By Jessica Houben
IEA’s pioneering Yunasa summer camps unite highly able youngsters with experts in the social and emotional development of gifted children. Campers explore and grow the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical aspects of their lives.
“Know Thyself” was at the core of all of IEA’s programs this year, and particularly for Yunasa, as this theme tied into each activity throughout the week. Yunasa is the Lakota word for “balance”, and finding balance within as a means of gaining self-knowledge is the focus of camp. From July 21-28 at Camp Copneconic in Fenton, Michigan, campers explored themselves more deeply and learned integration strategies for the five domains of self: social, emotional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual. For many returning campers, Yunasa is a place where they rejoin their family each year, building their existing connections and extending themselves to make new ones. What was most unique about camp this year was the number of new campers who were accepted into the Yunasa family with open arms.
Campers greeted each morning with “Call in the Directions,” a Native American tradition used to give gratitude for the gifts each of the cardinal directions brings each day. Other daily activities for all campers included psychosynthesis – or guided visualizations – and yoga, which taught campers to calm and focus their minds as a means of reaching deeper levels of awareness and self-understanding. During psychosynthesis, campers connected their social, emotional, and spiritual components and also had a chance to connect with their groups on a deeper level. During yoga, campers used their minds to focus on their physical and their spiritual self as well as to achieve balance.
Throughout the week, campers learned new things through workshops offered by our Fellows. Archetypes through Mask Making and Sacred Connections were new workshops this year. Campers developed a sense for the masks – or different identities – they wear in life. They tapped into their connections with nature and one another through Sacred Connections. Campers also came together to create a design and building plan for a Rube Goldberg project workshop. Other workshops included Line Dancing, Farther Reaches of the Human Mind, and the Eight Great Gripes of Gifted Children.
Campers also enjoyed the open space, beautiful lake, and Michigan greenery through daily camper options, which include challenging physical activities like Archery and Paddle Boarding as well as relaxing activities like spending time in Hammockville and Canoeing. Camp Copneconic believes in taking a “Challenge by Choice” approach, whereby our campers challenge themselves and set personal physical goals in activities like High Ropes, Climbing Tower, or Creek Freak (a zipline over a creek). Our counselors were also an integral part of helping Yunasa campers reach new heights and step out of their comfort zones through daily options.
What makes Yunasa unique is not just the variety and extent of challenging but constructive activities throughout the week, but also the dedicated people who participate in them. Camp Copneconic was truly a partner in helping us achieve our mission. Our counselors and staff were the supportive network our campers could rely upon. The esteemed faculty we call our Fellows shared their wisdom and guidance. But above all, the campers are what make this a once in a lifetime experience each year. Yunasa campers are the most creative, intelligent, quirky, wonderful, accepting, and caring group of kids anyone could ever know. As much as they learned what we had to teach them, they really taught and encouraged us.
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