Camp Confluence and Partners for Youth Empowerment.

5 07 2017

sara3By: Sarah Worl     Photos: Marty Oppenheimer and PYE Global

With support from our Instructor Development Funds, I was able to attend Camp Confluence, organized by Partners for Youth Empowerment (PYE) in Whidbey Island, Washington. Camp Confluence was a 6-day gathering of camp directors, lead facilitators, and staff that are involved with camps based on the Creative Community Model. The Creative Community Model was developed by PYE over decades of youth summer camps across the globe. In their own words from the PYE website:

“With arts-based practices and leading-edge group facilitation strategies, Creative Community Facilitators cultivate environments in which people can realize their potential. By embracing positive risk-taking and free creative expression, youth and adults alike open up to new possibilities. Research shows that creative expression—in a supportive setting—nurtures qualities like empathy, teamwork, and problem solving, while also fostering joy, hope, and the desire for a meaningful life”

At Camp Confluence we talked a lot about the “Emotional Arc” that a camper experiences from the day they enter camp to when they leave, and how to support that transformative experience with community agreements, plenary activities, supported creative risk-taking, free time, nature time, and more. I appreciated the emphasis on the camper’s experience and curating the week’s activities to support their journey.

We also spent a whole day talking about how to further Equity and Anti-Oppression in all levels of our summer camps; from camp staff demographics, to camper recruitment, to food and sleeping arrangements, to incorporating explicit community agreements around equity in the beginning of the camp. It is rare that I am in a space of people so committed, honest, and eager to talk about Anti-Oppression in their institutions and programs and I am very grateful to have participated in those conversations and to emerge with a greater awareness of actions I can bring back to my work. I am looking forward to my upcoming outdoor recreation and summer camp season to see how I can incorporate bits of the creative community model into my work.

I’ve learned a lot of very practical facilitation skills from the PYE trainings and camps I’ve been involved in over the years. I’ve also witnessed many young people and adults (including myself) overcome old stories of fear and self doubt as we explore our creativity, connection to ourselves, connection to others, and connections to nature together in a supportive environment. I believe many of you that work with youth know what I’m talking about when I say that those moments of witnessing youth light up with hope, joy, and connection are what keep me coming back to this work, and giving me hope for the present and future. I am so grateful to be a part of the community at the River House Outdoor Program; a community that is so committed to fostering these types of magical and transformative experiences for youth and adults.

P.S and Fun Fact: A local summer camp hosted by the Oregon Country Fair called Culture Jam is based on the Creative Community Model and brings in facilitators that have led PYE camps across the U.S and internationally. The River House supports Culture Jam each year with a couple days of outdoor play at Fern Ridge! PYE also offers facilitation trainings in the Pacific Northwest each year- check them out at www.pyeglobal.org.  Their website also contains many great summer camp and youth program resources!

-The River House Instructor Development Fund (IDF) is an investment in our staff to seek extra training and experiences that can be brought back to their work and personal lives to help enrich experiences for both participants and instructors.

sara2

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