(a.k.a "rules," a.k.a. "how we do things at camp")
We started—and continue to run—NBTSC because we have a particular vision. We want to create an environment where a big group of people supports each other in: learning new things; growing intellectually, physically, emotionally, creatively, and spiritually; challenging themselves and taking healthy risks; giving and receiving love; making friends; being supported as unschoolers; getting inspired about life and learning; and experiencing joy. (Another way we express our vision is with our mission statement.) We ask that you make certain agreements to help us make the NBTSC vision come true and to avoid the kinds of obstacles that would threaten it. And that is the only reason for our agreements—not because we think that every single one of them represents the way you should necessarily live all the time, and not because we wish to police or moralize.
We are not trying to oppress anybody, and are always open to explaining and talking about the rules, so if you have any questions or concerns, please send us an email or give us a call or talk with staff (especially the directors) at camp.
If you break rules at camp, do expect consequences. For very small things we may feel satisfied after sitting down with you for a chat; for medium things we’ll expect you to make amends, to contribute something back to the camp community that seems commensurate with what you’ve done; for things that feel serious (and “serious” does include being repeatedly dishonest with the staff), you can expect to be asked to leave NBTSC. Grace and the other staff run NBTSC because we love to work cooperatively with teenagers, and it is not our idea of fun to have to redirect our energy to playing police. If you are looking for a place to rebel, please find it somewhere other than NBTSC.
Everybody signs a statement that they will keep the agreements, as part of registering for camp. We imagine that for 93% of our campers, that commitment is sufficient. But ~ because signing a piece of paper 6 months prior to camp can be a little abstract, we keep it real by also verbally committing, at camp, face to face, that we will keep the agreements. (Our research guru, Nathen Lester, has also pointed out that research shows, overwhelmingly, that verbally committing to something vastly increases the odds that a person will pull off their commitment. Therefore, one of the main reasons we all verbally commit at camp is in solidarity with those campers whose normal lives are such that keeping the agreements at camp will be a challenge.)
A note to parents about our rules and agreements
(You were asked to read this information before your family registered, but we include it again here to make double-sure we’re all on the same page.)
NBTSC is a pretty free environment compared to most camps and other adult-organized activities for teenagers. For many of our campers, this feels natural and reflects the freedom they are accustomed to at home, although in a large gathering of teenagers it obviously has different ramifications. Largely because so many of our campers are already accustomed to taking significant responsibility for their own decisions, our setup tends to work quite well overall. But, if our rules don’t address something that is important to you, or if your kid is on the younger side or just isn’t used to being in charge of most of her decisions, please discuss any issues that you feel are important, making any additional agreements amongst yourselves that seem called for. It is our experience that when people who have good relationships with their parents come to NBTSC, they are quite willing to do things that their parents request of them. We can’t take on the role of enforcing these agreements, but several campers have told us that, for instance, they are sleeping in their own beds each night at their parents’ request. Also, of course, we can’t guarantee to you that campers will observe even our rules, though we take reasonable steps to enforce them. Campers are in charge of their own behavior—that’s how we do things at NBTSC. We don’t play much of a policing role except in occasional moments when that seems called for. We do pay attention, stay in close touch, make our expectations clear, build trust as much as possible (which helps to avoid rebellion, though we also like to build trust for bigger reasons), and enforce consequences when we know of infractions. Overall, the general vibe is usually that campers and staff respect each other and the camp rules.
And yet, alas, occcasionally we have to ask someone to leave.
Alas, we do need parents to be prepared for their kids to get sent home if they break rules repeatedly or in any way that the staff deems serious or likely to undermine others’ camp experience. Bringing or using illegal drugs or alcohol, sharing prescription medications, leaving the grounds all night, having sex with another person at camp, abusing another person physically or emotionally, stealing from other campers or staff, or lying to staff about their own involvement in such activities are a few possible roads to being asked to leave. The people who do such things at camp are a tiny minority, but their activities tend to erode morale for everyone. We do look at each situation individually, and make a great effort not to shame anyone in the process of handling disciplinary stuff, but it is also important to us to protect the NBTSC environment as well as our own peace and happiness. (We tend to resent having to spend a lot of our time tracking down 1 or 2 people who are breaking serious rules, and thus not having time to do the jobs we have prepared for, and looked forward to, all year.)
Yes, it breaks our hearts, but most years (not sessions; years), on average, approximately one camper is asked to leave.
We do our best to make sure that no one leaves on bad terms and, believing in people's capacity to change and grow, we are almost always willing to start over with a clean slate the next year. The only time we have unequivocally extended the exile into future years was a case of theft -- it seemed to us that in this instance, the threat to other campers' security and peace of mind was too great to invite the person back. Conversely, we have had several campers not only return, but eventually become staffers after once being sent home.
If you violate a major camp rule, then you and your family are responsible for all travel expenses and other responsibilities incurred. We generally require campers to leave the property within a few hours after we decide they need to go. Yes, it can cost a lot to change airline tickets at the last minute. Yes, it can be a major pain for a parent to immediately abandon their beach vacation to come get you early. Yes, it can be confusing and scary to make hotel reservations in an unfamiliar city. Obviously, it's up to you to prevent these possibilities from becoming realities.
(Thanks for reading this last section ~ we don't like to write these gnarly little notes and we know they apply to almost nobody. Thing is, when they do end up applying to somebody it's important that we've been clear from the outset. We also hope that these words might help avert, now and then, a stray plan-to-be-a-pain-in-everybody's-butt.)
