Archive for March, 2011

Put on Your Swimsuits, Goggles, and Sunblock–It’s Time for a Swim!

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Almost every camper will name his or her waterfront area as one of the best parts of camp.  Many camps are built on lakes and their waterfronts play a crucial role during the summer, not only as a place for swimming but as a gathering place and the perfect backdrop for outdoor evening activities.  Learning to swim at summer camp is a rite of passage.  But learning to swim not only provides a great foundation for building camp memories of sunny days spent at the waterfront, it has lifelong benefits as well.  

Of course, there are the much acclaimed physical and mental benefits of learning to swim that we all know.  It’s a great low impact exercise that is suitable for almost everyone, which makes it an ideal part of a regular fitness regime.  It’s also not age restrictive.  Rather, it’s an activity that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.  The fact that muscle strength is also greatly improved as a result of pushing oneself through the water goes without saying.

Swimming also improves coordination, emotional well being, concentration, and social skills.   In fact, it’s the largely social aspect of camping that likely makes it such a positive and popular part of the camping experience.  The relaxing atmosphere of a pool or waterfront area provides the perfect setting for children to let down their guards and enjoy the type of casual conversation that builds and strengthens friendships.  When combined with the sheer fun of the activity, it’s the perfect setting for building memories.

Camp waterfront locations are extremely active and full of almost endless possibilities for campers experiences.  There are often several activities taking place at once, which is why camp Waterfront areas are typically generously staffed with well trained, fully certified lifeguards who complete an extensive and rigorous training program prior to the start of camp.

The pool area is not merely a place for swim instruction at summer camp but fun activities such as  synchronized swimming competitions in which campers have fun using creativity and teamwork to choreograph a musical number that combines dancing and swimming.  Pool parties are popular evening activities at camp, complete with music and plenty of opportunity to socialize.    

Even more adventure can be found on larger lake areas that, in addition to swimming beaches, also often have water toys, such as trampolines, rock-its, and climbing rocks for campers to enjoy.   Since these areas require campers to pass a swim test prior to being able to use them, they provide fun and attainable goals for campers: first, to pass the test that allows them to swim to these special areas, then the challenge of climbing the wall or walking the plank.  Camps also incorporate their waterfront areas into their special event planning.  Water games and pirate themed treasure hunts are just a couple of ways that water play is used creatively in camp programs.

Swimming at camp takes on a new level of excitement when included in camp activities–such as decathlons, apache relays, and Olympics or Color Wars–that give campers the opportunity to use their swimming skills to rise to a challenge.  Many camps also compete in swim meets through their inter camp leagues.   Whether racing against other campers or a time clock, being able to apply their swimming instruction in an engaging way and seeing firsthand how they’ve improved has been a moment of pride for many a camper.

So the next time your child regales you with tales of the waterfront at his or her summer camp, remember that it’s not just summer memories that they’re gaining from their swimming experiences, but lifelong skills.

A Summer Full of Adventure

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Few people think of finding a summer job until memories of days spent bundled in scarves, coats, and gloves as they attempt to maneuver roadways and college campuses after the latest snowfall have faded almost completely.  However, whether 2011 is the first time you’re considering a summer camp position or you’re a seasoned veteran, now is exactly the time to start the process of securing summer employment, if you haven’t already done so.  Many camps attend campus recruiting fairs in order to assemble the perfect staff.  So why should you attend one of these fairs or complete an online application now?  To begin with, a camp job is definitely fun, but also a lot of work…so be prepared! Where else can you get paid to play all day while building valuable job skills? Whether you work in a specific area and focus on a sport, activity or hobby you love or you work as a counselor who travels from activity to activity with campers, your day is full of exciting challenges and a probably even a few surprises, both of which will develop your problem-solving, critical thinking, and negotiation skills.

If you like working with children and aspire to a career in a field such as education, sports training, psychology or sociology, then you already have another reason to work at a camp.  Camp is an excellent place to gain valuable experience and is impressive on a resume.  Although camp seems lighthearted–and it is in many ways–working at camp requires a lot of responsibility, flexibility, and adaptability, all of which are very valuable characteristics sought by employers.   Each day guarantees new challenges, many of them unexpected.  Summer camp is often organized chaos.  Yes, there is always a plan in place, but the unexpected is also inevitable.  While this may seem scary the first couple days, it also brings an excitement and satisfaction that delivering pizzas or serving food (or even working at an investment bank)  never could.  Working at camp also requires a lot of communication and interpersonal interaction, two more transferable skills that are highly valued by employers.  At camp, you must effectively co-exist with your campers, co-counselors, and other staff members to be successful.   You will also be able to tell future employers that you worked with people from all over the world and from many different socio-economic backgrounds.  That you’ve overcome cultural, language, and social obstacles with others tells recruiters that diversity is not something you fear, but rather embrace.

Working at summer camp can also be very healthy for your bank account.  You won’t become Donald Trump spending your summers at camp. However; camps provide housing and food in addition to a salary. It’s possible to live virtually expense-free for a couple of months.  Many summer camp counselors take home all or most of their salaries at the end of the summer.

Finally, you will form lifelong friendships at camp.  You may arrive alone and nervous in June, but you will leave in August with literally hundreds of friends from all over the world.  Two months may not seem like a long time, but when one lives and works in close proximity with co-workers, it’s more than sufficient to form bonds that ordinarily would take years.  There are always  tears on the last day of camp, not only when saying goodbye to your campers, who will have secured a special place in your heart forever, but to co-workers—the ones you know you will see again as well as the ones you know you will not.  Regardless, the world will seem like a much smaller place to you.

Though it may seem early to begin planning such a special adventure with so many possibilities, building a successful camp staff not only requires individuals who possess all of the qualities previously mentioned, it requires finding the right mix of personalities and talents.  Such an endeavor, of course, takes time.  Camp recruiters review literally thousands of applications each year and speak with hundreds of candidates to find those who are the best fit for their camp’s atmosphere, philosophy and program.  Starting your job search while the ground is still white and the tree branches still bare provides you with the advantage of a larger pool of positions from which to choose.  By April, most camps have nearly completed their hiring and only difficult to fill or highly specialized roles remain.

So, after a winter of wading through piles of snow, are you ready for a summer full of adventure?

Do You Know the History of Camping?

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Do you know the history of camping? Most people don’t and it is too bad. It’s an interesting story and I’m happy to give you my take on it.

Back in the early 1900’s, several individuals and families, seeing the swelling slums in the northeastern cities, began to think of ways to get kids back to nature. Striking out from New York and Boston, these camp pioneers found pieces of land with lakes, trees, clean air, and a lot of space on which to build the first ‘residential camps’ in the US.

Mostly school teachers and coaches, these early camp leaders built relationships with families who chose to send their children to camp. The founding purpose of camp was to provide an environment of wholesome activity in which the values of independence, teamwork, gratitude, and community were transmitted, both overtly and subtly, to children.

Looking back at over 100 years of organized camping, I think these early professionals were on to something. Camping is nolonger just for children from the northeastern major metro areas, though they still make up a large proportion of campers. Camp has spread across the country and world and now is a big part of lots of peoples’ lives.

There are a lot of reasons why camping has thrived over the years. The main reasons, at least in my opinion, are the relationships built between campers and the staff at camp, being a part of something special, and the skills (physical, psychological, and emotional) that are developed. When you combine value-driven adults who are eager to lead with campers excited to learn, grow, and build new friendships, you’ve got an incredible start for creating a remarkable camp experience.

Can’t wait for camp!

Cole Kelly

Director, Camp Weequahic