Summer SOAR Camp 2023
Despite the recent snow and cold, summer is fast approaching. As a parent of gifted kids (now adults), I eagerly awaited the summer months. Summer was a time when my children could finally be free from the challenges of trying to “fit the mold” that traditional classroom education so often places on gifted individuals. Being a rural Wisconsin teacher with summers “off”, we would make sure that our children got experiences that could not be found in a classroom setting. Researching, hiking, camping, stargazing, picnicking, experimenting, crafting, etc made up our summer days and nights. The only thing that was really missing were opportunities for our children to create friendships and see where they fit in with groups of other like-minded children and mentors. It was during this time that I dreamed of a traditional summer camp for gifted children. Fast forward (a few decades) to 2023 and “SOAR Camp Inc.” is entering its 8th year! Here is a peek into our mission and practice.
Nestled on a lake in the heart of Wisconsin’s northwoods, SOAR Camp provides gifted youth the opportunity to experience the joys of a traditional summer camp while exploring new talents and deepening their understanding of themselves. This unique camp draws upon decades of our experience working with and for gifted youth; we aim to foster an environment of creativity and growth without the pressure of grades. The goal of this camp, beyond being simply “camp,” is to teach gifted youth that they are not alone in their giftedness and to equip them with tools to succeed. For many of these students, their time at SOAR is the first time that they are not “different” from the rest; for many of them, it is the first time that they have conversations about what it is to be gifted and how to advocate for themselves.
SOAR is built with gifted children at its heart. It was created to offer traditional camp experiences to students who often require “different” educational opportunities. We offer it through sessions tailored to engage our campers in new ways. We use STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) activities, debate, improv, games, and outdoor sports to tap into creative and collaborative processes. At SOAR camp we teach students how to build social skills and form new, lasting friendships by living in rustic cabins and doing team building exercises with these same bunkmates. They learn about nature and challenge themselves to try new things in a structured setting. At camp they develop grit and the ability to endure sometimes new and difficult things with courage while becoming comfortable with their own personal skills and talents. We also teach them how to be still, and to enjoy introspection. Many of our children spend their days with each moment programmed in activities to better themselves or to learn new things; at camp we encourage them to stop and listen to the world around them and to listen to themselves.
SOAR Camp is also a space where kids can be silly and creative, messy and loud. We help foster a mindset of creativity rather than perfection. For many of these students, the drive for perfection is an overwhelming need. At camp we teach them that there will always be one step more and one step better, but you have to let it go. We plan activities to challenge the notion of perfectionism and tap instead into a “growth” mindset. We challenge the kids to ask what they learned and how they grew, rather than striving to simply be the best. At SOAR Camp we provide opportunities for our campers to practice and to fail. For children who so frequently succeed (sometimes with little effort), failure can be challenging. During camp week we specifically help them grow and learn the importance of practice (without the threat of bad grades) and we allow them the chance to fail in a safe environment.
At SOAR camp, our campers are also given the freedom to develop the skills of working collaboratively when it is genuinely the work of a “group”. Often gifted children have had negative experiences with group work because they worry about their grade, or the lack of participation of others in the group, or perhaps because they have a better understanding of the desired outcome and become frustrated with group work. Whatever the reason is, SOAR gives them a place to learn that group work can bring unparalleled results - especially when ideas, creativity, and effort are valued by a group of like-minded peers. Our campers learn to be both leaders and followers. They are able to collaborate and strengthen their leadership skills with peers who understand their experiences and difficulties.
SOAR camp is unique from other summer camps for gifted youth in that it is not dependent on test scores for participation. We recognize that some students do not prove their giftedness through standardized test taking and that giftedness comes in many forms. We talk about the five areas of giftedness (leadership, specific academic, intellectual, creative or divergent thinking, and the visual and performing arts) and encourage the growth and exploration of all of them during our time with the students. We believe in our mission to help gifted students get to know and advocate for themselves, and it is a message that our community of instructors and counselors understand and support.
Through generous donations, we are able to keep camp financially accessible to all students regardless of socio-economic status or life situations at the time of camp. We have a simple scholarship application process. No child will be left out of SOAR Camp because of an inability to pay the registration fee.
SOAR Camp is a partner organization of WATG. I thank WATG for allowing me to publish this piece. To learn more about camp, peek at pictures - and to apply, follow the link here https://chancetosoar.com/ to our home page. We appreciate any and all sharing of this information. Happy Spring! It is coming! And so is Summer SOAR Camp 2023!
SOAR Camp Director
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