Getting with the Program- Choice, Agency and Independence

//Getting with the Program- Choice, Agency and Independence

Getting with the Program- Choice, Agency and Independence

Notes on Girls Camp Programming- from Elisa Gutierrez

During the school year, students wake up, go to school, go to after school activities and sports, come home to do homework, eat dinner, and go to bed. The weekends, too, have become dictated by clubs and sport requirements. What has fallen to the wayside is unstructured play, outdoor exploration, multi-age play, and the opportunity for boredom (that begets creativity and imaginative play). This leads to the lack of opportunity for adolescents to self-select activities or make individual choices in their day to day lives. In my off season work as a grade school teacher, I have witnessed this increase in programmed schedules, which is why allowing for a variety of activities at camp that the girls select is so very important.


Whether it is archery, sailing, yoga, climbing wall, Workout Warriors or snorkeling using only the top rated full face snorkel mask, our campers are busy all day in a variety of programming. Programming–what makes up their day to day experience here at camp–is the core, I believe, of what makes camp what it is and what keeps campers coming back summer after summer. At Girls Camp, our mornings are filled with primarily rank-work classes while the afternoon is a mix of group games, camper-requested activities, or counselor created activities. Each girl’s morning schedule is created based on ranked preferences the girls indicate and are set for two weeks for either Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday. The girls sign up daily for their afternoon classes and the activities change for every sign up. Each evening our activity changes and is under the direction of a different counselor day after day.


Independent choice can be hard, but at camp we encourage girls to stick with the program choices they made, or didn’t make. Camp allows a safe space for girls to try new things and participate in activities they find most interesting, regardless of who else is in the class. This creates the opportunity for girls to spend time with girls they don’t know very well, girls of different ages, and girls with similar interests. Having ownership in one’s choices is necessary for kids to grow their independence and learn how to navigate making their own choice, which can be hard for those who have less experience in this.”


By allowing girls to make their own choices in programming, and having them stick with their choices, shows them that we as adults trust them and their decision-making. Camp does break away from the prescriptive experience that has become the norm during the school year, but I am so proud of the independence our girls have demonstrated this summer.


Elisa Gutierrez

Girls Camp Program Director


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