Here is a bit more about these new, clever & innovative camps…….
The Inside track behind Inside Out Camps by Tracey Moran Russouw
Inside Out Camp is aimed at 12–14-year-old teens. The more confidence our kids have in themselves, along with the right tools and life skills, the expectation is for their path to adulthood to be smoother. Following discussions with Joan Freeman from Pieta House, teachers and psychologists all with an interest in teen mental health, the common theme throughout, was how important it is to prepare kids for later life, sooner and younger than might have previously been thought. Second year of secondary school is a pivotal year in a child’s development, determining the direction that their mental wellbeing can take. An eye-opening reality is that a teen’s personality can change significantly from when they start second year to when they end the year. From second year onwards is when a teen really starts to question who they are, how they fit in and where they are going, while facing challenges like peer pressure, managing friendships and body image, among others. Combine all of this with hormones, whatever they might be dealing with at home or at school and across the broader spectrum of their lives – growing up can be quite difficult.
As parents, we’d all love our kids to avoid the mistakes we have made and pitfalls we ourselves have fallen into, but the reality is, it’s neither possible nor practical. There are learnings in making mistakes and life experiences are essential in everyone’s personal growth. If our kids grow up as strong, confident individuals with a belief in their own ability and high levels of self-esteem, it can help them flourish into happy adults with a positive outlook on life.
In schools, I commend the wellbeing programme (CSPE) and appreciate its inclusion in the curriculum, but it is a small portion of the weekly education programme (just 1 hour). I believe that it would be more effective to send teens off-site to a non-academic environment to compliment these learnings and this is where my idea for Inside Out Camp comes from.
At Inside Out Camp, boys and girls will enjoy an immersive week of physical and mental challenges that focus on their personal development and build their confidence from the inside out. A strong sense of self should be at the core of all learnings. When a teen has confidence really understands and accepts who they are, they are more likely to want to experience new things, think outside the box, and ultimately go for the things they want in life. Delivering these life lessons in a non-academic environment is what Inside Out Camp is all about. Resulting in creating a fun and positive experience in which participants are comfortable to be themselves, try new things, gain confidence and self-esteem in the process.
At Inside Out Camp teens will get to try new things, meet new people and learn new skills as well as learning about themselves – in an environment of acceptance and inclusion. Inside Out Camp is a place where kids will be encouraged to just be kids, without judgment or anxiety.
Every day at camp is a little different from the day before, starting with breakfast @ 9am and followed by activities from 10am. Team leaders will keep the day flowing with a host of planned activities scheduled to ensure a balance of physical, mental and creative challenges are included.
Teamwork and group unity is one of the core values of Inside Out Camp, whether it’s competing in a tug of war or producing an interactive performance of percussion song and dance. The kids learn how to work together, accept each other’s differences, and find ways to cooperate, collaborate and communicate. They learn the value of teamwork, “grit” and the meaning of true friends, while becoming independent, self-assured, kinder and more understanding individuals.
There are so many reasons why these camps are important and necessary, but the core reason is for ‘skill learning’ – how can our kids learn what they like or dislike, are good or bad at if they are not exposed to anything different? They have already missed two years of new experiences, socialising and learning about themselves. There has never been a better time for them to get away, try something new, even if that means getting outside their comfort zone by staying away from home for a few days.
As parents, many of us fall into the trap of box ticking when it comes to planning summer activities for our kids. We are working, they are off school – how do we fill the time? The easy solution is often to book a camp based on a sport like rugby or hockey but what ‘new stuff’ are they learning? We also often ensure they go to the same camps as their friends, for convenience but this then means they stay with the same gang of friends and don’t get to expand their circle.
The more exposed our kids are to developing their own skills and learning new ones, the better decisions they will be able to make for their future. At camp, kids will learn the importance of communication, critical thinking, decision making, problem solving and leadership among others.
I have always had an interest in teen mental health which stems from my own challenges growing up with depression. I didn’t know what it was until my late twenties, so school was a real struggle. I had gone into secondary school (boarding school) as a confident 12-year-old but halfway through my second year I moved cities and school at, what I now understand, was a pivotal stage in my personal development. By third year I was seriously struggling with low mood and the remainder of my schooling was a cycle of highs and lows which ultimately impacted on my self-esteem. It took me a long time to really get my mojo back and in between, there were experiences that I missed out on (like my debs). I can’t change how things were for me, but I can try to ensure that my own kids and the kids at Inside Out Camp are exposed to learnings that will ultimately help them to deal with the obstacles they will face in life. Even if they don’t struggle directly, the more aware and considerate they are taught to be of others, the more understanding they will be of their friends and colleagues who might not be so lucky.
