STEAM VT FAQ
Why ages 13-15? Sometime around age13, most young people begin a profound transition in their lives and development. Their world is at once larger, in that they are suddenly more aware of things that they hadn’t given much thought to before, they are able to think more abstractly, and their concern begins to grow for much that is outside of themselves. And, it is smaller: they are much more focused on their peer group and how they appear to the people around them - giving them a focus that is often hard for the adults in their lives to break through. Our mission is to create a safe place to be fully immersed in this new way of being in the world, and a community that respects and honors this tumultuous time of life. We have seen amazing things come from young teens given the chance to explore their own thoughts and ideas among their peers, and deep concern for the world around them grow among youth that are respectfully encouraged in this way. And, we believe that this is a crucial moment in childhood development which can set young people up for success in later adolescence.
Are you accredited? Is it safe to send my child to your camp? We are currently working towards accreditation with the American Camp Association which holds camps to high standards. Each counselor is trained in Wilderness First Aid and we have certified life guards when swimming. More importantly, your child will be in a community of attentive councilors and teachers who make the safety of your child their first priority! And, we are exceptionally good at keeping track of all of our campers, their needs, their concerns and making sure that everyone is pushing their limits just a little bit, but doing so in a safe, non-pressured way. Please see our “References” page for parents of camp alumi who are happy to talk to you about your concerns.
What kinds of mature topics do you discuss at camp? We hold a space where just about any topic can arise and our role as the counselors is to support any camper who may feel uncomfortable and to always bring a holistic perspective to difficult topics. Our curriculum includes discussions of difficult social issues that may include social justice, violence and abuse against people (women, people of color, etc), poverty, politics, climate change, ecological justice, guns, and children’s issues (to name a few). We have frank discussions about the human body and adolescence: puberty, sexuality, gender, sex, consent, drugs, peer pressure, bullying, depression, learning styles, social alienation, suicide, and academic pressures. While some of these topics can be dark, our focus is almost always on inspiration, the joys of living and celebrating the diverse group of campers we have among us. No matter what the topic - be it gender, sexual health, mental health etc - we believe honesty and respect allows us to deepen our understanding of ourselves and others. Campers are always free to excuse themselves from discussions.
Do you have any religious or spiritual affiliation? No, we accept and celebrate all beliefs and incorporate camper’s beliefs and traditions into our discussions and daily practices.
Do you have any political affiliation? No, we accept and celebrate all perspectives. We believe strongly in having all voices be heard, respected and fully discussed. We do not shy away from conflict, and we see a variety of points of view coming out around the fire to be critical to developing our understanding about the world. It is also very important to learn how to listen to different opinions and we see developing this ability as critical to our curriculum.
What kinds of academic content is covered at camp? Let’s face it, this is summer camp - not many campers are here to further their studies…however, we are determined to work in daily academic content that is fun and engaging and do it in a way where campers might not even notice that they are learning. Broadly, we focus on local ecology and history, the human body, and we conduct experiments in motion, machines, sound, and other natural phenomena. We will also touch upon neuroscience, psychology, biology, and current events so that we can better understand ourselves and the world we live in. The learning we do is hands-on and/or discussion-based.
What if my child misbehaves? Most issues that arise we will address with restorative practices. This means we focus on healing and improving relationships by sitting together as a group and figuring out what was done wrong and how we can make it right. However, our first priority is to ensure the safety of the camp, and though it is a last resort, if there is a camper that poses a threat to themselves or others we will arrange for them to be picked up.
Can you deal with my child’s food allergies or other special needs? Yes! Well, probably…it will be difficult for us, in all of the different environments that we go into during the course of camp, to be absolutely sure that there is never a peanut around, or some bit of gluten, but outside of extreme needs, we can provide food that is vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, nut free, pork- or beef-free, etc. - as long as we know ahead of time. Of course, we will work with families to make sure that we make the appropriate accommodations for those with extreme or life-threatening allergies or conditions (and, all camp staff are trained to respond to anaphylactic shock along with other emergencies).
Do you have accommodations for children that are differently-abled? We are delighted to have campers with a variety of abilities and special needs! We are a young camp and trying to figure out how to accommodate all of the needs that may arise, so while we are willing to make it a focus for every group to figure out how to incorporate everyone into our activities in a way that is empowering for all, we do not have some of the things that would be needed to provide independent access for all campers: we do not have a wheelchair accessible bus, our camp buildings do have steps, and we are planning hikes to the tops of mountains…but, talk to us about your child’s needs and let’s see what we can do to build a camp that is accessible to all!
What if my child is uncomfortable doing the things asked of them? Do they have to participate? Nothing is compulsory at Steam. We will always encourage campers to push their limits to a healthy extent but never push them too far. We operate by a principle of “challenge by choice”, giving repeated opportunities to participate in new or challenging activities. We understand that some campers may jump in at the first chance, while others may go the entire camp being tenuous about taking that next step, but they are always given the chance to take it. The support that councilors and peers give to each other may lead to big, visible growth during camp, or it may not show up for months or years - but we are confident that the encouragement campers get during camp will help them on their own path in their own way.
How hard are the hikes and other activities that will push kids physically? Hikes can be physically demanding but we consciously build up to the tougher ones by increasing the difficulty each time. The most challenging physical activity we do will be a day hike of 4-6 hours. Most activities will have a challenge by choice aspect which will allow campers to push themselves as far as they want to go.