For students of all ages, school camp is one of those times they can feel uncomfortable. The setting is new, the way of interacting with others is new, the activities are new. The aim is to build confidence, by enabling students to stretch their boundaries. But for some all that “newness” can be incapacitating.
It’s important to be able to recognise the signs of excessive shyness and to have strategies in place to make sure the camp experience is a positive one, leading to genuine growth.
Set the Scene well before Camp Begins
The lead up to school camp is just as important as the real thing when it comes to creating a camp culture that embraces the needs of every student.
To help children get ready for camp it’s a good idea to prepare and familiarise them, so things don’t feel quite so foreign when they arrive on day one.
- Suggest parents take their child to the camp prior for a sneak peek, or if the facility is far away, even a visit to the website can help to familiarise.
- Establish duty lists, bunk rooms lists etc prior to the camp to ensure everyone knows what to expect.
- Speak to children individually and as a group about their fears and concerns.
- Encourage ALL the campers to bring a soft toy – this enables a shy child to have something to cuddle without being singled out.
Buddy up before you Team Up
Many activities at camp are all about team work, however for students who are shy, the idea of working in a large team first up can be too much to handle. So find ways to buddy up in one-on-one or smaller groups. This helps students to find their feet socially.
Some ideas include:
- Try a ‘People’ scavenger hunt. For example, each student chooses a card with their favourite animal, then has to find the person with the matching animal.
- Have students randomly draw from a pack of cards and form groups based on matching numbers, suits or colours.
- Put a named sticker on the end of sticks collected from around the area and pull out of a container to find your buddy.
Demonstrate your understanding
Once a student feels their teacher understands their feelings, the problem is halved.
Ways to show this can include:
- Talk to students about times when you have felt shy or acted bashful.
- Show empathy when you notice students are fearful to interact with others. Say things like, “I sense you feel worried about joining this group. I feel worried sometimes too.”
- Explain or demonstrate to students the benefits of acting outgoing, using personal examples. For example: “To become a teacher I had to overcome my shyness, because teaching means I have to talk to new people every day. Now I love my job.”
Let students take small steps
Taking one step at a time enables shy students to feel a sense of achievement without becoming overwhelmed. What may be a walk in the park for one student, could be a serious challenge for another. Keep your eyes open and try to ensure that shy students don’t reach the overwhelmed stage.
Some things to try:
- Allow shy students to participate first in a well-supported environment, ensuring you recognise and acknowledge even the smallest achievements.
- Ask a shy student to take care of someone or something else. This gives them a sense of responsibility and achievement, without being overwhelming.
Tap into the power of books
Reading books that deal with shyness or shy characters can be an ideal prompt for class or camp discussion about the subject
Here are a few favourites that focus on shyness:
- Turtle Comes Out of Her Shell by Sue Graves deals directly with shyness.
- Jessica’s Box by Peter Carnavas deals with the trauma of the first day of school, which can very easily be likened to the first day of camp.
- The Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright has some great lessons on overcoming worries and dealing with change.
- Say Hello by Jack and Michael Foreman reminds the reader how important it is to say hello when someone looks lonely.
Molly, our Camp Concierge is happy to help you design your camp program around the specific needs of each of your students. Coffs Coast Adventure Centre is a place to help all students turn small steps into big strides.