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VIRTUES OF CABIN ACCOMMODATION

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

—Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854.

Being in nature is becoming an increasingly rare experience for children. While advancements in technology can be helpful for children in school, it is now standard for a child to be immersed in technology; at home, at school and at friend’s homes. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children spend an average of 7 hours a day using technology. The way children use technology can have a negative effect on their ability to focus, quality of sleep and the way they learn. Excessive use of technology can also have a negative impact on their ability to create meaningful social relationships, and their ability to interact successfully with others.

At Berkshire Outdoor Center, we have the unique opportunity to provide a space, for children and adults alike, to “unplug” from the constant barrage of social media and video games. There are a few ways in which we are able to provide this opportunity; by having WiFi only available in our dining halls, by groups opting to stay in our rustic cabins, and by prohibiting the use of electronic devices during Berkshire Outdoor Center programming.

Perhaps the most impactful method of “unplugging” we are able to provide is with our cabins. When groups stay in our cabins, they opt for a truly rustic experience. Our cabins are electricity-free and unheated. Cabins that are part of a unit (typically 10 per unit) share a common washhouse that has electricity and hot water. Being in an electricity-free environment enables students to learn how to rely on their senses, and get back-to-basics.

Having electricity-free cabins encourages participants to interact with one another and talk to one another about the experiences they had that day. They may choose to read a book by flashlight (remember those?), or play a game together in the common space of the cabin. They may even be inspired to step outside of the cabin and take advantage of star gazing under our bright, light-pollution-free skies. Imagine walking into a cabin at night, a-glow with the warm beams of flashlights and lanterns, to see eight students laughing and playing a card game together. The cabin environment provides students the opportunity to truly live in the moment.

Choosing a cabin also encourages cooperative living in a community. Our cabins are designed with two private “counselor” rooms (usually occupied by a chaperone), and a common bunk room with 8-9 bunks (usually occupied by students). Living in a communal space encourages students to be respectful of others personal space, personal items, and personal needs. Community living also encourages students to be responsible for their own belongings and for keeping the cabin a healthy, hospitable environment for all who live there.

Lastly, our cabins provide an opportunity to commune with nature. Imagine lying in bed after a long day of climbing, canoeing and hiking, and drifting off to sleep with the faint sound of crickets chirping, owls hooting and wind blowing. Imagine waking up in the morning to the sound of robins singing, seeing the sun rising over the lake, and smelling the dew on the grass.

The cabin environment provides students an excellent opportunity to “unplug”, build community, and commune with nature- basically, to live in the moment. If you would like more suggestions of how to help your students “unplug”, please contact your Program Coordinator for more ideas!

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748 Hamilton Road, Becket, MA 01223
Tel: (413) 623-8991 | Fax: (413) 623-5890