, they put it to practice by participating in a scavenger hunt in which directional instructions are given and they must use their compass to find the hidden objects. 

Just as we need direction for where we are going on the road, around a building, in the woods, or to find a lost object, we similarly need direction in life. With our older campers, we might discuss having “an inner compass”– the reason we do things, also known as our “why.” Paying attention to thoughts and feelings, engaging in new experiences and taking time to reflect on our experiences all help to strengthen one’s inner compass.

Wilderness experience class not only gives kids time spent in nature, it helps them pay attention to detail, develop patience, and practice being mindful as they attend to the task at hand. They also enhance their communication skills and learn the value of teamwork by asking for assistance from their counselor or helping a fellow camper who is struggling with a task. In this way, Camp Tuku campers strengthen empathy and compassion, see the common ground they share, and learn new ways to support one another’s happiness and wellbeing. 

Join Us at Camp Tuku!

Would your child enjoy time spent mindfully  in the great outdoors, among new friends and exhilarating experiences? Contact Camp Tuku for more information about our upcoming sessions.

Campers at Camp Tuku proceed to the gathering area for morning mindfulness.

Just before morning assembly on Monday, June 19, 2023, at Camp Tuku in Arizona, campers were chatting amongst themselves on the lawn just outside Founders Hall. Our Outreach and Development Director, Karen, was on scene, capturing “words of wisdom” from our campers as they described their first night at camp and what they are looking forward to in the coming week:


“We were up at 5 a.m. The earlier you get up, the more fun you get to have in the day!” (Their counselor concurred; their entire cabin of 8 year old girls was up and roarin’ to go!)
  • “I can’t wait to try all the things (activities) I don’t get to do in my real life.” Such as? “Shooting arrows!” (archery) 
  • “It wasn’t my comfy bed from home, but I was so tired from being so excited, I slept just fine.
  • “I wish real school let us spend this much time outside doing cool stuff.”
  • “I can’t wait to get on the horses and also dance and drama.”
  • “I really want to learn how to be more chill. School stresses me out way too much.” 

Mindfulness and Exploring Happiness

Speaking of learning to be more chill… on opening night at Camp Tuku- Arizona, campers gathered for their first experience with mindfulness in nature during a session called “Exploring Happiness.” 

Mindfulness, as taught at camp using the SEE Learning Curriculum, describes it as a type of non-judgmental awareness of and attention to the present moment. In mindfulness ‘training’, we emphasize attention because it is a skill that each of us possess and can strengthen. Put another way, mindfulness refers to the ability to attend to something of value, to keep it in mind, and to not forget it or be distracted from it. 

Mindfulness practices help a person strengthen awareness and attention of what they are experiencing–physically and emotionally. We believe that mindfulness, taught in this way, is an important foundation for children to be able to identify, understand, and process their experiences, and particularly their emotions, in a healthy way.

Mindfulness in Nature at Camp Tuku

As the afternoon sun began its descent into dusk, campers gathered on the grassy quad. Program Director Cyd, led a short practice in which campers noticed their body connected to the earth beneath them. They were guided to bring their attention to the feelings (emotional, or physical) that they were experiencing in the moment, to notice if the feelings were positive or negative, and simply observe without evaluating or judging. Campers were guided to direct attention to positive emotions, breathe in and let their out breath carry that positivity to the space and people around them.

As a camp, and in small groups with the bunk counselor, campers explored happiness as it relates to kindness and compassion. Counselors lead their groups through the “Step In, Step Out” activity in which campers discover the commonalities between them, even though they may come from different schools, backgrounds, and parts of the country. 

Throughout the evening these themes were discussed, in age-appropriate ways, to establish rapport, set the foundation for building trust and friendship, and garnering respect and compassion for self and others. Taken together, this creates an environment in which happiness grows and campers thrive.

Morning Assembly:  The Resilience Zone

Mindfulness is practiced daily at camp and interwoven with other camp/SEE Learning themes throughout the week. At the first morning assembly campers reflected on the meaning of mindfulness, with new and seasoned campers offering their take:

  • “Mindfulness is getting your Zen and breathing.”
  • “Mindfulness is calming down and paying attention.”
  • “It’s when you don’t let your mind go all over the place and let your emotions run you over.”

Led by Cyd, the campers learned about The Resilient Zone and how mindfulness practices help them stay in the “OK Zone: a zone of awareness and attention.” They engaged in activities that helped the kids visualize and experience, (using movement, the sights and sounds around them, and personal experience) what it feels like to:

  • drop out of the Resilient Zone to the Low Zone (sad, depressed, or “blah”)
  • escalate out of the Resilient Zone to the High Zone ( agitated, anxious, angry, frustrated)

When asked what mindfulness helps us do when we are out of the Resilience Zone, one camper stated “mindfulness helps you know what you’re feeling so you can calm down.”

