by Heather Mundt – For many kids, summer means trading school drudgery for summer-camp fun. And if they’re lucky, they’ll experience an Avid4 Adventure camp, where fun translates to visiting recreation areas and learning to climb, bike, paddle or hike, for starters. Little do these kids know, however, they’ll be learning just as much outdoors as they would in a classroom, especially about themselves.
“By teaching kids to identify potential risks or challenges and then come up with the way to manage those risks themselves, we’re giving them the confidence to try new things on their own,” says Ileana Street, Avid4 Adventure senior vice president of new business. “We use a challenge-by-choice approach, which means campers get to choose how far to push themselves when trying a new activity like rock climbing, biking or paddling. In that way, we help kids feel comfortable about trying new things because they have more control.”
| Related: Boosting Kids’ Confidence at Summer Camp |
According to the American Camp Association (ACA), camps like Avid4 Adventure are critical in helping kids develop confidence and self-esteem into adulthood. In a recent study of 5,000 families throughout the U.S., states the ACA site, 96 percent of campers say camp helped them make new friends, and nearly 75 percent say they tried something that made them afraid.
Avid4 Adventure Summer Camps Build Skills
Camps build skills necessary to prepare campers to assume roles as successful adults, the ACA states. Parents, campers, and camp staff independently reported growth in areas such as self-confidence, independence, making friends, exploring and learning new activities, and spirituality.
At Avid4 Adventure in particular, staff help kids accomplish that through the organization’s eight core values (see end of story for all eight).
“The one that rises to the top when it comes to building campers confidence is LIVE EMPOWERED,” says Street, “a core value that promotes opportunity to lead and make informed decisions about risk. For example, when we’re mountain biking, an instructor will stop the group prior to starting down a trail and ask the kids what they see ahead. We let the kids identify that there are rocks on the trail, or that there is a steep downhill, or that the trail intersects with another path.”
Street continues. “We then ask them how they should bike given each of those situations, where should they be looking, what position should their body take, etc.,” she says. “By teaching kids to identify potential risks or challenges and then come up with the way to manage those risks themselves, we’re giving them the confidence to try new things on their own.”
Another core value that nurtures confidence is LIVE SMART(ER), which espouses training and development for both staff and participants.
“We give all campers a passport that lists the skills they are learning and can learn in each of our adventure sports,” Street says. “At the end of a camp session, we’ll mark which ones they have accomplished and then focus on teaching them new skills the next time they return. The passport is a great communication tool for us to not only let a camper know how much he/she has learned and grown, but also to let parents know what their kids are capable of so they can continue to encourage them to stay active outdoors.”
The Avid4 Adventure camps also focus on teaching campers the right technical skills in adventure sports so they become self-sufficient, she says, like using correct strokes when kayaking, canoeing or stand-up-paddleboarding; positioning their bodies properly when climbing; or understanding bike mechanics so they know how to fix a chain falling off. It’s also important to teach Avid4 Adventure campers that it’s okay to experience setbacks when learning something new.
“We like to say that we don’t place our campers in bubble wrap,” Street says. “An important part of gaining self-confidence is to know that when we get a scrape or a bump from trying a new activity, we can still get up and try again. While safety is our number-one priority, we normalize the fact that scrapes and bumps are going to happen, and that’s a natural part of becoming self-reliant.”
Avid4 Adventure Believes in Calculated Risk-Taking
Just as in life, you’ll encounter bumps along the way. But by calculating risk, learning tools for success and persevering, you can reach the summit and be successful, both in the outdoors and throughout your adult years.
And parents like Allison Mayfield, mom of 11-year-old Avid4 Adventure camper Cole, have already noticed the camp’s positive effect on her child. “Outside of Avid4, we have seen Cole’s confidence come through in Boy Scout advancement and achieving his black belt last year, she says. He has also made the honor roll all year this school year. He has a great sense of goal setting and perseverance, and the confidence to try new things.”
Cole echoes that sentiment. “We went on a 13-mile ride, and I was able to do it!,” he says. “After that, I bought a mountain bike from the Avid4 Adventure sale so I could keep riding.”
Avid4 Adventure Summer Camps 8 Core Values:
1. Live Fun
Injected with the belief that the outdoors creates joy, Avid supports kids, their families and their peers to adventure exuberantly out in the world.
2. Live Environmentally Connected
To create environmental stewards of our Mother Earth, Avid walks the walk and talks the talk by minimizing their programs’ environmental impact. They also impart environmental awareness by teaching the Leave No Trace principles.
3. Live Truth
Listening is crucial to meaningful conversations. Avid is dedicated to recognizing one’s own uniqueness and acknowledging successes with gratitude.
4. Live Smart(er)
Training and development are top on Avid’s list, not only for the kids but for the advancement of technical expertise among their staff, tracking and advancing the skills of everyone involved.
5. Live Beyond Expectation
By elevating adventure education and maintaining a distinguished safety record, Avid consistently surpasses expectations.
6. Live Empowered
With an empathetic approach, Avid staff encourages kids to take positive risks by leading them to opportunities that will, in turn, build confidence.
7. Live Balanced
Bridging the gap between a hunger for work and a thirst for the outdoors is met with its own reward of community, family and self when you are able to find fulfillment in all aspects of life.
8. Live Community
One shared experience of connection to those who occupy the space surrounding us near and far leads to inspiring growth of a people and of the world.
9. Avid4 Adventure Location
Avid offers several day and overnight camps in various locales, including Colorado and California, with remote and pristine facilities near cities like Denver, Boulder, and Oakland, respectively. All expeditions and activities are tailored for varying age and experience levels, from 2nd grade through high school.
NOTE: Avid4 Adventure provided financial sponsorship to Outdoor Families Magazine in exchange for content.
Heather Mundt is contributing editor for Outdoor Families Magazine and authors her blog, Momfari. She lives in Colorado.