At Augusta, we aim to reignite creativity and expression – this ‘soul’ of being human. We operate with the belief that everyone is a creator, with unique ideas and a powerful voice to express it.
Overarchingly, our method for cultivating creativity and expression is this:
- Create strong relationships rooted in trust and empathy, where expression and ‘failure’ are supported
- Surround campers with novel ideas, novel skills, novel stories, and novel experiences, where they are called to engage in activities according to their choice.
- Encourage & collaborate with campers to live into and among these novelties in creative ways, seeking growth and embracing challenge.
Part 1: A Creative Structure
Where and when in a camp schedule do creativity and expression come to life at Augusta? Everywhere and always. To name a few…
Cabin Activities – Campers arrive to the first day question of: “What have you always wanted to do that you can’t do anywhere else?” Then, we work to create it in whatever wacky, epic, creative, heartful, and inspired way possible. Every single day campers experience: “Wow, my ideas CAN become a reality.”
Special Wakeups – A daring adventure, a quirky character, a glimpse of absurdity. You never know how the day will start. We wake up campers with a charge of energetic uniqueness to remind them that they’re not in the ‘normal’ world anymore, and to get their minds flowing.
Clinics – Campers choose from over 140 clinics, and are encouraged to engage with them in their own way: to take ownership of their creative, motivational, and social process. Staff are there to help scaffold the camper experience in a meaningful way. What would you do with our many activity areas, some taught skills, and some friends & mentors to share the time with?
Playstation – Staff are asked “How do you most like to play” as the basis of the 1,000+ unique offerings that have been offered over the years. From ‘dam building’ to ‘argue with goats’ to ‘felting organs’ to ‘extreme trigonometry’, campers see staff passion and creativity come to life, and have – on many occasions – also helped to brainstorm, prepare, and facilitate their own playstations!
Evening Programs – Leave behind the already creative world of Augusta to an entirely new universe. From futuristic space patrols vying to smuggle time-travel capable Element Zero amidst a corrupt government to a collaborative hive of bees BuzzBuzzing around pollinating and preparing for winter while simultaneously learning the electric slide waggle dance to a quirky California setting in which Bears have over-run an airport and activists aim to get them safely back to nature from their Bearport.
Participatory Events – In addition to the opportunity for expression all day every day at camp, campers are encouraged to take part in campfires, storytelling, camper showcase, playstation skits, and more.
Story Experiences – Staff are encouraged to create experiences that sprinkle the cake of the session with unique wish, wonder, and surprise. From a storybook with genres of random/absurd to scary/spooky to adventurous fantasy to thrilling, campers collaboratively choose their favorite stories, and then step into the world…
Embers – No childhood sleepover would be complete without reflecting on the day, the week, and the years of our lives. Embers act as a catalyst and crystallization of all that was learned and felt from the day and beyond. Through vulnerability, reflection, and meaningful play, embers foster the trust and connection at the base of creative expression.
Sleep – The often forgotten aid of mental optimization. Sleep is where experiences are wired, new connections are made, and the body is restored for a brand new day. We hold a high value on it – for campers and staff.
Weekends [of 2 week sessions] – Take a break from normal creativity with abnormal creativity. The Oatmeal Fight, Water Program, Storytelling, Village Activities, Breakfast Club Program, Liberated Playtimes, and more come to life in the weekend schedule.
Part 2: A Diverse Environment
“You came to RADIATE the fullness of who you are.” – Abraham Hicks
Who are these kooks? These caring, compassionate, absolutely unique kooks, who dedicate their summer to long hours, hot days, and small cabins, and then leave with tears in their eyes and a desire to do it again. The culture among staff becomes the culture of the larger community, and no summer camp in the world has a more intentional selection and on-boarding process for staff than Augusta.
Aside from the shared heart and ethos that we select for in the hiring process, staff are as diverse and unique as the places from which they come. We’ve had counselors aged 19 to 45 with backgrounds ranging from medical doctors to theoretical physicists to dance teachers to world-renowned circus performers. We employ staff along diverse spectra of racial, cultural, religious, geographic and ethnic origins, with a variety of economic statuses, sexual orientations, ages, and skill sets. The differences among staff are recognized as a core community strength. Each year roughly 30% of our staff are international, ranging from Kazakhstan to South Africa to Argentina to Wales.
Then, we bring them all to camp to form a new family, with diverse ideas, needs, and perspectives, and incubate that family in a diversity of natural and creative resources. In many ways, we are drawing upon the diversity and creativity of the entire world, and building a sandbox of ideas.
Part 3: An Intentional Culture
As spoken to above, a shared ethos – a shared heart – is the benchmark of hiring at Augusta. This ethos is founded on compassion and connection, which in turn cultivates the trust on which Creativity and Expression stand. This culture encourages people of all ages to live more in their growth zone and show up vulnerably and powerfully with others… to live into their weirdness – trusting that they’ll be accepted no matter what.
This relationally based ethos promotes trust, creativity, and expression. Here are a couple of ways we have made these ideas core components of the Augustan experience.
