Archive for April, 2011

Camp Adventure Programs Help Campers Soar High!

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Anyone would feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment after scaling a forty foot wall and then whizzing down a zip line or perhaps, while attached to a harness of course, taking a giant leap of faith off a perch with a great view.   But when the person is under the age of sixteen,  the feeling is unmatched.  This is the sense of elation that camp adventure programs bring to campers every summer.  Adventure is one of the most popular  programs at camp.   But what’s the point of all that climbing, jumping, and zipping around you ask?

For starters, high and low ropes courses have been used for some time now as team building event, probably the most commonly known reason for their usage.  In the case of a high ropes course, which is often at least thirty feet above ground and is sometimes as high as fifty, courage is one of the first words that comes to mind.  Quite simply put, it takes a lot of courage to shimmy up a ladder or patiently work your way trial and error up a climbing wall and then attempt to maneuver across  beams or rope of miniscule width with the ground looming below, even if one is safely secured to a harness and cables and spotted by trained professionals.  Trust is really what high ropes courses are all about.  A high ropes course challenges campers’ comfort levels and forces them to put trust in their fellow campers and camp staff, who also share in the inevitable sense of pride after successfully finishing a challenge.

Low ropes courses, on the other hand, encourage team building.  They feature such elements as webbed rope nets, trust falls and activities that challenge participants to get their entire team between platforms by building a bridge, or to move from wide cables to narrow ones.  More specifically, at camp, low ropes provide a great way for campers to bond with one another and encourage cabins to work together as a unit.

Nature programs  also often compliment outdoor programs by helping campers reconnect with nature and understand the importance of preserving the environment.  Fishing is another part of many outdoor adventure programs.  While fishing is a perfect relaxing social opportunity, it’s also a great way of increasing children’s patience level.

So it’s no wonder that these outdoor adventure programs are not popular merely for the lofty challenges that they provide, but  for the thrill and sense of pride campers feel for having had the courage to accept and achieve them.

Weequahic Counselors: Building a Great Summer!

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

A friend recently relayed an experience that made me think about the purpose of a summer camp counselor…

Walking down the street in his hometown, he came to a construction site with only a few guys working. The site used to contain a few broken down buildings that had stood there for years. Interested in the new development, he decided to approach a couple of the workers to see what they were doing.

The first man he approached who was working with bricks replied in a surly manner, “Moving bricks. What does it look like I’m doing?”

The second man was less surly but certainly not very engaged. “Just building a wall,” he sighed.

The third worker was different. There was a smile on his face. Every so often, he’d stop what he was doing, look around and nod to himself. He was sweating and working hard doing basically the same job as the other workers but there was something different about him.

When asked what he was doing, this worker smiled and replied, “I’m building a cathedral.”

It is so easy think about the job at hand as simply a meaningless or boring amalgamation of steps and processes. When explained as simply a couple of steps that have to be done in a specified amount of time, it’s less than inspiring.

At Weequahic, the ‘cathedral’ we are building is the finest summer camp experience and community of young people possible. We want our campers to leave Weequahic believing that it is the greatest place on earth. We want their families to gush about their family’s experience to their friends. We want our staff to know they’ve been a part of something incredibly special.

Therefore, rather than simply going through a list of things we have to do each day (which, of course, we do) in our summer camp jobs, we seek out people who are passionate about creating a safe and extraordinary community for kids and have the skills to do so. We then train and support them before and during the summer to bring out the best in every child and every situation. Finally, we put them together with campers we feel they’ll work with best and get camp going.

If we do our job well, our counselors know that everything they do at camp should lead to that one goal: creating an extraordinary experience for our campers and their families. Whether it’s teaching a better serve in tennis, getting a kid up on water skis, or serving up a delicious meal, each staff member is there and committed to help us ‘build our cathedral.’

Can’t wait for camp,
Cole

“Sunwise” at Camp

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

One of the biggest challenges of summer camp is also one of its greatest aspects, spending lots of time in the sunny outdoors.  Indeed, time in the sun is an important aspect of maintaining good health.  The sun is a source of vitamin D, which has been linked to happiness.  However, over-exposure to the sun’s rays can be harmful, as nearly everyone knows.  So taking appropriate measures to reduce risks is essential.

Summer camp professionals are extremely aware that proper sun care goes beyond the frequent application of sunscreen.  Many of them are parents themselves whose first priority is the safety of their campers, and they work very hard to incorporate sun-care tips, such as those offered by Sunwise, an organization established by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2000 to help those who work with children, into their daily routines.

Staff and campers are instructed to apply sunscreen frequently.  Almost all camps either supply sunscreen or require campers to bring it with them and encourage re-application between activities throughout the day.  Many camps place large containers of sunscreen throughout campus, so that it can be easily accessed and reapplied throughout the day.  The staff is required to insure that both themselves and their campers regularly use sunscreen.

Camps take measure to insure that children wear proper clothing.  Campers receive proper dress instructions daily.  Counselors supervise to make sure each child dresses appropriately for the day’s weather and activities.  Daily weather-appropriate instructions such as reminders about sunscreen application and instructions to drink plenty of water are also typically given during a camp’s morning announcements.

Camp programs naturally incorporate a mix of outdoor and indoor activities in order to balance the amount of time one spends in the sun with time in the shade.  While summer camp is about reconnecting with nature and a natural environment, campers also spend ample amount of time indoors so as not to be overexposed or at risk.

Extra precautionary measures are also taken when necessary.  With an increasing emphasis on helping campers develop lifelong healthy habits, camps are increasingly choosing to train their staffs in proper suncare.

Vitamin D intake is optimized through diet.  Camp menus are carefully planned to optimize nutritional value for campers.  Health and fitness have risen to the forefront of the camping industry in recent years.  Naturally rich in vitamin D foods such as milk, eggs, yogurt, and oatmeal daily are typically available daily at breakfast.  Other foods high in Vitamin D, such as tuna and mushrooms, are also offered on lunch and dinner salad bars.

Teaching children and the people who take care of them proper measures for protecting oneself against overexposure to the sun is a critical element in the promotion of good health that many camps now embrace.  It not only helps protect children at camp but could help them for life.  A study by the American Camp Association established that habits formed at summer camp are continued by more than 60% of campers once they return home.

For more information about proper suncare, you can visit the Sunwise website at www.epa.gov/sunwise/index.html.