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Lessons from Camp: Shaping Tomorrow's Educators

How Camp Backcountry is cultivating the educators of tomorrow.



At Camp Backcountry, the classroom isn't confined by four walls or desks; instead, it sprawls across open fields, meanders through dense forests, and tucks into stump-laden outdoor classrooms. Here, amidst nature's grandeur, lies a unique setting where learning takes on a whole new dimension. And it's not just the hundreds of eager children who partake in this adventure-filled journey; it's also the camp leaders who undergo profound transformations.

Sure, you might encounter counselors with whimsical camp names like Dragon, Sunny, or Puffin, but behind these names are aspiring educators—either college students preparing for the teaching profession or seasoned professionals already immersed in the field. Many of them found themselves drawn to education even before stepping foot in Base Camp, but it's their experiences teaching in the great outdoors that solidify their passion and unveil unforeseen aspects of their future careers.

Take Avery, for instance, a seasoned counselor who transitioned from being a camper to a leader-in-training before becoming a counselor. Avery, who starts her student teaching assignment in the fall, says her time at Camp Backcountry has reshaped her perspective on learning. "Working in an indoor classroom versus an outdoor classroom puts things into perspective," she says. "Backcountry campers have shown me that every child learns and grows differently. Some may struggle indoors but thrive the moment they step into nature." As the summer unfolds over 10 weeks, each staff member has the privilege of introducing children to the wonders of the wilderness. It starts with simple joys like exploring the woods and gradually evolves into lessons on environmental stewardship. From learning not to leave lunch scraps in the dirt to understanding the greater impacts of Leave No Trace, the journey at Camp Backcountry is more than just playing outside; it kickstarts a personal connection with the natural world.

Whether nurturing the next Jane Goodall, molding future teachers, or simply instilling a sense of environmental consciousness, Camp Backcountry leaves an indelible mark on participants of all ages. For Dani, a budding educator pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education, the experience serves as a reaffirmation of her calling. "This job has reassured me even more that teaching kiddos is what I’m supposed to be doing," she says. Dani says that the teaching tools she’s learning in the outdoors just instigate more creativity she can share with future students. “The campers at Camp Backcountry have taught me countless ways to be innovative and entrepreneurial with all of our activities we do such as fort building, playing “city” (a game in which pinecones and feathers equal currency), and so much more.”

Navigating through the challenges of severe weather or managing group dynamics isn't just about survival skills; it's about honing invaluable qualities like adaptability and composure—traits that prove invaluable in any classroom setting. Carolyn, a returning counselor with years of experience in the education sector, cherishes the opportunity to learn alongside her campers. "Witnessing the next generation's curiosity and enthusiasm is a privilege," she says. “It’s all about mutual growth.”


Our community grows year after year as campers age into the Leader-in-Training program and high school graduates return to Base Camp as college-aged summer staff. The summer staff's tie to a childhood spent exploring in the Backcountry Wilderness Area is passed down to the new generation of campers getting their chance to call Base Camp their summer home. The opportunity to play, learn, and protect the future of the Backcountry Wilderness Area gets passed down as campers rise into leadership roles at Camp Backcountry.


As summer draws to a close each year, a sense of optimism is in the air. "We are in for a very hopeful and happy future with these kiddos taking care of our planet," Dani says. And it’s not a small part due to the efforts of Camp Backcountry staff’s pivotal role in shaping the leaders of tomorrow both from Camp Backcountry and inside a classroom.

 

Lindsey McKissick is the communication manager for the Backcountry Wilderness Area. She is Colorado-born, Chicago-raised, and Wyoming-educated. For Lindsey, there is nothing better than waking up in a warm tent on the side of a remote river with coffee. You'll find Lindsey river rafting, backpacking, or camping with her husband and two adventure-seeking daughters.

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