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How Do We ‘Auto-Correct’ Our Kids?

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Not only do our Camp Pinnacle campers spend two weeks in nature, surrounded by surreal beauty and involved in action-packed camp activities, but they have the time of their lives without video games or technology. That’s one of Camp Pinnacle’s principles: unplugging from technology to reconnect with our natural surroundings and each other. Living in the absence of technology allows our students to focus on building strong, inclusive, and kind communities that focus on “face to face communication.” When one thrives without technology, it puts technology into proper perspective as a “useful tool” rather than a “must have.”

This video artfully and eloquently describes why we unplug for the summer.

What Could People Who Run a Summer Camp Possibly Do in the Winter?

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“You run a summer camp?  What could you possibly do during the winter?”  This is a question we hear frequently! Although winter is slower than summer, our “To Do List” continues to expand as we assiduously prepare for summer 2015. Here’s a breakdown of what winter looks like at Camp Pinnacle:

The new girls treehouse complex with swinging bridge is nearing completion!

The New Girls Tree House Complex with Swinging Bridge is Nearing Completion!

Sharing Camp with Families – Whether giving a tour of camp, or talking on the phone or via Skype, this is our favorite winter pasttime!   We consider ourselves partners with our parents and we enjoy learning how camp experiences help our parents raise great kids.  We love opportunities to chat with new and existing families and eagerly await your questions and suggestions.

Meeting New Families – Though the bulk of our communication is done by phone and email, Ben and Dock try to get out and meet as many families as possible.  This year, visits include Durham, Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, and many cities in Florida.  We are happy to visit and share Camp Pinnacle with you and friends – just ask! Enrollment is running 60% ahead of last summer so we do urge people to sign up quickly as we hate to disappoint folks.  We anticipate that sessions 1 and 3 will be the first sessions to fill.

one of our two new CP Handwashing Stations

One of Two New CP Hand Washing Stations

Constant Facility Improvement – We love our Facilities Team! Tom, George, Alaska, Steve, Hunter and James are outside regardless of wind, cold or rain making our camp facility just a little bit better every single day. We know our campers are going to love the new girls’ tree house complex, a new kayaking area with changing rooms, new back country campsites, new hand washing stations, new decks and our brand new boy’s cabin, “The Lodge.”  Dock and Ben have been laying out new mountain biking trails including an expansion of The Enchanted Forest. Ben is also building new features for the Mountain Bike Park.  Keep your eyes open! We still have a couple of surprises up our sleeve, as we prepare for campers to arrive. Much of what our Facilities Team does in the winter is necessary to make camp better but goes unnoticed. Examples include a new walk in cooler in the kitchen, a new walk in freezer in our pantry, new, improved electrical service to cabins and new larger water lines.

A Camp Pinnacle Counselor Team at Triple Falls - Dupont State Forest

A Camp Pinnacle Counselor Team at Triple Falls – Dupont State Forest

Interviewing Potential Counselors – The quality of the Camp Pinnacle experience is defined by the quality of our counselors, our ability to retain great counselors, and the depth and breadth of our two week staff training.  We are excited about the new counselors who will be joining our team of returning counselors this summer.  Selecting just the right counselors is critical, so we devote a lot of our winter to staff interviews.  We begin with a large pool of applicants. Every new counselor will go through 4 interviews, 4 reference checks and full background checks.  Our connection with Adventure Treks means we have known many of our staff applicants since they were young teens.   Counselors are coming from as far away as Hawaii, California, Utah, and Massachusetts and the colleges they attend include Yale, Brown, Kenyon, University of Michigan, Miami of Ohio, UNC – Chapel Hill, The Ohio State University, James Madison, and many more.

Programming and More Programming – Fayssoux and Hoyle are renewing permits in Pisgah National Forest and Great Smokey Mountains National Park, planning new hiking and backpacking itineraries, tweaking lesson plans for kayaking or tennis, creating new evening activities and special events, and streamlining scheduling. We are always looking for ways to improve our program and provide opportunities for our campers to take away even more from their two weeks at Camp Pinnacle.

Weddings and Educational Programs– The economics of maintaining a 126 acre facility mean we have to do much more than operate for 8 weeks as a summer camp. We are lucky that Camp Pinnacle is such a spectacular site that from late April through October, every single non-camp weekend will be reserved for a wedding.  During many spring and fall weeks, it’s also typical to find a group of school students experiencing outdoor education programs here at Camp Pinnacle.

Excited for more new biking trails this summer!

Excited for more new biking trails this summer!

Continuing Education – Although we have decades of experience, there is always more to learn.  This year Dock, Jane and Steve all attended the National Conference of the American Camp Association (ACA), where Steve, (former ACA Treasurer) was a featured speaker. Ben and Fayssoux will be attending the ACA Tri-State conference in New Jersey. We recently attended a symposium on Camp Nursing, and many of our counselors have upgraded their medical certification to Wilderness First Responder. We are constantly reading and staying on top of youth development research and parenting trends in order to insure that the Camp Pinnacle experience remains relevant for you our families.

