Working at Stomping Ground - Reflections with Tursh
Every day at Camp Stomping Ground, kids are asked what they want to do. They get to choose how to spend their time, change their mind, and even create their own opportunities. Having worked the last two years in a public elementary school where expectations and standards are set from above, this environment was radically different.
Stomping Ground promotes immense growth by giving people room to explore and think differently. There was room for constant creativity and collaboration from staff and campers as well as support for any kooky activity you could think of.
I have never worked in a place that lets kids tell you exactly what they want to do and then works with them to try and make it real.
A Strong Culture of Trust
It is amazing to see kids taking initiative and leading their own activities. Instead of having strict guidelines and expectations on what kids should be doing, they are allowed to think for themselves. It’s up to them to decide what the best choice is and this pushes them to consider and weigh their options.
It’s empowering as a staff member to be there to support campers but to also be able to put your faith in them and their decisions. The belief placed on campers choosing their activities can be felt throughout staff and camp as a whole and creates a strong culture of trust.
The community created at Stomping Ground is one that embraces every individual that enters. It is not a place with a rigid hierarchy where there are adults in charge of everything and they get to say what is right and what is wrong. Each camper and each staff member are all valuable parts and get a say in that community. If anyone feels like something is not right or fair they get the chance and the support to try and find a solution.
Moving Past Blame and Shame
So often kids are in spaces where they are told what the rules are and the adults are the ones who give out punishments for breaking them. When conflict happens between people, instead of placing blame or deciding right and wrong, honest conversations and compromises are encouraged. In this way, Stomping Ground creates a place where everyone is encouraged to be their best self. Campers and staff are able to work, learn, and grow together.
It is incredible seeing how empowered kids and staff are when they are surrounded by people who believe in and trust them. I love being able to support campers in exploring their options and interests. I don’t have to be the one telling them what they have to do or deciding things for them but instead, I get to really work with them to create the week that they want to have. It is so refreshing to be in a place that encourages each and every person wholly and builds up a community of radical empathy.