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.