In this media-obsessed world, a person’s every movement, look, and comment can be offered up for judgment by friends and strangers alike, and that strain is unlike anything experienced by previous generations.  For girls and femme-identified youth, in particular, the drive to engage in “body talk” (either in praise or critique of one another) can be a very difficult habit to break, as they have been socialized to value appearances over abilities.

At IB, young people are encouraged to challenge the expectations of who others expect them to be. They are invited to measure their actions and how they care for others as higher values, over and above how they look. When campers are always in a defined friend group or clique, they have fewer, if any, opportunities to break out of social expectations. We encourage them to open up their social circles, as a door upon all the possibilities of who they are becoming.

Our youth gain competency and confidence through activities that build hard skills. Construction projects provide campers with opportunities to contribute to something durable and lasting, and they also broaden their capacities for patience, persistence, leadership, and follow-through. In the Barn and Gardens, campers learn gardening skills and animal husbandry, but also knowledge about food deserts, migrant labor, and the importance of community-based agriculture. They gain practical skills as well as a growing awareness of the world outside gender norms, and an expanding sense that they are capable of anything.

In between carefully constructed activities are many unstructured, and individual-centered moments. Campers can relax, interact casually, and dig deeper into the bonds of friendship at their own pace, leisure, and will. The role of cabin counselors is to model healthy friendship skills and social behaviors, and also get to know their individual campers so that they can best support them and maintain a safe, fair, and inclusive environment within the group.  The adult staff serves as mentors and supports, guiding these interactions rather than policing them.

The legacies of silent meeting, singing, and authentic skill development through hands-on learning remain core and central to IB. As we look to the future, we rely on these touchstones, as well as turn to the research and experts in our field for ways to best serve today’s youth and offset the unique challenges that they face.

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