Across the Way with Brenda: Can Even Cabin Clean Up Help Human Development?
We know Camp gives kids a world of good, but it’s always nice to turn to research to confirm what we believe. Not just any research, the Harvard Grant Study, which is the longest longitudinal study in history. This has been an 80-year study of 268 college students at Harvard, who were sophomores between 1939-1944. As the number of participants in the original cohort dwindles, the findings continue to prove valuable. The goal of the study was to discover patterns for what fostered happy, well-adjusted adults over the course of a lifetime.
Don’t we all want to know, “What does it take to raise our kids into happy and well-adjusted adults?” Some of the results of the study are predictable:
- Those who embraced a community of close friends were happier as adults.
Check! Camp is the perfect place to embrace community and foster friendships!
- Those who had warm, caring parents as children were more satisfied as adults.
Check! We know CEL parents are the warmest and most caring!
- Those who had a happy marriage were the ones who experienced good mental health.
A little early for wedding bells….
Surely, none of these findings are a big surprise to any of us, yet there was one common denominator which was less predictable. Believe it or not, there was a close connection between successful adults and childhood chores. Maybe you’re surprised or maybe not, but the good news is: Check! Camp also provides an opportunity for each of us to participate in “chores.” We may call it Cabin Clean Up and Campus Pride, but the opportunity (and affect) is the same!
According to the study, professional success in life comes, at least in part, from doing chores as a kid. Having the expectation of regular tasks around the house (and/or cabin) can help lead to well-adjusted adults.
Why? Well, when we give kids chores/tasks we also give them some other things:
- The ability to recognize something needs to be done.
- The chance to take responsibility for a task.
- The competence to roll up their sleeves and contribute to getting a task done.
- The opportunity and capacity to contribute their best effort for the betterment of the family (or camp group & community)
Often in the busy schedules of kids, their “to do” list is filled with practices, rehearsals, games, recitals, homework and all of the other items on their itinerary. Sometimes the full line up of activities gets in the way of kids participating in family chores.
There is, however, a difference between the activities kids participate in and chores. Often the activities are about the individual and what they get out of it – their success & their achievement. What may be lacking is an opportunity for kids to contribute to the betterment of the whole – the chance to see what needs to be done for the family/group/community and work at getting it done.
While chores or cabin clean up are inherently about sacrifice for the whole, that doesn’t mean we can’t make them enjoyable! I’m not sure anyone is initially thrilled about sweeping or sorting laundry (myself included!), but at Camp we are always striving to create an environment where we make the mundane fun! Our ultimate goal is for campers and staff to feel the satisfaction of contributing to their group and to the entire Camp Echo Lake community. Along the way, we also want to show them that doing tasks for the improvement of the whole can be fun!
When campers and staff realize the amazing community of Camp Echo Lake is as beautiful and magical as it is because THEY helped create it, what a remarkable and gratifying achievement! We strive to instill a sense of the simple yet powerful concepts “BE KIND and TRY HARD” in all of our campers and staff. We provide opportunities through each and every day for Echo Lakers to practice these values.
On the Cabin Work Wheel, whether your name lands on Clear the Lines, Porch Sweep, or DJ, each of these tasks gives you a chance to try your hardest for your bunk. When we each walk through camp and notice a piece of trash or a towel left behind, we get to be kind to a fellow camper and to our camp community. Each and every minute at Camp we have 60 seconds to use in any way we choose. We get to contribute to creating a magical experience and community. While we all love receiving the gift of camp, there is a special sense of satisfaction and pride when we know we helped to brighten someone’s day, eased someone’s struggle, celebrated someone’s achievement and participated in making Camp Echo Lake a most wonderful community.
It’s easy to overlook the power of something as simple as cabin cleanup, but those few minutes each day helps to foster teamwork, a sense of pride in our summer home, a chance to contribute to something bigger than ourselves, and practice in noticing when our family, friends, or neighbors may need us to roll up our sleeves and help. We know, both from studies and anecdotally from campers and staff through the years, that being at Camp and living with others in a cabin cultivates both independence and community mindedness. We always hope the laundry sorting dance parties and cabin clean up sing-alongs make their way back home at the end of the summer – we certainly recommend it to make the humdrum of chores fun!
As we get ready to pack up our own bags and head to Warrensburg in a few short weeks, we will begin our list of chores for waking up Camp for the summer. We get so excited for this process of helping our beloved summer home get into top shape for all of you and we can’t wait for an outstanding 73rd summer!
With love and hugs,