At one of America’s Finest Summer Camps, a first year camper, upon stepping off the bus on arrival day for the first time, immediately exclaimed, “I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life!” The awe of that young camper at that moment was very reminiscent of the scene in The Little Mermaid in which the young mermaid Ariel finds herself on land for the first time and, with her new legs, begins experiencing a whole new world. She is mesmerized by the smallest human things—flatware, trinkets, and mirrors. For young campers who finally get to come to camp for the first time after sometimes waiting their “whole lives,” there is a sense of wonder in being in a new place with different people and things. They are surrounded by literally dozens of activities that perhaps they’ve never tried and, sometimes, of which they’ve never even heard. Like Ariel the mermaid, they sometimes hear about the world of camp from older siblings for years before finally getting to experience themselves. With that newness and the adventure of being in a place one has dreamed for a very long time comes a sense of openness and a willingness to try new things. New campers often want to try EVERYTHING!
And why not? What better way to discover which things one loves than at summercamp, an environment in which many new campers are away from their parents for the first time? There is no sideline pressure from over-zealous parents and coaches at camp sports. There are no teachers to mark right from wrong. Instead, new campers are surrounded by supportive counselors, staff, and friends, many of whom are also first time campers and that natural empathy creates an atmosphere conducive to bonding and the formation of lasting friendships.
As campers maneuver the new world of camp, they share like experiences. Whether big, like taking on a high ropes course for the first time as a cabin or bunk, or small, like learning how to bait a fishing hook, learning what camp is all about becomes the foundation for the transformation of the new world of first time campers into the special world of camp. Because the menu of camp activities constantly expands and evolves, there is a perpetual newness to the summer camp experience.
We have been thrilled with our Camp Weequahic staff and have been excited to get so much positive feedback from our camp families. Many have asked about the qualities we look for in a staff member. Here’s a good list (but not a complete one!)
‘Other’ focused rather than ‘me’ focused
Concerned with physical and emotional safety above all
Engaged with the kids on their level at all times
A person who advocates for their campers while keeping the bigger picture of camp in mind.
Chooses their attitude daily
Someone who manages their energy well
Excited and able to teach in a specific area
Fantastic role model
Excited to give up two months of their summer in order to make life long memories and a leave positive, lasting impression on
We are excited to welcome new staff to our community each summer. These new staff members normally come through word of mouth referrals and have to go through several rounds of interviews, background checks and our nine day orientation before working with our campers. We are thrilled to welcome them to our community and help them build the type of experience that makes campers never want to leave!
Before texting and skype, before emails and faxes, there was a tried and true method of communication called ‘letter writing.’ Putting pencil to paper was one of the most effective ways to communicate for a long time. All that is needed is a piece of paper, an envelop, a stamp and a little bit of effort – no electricity required!
At Camp Weequahic, we certainly enjoy the benefits of technology. Our parents see up to 300 pictures a day. We base our fun and rather intricate daily program on an online data system. We keep in touch with our trips with cell phones and walkie talkies. However, when it comes to our campers connecting with parents at home, we are big time traditionalists.
Campers are required to bring a letter to dinner two nights a week. Their letter is their ticket into
the meal and, yes, we do make sure there is something written in the envelope! Of course, the campers can write as much as they’d like.
While it certainly takes longer to arrive home, these letters become treasured pieces of family lore. We have many times witnessed Mom and Dad bringing out their old camp letters to read when meeting our director, Cole. These letters bring out several laughs and helps prepare the next generation.
We at Weequahic are happy to hold on to a great deal of camp tradition. Regardless of where technology is taking us, we writing letters is as important as Color War to the tradition of camp. Happy writing!
“Healthy Competition” is a term that is often used at summer camp. While they also offer a wide selection of niche and hobby type activities, traditional summer camps focus heavily on sports. The emphasis, however, is more about encouraging campers to be active and improve their skills. This is not to say that campers do not participate in sports matches. In fact, many camps not only facilitate game play through intra camp leagues, but inter camp leagues as well. Thus, “healthy competition”, as it is used at camp, is an expression to describe contests with positive encouragement, regardless of the outcome, and not merely a synonym for “no competition.”
Po Bronson, co-author of Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing believes that the camaraderie that results fromh healthy team competition encourages children to learn at a faster pace and alleviates the stress of learning a new skill or attempting to improve existing abilities on one’s own. Another aspect of camp competition that makes it healthy competition is that it’s limited in scope and time. It takes place only as long as camp lasts and does not extend beyond the camp environment. This, according to Bronson, is a key element of “healthy competition, “In finite games, you compete and then you let it go, and you have rest and recuperation – that’s actually really important for kids,” said Bronson. “It’s the continuous sense of pressure that is unhealthy for them.”
