As parents, we often hear predictions about the necessity for our children to prepare for a new and “global” world. While some people explain that the roots for global interactions were planted centuries ago, current electronic and transportation technologies make people across the globe even more connected and interdependent. So how can we prepare our children and give them experiences to help them become globally literate?
Of course, travel is an obvious way to help children increase their cultural currency, but going to camp also helps foster global thinking and skills in specific ways. Summer camp is a place where children from around the world and different parts of the United States connect with each other, build lifelong friendships, try new things and practice living together. At Camp Weequahic for example, campers have recently travelled from France, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela to join in the fun. On average, about 5% of campers come from outside the United States but wherever your child departs from, they can benefit from the diverse mix of kids at camp. They can practice a language and will definitely learn about different customs with daily interaction and time to soak it all in. Most importantly, they will learn how to respectfully engage with people with different views, who may not approach everything the same way.
In her book, Growing Up Global:Raising Children to Be At Home in the World, Homa Sabet Tavangar says that the first step towards developing a global outlook requires “embracing the mind-set to make a friend and be a good friend.” Making friends means practicing universal qualities like empathy and respect, and building lasting friendships at camp is a huge part of the total experience. Counselors and staff are trained and at the ready to help campers grow in this area, build new skills when necessary and model caring for others. Tavangar explains that versions of the Golden Rule, or “treat others as you wish to be treated,” permeate all cultures and faith traditions and elaborates on these in her book. When children embrace the universal values of caring for each other, they employ humility, curiosity and compassion which then leads to making true friends—and that’s what makes a world citizen.
So, wherever we go in the world, it’s the experience of breaking down the elements of diverse cultures and seeing what makes them similar or distinct, that prepares us for relating to each other. For kids, a baby step towards negotiating new cultures can be overcoming the fear of new foods or being away from home at camp where things are “different”—after all, every camp, and each year, has it’s own special character or culture. For example, many campers bond over the issue of learning to like new foods and it’s that kind of experience that prepares children for the future.
Growing up global is not just about preparing to do business in the world economy. It’s about having the comfort and desire to connect with the Kenyan dad who coaches a local soccer team, a Turkish neighbor with distinct fashion style or an American who expects consistent electrical power! Ultimately it’s about being curious about differences instead of afraid of them and valuing making friends with the diverse people we meet. Psychologists link friendship to an individual’s health and ultimately to the ability to survive—so friendships are key to feeling at home in our individual skins as well as feeling at home on our planet.
Our experiences at summer camp are a key component in raising globally aware and confident children. The friendships and lessons learned at camp will last long after camping season ends as campers continue to expand their horizons, stay connected with friends across time and geography and find their life’s passions. How do you plan to raise global kids and make camp a part of their preparation? Have you read Growing Up Global or used any of Tavangar’s suggestions? We’d love to hear how camp contributed to defining your world view!
It certainly is a good time to thinking about gratitude. Two days before Thanksgiving, we are now planning our trip to the grandparent’s house, making our list of yearly ‘thankfuls’, and looking forward to spending some extra time with those most important to us. Thankfully, even the media gets into the action as well.
I just finished a great article on gratitude which you can find here. Kate and I always felt feelings of gratitude lead to a happier, more productive life. It’s nice to see science catching up with us!
Gratitude is so important that I end each day with our boys at camp asking them about their two favorite things from that day. Our Head Counselor or Kate does the same on the girl’s side. We center our first campfire around gratitude. (Here is a great poem I’ve found for the occasion.) We also have a longstanding tradition of our sport teams thanking their coaches, refs, and drivers in front of the whole camp, win, lose, or draw.
Researchers believe feelings of gratitude are 50% genetic. The remainder is learned. We focus on teaching our campers to be thankful for their many blessings (and make it fun in the process!)
At this thankful time of year, I challenge each of you to make a list of people and experiences for which you are grateful. Happiness is colored most effectively and durably from these two categories. Further, I challenge you to start your own gratefulness habit: Each evening, before you fall asleep, find two things you are happy about from the day. Write them down or say them out loud. It’s a great way to end the day.