- The 7 Year Rule – Special Programming at Camp Augusta is not repeated again for 7 years. That means every summer means NEW EPs, Story Experiences, and Village Activities for campers.
- A Staff Family – We have the longest application, onboarding, and training processes for any summer camp of its kind in the world. Why? A large part of this is to create a culture that naturally cultivates, embraces, and draws out creativity and expression.
- Ideas without Limits – Augusta encourages the wild and outrageous. The new ideas and dream scenarios; the ‘what ifs’ of life. At Augusta, we dream big, and that inspires big dreams. Some dreams we’ve had:
- Cabin acts with liquid nitrogen, a human wheel, miracle berries, underwater breathing tanks, and on and on.
- Clinics ranging from the tallest & most challenging rope elements in the USA, to intensive arts like blacksmithing, jewelry smithing, ceramics and glass torch art
- Special wakeups with 30+ people and heavy machinery (friends with maintenance staff)
- Evening Programs that involve 100s of pages of prep documents and months of work
- And many more… If there’s one thing we cultivate here, it’s possibility.
- Collaborative Creativity – Campers are co-creators of their experience. They collaboratively choose their Story Experiences, Cabin Activities, and Rest Hours, are consulted on Playstations and Embers, and have full domain on their clinic schedules. In our cabin groups, all voices are heard and all voices matter.
- Experiential Learning – Making things, breaking things, shooting things, climbing things, performing things… learning things. In a fully experiential environment, the capability to try new things and see their outcomes (from social skills to crafts), campers are able to learn faster and longer term.
- A Culture of Risk Taking where Failure is Embraced – Cabin acts, EPs, Playstations – they don’t always work out as planned. There have been injuries, let downs, and logistical mishaps. And yet in the process of trying new things in new ways, new learning – life-learning – occurs.
- Nature-based & Active! – Studies have shown that exercise – both rigorous and simple – are stimulators of creativity. At camp, we’re moving for the majority of the day, filling our time with engaged activity in a natural, tech-free environment.
Finally, these principles aren’t just inferred and implied as cultural expectations, they are written and taught. In over 100 hours of pre-camp prep and 24 days of full-day staff training, staff learn tools and skills of how to show up powerfully for those campers….
A Few Other Augustan Philosophies that Cultivate an Ethos of Creativity and Expression:
In our extensive training, staff dive deep into workshops with hired professionals to learn some of the most advanced methods available in developmental psychology, communication, and mentorship. Accompanying them throughout hiring, onboarding, and training is our Staff Manual, which is now over 400 pages long and getting yearly edits. Here, we share just a few concepts from those pages:
- Behavior Guidance through Success Counseling
Completely removed from punishment, reward, and guilt (which are shown to kill creativity), staff learn to influence behavior by connecting on a heart level and then co-exploring other strategies that could be taken in that case. The ultimate goal is that campers are choosing how they want to show up in the world based on empathy, and this acknowledgement of their choice fosters empowerment in their life.
- Scaffolding rather than Teaching
Rather than being passive learners in an environment where the ‘teacher’ holds the answers and power and ‘rightness’ of the activity, Augustan staff learn the skills of scaffolding. In this, facilitators share the basic concepts and safety tips, and then quickly turn over the learning to the participant to apply in their own unique way. Learning becomes experiential and free.
- Challenge by Choice
A sense of safety and security is essential for creativity and expression. Everyone at Augusta is encouraged to push themselves into their own challenge zone, with the acknowledgement that what that is is unique for everyone. For some it may be 80ft off the ground, for some 8 ft, and for some it may be trying vegetables! 🙂
- Yes, and…
As a child, you probably remember getting a lot of no’s and reasons why you can’t do things. In a ‘Yes, and’ approach, staff are taught to promote creativity and expression by acknowledging the spirit of what is said and using that as a base idea to continue building on top of.
All humans are human. Whether a counselor or camper or office staff, hundreds of hours of training go into practicing intentional and empathic communication. This is rooted in ideas of Nonviolent Communication, Clean Communication, and Power With dynamics. Social cruelty and unhealthy competition are explicitly NOT part of the culture of Augusta.
- Flat Hierarchy and Consensus
To allow and create new ideas, we first need to hear them. Flat Hierarchy and Consensus create a camp culture in which all voices – camper, staff, director, CIRCLEr… etc. – are valid. Time and space are given for anyone with an idea or an opinion to share it in a constructive way. Maybe that’s bringing in a new clinic or playstation, or making activities safer with new risk processes, or adding on to existing ideas.
We’re proud of our impact on the world – as a place (and people) that teaches the skills in life that are exceedingly valuable and culturally so necessary. We know that inside every staff and camper and human is a creative soul, that would express themselves if they had a safe container to do so.
Come step on the woodchips, and let your creativity and expression come to life.
Check Out Some Resources!
We’ve curated and a collection of related resources from around the web on the topic of Creativity and Expression. Click below and you’ll find links, videos, books, stats, and more.