Why We Still Teach Swimming...

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I know of many camps who have made the decision to drop swim instruction from their program. They did so for a variety of reasons–staffing, timing, resistance–and many saw learning how to swim was not “fun” enough. We’ve continued to follow the Red Cross program for swim instruction, for many reasons, as well, but perhaps the most important is that comfort, confidence and safety around the water remains a great lifetime skill–not to mention that it also opens up the door to more FUN, here and beyond.

We’ve come a long way from my early days as a camper, when swim orientation included jumping in the lake fully clothed and floating for 10 minutes, but the goal of making sure that each camper is safe in water activities remains. I’ve seen kids who were terribly afraid of the water go on to compete on college swim teams, and we take great care to make sure that, whatever their proficiency, kids have an opportunity to improve over the summer. In my years at Camp I have seen a few campers that all but refused to go in the water, and we work with these kids to develop skills–even if that means only wading in the shallow end and blowing bubbles!)!%!

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Peter reminded me the other day that it’s hard for working parents to find outlets for swim lessons. Time is precious, facilities are few and it’s no longer taught in schools on a regular basis. Having this time at Camp, on a beautiful clear lake, provides the perfect opportunity to grow these skills. For us, it’s as much Camp as s’mores and campfires.

I think one of the great strengths of the Mishawaka program (and by that I mean activities) is the blending of what I have come to call “protein” and “dessert” activities. Many of the offerings are cumulative skill-based class–tennis, canoeing, kayaking, archery, and more. These provide the chance for progression, peer recognition and awards. Other activities–think tubing, open swim, sauna or the high adventure course are designed specifically to be just “fun.” As I think about it now, in clinical terms, I think the program has stood the test of time because it provides both intrinsic and extrinsic reward for a developing child. It allows them to not only say, “I did that!,” but also “I can do that!” too.

In the weeks prior to your child’s session you will receive an invitation to complete an activity survey. This list will not include all the activities we do, but it will include all the “protein” activities we offer. Please take the time to discuss these openly with your child. You will be asked to rank the preferences 1-5 and this will help our staff build out the program so we are ready to go on day 1. And, I always assure people that if, for some reason, a camper is not pleased with their choice, we work with them to find an activity that works.

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I hear from numerous former campers each year with a story about how something they learned at Camp has served them in their adult life. Most recently I heard from a camper who was on a corporate retreat where there was a canoeing adventure. He took control of the stern, guided the craft through the route straight and true and was even able to help some of his colleagues. “I learned that at Camp”, he told them. Then he told me.