As for Weequahic, we are thankful for:
The vision of our founder, Art Lustig, in creating the traditions of Weequahic
The work of the Lustig and Seffer families for shepherding and adding to these traditions along the path
The incredible staff with whom we have the pleasure of working during the summer and throughout the year
Our supportive and thoughtful families who share their children with our community each summer, and
Campers from around the country and world who bring energy, excitement, friendship, and joy to us each and every day
To begin with, parents often track all the “firsts” that a child achieves on a daily basis but as the list grows longer we come to expect changes. The way that most young children acquire language and skills is so rapid that later—even when parents are getting a little more sleep—it becomes difficult to remain excited about each previous new word or action! However, there is one stage that most parents don’t forget and that’s when a child starts declaring, “I can do it myself.” All of a sudden, totally dependent infants morph into adamant creatures with distinct needs and wants. This exasperating but essential stage is filled with cute moments when children seem to hover between babyhood and childhood. But it can also be a difficult time for some parents if they fear that their child may not need them any longer.
As children mature, they continue to develop and require more experiences where they can make independent choices without parents. If parents don’t allow children to make decisions and do things on their own, they won’t develop confidence or realize that they are not just extensions of their caregivers. It’s a tricky line that parents walk! Sometimes giving children room to spread their wings seems counter intuitive, but in order to grow into a self-reliant adult, children need to struggle without the offer of a quick fix. Even when parents can take care of things, the better choice is to support a child through the process of working through and solving problems. Long after a problem has been forgotten, a self-reliant child will remember hearing, “Wow! You amaze me! You really worked hard to figure that out.”
A child who is self-reliant can think for themselves, trusts their own judgment and feels in control of their life. This leads to becoming more active, independent and competent adults and citizens. The child also develops skills to draw on inner resources and use coping mechanisms even when they feel things are not easy. Sending a child to camp is a perfect way for a child to further develop self-reliance in a nurturing, safe and supportive environment. The whole camp experience is designed to illustrate to the camper that becoming a successful person takes personal strength as well as playing a role in a larger group–with the emphasis always on FUN. I can’t think of a more wonderful childhood experience for facilitating such important life skills!
Of course, the process of becoming self-reliant is not easy, but that’s where camp staff and counselors are there to help your child adjust and learn. If you wonder how to help your child develop self-reliance, remember that each child comes to conclusions for themselves, so the only way to experience camp is to be a camper. They are building on early determination to “do it themselves,” and those first fierce moments of independence are precious. Camp offers a full range of fun, adventure, and opportunities to experience emotions with different adults and in new, safe situations. By the end of summer camp, campers bring a lot of stuff home. There’ll be great crafts, stories to tell and some inevitable laundry to wash—but every camper in the world—also brings home a new understanding of themselves.
How did you learn self-reliance at summer camp and what strategies helped you support your independence? Which experiences do you think especially helped kids develop inner strengths? We look forward to your stories too!
We take our 10 month ‘off season’ to plan for 2 months of fun (and safety) and excitement (and growth)! For me, this means meeting every family interested in Weequahic for next summer. (Well, almost every family. I have yet to make it to Spain…).
Home visits are my favorite part of the ‘off season.’ I get to see the children in their home environment – how they interact with their parents, what games do they like to play, how engaged they are in the process of choosing a camp, etc.
These visits also help me better understand their families as well. We are big believers in the importance of a whole family approach to Weequahic and do our best to provide both the camper and their family an exceptional summer experience.
Home visits represent an invaluable experience for me, especially when putting the bunks together or speaking with parents during the summer. Therefore, I enter every home with a list of questions I want to explore. I suggest parents approach these meeting in the same manner.
Now, every family is different. Some have no camp experience to draw upon. Sometimes, both parents went to camp for many years. (More often than not at Weequahic, one parent enjoyed camp at least once.) Regardless of your level of camp experience, here are a few questions I think you should ask of any camp director:
Who are your counselors? How do you find and train them? How old are they and how many live with the kids in the bunk?
Who supervises the counselors? What is their background?
What is the program day like? Do our children choose any, some, or all of the daily activities? Will my child participate in activities with boys and girls of any age or is it more structured?
What sets your camp apart from others?
Where do your campers come from? How do you place new campers into your community?
When is visiting day and how does that work?
How will my child get to camp? What about their luggage? Please explain the first day at camp to me so we know what to expect.
