At the BDC, like all of the F&W camps, it’s not a hope that staff address issues around social justice, it’s an expectation. Social Justice at the BDC is exposing kids to the knowledge that may be different than they have experienced. It’s allowing the kids to explore and make choices. It’s about weaving it into every activity area in camp. It also means supporting kids’ identities, whether they are binary or non-binary. It means supporting all our family structures, from same-gender/sex parents, to single parenting, to any adults raising kids. It means looking at where our food comes from and thinking about who gets fed and who is hungry. It means thinking about our environment from different perspectives. Our goal is cultivating an environment that serves everyone and having a really good time along the way!
We often introduce social justice through songs like, “If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus,” to “Baby Shark” using two moms or two dads as the parents. For “If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus,” we explain the meaning, while with two-moms or two-dads “Baby Shark,” we just sing it.
Some groups will have a morning activity centered around social justice issues that may have come up in their group. It’s often around gender or family structure. Our library is filled with children’s books to support age-appropriate activities. Some groups may make family sculptures in which they mold the members of their group to represent their family and explain them to their peers. Before Topsy Turvy Tuesday, we explain what costumes are appropriate and what ones are not, including those that reinforce stereotypes.
Some people ask:
“Does this really work with 4-10-year-olds?”
Two things that happened this summer showed me that it does.
One night, two of our male staff saved three baby possums by taking them from their mom who was dead. It was an exciting adventure on overnights at the Barn that night. They nurtured the possums and fed them milk from a dropper. We all worked together to give these little guys a chance. A week later, the counselors were proudly sporting mugs with their pictures and the possums that read “World Greatest Dads.” So many campers saw their mugs and made the judgment-free assumption that these two males were possum dads together.
This summer, we were lucky to have a beautiful blonde hair, blue-eyed baby frequently visiting camp, and often in my arms! Many kids came up and asked me if he was my son. They asked because of the love I was showing the baby. To them, it’s as simple as that. It didn’t matter that we were a different race. No one ever asked if I adopted the child. At that moment, I thought to myself, “yes, the seeds of social justice are taking root.”