Cyd reminded campers that mindfulness helps us be aware, without judging our feelings that are low or high (sad or agitated) so that we can do something constructive and helpful to better manage those feelings and make good choices. The Resilience Zone theme will be carried into evening activities, including mindfulness practice to attend to how they are feeling, journaling, skits in which campers learn the power of staying in the OK Zone when they encounter conflicts with others.

And this is how campers mindfully started their week at Camp Tuku! 

We Invite You to Send Your Child to Camp Tuku!

All children can benefit from learning mindfulness practices and strengthening their resilience zone. Contact us if you would like to send your child to Camp Tuku – there are a few spots available for our camp in the Catskill Mountains in New York for Summer 2023.

We’re excited to introduce this year’s Counselors-in-Training (CIT) for Camp Tuku! 

Let’s take a closer look at the ins-and-outs of a CIT experience, get to know the two young ladies who were selected for the 2023 Camp Tuku CIT Program, and learn more about how you can become a CIT at Camp Tuku.

Benefits of Being a Camp Tuku Counselor-in-Training
Being a CIT is an amazing opportunity for a teenager (age 15-17). During their camp experience, CIT’s receive mentorship and gain valuable skills that help them gain a better understanding of themselves and discover their unique leadership style – all while having a positive impact on the lives of our young campers!

What Does a Camp Tuku CIT Do?
Camp Tuku CITs receive training alongside our camp counselors and directors. They gain valuable experience working with children:

  • provide secondary support for campers in their assigned bunk
  • guide younger campers around camp
  • assist  with evening activities
  • assist with other tasks as delegated by the Director of Operations & other leadership staff

Meet the 2023 Camp Tuku CITs
The two young people selected for the 2023 Camp Tuku CIT Program at our Arizona Camp are Daria and Savannah. In their application process, they both displayed a positive attitude, excellent communication skills, a passion for working with children, an interest in growing as a leader, and the ability to be self-reflective. Both bring unique personal experiences and an eagerness to learn, grow, and thrive to Camp Tuku.

Counselor-in-Training,  DARIA
Daria comes to Camp Tuku from the nation of Ukraine. She has lived in the United States for 11 months. While her siblings and parents are with her in Arizona, many other family members remain in the war-torn country. Her younger brother also is attending Camp Tuku.

She is in eleventh grade and really appreciates the support her teachers have given while she adjusted to her new life in the U.S. 

Daria’s Goal:  Daria wants to learn more about how to support young children and interact with them in ways that support their wellbeing. She also wants to strengthen her ability to communicate in English. Daria is most looking forward to the variety of camp activities and helping campers try new things.

Hobbies:  math, art, drawing and creative activities such as making things in woodshop

Future:  She wants to combine art and design, possibly in an architecture career.

Words of Wisdom:  Be good to others.



Counselor-in-Training,  SAVANNAH
Savannah is a native of New Mexico where she attended many camps during elementary and middle school. Her decision to be a CIT was inspired by a counselor she had during one of her camp experiences. Growing-up, Savannah did not have an older sibling and is looking forward to providing that kind of “big sister” support to Camp Tuku campers.

Savannah’s Goal: Savannah really loves working with children and wants to better understand how to be supportive and attentive to their unique personalities and needs.

Hobbies:  Basketball is her jam! Savannah loves the “old school” legends of basketball… Michael Jordan is one of her idols. She plays on a club team and is striving to qualify for a higher level team this year.

Future:  Daria would love to work with children in her future career. She’d also like coaching basketball to be a part of her future.

Words of Wisdom:  Always give your best and don’t give-up quickly, challenges can be overcome–but also listen to your heart so you can better know when something is truly not a good fit for you.

How are Camp Tuku CITs Selected?
A CIT is chosen through an application process that takes place months in advance of the first day of camp. CITs complete an online application process in which they describe:

  • prior camp experience (related experience) and what they learned from it
  • personal goals for participating in the CIT Program
  • personal characteristics that make them a good CIT candidate

They also answer scenario based questions as a way to show how they would handle typical camp situations with campers and with their peers. Finally, candidates have an interview with our Camp Director and Operations Director.

YOU Can Be a CIT at Camp Tuku – Catskill Mountains!
If you are interested in being a Counselor-in-Training for Camp Tuku in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York, this July, please
complete an application.