While this is not an exhaustive list of questions, I believe these are some of the most important. The director, or whoever visits your home, will not be the one providing direct care for your child. However, the director must, in my opinion, have a major influence on the staff selection and training, the bunk life for each child, and much more. The answers to these questions will provide a more thorough understanding of the philosophies behind the camp.
The families who approach home visits with a list of questions and specific information they want to receive will have a much better chance in making the right choice for their child. If we can help, don’t hesitate to call! (And, if you can think of some other questions you’d like answered, please post them here!)
I don’t know about you, but a good number of my current communities are one step away from reality — they only exist online. I have a Facebook community, which includes a good number of friends-of-friends that I’ve never met in person. I visit a set list of blogs every day and have a great time interacting with the authors and the other readers. While our definition of community might be expanding, I don’t think any of us have lost sight of the importance of a good, old-fashioned in-person community though.
According to the American Camp Association, parents have identified the development of social skills/living in community (such as making new friends, getting along with others, becoming more responsible, and learning group-living skills) as one of the main reasons they send their children to camp. The owners, directors and staff at summer camp all understand the power of community and structure these skills into their programs in several areas.
1. Communal Living
I am an only child, and as such, I always had my own room when I was a child, so living in a camp bunk for the first time was a huge learning experience. For the first time, I had to be part of a community of people who were sharing space, delegating work and working, communally, to make things work. It didn’t take long for me to get into the routine of doing my part and see how even the most menial job — mine was taking out the trash – contributed to the health of the community.
Bunkmates must also learn how to navigate the waters of communal decisionmaking. They must work through the inevitable issues and conflicts that come up in bunk living — and they must learn to adapt and get along when things don’t go their way. They learn to live by the will of the majority, while at the same time respecting the needs of others who represent the minority. Again, according to the ACA, “small group living also provides the necessary intimacy for individuals to achieve a sense of belonging, explore a variety of group roles, cooperate and form relationships with others, and have input into the group’s activities”.
2. Eating and Singing Together
In the past few years there has been a large ad campaign promoting family dinners. Sitting around the dinner table sharing stories, concerns and the high and low points of your day with family members — or fellow campers — creates intimate bonds between all of the participants. Most camps have family-style meals and singing traditional camp songs together is often a ritual. Songs are always a founding piece of any culture and at camp, at the end of session when everyone knows the camp songs, they too become community bonds that live through the years.
3. Connections that Last
Although sometimes I am annoyed with how much of my life occurs online, there’s no arguing that modern social networking has helped nurture the lifelong friendships developed at camp. Now, instead of waiting days or week from a letter from a camp pen pal, you can send a text message, IM, or just nudge them on Facebook. Many camps have Facebook groups, some devoted exclusively to alumni from certain years, so the 50-somethings reminiscing about camp in the 70s can be a subgroup of a larger online camp community.
Camp Weequahic bike races. I’m guessing early 1980s here. Any alumni want to chime in?
No matter how much time passes, the camp community lives on. Alumni have frequent get-togethers and are always welcome to spend a day visiting their old camp haunts. Many camps host reunions every year and invite alumni from different generations to come and visit together, creating yet another community, another branch of the family tree.
Want to get connected with Camp Weequahic again? Check out the Facebook page!
How did you experience community at camp? How have you sustained it since? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!
This week, I had the pleasure of touching base with Cole Kelly, Director of Camp Weequahic, who has some exciting news to share regarding Weequahic’s program for 2011!
Starting this summer, Camp Weequahic is moving to an individual choice based program where campers can design and create their own fun summer experience. Prior to camp, campers and parents will complete an on-line program selection form where they will have the opportunity to list 8 to 10 of their favorite activities they want to enjoy throughout the summer. These choices are called “Excel” Periods. Once the Weequahic programming team receives this information, they will build a program especially for you! To round out each program day, each camper will then get to choose 2 ‘Explore” periods a day once they are at camp. The Explore periods are age- and developmentally appropriate activities. These “spontaneous” choices are activities a camper may like to try once or twice…instead of being “focused” on that program for their entire stay at camp. These daily choices can be anything in the Weequahic menu of activities and change daily such as climbing, play practice, guitar, baseball instruction, cooking and so on. Try one or try ’em all during these speical “Explore” periods! There are tons of daily activities to choose from.
