This week our guest blogger is Allison Bentley who is a student in education at Western Michigan University. My first experience with The Arcadia Institute was while working as a senior educator at the Kalamazoo Nature Center Summer Camps. During our training at KNC we had the pleasure of having a session presented by The Arcadia Institute. The information as well as hands on experiences shared with us proved to be extremely beneficial for our staff. During our training sessions we gained valuable insight on various management techniques and strategies we could use when working with a wide range of campers. Similarly, I found the group discussion during this time to be helpful in creating a camp environment that was fun and successful for all of our campers.
Arcadia Institute’s involvement in my summer made me more aware of each camper’s individual needs. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself often referencing the information that I had gained during our earlier presentation. With this idea in mind, I was honored when one week I showed up to camp and found myself being paired with Grant, an intern from the Arcadia Institute. I was told that Grant would be there to help me out with a very caring and energetic young man with disabilities that would be part of our camp community for the week. Throughout the week Grant and I learned to work with each other as leaders as well as building a community in our group and the camp as a whole. It was very encouraging for me to see how Grant worked with our campers and did not single out the young man with disabilities, but rather embraced our whole group of campers. Also, to be honest with a group of particularly rowdy campers, many of them needed more attention then the young man Grant had came to work with that week. By the end of the week the group was exploring and learning as one. The many different identities of each camper came together and created a community that represented a wide range of strengths and personality!
Sadly I did not have the opportunity to work with the Arcadia Institute on an individual basis each week, but I am proud to say that every week I was able to lead a group of children in the exploration of nature including children with disabilities. As a student pursuing my teaching degree I have been able to take the information and experiences from the Arcadia Institute and implement them into my pre-internship classroom. I also believe that I am more aware of the individual needs of all students, and have a greater understanding on how my actions can impact my own students in the classroom. Grant demonstrated to me how essential it is to embrace all students, and not single out a specific person even if they may need added attention in a certain area. I hope that in my future teaching practices I can find ways to reach all students in ways that help develop their own happiness and success based on their own interests. By setting the example for children on how to work with others and that each one of us is unique, we can work together to make a community in which we are all happy to be part of as a whole.