I have always had it in my head that I wanted to use my own experience to help other kids, but it wasn’t until the end of last year when I attended one of Shane Cradock’s retreats (the Thrive Experience) that I finally decided to take the plunge and make it happen. Shane has been an invaluable support in my own personal development and has really helped me to realise the importance of getting the ‘inside’ aka mental health on track for the ‘outside’ to better perform. Shane will be joining us on the first day of each camp to set the tone for the week and direct the kids focus on how to get the best out of their experience.
One of the key challenges facing young teens these days is around social media and the pressure to conform. We have all experienced the need to ‘fit in’ with our peers but when I was growing up at least we didn’t have the extra pressure of social media bringing what we would call ‘fake reality’ but is ‘reality’ to the current generation, into our homes and personal spaces 24/7. Our kids spend so much time looking at and comparing themselves to ‘staged’ reality and this does little for their confidence and self-esteem. At Inside Out Camp our inspiration hour will home in on issues like social media in creative ways for example one of our planned speaks; John Murray from ‘Headshots’ will show us how there’s a gap between how we think we look and what we think others expect us to look like – and a ‘gap’ between who we feel we are, opposed to who we believe the rest of the world expects us to be. John’s aim during these workshops is to help close this ‘gap’ in a fun way using photography.
Camps like Inside Out are hugely successful across the world and have become something of a ‘rite of passage’ in young adults’ development but are currently missing in this format in Ireland. We have the Gaeltacht which is wonderful and ticks a lot of the boxes that Inside Camp will but there is an academic leg to it and let’s face it not all kids want to learn Irish as part of their camp experience.
The 5 key reasons why I feel parents should sent their kids to Inside Out Camp.
- build friendships
In the unplugged, tech and stress free, fun camp culture, teens build their face-to-face communication and relationship skills. Participants learn to work together, accept each other’s differences, and find ways to cooperate, collaborate and communicate. Aside from providing the opportunity to generate incredible memories and create ‘friends for life’, these skills will be essential to have for future employers.
- Risk taking and Challenges
What teen does not thrive on taking some sort of risk? At Inside Out risk-taking and getting out of your comfort zone are part and parcel of the camp experience in a controlled and safe environment. Taking risks and succeeding is a great motivator for campers to seek further achievements and failing can lead to testing new ideas and new ways of doing things. Campers will learn to overcome fears and build new skills.
- Build a TOOLBOX of life skills
Getting away to Inside Out Camp will help to develop strong characters and build a toolbox of essential skills that will help campers to better navigate the obstacles of life and to be happier and more confident in their own skin. Grit, perseverance, independence, responsibility, decision-making, problem-solving and leadership are all a key focus at the core of Inside Out.
- Meet Positive Role Models
At Inside Out Camp campers will be inspired by positive role models from the pool of leaders, counsellors, and educators who will be working with them throughout their camp experience as well as being influenced and motivated by positive peers within their own teams.
- Discover your best self
Inside Out Camp offers teens the chance to step back from the treadmill of school, study, exams, competitive sports, and an over-scheduled existence to learn and focus on what is important to them. It is an opportunity to discover new hobbies, skills they didn’t know they had and future career paths to explore that they might not have otherwise been considered.
As mentioned previously, our kids have lost two years of new experiences of making new friends and learning new skills. It has never been a better time for them to ‘go away to camp’ and for them to get outside their comfort zones in a safe and fun environment. I appreciate that the ‘sleepover’ element might be a bit daunting for some kids (as well as their parents) it really is a crucial part of their experience as the time away from home offers them the chance to really immerse themselves in the spirit and learnings of the camp.
All these adventurous activities will take place on the grounds of Gormanston Castle and Gardens a 110-acre campus with extensive indoor and outdoor sporting facilities, beautiful forestry, fields and streams. Gormanston Secondary School located within the grounds of the Park was previously a boarding school so the campers will stay in the onsite supervised dormitory style accommodation.
We currently have availability for a 5 day, 4 night camp running from the 13th until the 17th of June. The price per camp is €650 and includes accommodation, meals and activities.