This program model also allows camp staff to really focus their teaching because they know what your child wants to achieve, while building in some wonderful flexibility to encourage kids to try things out. Activities that they might have never thought of but heard their bunkmates discussing, for example! Or maybe they just feel like doing something else that day. The model also allows bunks to make group decisions and share new experiences together, such as everyone going to the waterfront for boating, swimming and the water trampoline, which builds community and camaraderie.
Knowing my own kids — two boys under 8 — such an individually based program would be a real treat. They could focus on things they absolutely love, but also be able to choose other activities to explore. Both these opportunities develop their decision making ability, sense of choice and autonomy. So I look forward to hearing about your experiences and seeing your pictures next year at Weequahic!
Summer Camp is a time of firsts. The first time you try to catch a ball with a lacrosse stick (and realize you can!). The first time you get on on water-skis. The first time you serve an ace in tennis. The first time you get up on stage in front of hundreds of kids your age. Now that camp has ended for the summer and everyone is getting ready for the school year, we thought we’d share some tales from camp. What have the kids taken home with them to last the next 9 months, until camp starts again?
Many families are surprised at the sheer amount of first-time experiences their kids have at summer camp. When Justin, a 12 year old who attended camp this year, was asked to list things he did for the first time at camp, he had quite the list. “I learned how to play guitar, archery, and golf,” he said. During our conversation, it also came out that he also learned new baseball skills and got to play tennis. He also experienced the camp evening programs for the first time, which he raved about as being “fun and creative.” Justin’s going to be talking to a lot of people about camp when he goes back to school. And what is he going to tell them? “I made a lot of new friends and tried a lot of new things. I had the best time!”
My own summer camp experiences – way back in the 80s – were largely defined by a feeling of the summer camp community breaking apart at the end of the summer. We would often promise to write letters we never sent or make long distance calls our parents wouldn’t pay for, but when summer was over, camp was tucked firmly behind us for another year.
With today’s technology, however, the summer camp community can stay together all year, even when they return to the home cities, states and countries. Each of the AFSC family of camps has an active Facebook community where current campers, families and alumni can connect, share stories and keep up to date with the staff and the current session. In these waning days of August, much of the chatter is about how much everyone misses camp and wishes they were back on the lake, singing in the dining hall, etc. For those who’ve connected to Weequahic through facebook and other new social networks (Twitter anyone?) the camp experience doesn’t end with teary good-byes in August. So when will we meet again?
So you’ve heard from friends that now is the time to be thinking about summer camp. How can that be? Fall has just arrived and we are already thinking about summer? Well, yes we are, and we would love to get together with you if you are too!
Here at Camp Weequahic, we spend a lot of time in the Fall and Winter seasons traveling around the country to meet with future campers. We schedule home visits where you are, to come and meet your child and answer any questions your family has. Families usually contact us anywhere from a month to a week out from where we are headed (you can find out our current schedule here) and gather anyone else who might be interested to meet.
Home visits can be one on one or include several families. Cole Kelly, our director, brings a picture book of camp and other materials for people to go through as he answers specific questions about camp. He usually reviews a typical camp day, answers any and all questions about the program and can provide a list of references. Most families and most kids especially, are intrigued about bunk life — what it will be like living at camp, who will be my bunkmates, where do campers come from, how many counselors are there, what are the counselors like? Other important questions revolve around a day at camp — what the days look like, how do campers choose activities, tell me about the evening activities as well as the special events.
The most productive home visits involve families with a prepared list of questions and Cole especially likes when both parents and kids to ask questions because it is the camper experience that is most important. So please encourage your future campers to ask him about anything! The more actively involved they are in their decision to attend camp, the more they have a sense of ownership over their summer as they build their own experience.
When we can, we especially like to bring new and current camp families together to share experiences. To make this happen, Cole will host ice cream parties in Florida, New York, Connecticut, Philadelphia and New Jersey. Both the home visits and ice cream parties bring Cole a special pleasure as camp director. He gets to meet everyone and to know them before camp starts. That way, they have a familiar face greeting them when they arrive. More importantly, these meetings allow Cole to prepare the best possible experience for the children, from their bunk life to the counselor who will share their summer with them.
If you would like to schedule a visit or would like to know where Cole is traveling this season, you can find him on twitter at @campweequahic, where he posts from each of his destinations!
We look forward to seeing you and don’t forget your questions for Cole!