Marla and I have been camp deans at St. Crispin’s Camp and Retreat Center near Wewoka this week.
This was a group of 60 campers, ages 9 to 11. Although we raised three boys, I had forgotten about the unique challenges of teaching young people in this age group.
In creating a lesson for each of six days, I found myself often overwhelmed. At first I was trying to find a way to communicate with the campers on their level.
What I had failed to remember is how quickly they learn, and how much they do understand. These kiddos picked-up on and remembered little things I said, even when that was not the point I was trying to make.
I was also amazed at some of the meal time conversations. One young camper said to me, “Did you know that every cell in your body replaces itself every seven years?” I replied, “Yes, all except your brain. That you keep all of your life.” That camper replied, “I guess that’s so you don’t forget who you are.”
Another camper asked me, “Did you know that almost everything you eat has high fructose corn syrup in it? That’s not good for you.” That camper was reading the ingredients on the packages of jelly and jam on the dining tables. Remember, these campers are between the ages of 9 and 11.
That is when I realized something I seemed to have forgotten; these kiddos are absorbing information at an extremely rapid pace, and they remember what we say and do.
After that, I found it somewhat easier to create lesson plans. I started using shorter times to feed them useful information, rather than over-talk and assume they wouldn’t understand. I was still amazed that they would come up to me and add their insight to something I may have said two days ago. They really are thinking.
This is important to know, because they are looking to us to figure out life and how things work. They will mimic our responses to situations. They will adopt our language.
They will build relationships based on how we model relationships. They are totally dependent on learning where they fit in the world, based on what we model for them.
As parents and influential adults in their lives, we carry a heavy responsibility to help them prepare for the future lives they will live. If we model strife, stress, anger, short tempers, or any other form of negativity, they will assume this is normal and their lives will be shaped likewise.
It takes a bit more thought and effort to carefully model positive attitudes and healthy forms of inquiry, but it is well worth it when we see our young people develop into positive forces in the world. Raising children is not only a job, it’s an adventure.
Blessings and Peace to You All,
Rev. Dr. David Bridges is the pastor at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Grove. He can be reached at email@example.com. St. Andrew's worship service is at 10 a.m., every Sunday, and broadcast on KWXC 88.9 FM at noon on Thursdays and at 5 p.m. on Saturdays.