I’m super excited to share with you today this guest post by Lauren from Alpengirl Camp. If you have ever wondered about sending your kids to an outdoor camp and what they would experience, here you go! I so wish I had this opportunity when I was younger.
Why Getting Your Girl Outside Is So, So, Important
When I was little, my parents were more apt to throw me in ballet shoes and flute lessons than they were Smart Wools and Chacos. I grew up in the state of New York, on the coast of one very large Lake Ontario. My parents were both Italians; my grandmother still handmade her own noodles. It was only when I turned 15 did I realize that no other family had an entire shelf in the pantry devoted to pasta.
Needless to say, we weren’t outdoorsy. My mom groaned whenever we had to go to a Little League game, and the closest we got to camping was setting up my princess tent on top of my bed (Yes. That happened.).
So when I strapped on a backpack at 24 and went on my first overnight backpacking trip (in the Adirondacks; I was living in New York City at the time), I was equally amazed and disappointed. Amazed at the boundaries that I could push, amazed at how breathtakingly beautiful life outside the concrete maze could be. But disappointed that it had taken me 24 years to figure this out.
I began to hike and backpack every weekend, finally getting a job with an outfitter and guiding trips out of the city. After two years of exploring the trails and campsites of the east, I left everything I’d built in New York and headed west to Montana to work as a guide for Alpengirl Camp this past summer. Here are just a few reasons that I think wilderness education of any kind for your girls is so important.
Her self-esteem skyrockets. Trees and rocks don’t tell her what to wear. Rivers don’t suggest that she should wear makeup, and bull elk are too busy to whisper about her behind her back. Our girls live in a world where there is a lot of pressure to fit in. Sometimes, getting them away from those pressures and into an atmosphere where it’s cool not to wear makeup and it’s awesome to know how to set up a tent gives her a type of confidence that can’t be replicated while she’s at home getting lost in fashion magazines or on the internet.
She learns how to take care of herself. If she’s cold? She needs to put on layers. If she’s warm, she needs to take some off. If she’s out of water, she can’t just go find a sink; she has to make a plan and she has to ask for help to enact that plan. In the wilderness, things go wrong constantly, and a girl who spends enough time outdoors quickly learns that she can’t just Google directions or go to the fridge to get another piece of fruit. She learns how to plan and prepare, and most importantly, how to keep herself safe, warm, and dry.
She’ll use the skills she learns outdoors for the rest of her life. One of the most important skills in both school and in the work force is the ability to communicate. At Alpengirl, we have a very tight-knit group of 10-12 girls for each session and there’s a lot to do every day. Girls have to ask for help washing dishes or setting up their tent, they have to help read the map and cook meals. And we give them a lot of ownership, meaning that they are in charge of communicating our expectations to the rest of the group and motivating their group to get things accomplished. Instead of a traditional school setting where we, the educators, talk for seven hours a day, we talk for a few hours a day and then let the girls work together to delegate and complete all the tasks that need to be accomplished. This is much more indicative of how the real world works!
Thanks, Lauren, for a wonderful post. These girls look like they are having the time of their life and that is so great to see. I hope their confidence, self-esteem and personal growth continues to grow after they leave camp. There are so many reasons why the outdoors is beneficial to everyone.
BIO: Lauren Caselli is a writer and former guide for Alpengirl Camp, an overnight, outdoor summer adventure camp for girls ages 11-17 in Montana, Hawaii, Alaska, Washington and Norway. A Manhattan desk-jockey-turned-wilderness-junkie, she left her NYC apartment for the wide-open valleys of Montana. After 22 years in the traditional education system, Lauren learned more about her passions, her values, and herself during 18 months of wilderness exploration than she ever did in the halls of her public school.
Do you have any questions or comments for Lauren? Do you ever spend any time at a summer camp when you were younger? Have you sent your kids to one?