"Most people have no clue about the powerful benefits that happen inside of us when we have a close relationship to nature."
I didn't realize it at first either. It just sort of 'happened'. I was 24 years old, and I wanted to start a camp where I could share the experiences I loved with children and teens, and teach them skills and crafts and adventures that I enjoyed doing so much in my youth. So in 1989, I started my camp, called it Hawk Circle Wilderness Education and made it happen.
We taught students for a couple of weeks at a time, and then they would go home. I didn't get to see them before they came to camp, or even afterwards, so I never really understood what the benefits to those kid's lives were at all.
Until the letters started coming in. (Remember, this is before email was big!)
Parents would write to me and tell me about how their son or daughter was still sharing new stories about their camp experience, in vivid detail, seven or eight months later.
They would write and tell me that their son or daughter's grades had improved, from C's and D's to B's and A's. More importantly, they would share about how their child had a newly awakened passion for learning that had occurred after their time at our camp.
Moms would share how their daughter helped ease family discord by using a council process she had learned at camp, that involves people speaking from their hearts and truly listening to each other.
Dads would share how their son saved their family camping trip because he problem solved some missing tent poles, saving hours of parental blaming and argument in just a few minutes, using brush and branches to create new poles.
Moms would send me essays that their son or daughter had written for school that had won awards for creative, powerful writing, about their night spent in a wilderness shelter, or making fire for the first time, or tracking a deer along the river.
Later, as the campers got older, parents began sharing how their sons and daughters were getting into great colleges and universities, like Duke, Cornell, Yale or Harvard, using their essays that included these same kinds of experiences.
One young man called me after he got into MIT. "I made it in, Rick, thanks to you!"
"No", I said, "It was you, man. You are wicked smart. We've all known that from the beginning."
"No", he said. "You don't get it. Everyone who applies is brilliant and smart. They all have great grades, etc. I got in because I shared my wilderness experiences with my college interviewer, and all he wanted to talk about was my camp experiences, and my skills and adventures. We talked about them for over two hours!"
I was starting to understand that these skills have a depth and power to them that goes far deeper than making a basket or cooking over an open fire.
Once I started looking for it, I could see how these skills, when presented in the right way, could literally change someone's life in just a few weeks, through this connection to nature and themselves.
The crazy thing is, though, is that it is almost completely hidden to the students. They don't see it as building 'life skills', but just as a fun, nature and wilderness challenge experience. They totally understand that the lessons they are learning in the woods are exactly what they need to know to accomplish their goals and win the games, etc. There is a joy to doing these things that isn't measured in results in the 'real world'.
So, what are these skills and activities? Here are some of them:
Here is what parents are saying:
"Our children wanted to go back to Hawk Circle every summer because it was fun. We sent them back because the unique program at Hawk Circle fostered a deep understanding and connection to nature, self-discovery, and collaborative skills, friendships and community. Now that they are 19 and 21, we see them entering the world of adulthood with confidence and grace. We will always be grateful for their Hawk Circle summers and the caring, nurturing staff that contributed to who they are today."
-Michael and Cecilia Liss, Baltimore, MD
"Hawk Circle has been an incredible experience for Lauren. She has changed right before my eyes! I am so proud of her, and she continues to pull strength from her time at your camp. I am happy and grateful that you provide such a service to the children of our future."
-Karla Tegzes, Lexington, MA
So, here's the info you need to know:
• We're located in the mountains of Upstate New York, about ten minutes from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
(We do airport, bus and train station pick-ups in Albany, NY for a fee.)
• We're a sleep away, residential overnight camp, with 25 years of experience.
• We take kids ages 10-18 in a variety of One Week Programs
• There's no experience necessary.
Just a willingness to have fun and have an adventure.
• We only take 20 campers per program.
Reserve your spot as soon as you can!
The benefits for you and your child is increased Self Esteem, Leadership Skills, Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, Self Confidence, Passion for Learning, Connection to Self, Relationship Skills and a whole lot of fun and adventure!
Click on the Contact Page
to schedule a call
to see if this experience
would be a good fit for your child!
If you want to go directly to our Camp Website, click here.
I'm looking forward to talking with you! -Ricardo
Making a bowl with embers!
The Tribal Council
Building a Shelter
Wilderness Campfire Cooking
Trees & Plants
Make Your Own
Bow and Arrows
Making New Friends
Making Stone Arrowheads
Bark Baskets & Tools
Fire-Making without Matches