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Three female campers pose for a photo

Intentional Development at Banner

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh

A significant facet of each day’s programming here at Banner is built around the intentional social and emotional development of each and every camper. Each child who attends camp comes with their own gifts and talents, strengths and weaknesses, preferences and dislikes. At Banner, we have the unique opportunity to meet each child where they are at and help them develop into positive, happy and successful individuals. We work hard all summer long to help prepare Banner campers to make positive a difference in their families, schools and communities.

Empathy

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy is a vital characteristic to develop moral and prosocial behavior. It allows us to consider the perspectives of others and to authentically care for one another.

According to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, empathy is important because it helps children “understand the perspectives, needs and intentions of others” and is a “building block of morality and a key ingredient of successful relationships in school and beyond.”

  • Children who are empathetic are more like to share, help and comfort others.
  • Higher levels of empathy make children more kind to and inclusive of their classmates.
  • Empathetic children are able to develop more positive relationships with their peers.
  • Children with higher levels of empathy tend to be more cooperative in class, have better relationships with their teachers and are more engaged in school – this tends to lead to higher GPAs and greater success in college, and in life.

The very nature of camp allows children to develop empathy. By spending each day with their group, campers are able to build friendships with others, work through conflict and support each other through their highs and lows. At Banner, activities like imaginative play, sports and adventure programs are purposely developed to give campers the opportunity to practice good listening skills, develop teamwork and provide encouragement to others.

We know that a summer at Banner is just one portion of a child’s year. We are intentional about providing significant opportunities for growth and are looking forward to a wonderful summer with your campers.

Male campers and female counselor pose on Wild West Day

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Mindfulness

When we are mindful, we are able to focus on our present moment without judgement. The practice of mindfulness allows us to acknowledge and accept our feelings, thoughts and body in a calm manner.

With an onslaught of children experiencing anxiety and the multitude of digital distractions facing our children, it can be difficult to focus on what is important. Despite all this, the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley suggests that mindfulness can have a multitude of positive impacts on children (and adults).

  • Being mindful can help children learn and experience higher levels of academic success from the elementary years through high school (and beyond!).
  • Children who practice mindfulness see the world more positively and have more hope for the future. They also experience less stress and anger.
  • Mindfulness can lead to elevated attention and executive functioning skills including working memory and emotional regulation.
  • Mindfulness can lead to great self-awareness, a more positive idea of self and increased self-compassion.
  • Children who practice mindfulness have an increased sense of social responsibility, more empathy and show more kindness.

At Banner, we practice mindfulness in a variety of ways. Our daily Bannerama often provides opportunities for guided mindfulness practices. Weekly yoga and mindfulness periods help campers develop skills that they can use in their classroom and at home. Most significantly, Banner’s team of educators and camp professionals regularly use mindfulness as a way of help to guide campers through their natural emotions – happiness, sadness, anger and frustration. We know that we cannot ignore our emotions and that children (and staff) need to develop skills that allow them manage emotions appropriately.

We know that a summer at Banner is just one portion of a child’s year. We are intentional about providing significant opportunities for growth and are looking forward to a wonderful summer with your campers.

Gratitude

Over the past couple years, Banner has shared about the social, physical and psychological benefits of gratitude. Gratitude comes from recognizing something good that has come from outside ourselves. This can be anything from a gift to a compliment to the beauty of nature.

Even our youngest campers can experience gratitude and this continues to grow in tandem with empathy; the more a child can take on the perspective of another, the more gratitude they can experience.

The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley has done extensive research on gratitude and the impact that it has on people.

  • Children who practice gratitude are generally happier, more positive and more satisfied with life. They experience less depression and envy.
  • Children who are grateful feel healthier and may even develop more healthy physical habits as they reach teenage years.
  • Grateful children are generally more content at school and get better grades.
  • Being grateful can even lead to more community minded behavior; children show more generosity, feel more connected to their communities and are more likely to use their unique gifts to benefit others.
  • Practicing gratitude can also lead to more prosocial behavior and positive relationships because children feel more supported (they recognize what others are doing for them).

Each morning, camp starts with a gratitude prompt; this opportunity helps to teach children to recognize the good around them – everything from music to people to nature. By helping campers to look for the good in a variety of situations, they learn to notice what they’ve been given and the positive things they are experiencing. Our STARFISH Goal of the Week program encourages kids to show appreciation. The outdoor, natural setting of camp allows campers to experience nature and awe (studies we’ve previously shared have shown a connection between nature and awe and gratitude.)

We know that a summer at Banner is just one portion of a child’s year. We are intentional about providing significant opportunities for growth and are looking forward to a wonderful summer with your campers.

Kindness and Compassion

Kindness is described as compassion in action. To be compassionate, we must have sensitivity, empathy and a motivation to care for others. When we put these things into action, kindness emerges. A person’s natural tendency is to be compassionate. We see even our youngest campers worried when another child is hurt or sad; they want to help relieve that upset early on. This instinct can get lost in certain settings – like competition.

The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley supports these beliefs and suggests that we are all benefit from being kind.

  • Kindness benefits the receiver and the giver by making people overall more happy (think about how you feel both when you’ve received kindness and when you’ve been kind.)
  • Being compassionate can help children become more resilient as they are able to better handle strong emotions.
  • Our physical health – blood pressure, heart disease, stress and our immune system – benefits from being kind and compassionate.
  • Being kind and compassionate leads to more positive friendships and more altruistic behavior.
  • Children who demonstrate prosocial behaviors like kindness and experience their schools as kind places experience higher academic achievement and are more motivated to learn.

As adults, it is our responsibility to provide situations where our children can show and develop their innate tendencies of kindness. Banner provides opportunities each day – even when competition is provided – to practice putting compassion into action. We’ve long known the importance of kindness in a community. Banner participates in Camp Kindness Week and regularly offers tangible opportunities to practice being kind. The daily interaction with peers allows them to feel compassion towards others and we regularly see them reaching out and helping to alleviate upsets, sadness and disappointments of others. Through teaching sportsmanship and giving children opportunities to win and lose, they experience how to navigate competitive environments while staying true to themselves and being kind to others.

We know that a summer at Banner is just one portion of a child’s year. We are intentional about providing significant opportunities for growth and are looking forward to a wonderful summer with your campers.