Panic Mechanic – Helping Gifted Kids Put Stress In A Box

I went to summer camp!

Yunasa, the Lakota word meaning balance, is a weeklong camp for highly gifted youth. The mission of Yunasa is to teach campers techniques and skills for integrating the intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and physical aspects of their lives. Yunasa is devoted to reminding bright young people that they are more than just intellect.

Yunasa has a camp every summer in Michigan. This year, Yunasa West was added. Yunasa West is camp in the Colorado mountains an hour southwest of Denver. The campers are boys and girls ages 10 to 14. The Yunasa Fellows include Patty Gatto-Walden, Stephanie Tolan, and Michael Piechowski.

I was honored to be a guest and teacher for two days at Yunasa West and conducted a session called “Panic Mechanic”. We talked about the fact that everybody has stress. We can’t get rid of stress, but we can do things to manage it.

Using shoe boxes and arts & crafts, the kids were asked to create a representation of themselves and stress. The inside of the shoe box represents the specific stressors that you feel inside. The outside of the show box represents the coping strategies and life skills used to keep the stress in balance. The students got very creative! They loved using magazine pictures, markers, colored construction paper and their own drawings to describe and symbolize their feelings.

Gifted children benefit from being in a camp with other gifted children because often in their home town or home school it’s difficult to find peers that think and feel like they do. When these kids get to a camp surrounded by others like them, they can be their authentic selves. It’s a relief for them to be accepted for who they really are.

The students were very warm and friendly toward me. They were curious, inclusive, happy, interesting, and thoughtful during the activity. I was also able to hang out with them during mealtime and a few of their other activities. I was grateful for the trust they placed in me and the open way in which they went about their activities and discussions. The Fellows and the staff were incredibly welcoming and appreciative of my interest and involvement.

I loved the gifted summer camp experience, and would welcome working with Yunasa again next June!


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