When I was younger I spent large portions of my time playing with Lego or reading a book by myself. While it felt natural to be alone doing these activities, there were outside influences (parents, teachers, friends) that made it seem negative, urging me to spend more time with others. It wasn’t that I was anti-social, I just needed time to myself. When I got a little bit older I was fortunate enough to read the book ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ written by Susan Cain.
‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ is about introverts and the strengths that they have. The book mentions the neurological differences (introverts and extroverts have different brains) and the developmental differences (introverts and extroverts learn and grow in different ways). It gives advice to introverts on how to be productive and useful in work and social situations, and also gives extroverts a guide on how to best interact with introverts. At that age I found the book reassuring, it taught me that it was OK to be a naturally quieter or more reserved person and that those qualities can be used to great strength.
So you can imagine my feelings when Susan Cain was announced as the Keynote Speaker at the American Camping Association’s Tri-State Camping Conference this past March, speaking about how this book and her other works relate to camp. It inspired me and reminded me about the impact camping had on my development.
When thinking about some of the experiences that are traditional to summer camps, a couple that come to mind are chanting, singing, making friends, and big group games. Some of those experiences can be daunting for campers who are more introverted in nature and who might feel overwhelmed by the prospect of spending 2 weeks putting themselves out there. When making Frost Valley YMCA a place where all campers feel comfortable, we are intentional about taking into account campers who might be less inclined to these types of activities.
We have several events and moments at camp that are purposefully included for introverted campers to choose whether they need time for themselves or if they want to socialize with their friends:
- Village Time – There are periods during each day where campers and counselors are back in their villages, resting before their next active period. This is a perfect time for the campers to recharge by reading a book or listening to music, or to play card/board games with other campers in the middle of the cabin.
- Hangout – Before dinner every day, campers have the opportunity to spend time down on Filreis Field and the Basketball Courts while some counselors maintain a boundary and others roam and interact with campers. Campers can use this time any way that they want, exploring in the trees near the field, playing basketball with others, or laying in the grass and enjoying a close-knit conversation with their friends.
- Devotion- Every night before going to sleep, campers and staff gather in the middle of their cabin to have a discussion. A staff member will pose a question or topic, and campers can choose whether they want to share or just listen. This truly contributes to a positive cabin dynamic and camp community, where people feel comfortable sharing with each other. It also gives introverted campers the choice to practice speaking in front of a group of people if they want to, while also letting them be part of the group even if they don’t speak up.
These are just a few examples of how Frost Valley is a place where extroverts and introverts alike can be themselves and grow into the person they want to be. I know that, personally, I became comfortable with being introverted thanks to the caring and inclusive camp that I grew up at and that I wouldn’t have had the same experience in any other setting.
I highly recommend watching the video of Susan Cain’s Keynote (it is available on Youtube here: https://youtu.be/oRBWZX3DVqc?t=1940) and her website (http://www.quietrev.com/). They’re both invaluable if you, your child, or anyone else in your personal or work life tend to be more introverted.
If you have any other questions about the Frost Valley experience, please feel free to reach out by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (845) 985-2291 Ext. 301.