Sweet Summer Time

By Green River Preserve

What is it that makes summertime so sweet? The birds chirp, the bees buzz, and the sun shines brighter than at any other time of year. For me, summertime brings to mind a seemingly simpler time in life, a time of selling lemonade, riding beach cruisers around town, and mucking up the river near my parents’ house. This season always reminds me of a time in life during which (especially in my native Florida) there were only two seasons: the School Year and Summer. I imagine this association of summer and childhood remains for many people long after they leave school, and that we find summer to be sweet in large part because of the memories it conjures. It represents a time of youth, beauty, and freedom from responsibility; a time before one has to feed, clothe, and house oneself; a time pre- bills, careers, external ties, and the stress of maintaining and facilitating life.

While childhood does exhibit a carefree quality, it can also be a time of life that is disempowering. Children are less mobile, less informed, and allowed to make less decisions (admittedly, these things are most often for their own good) than they will ever be in the ensuing years of their lives. At Green River Preserve, though, we empower campers in a safe and comforting environment. On a recent Mentor Hike to Fawn Lake, Savannah, a Mentor, encouraged some of the oldest campers to lead segments of the hike, identifying plants and animals along the way. When they described the plants to other campers, Jace, a Counselor, challenged them to be more specific in their descriptions in order to accurately pass on knowledge to their friends. In Climbing, campers learn to tie into and put on their harnesses themselves, rather than just being clipped in by an adult. In the cabins, campers are met with the expectation that they will take responsibility for the community they live in, both caring for and respecting one another and performing daily duties such as making their beds, sweeping the floor, and cleaning the toilet. We try to give campers ten percent more than we think they can handle, and they consistently meet that expectation.

When we say that campers are “their best ‘me’ at GRP,” we do not mean just that they let loose, make new connections, and learn how to identify edible plants. We mean also that they grow stronger, more confident, and more empowered to take account of their own lives and their impact on the world around them. And while small hands, sticky with the sugary drippings of push-pops served for afternoon snack are undeniably saccharine, the empowerment and responsibility to which campers expose themselves are the things that truly make summertime so sweet at Green River Preserve.

- Holly (WW1)