You must be willing to keep our agreements in order to come to camp. Here is a copy of our 2012 agreements, pretty close to what we've been working with for many years. The 2013 version will be similar in content and intent (no surprises planned), but if we fnd the time, we'll give the agreements an overdue overhaul in the language/formatting department -- hoping for more clarity and simplicity.
As always, we welcome your feedback.
The agreements roughly fall into four categories.
- Take care of yourself, participate in the camp community, and get the most out of camp that you can.
- Take care of each other and respect each others’ differences and boundaries.
- Take care of the environment.
- Behave in a way that will allow camp to continue in future years.
Take care of yourself, participate in the camp community, and get the most out of camp that you can.
- Attend camp only if you, personally, want to, not just because your parents or your friends think you should go. This is very important. We rarely have discipline problems at camp, and we think the reason is that almost everyone is there because they want to be. Occasionally, however, someone comes to camp essentially because they let themselves be pushed into it. That is not okay with us! If you have registered for camp against your will, you have already violated one of our most important agreements. Please cancel your registration now.
- Stay within the established daytime and nighttime boundaries.
- Attend morning meeting and evening meeting each day, without exception. No matter how late you stay up. Attend and participate in advisee group meetings. Check in with the appointed junior staff person each morning and evening.
- If somebody behaves toward you in a way you don’t like, try to resolve things by talking to that person and/or to a staff person. When you see something about camp that you don’t like, be proactive. Talk with the director(s), an advisor, or another staff person, or simply take it upon yourself to make a positive change. Be a contribution.
- Don’t lie to the staff, particularly if you have broken a camp rule. Honesty is an essential part of our camp culture.
- Don't smoke cigarettes or otherwise use tobacco (unless you already have a habit you can't kick, and your parents -- if you're a minor -- have given their permission for you to partake during camp).
- Cooperate with any additional agreements the staff needs to request.
- Do your best to have a wonderful time and to help others have a wonderful time too.
Take care of each other and respect differences and boundaries.
- “Each other” means all campers, staff, visitors, and folks who live and work at Camp Myrtlewood and Farm and Wilderness.
- Watch out for each others’ health. Avoid spreading germs. If you have symptoms of anything contagious, tell the staff and make a sincere effort to not pass it on. Cooperate with the staff if they ask you to do (or not to do) certain things to avoid spreading disease (and staying sick), such as sleeping in your own bed or in the infirmary and going to bed by a specific time.
- Don’t gossip. If you are concerned about someone’s behavior, speak directly with staff and/or with that person, instead of spreading rumors.
- Be so so so quiet at night, so that tired people can slumber peacefully. Don’t talk or run on the main paths or near the cabins, and plan ahead and have your flashlight with you so you don’t need to turn on the lights if you go to bed late. And obviously, don’t talk or play your drum in your cabin during quiet hours.
- Cabins are reserved for the people assigned to them. Please don’t go in any but your own.
- Except in the kitchen (where canned music often inspires our cooks), we like the airwaves to be free for the sound of acoustic instruments, wind in the trees, the grunts people make when they’re concentrating on their next chess moves, and crazy screeching laughter. During mealtimes we generally prefer soothing created-by-the-community music (piano, a cellist in the corner, etc.) or quiet. Therefore, please don’t play radios, stereos, or amplified instruments except during workshops or relevant evening group events, or in special other cases with staff permission. And in a broader sense, be sensitive to how your actions and noises affect or interrupt the social environment.
- We like the airwaves to smell like doug fir, roasting garlic, spawning fish, and volleyball-generated sweat – please don’t spew fingernail polish, hairspray, or other toxic chemical fumes in confined public spaces when it’s reasonably avoidable.
- Even if you are already a smoker and have parental permission to use tobacco during camp, do not share tobacco with others.
- Observe the signs and notices posted around camp, and the announcements that are made in meetings by staff. (The more that campers read and assimilate the signs, the less we need to discuss their subjects in meetings.)
- Respect the word “no,” which means exactly that.
- Follow common sense rules of courtesy, kindness, and safety.
Take care of the environment.
- Respect the natural environment, buildings and other surroundings.
- Do not use hair dye inside of buildings, or rinse it out inside bathrooms, and even if you use it outdoors and rinse with hoses, you must be careful not to get it on anything -- ask staff for specific guidelines.
Behave in a way that will allow camp to continue in future years.
- When you experience or are aware of problems at camp, tell a staff person, so that we can address those problems.
- No sex among campers (or between campers and staff), no matter how consensual, or how sexually active each party is outside of camp, or how old the campers are.
- Swim only during official swimming hours, when supervised by a lifeguard. Among other things, this means absolutely no night swimming.
- Observe rules that are set by Camp Latgawa, Camp Myrtlewood, Farm and Wilderness, and/or NBTSC primarily for legal reasons. For instance, health codes may require that everyone wears shoes in the dining hall. (It has been pointed out to us that health codes may not actually require shoes in dining halls, and that some organizations cite "health codes" more as a false excuse, when insurance policy requirements are more the reason. At any rate -- NBTSC itself is pleased to have bare feet present in almost every situation, but when site staff require shoes we respect their rules regardless of the reason.)
- Get high on the clean air and on love, truth, & adventure—absolutely no use, possession, or sales of illegal substances.
photo by Laura Cox, 2010
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