Archive for August, 2011

The Importance of Being Creative

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Arts and Crafts at summer camp is more than just stringing together a few beads to make a bracelet or gluing some spray painted macaroni to a cardboard picture frame.  It’s a program that gives campers the opportunity to explore their creative interests in several different types of art by offering a diverse array of age appropriate projects.  Of course there are the traditional projects that are just plain fun, like paper mache and tie-dying.  However, many summer camps also offer campers the opportunity to try things that are not only artistic but could be useful skills or even careers, such as metal work, jewelry making, calligraphy, cartooning, or soap and candle making.  Just like sports programs at camp, many campers have discovered a passion in their summer camp’s Arts and Crafts programs that they later pursued further.

Another way in which summer camp Arts & Crafts programs benefit campers is by providing a creative outlet for children who are being given fewer chances to explore the arts in their school programs.  Ashfaq Ishaq, PhD, argues that without being given the appropriate opportunity to explore their creative sides, children will not learn how to combine creativity with acquired knowledge to reach their full potential.   Art encourages spontaneity and exploration, two things that allow us, as people, to be innovative and prolific in our thinking.  Creativity also refines problem solving skills by helping us understand how to think “outside the box” when traditional solutions aren’t practical.  All three qualities are considered crucial to success in a child’s education as well as their adulthood careers.  Summer camp Arts & Crafts programs also give campers the opportunity to try some projects that might not be available in traditional school art programs, such as throwing clay on a pottery wheel.

For many campers, summer camp has become a way of maintaining tradition in environments that are ever changing.  Faced with a fast paced, changing world in the winter, children can still depend on summer as a way to fall back on activities and hobbies that may not be greatly valued in conventional schools anymore but are useful and bring satisfaction.  Arts and Crafts may be a dying art within American school systems.  But it’s thriving within American summer camps. 

A Look Behind the Scenes

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Every day, we rely on a several teams of individuals to make camp happen.  Everyone knows about camp counselors, the people on the front lines, but not everyone is aware of the people who work behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly.  Running a summer camp really is more than showing up in June ready to welcome campers and have fun.  There are a myriad of staff members who perform the often thankless job of working “behind the scenes” at camp.  They are a very diverse group of individuals.  Some of them answer the phone when you call the camp.   Others schedule daily activities, arrange transportation, or cook the food.   Still, others take care of your children when they’re not feeling well, or look into your concerns about their daily lives at camp.

The fact of the matter is that summer camps require individuals of many interests and talents to operate successfully, and the measure of a good summer relies on the abilities and passions of these individuals.  They often work long hours, from sunrise until the wee hours of the morning simply because they love camp.  If you ask any one of them, they’ll tell you that they do what they do because, in the end, it contributes to a successful summer for campers and their parents.  They also might be a little coy in admitting that it’s just plain fun for them.

Furthermore, these people are so good at their jobs that we don’t even adequately know how to thank them.  They work with wpassion and without regard to anything but making sure our campers and their parents have the best possible experience at our camps.  It truly is a thankless job , in many ways, to work behind the scenes at an American summer camp.  But we are thankful!

Taking One for the Team

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

They’re a staple of summer camp lore…Color Wars, although Camp Weequahic prefers less confrontational terms, such as “Olympics” and “Tribal”.   They’re steeped in tradition and every American summer camp has one, a competition usually held toward the end of the summer that, over multiple days, splits the camp into two teams and pits them against each other.  How can something like this be valuable when summer camp emphasizes family, togetherness, and spirit?  In short, these special season-ending programs give campers (and staff) the opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve learned over the summer.  In order to succeed in the various challenges that comprise these competitions, campers must draw on the experiences they’ve had and lessons they’ve learned over the summer.  They’re challenged in everything from sports to trivia.  But perhaps what’s most amazing about these events is that, in the end, it’s not about which team wins or loses.  It’s about being part of something bigger than the individual…a team, a mindset, a family, and a community.

Going Gaga for Ga-Ga

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Something you might not know about summer camp:  It breeds passionate athletes in many different sports, even ones that are little known outside of summer camp, such as ga-ga.  Although it’s not well known in America (but becoming more so everyday!), hoards of campers dream all winter about getting back into the ga-ga pit.  Many camps even have ga-ga tournaments!  Camp challenge weeks even have ga-ga challenges.  There is no doubt that campers are going gaga for ga-ga!

So what is this ga-ga?  It’s a little like dodgeball in a circular enclosed space.  Many camps feature ga-ga pits , but the game can be played virtually anywhere there are four walls or barriers.  As in dodgeball, when players are hit with the ball, they are out.  They may, however, use the walls of the ga-ga court to clear the ball.  As players are struck by the ball, they are eliminated, and leave the pit.  The last boy (or girl) standing wins.  Two primary ways that ga-ga differs from dodgeball is that ga-ga strikes must be at or below the knees and players bounce rather than throw the ball.   Also unlike dodgeball, players may either bounce the ball at other players or against the walls of the pit.  Some camps have adopted rules of play unique to their campers’ style of ga-ga play, while others prefer to stick to the official rules…What?  There are official rules?  Yep.  In fact, there is even an International Championship Tournament held annually in Europe.  More than 30 countries , including the U.S., winner of multiple championship titles, participate.

No one quite knows how ga-ga originated or where it comes from, but rumor has it that the game gets its name from the sound the ball makes during the opening play.  It’s bounced twice in the air and  the players say “ga” on each bounce.  On the third bounce, the ball is in play (some rules call for three bounces with the ball officially in play on the fourth bounce).  So warm up your ga-ga hands and start stretching.  We’ll see you in the pit!