I just started serving at NOS a month ago. When I noticed we had the American Camping Association’s leadership conference in Palm Springs, California, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I have never been to a conference before, never been to California, and never heard of the American Camping Association (ACA). After the conference I realized that I was very lucky that I was able to come to northern Nevada and serve at Nevada Outdoor School.
The first stop we made on the drive down to Palm Springs for the conference was to Yosemite National Park. Having an interest in the environment and environmental education, my expectations were very high, but the experience surpassed these expectations in every possible way. There was a snowstorm the night before in the park, so all the trees had this beautiful layer of fresh white powder. When we started hiking up the mist trail, the snow was melting off all of the trees from the night before, making the hike up the mountain that much more difficult. Slippery rocks, icy trails, and a steep incline made this trail very difficult to maneuver. This struggle is what made reaching the top that much better. I wish I could truly explain to you what I experienced on this day, but I don’t think anyone can put into that experience into words. I am not a poet, writer, painter, photographer, but when I made it to the top of that trail, I felt that I was transported inside some of the greatest paintings, poems, books, and photographs. For the first time in my young life I have experienced something that had true beauty. I will never be a good enough writer to describe what I was feeling in Yosemite, but what I can say is that it was truly inspirational and it truly freed my mind and my spirit.
|NOS AmeriCorps member James Winkelman in Yosemite|
After that we traveled to the Pacific Ocean and then went to Palm Springs for the conference. Knowing absolutely nothing about the American Camping Association before this conference, I have to say that the week-long conference in Palm Springs truly changed my view of how to educate young people. The lesson that really stuck out to me was the message that we are not fully developing our students if we, as a society, only expect to educate students in traditional schooling environments and not outside of the classroom. There is a need to develop skills like communication, teamwork, leadership, social intelligence, self-control, optimism and curiosity. The need to develop these skills is so important today in order to develop successful and happy adults. One way that these children can develop these skills is through camp programs and outdoor education. Camps give children opportunities to deal with managed, fun, challenging risks that require them to lean on each other, communicate effectively, and advise each other in order to succeed with the task at hand.
What I will remember most about the conference is meeting these influential people trying to develop the younger generation in order for them to become better adjusted and more ready to take on life as an adult. It was amazing to see so many different adults coming together that really cared about the kids and how they can help them. The first keynote speaker, Jim Cain, had hundreds of adults, from camp directors and bestselling authors to camp counselors and naturalists, doing different team building exercises, name games, and dances in the ballroom. The energy of the room showed me the devotion that these people have to their craft, and the commitment that they have to serving the youth and helping them grow to their full potential. The people I meet, the ideas that they shared, the amount of growing programs and their stories gave me inspiration to follow my passions in outdoor education.
by: James Winkelman