The stress of not making a team or of underperforming is not a pervading force in camp athletics. Says Bronson, “What kids do need to learn is losing is not that big a deal. They need to learn to lose and go ‘Oh, whatever,’ and move on and keep playing…You want to get them to turn up the work ethic in order to win.” At camp, losing is not a big deal, because every summer is a new summer–new tryouts, new teams, and new possibilities. The constant rearrangement of groups also helps campers shrug off losses. Another day brings another activity and a new group with which to compete. A loss in one activity does not translate to a closely monitored record that eventually defines a team and, sometimes, individuals. The teams are constantly changing and so are the competitions.
The break between summers also makes growth measurable for campers. When children constantly train and participate in a sport, it’s more difficultfor them to see themselves improving, even when they are. The ten month gap from one summer to the next provides campers with the time and distance necessary for improvements to be noticeable. The distinct parameters of camp that restrict it to a single season—summer—also remove the constant pressure of advancing skills as quickly as possible so as to always be able to perform at peak level. Every summer is a new summer–new tryouts, new teams, and new possibilities. As a result, campers tend to maintain a healthy attitude about camp sports, which makes them naturally receptive to the idea of genuinely healthy competition. At camp, it’s not so much about winning and losing as setting goals and measuring one’s progress from summer to summer.
“What kids need more than anything is not to win or lose but a close race, a fair competition where everyone feels like they’ve got a fighting chance,” says Bronson. “Where everyone feels like they have a fighting chance” is exactly what summer camp is, and why it’s an environment naturally conducive to healthy competition.
The sound of the drums echoed through the camp as the 2013 Tribal Wars commenced. With great anticipation, the campers silently paraded from the activities center to the lakefront, led by one of their CW Chief, Kate! Met by Chief Cole at the lakefront, our two Big Chiefs welcomed the three new tribes, Sioux, Comanche and Seminole, who joined last summer’s victor and current holder of the deed, Choctaw.
The CIT team leaders’ opening speeches set the tone for yet another exhilarating three days of friendly competition, contagious spirit and good fun! The bonfire was lit, teams were announced and the excitement began.
The first day was filled with various games, from traditional sports, such as tennis, soccer and flag football to whacky games such as Steal the chicken, Quidditch and more. Later in the day, kids used technical skills in Woodshop and Top Chef to create team signs and decorate cupcakes.
Regardless of the activity, cheers were in abundance as teams supported one another and encouraged sportsmanship. In many instances, two teams join forces in competition, which is a fantastic way to break down any potential barriers among the four tribes. Downtime for the campers is spent learning cheers and songs, all in preparation for the culminating spirit night.
The CIT’s are demonstrating their leadership by collaborating with their peers and counselor leaders to organize the minute details of Tribals- all in the interest of uniting their respective teams to create CW memories that will last a lifetime.
This summer, Weequahic’s Top Chef Kitchen is where it is at…with the newly renovated kitchen, equipped with four professional cooking stations, campers can’t seem to get enough of the fantastic offerings. Designed to meet the ever-growing interest in cooking, Cole and Kate created a top-of-the-line facility adorned with ten burners, four microwaves, three ovens, two dishwashers and a sub zero with enough space to accommodate as many as 24 campers, both boys and girls alike.
Designed with the older camper in mind, the experienced and inspired staff teaches
a variety of skills, including use of knives, fire, safety and more. The goal of Top Chef is to expand campers’ insatiable palate by introducing them to a wide array of healthy and easy to prepare foods that can be replicated at home.
Campers are not only responsible for preparing the ingredients, but for the cooking and baking, as well. And, a definite highlight for the parents at home, the campers are cleaning too! The staff is providing an engaging environment where the boys and girls are challenged. They are quickly becoming adept at using the kitchen’s equipment, collaborating with one another, as well as experimenting with new ingredients.
Some of the featured menu items have been: veggie spring rolls, fettuccini alfredo, sushi, omelets, mac n cheese muffins, loaded nachos and tacos and more – the list goes on! Campers enjoy the relaxed and cool atmosphere (literally best AC on camp), cooking with friends and devouring amazing food.
So, when campers returns home, break out the chef hat and apron and put them to work!