Camp Harbor View – Leaders in Training is a three year program for teens 15-18, and in order to apply you had to have been a camper for at least one summer. On island, the LITs serve as junior staff. They’re working directly with our camp staff who serve as mentors to them, and they additionally have a youth worker who they meet with weekly to check in about progress–what’s going well, what’s challenging, and how to improve. They also have class, focused on social justice learning. As the years increase they have additional challenges and responsibilities. The first year they’re paired one to one with a group leader, who’s really keeping an eye on them and making sure they’re staying on task, but then by the time they’re third year, a little bit more autonomy is expected in their ability to see a need and fill it without being asked. The program mainly focuses on leadership development and social-emotional learning.
Effective communication stems from strong relationships, so it is necessary for students to have strong connections with each other and also with staff.
Staff need to be able to communicate well in order to model what it looks like and set the norm of positive effective communication for a program.
Students need time to be dedicated to reflection and open and honest communication with one another in order to work out issues as well as acknowledge each other’s accomplishments.
Students need to be aware of the program’s norms and values, as well as the expectations on them in order to be equipped to communicate their needs and contribute to the environment.
Are there any specific strategies that staff use to encourage students to actively listen and engage with one another?
Definitely. I think some of them are more embedded in our overarching messaging. We really believe in creating a culture of respect and building a safe environment. We often talk about CHV as a family, and the golden rule of “Do unto others as you want them to do to you.” So we really focus on that building of community as one of our core values. And we have a phrase that we use, “One mic.” So if someone’s speaking and other people are having a side conversation, anyone, whether it’s and adult or an LIT or a camper, can call out “One mic!” and everyone will regroup back together to make sure everyone’s listening to that particular person. Another thing that we do, specifically with the LITs, is we really promote individualism. So in group conversation, really highlighting just as much as we can the fact that we don’t hire one type of LIT. We are bringing together a diverse group of young people who all have varied strengths and skills, and there’s value in that peer learning. So if a peer is bringing something to the group, it’s important, and maybe it’s not a thought that you would have had or an experience that you had. Learning from each other is something that’s really critical, so we always try to highlight that. And we really just focus on mutual respect. Our staff really engage on a personal level with our kids, and it never feels like we’re in charge and we’re bossing them around. Teen voice is important. We expect them to listen and respect what we’re saying, but in the same way that we give that to them, and I think that really helps.
Are there any activities of strategies that you use to foster non-verbal communication?
Yes, and I would be more inclined to think about our leadership activities for this. They have a lot of activities where you can increase the challenge of a task, like can you do it in this amount of time, or can you do it without talking. One particular activity, which maybe you wouldn’t think about as nonverbal, is, they set up a ring of cones and they set up various items in the circle, and one person is blindfolded and the other person has to lead them around. The challenge is what to do when they can only hear their partner’s voice, and what if they get it confused with someone else’s voice. So if that’s debriefed correctly, we can ask the question, “Well how else do we know what people are saying?” It’s by what their body is doing, if their arms are folded, if their arms aren’t folded, you can move your hands to say jump over, etcetera.
It’s something where with the LITs and with staff too, we’re way more direct about it. So if we’re having a group discussion, and I notice someone roll their eyes, or do something like that, I would pull them out after and say, “Did you notice that you did this when so-and-so was talking?” Sometimes they didn’t notice, and I say, “Well you did, and what do you think that’s saying to so-and-so? And is that what you meant to say, because that’s how it was probably interpreted.” They’re old enough that you can just say it to them once they get to be LITs. I definitely feel like we have ways of dealing with that. We also have smaller ways, like quiet coyote, or hands up to quiet a room down or bring everyone back together.