North Star Girls Group at Camp
Summer Camps, Self-Esteem & Girls
Summer camp experiences are widely known for their benefits to kids. If you ask most grown adults about some of their memories as a child, often they will eventually talk about a camp experience, friends they made at camp, or something they learned while being away from home at camp. Karen McRoberts (1998) states that a study that was completed by the Western Association of Independent Camp owners (WAIC) found that the number one benefit of attending camp is increased self-esteem. She argues that children become more self-reliant and confident in their own abilities which help foster personal growth. She also talks about the benefits of kids working together in groups in that they learn to respect themselves and each other, they figure out how to work together and they rely on one another and learn to encourage each other. “... the benefits of the camp experience will unfold long after the memories of that first horseback ride or rock climbing expedition are forgotten. It’s the character development and personal growth that will last a lifetime” (McRoberts, 1998, Los Altos Town Crier).
The American Camp Association makes many references to the 4 C’s of the camp community: compassion, contribution, commitment, and character. In a society that is increasingly promoting independence and self-reliance, summer camps are one of the few programs left that are designed to help kids connect with other kids, with staff, and with their environment. The North Star Girls Group Program complements the camp experience by fostering community and helping kids build self-esteem. The North Star Girls Group Curriculum is designed to help girls gain a sense of competency and empowerment through education, support and connecting with others. The overall goal for the North Star Girls Group is to provide a safe and supportive environment in which group members gain support from both their peers and group facilitators in promoting feelings of empowerment and self-confidence, as well as learning healthy ways to cope with the stresses and pressures of entering adolescence. Group sessions will address many issues specifically related to girls in early adolescence. Sessions are designed to build on each other while creating a sense of safety and comfort in the group, and developing a sense of empowerment and confidence in the girls’ own abilities. North Star Girls Groups are designed to be useful for ALL girls as they are approaching and moving through adolescence.
With the increasing levels of harassment, stress, and violence contemporary adolescent girls face, it is not surprising that many struggle to maintain their individuality and self-esteem. Girls today have a difficult time trying to figure out how to become women when they are presented with a myriad of mixed messages: be pretty, but don’t be promiscuous; be smart, but not too much; be yourself, but look like everyone on TV. As girls enter and move through adolescence, many suffer from a severe drop in self-esteem and self-confidence, reduced interest and achievement in school, and an increase in both depression rates and eating disorders. It is imperative to help girls understand the mixed messages they receive from our culture, develop positive feelings about themselves and their futures, make connections with others, and feel free to be true to themselves.
The unique setting of camp provides significant support and encouragement for girls. The camp setting can be very different from the school setting in that it may allow girls to feel less pressure to conform to cultural norms and may give them a chance to try new roles. The camp setting is an ideal place for girls to explore their own thoughts and experiences, the culture that they live in, and their goals and ideas for the future. When girls are able to share their experiences and feelings with each other, then their self-esteem and self-confidence flourish.