Camp counselors can have lifelong impact on children, expert says
By Romi Herron For The Courier-News March 11, 2013 3:40PM
Jennifer Rosinia, Keynote Speaker for the 20th Annual Mid States Camp Conference, hugs a guest at the March 7-9 event held at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.
Updated: April 13, 2013 6:14AM
ST. CHARLES — About 800 summer camp counselors were given new titles at the recent American Camp Association’s 20th Annual Mid-States Summer Camp Conference here.
“Each and every one of you as counselors are a brain developer,” said keynote speaker and occupational therapist Jennifer Rosinia.
Rosinia noted her credentials include a doctorate and her status as a mother.
“You are making a significant impact,” she told the counselors. “What you will do this summer with these campers will make a difference that may last a lifetime.”
Rosinia also is an instructor of physical growth and development at Chicago-based Erikson Institute.
The presentation, “Bringing the Generation to Camp,” was held at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles and kicked off the conference for camp owners, directors and counselors. Several breakaway sessions also were offered on topics including sexual abuse, safety and physical activity.
Those discussions were closed to the media, but the importance of physical activity, outdoor recreation and safety were discussed by Rosinia as well.
“We see children who are overweight and obese, who don’t spend a lot of time outdoors. In the past 30 years childhood, obesity has tripled,” she said. “We are now looking at campers with 20 percent probability of being overweight or obese ... perhaps the simple ingredient in their lives might be physical activity.”
Time outside increases beneficial vitamin D levels in children, she said, and “being outdoors can decrease stress.”
In addition to nature and physical activity, being relatable also is important, explained Rosinia, who asked the audience of camp counselors, “What does it take for you to be available for relationships and learning?”
No one formula applies to all children and all situations, she continued, encouraging the group to consider varying their approaches.
“There are a lot of variables that speak to how we make ourselves available,” she said. “(Ask yourself) how do you get to be comfortable, to be available to relate and learn. If it’s true for you, it’s true for the camper.”
Regarding a heightened focus on safety issues, Rosinia said the current generation has awareness of child-targeting crimes in places where kids were once considered protected. She said most of the camp counselors in the room “probably fall into the Gen Y/Millennials” generation — born between 1981 and 2000 — and that some of the campers also are in that category.
“These are variables as to what’s happening in society,” Rosinia said. “Violence, concern for safety ... many people in this room are part of the 9/11 generation ... you’ve seen falling crime rates, falling pregnancy rates, but at the same time you’ve seen violence in schools increase.”
Rosinia emphasized “three magic words: consistent, predictable and nurturing,” as camp counselor attributes that are beneficial for children. Campers have relationships to the physical body, environment and to others, and any of those could be “a new territory they are negotiating,” Rosinia said. “As you are consistent, predictable and nurturing, you are developing relationships that hopefully will last a lifetime.”
Activities such as playing in the mud, planting a flower, learning to swim and camping under the stars are among the opportunities all children should have, she said. “Childhood has moved indoors. It’s our job to take it back outdoors. You are in charge of bodies, minds and spirits.”