Exploring – Of course the best part of the winter is when we get outside and explore new hiking or mountain biking trails, “discover” new waterfalls, or paddle new lakes or rivers with eyes on using them for our campers in the summer.

We can’t wait for the summer to begin.  Our first group of campers arrives in 128 days!

Camp Pinnacle Counselor Orientation and What We are Reading 2014

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The 2014 Camp Pinnacle Counselor Team at Triple Falls - Dupont State Forest

The 2014 Camp Pinnacle Counselor Team at Triple Falls – Dupont State Forest

Camp Pinnacle Counselor Orientation is in full swing. Beginning May 31, Our counselors converged from around the country and the globe for two weeks of counselor training. Orientation is as long as a camp session and it needs to be! Even though our counselors arrived with a lot of ability and talent and many have been with us before, being a camp counselor is a complex and complicated job and we want to make sure our staff is more than ready! After all, we only have two weeks to make camp incredible. We want every hour to count.

This week the focus has been on lifeguard training, leadership, policies and procedures, and tips for teaching various activities from mountain biking to archery. The counselors have taken an overnight to the Black Balsam area of Pisgah Forest to practice leading our campers on trips to the same fantastic destinations. They will take another camping trip to our back country sites on Pinnacle property next week.  In order to be more effective role models, we want counselors to be able to empathize with our campers as they share similar experiences. Simply put – these two weeks are camp for the counselors. And they become much better counselors because of it!

2014 Girls counselors atop Black Balsam

2014 Girl’s counselors atop Black Balsam

Besides our in house orientation presentations, Psychologist Tricia Miller will do two sessions on child development, Pardee Hospital’s Family Medicine Program will bring their medical residents to create first aid scenarios and medical training which supplements our wilderness first aid training. We will have a parent panel formed from several of our locally based parents. They will share their expectations for the camp experience they want their kids to receive.

I thought we would share what we have been reading this winter. It’s our job to stay on top of the latest youth development trends and literature so we can make sure that the Camp Pinnacle program remains relevant to parents. Besides being a ridiculous amount of FUN, we want Camp Pinnacle to be one of the tools that helps kids develop the skills, mindset, optimism, confidence, character and resilience that will help them become happier and more capable adults.

Topics from these and other books will be featured in our orientation sessions as we try to facilitate the best possible learning and growing experience for your child. Below are our 2014 suggestions for the best 2014 youth development literature for those who share our obsession for helping children grow:

Childhood Roots of HappinessHarvard Professor, Edward Hallowell gives parents a wonderful five step program we can keep in mind as we give our kids a childhood that will create a footprint to help them become happy adults. In the Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, Hallowell, promotes childhood as a time to provide opportunities to feel connected to others, to play and be joyful, to practice and attain mastery in numerous activities, to fail and build resilience and to receive recognition. We use Dr Hallowell’s model in our counselor training and wrote a BLOG about how his model applies to Camp Pinnacle. We love this book!


MindsetIn Mindset, Stanford Researcher, Carol Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success–but whether we approach challenges with a Fixed or a Growth Mindset. She makes it clear why praising intelligence and ability isn’t the best way to foster self-esteem and confidence, and may actually jeopardize success. Through development of a Growth Mindset and by praising effort and hard work rather than innate talent, we can better motivate our kids to approach new challenges with vigor while building resilience in the process. We use Dweck’s book in staff orientation to make counselors aware of ways through our language and leadership, we can encourage the development of a growth mindset in our campers.

masterminds and wingmanThe Author who brought us Mean Girls and Queen Bees and Wanna Bees, Rosalind Wiseman, has now written the definitive book on boys, Masterminds and Wingmen. Using a panel of over 160 boys, Wiseman exposes us to the world of teenage boys and gives us great insight into the lives our boys are experiencing, the rules of boys world and how male teenage power structures work. She introduces the “Act like a Man Box” and the effects living up to these expectations may have on young male behavior. As school and the economy change, we are concerned that boys are falling behind and we hope the culture we create at Camp Pinnacle will help give our male campers enhanced succeed.

Big disconnect

One of WSJ’s “most important reads for 2013″, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Child and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, discusses how technology is affecting family relationships and how parents’ involvement with technology at home affects family connections. Renowned clinical psychologist and author, Catherine Steiner-Adair explains, families are now in crisis around this issue. Not only do chronic technology distractions have deep and lasting effects, but children desperately need warm, interactions with the adults in their lives. Drawing on real-life stories from her clinical and consulting work, Steiner-Adair offers insights and advice as to how parents can achieve greater understanding and confidence as they come up against the tech revolution happening in their family rooms. When our campers have an amazing experience and succeed beyond all expectations without any technology, they are often given a unique perspective on how technology fits into their lives. Read a recent BLOG we wrote about her book.

2014 Camp Pinnacle Boy's counselors on the Black Balsam Loop

2014 Camp Pinnacle Boy’s counselors on the Black Balsam Loop