ELKIN — Area children and parents got a first look at a unique new summer activity at the Journey Camp open house on Monday. Journey Camp was created by Jennifer Blackburn Bracey to give children a positive sensory experience that will allow them to connect with themselves and nature.
Bracey is a counselor with her own practice, the Soul Compass Center. She has a degree in early childhood education, a master’s of divinity and recently has become trained in the field of somatic experiencing, developed to treat stress and trauma.
“We’re talking about being in nature, just being grounded to the earth and connected to the universe,” Bracey said.
The activities at Journey Camp will focus on the senses and ways children can learn more about themselves and how to overcome personal anxiety and stress. Bracey said that each thing at camp is subtly designed to integrate sensory experiences to teach a child to settle themselves down when they are either understimulated or withdrawn or become overstimulated.
“If we can get a child to settle so that they have a knowing of what feels good and what doesn’t, then we’ve done what we need to do,” Bracey said.
Activities aimed at teaching children an understanding of their physical bodies and nervous systems includes what Bracey calls a “sensory path.” The path is made of up of different stones, sand, gravel and wooden stumps.
“What happens is when you walk on this path, you are going to have a noticing of how it feels different on your feet and up your body and as the week goes on I will help the children to notice all the way up their body.
“We don’t walk around in our own skin,” Bracey said.
A labyrinth and “stumbling stumps” created from different height stumps are other things at camp that create a sense of focus and understanding of one’s own personal sense of body and balance.
The purpose of Journey Camp, at its core, is to create a calming place that feels like home and gives children a sense of comfort.
“It’s going to be like spending the summer at grandma’s house,” Bracey said.
The property did belong to Bracey’s own grandmother and she spent many happy summers there as a child.
She has made a great effort to create a space that is true to the original nature of the property. There is a garden and small farm with goats and chickens. As part of camp, the children will have chores where they will help work the garden and farm.
“It’s amazing how the animals kind of settle the child and that connection with nature, with a living being is just huge,” Bracey said.
Bracey’s grandfather’s shop that was known for many years as Peanut’s Small Engine Repair appears much as it did when in operation. Children will use the workshop to build birdhouses, prayer boxes and other projects.
“We’re really trying to stay next to what this has always been,” Bracey said. “Everybody that comes here has always said they feel so welcome and that’s the part about coming to grandma’s, it’s fun, it’s settling, it’s comfortable.”
The camp also includes an art studio, meditation room, climbing wall, pool and drumming concert area made from various pots and pans. Drumming is another activity that will help teach grounding, Bracey said.
“They are going to notice that sound inside their bodies,” she explained. “I will teach them the low rumble up to the high rumble and talk about being really mad or really scared and then being settled and I will use the rumble to teach that.”
Journey Camp will host five week-long sessions for elementary-age children and one week in August for middle-school age students. Each week will end with a catered meal on Friday nights for parents and children and, of course, no camp experience would be complete with out smores by the fire, which will be the final activity on the last night of camp.
Camp sessions will run Monday through Friday from July 14 through Aug. 22, full and half day sessions are available. For more information, visit www.soulcompasscenter.com/journey-camp/.
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.