I’m still amazed by the fun and unique skills I acquired as a camper for 8 years of my life. Camp brought me to the mountains each summer, out of the smog and into the fresh air, where sometimes I felt like I could breathe for the first time; literally and figuratively.
I was obsessed about those weeks at camp during the summer all year long. What new campers would I meet? Who would be my counselor? But mostly it was about the activities that I looked forward to participating in. Each day at camp was action-packed with things to do, and many of the skills I learned proved beneficial in the future – although some proved to be just for fun. Here are the best skills that summer camp taught me:
How to be a Crafting Goddess: To this day I’m an avid crafter and Do-it-yourselfer. For one thing, there was the beading. We’d make friendship bracelets and necklaces – something I still do today – and there was also painting and drawing, which remained important throughout my youth. The silk screening was perhaps my favorite.
How to be Brave in the Face of Ropes and Obstacle Courses: If you’re not familiar with something called ‘high ropes’, then you should know that it’s a serious courage/team building experience. The aerial obstacle course – with the use of harnesses and ropes – was seriously one of the most terrifying things I ever did as a kid, and the most exhilarating. It inspired a rock-climbing passion in my later life.
How to Canoe: Not only was canoeing a big part of camp, but also sailing and swimming. Any reservations I had about getting in the water when I was little were put to rest at camp.
Target Shooting: Ok, this might not sound like a good idea, but archery was a big deal at camp, and sharpened my precision and focus. It also just made me feel like I was super cool.
Sing with Courage: The first time I sang in front of a crowd was at a campfire, and it took courage. I wasn’t the best singer, but it did impress a few of my friends. No shame in that.
How to be Comfortable with Nature: Camp was the first time in my life that I slept under the stars. I was scared at first of the bugs, the ground, animals; you name it. But I learned that it’s pretty spectacular, and today I’m still not afraid of the big bad wolf.
Social Skills: In hind sight, I realize that this might have been the greatest thing that camp taught me. When you’re sleeping in a cabin with 13 other girls, or boys, your age, you learn how to interact and get along with people who are different than you. You learn about the commonalities that you share with those of various backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests. This is a skill that benefits every aspect of your life as an adult, and I’m grateful that camp taught me how to get along with people.
In the end, it’s clear that I took a great deal away from my camping experience as a kid. I wouldn’t give-up those memories for all the world, but it’s really the things I learned to do and the skills I still have today that made the whole camping experience totally worthwhile.
As night falls over Camp Weequahic, the loud and crazy activities of the day give way to the whispered and wonderful activities of the evening.
Bedtime stories, chilled-out card games, and friendly chatter fill the hour between returning inside and falling asleep.
As a camp counselor, you will always need plenty of fun, surprising activities to keep the fun flowing. Learning a few shadow-animals is a sure-fire way to spark campers’ creativity and interest. The best part is, all you need is a flashlight and a wall! (Check and check!)
Level 1: Bear & Alligator
The simplest shadow animals use your thumbs for ears mouths, and can be easily modified to match dozens of recognizable animal faces! Try curling in your fingers to make a snub-nosed pug out of the alligator, or move the bear’s ear over its nose to make a triceratops dinosaur!
Level 2: Dog and Eagle
Woof woof! Wrap your right hand around the left to add two ears and a defined head-shape to your friendly Fido!
Then try using your hands for a flapping bird — one of the oldest tricks in the book. You can spread and curve your fingers to make a creepy spider for some easy heeby-jeebies!
Level 3: Deer and Mountain Goat
Once you’ve mastered the dog, adding curved horns and and a peep-hole for the eyes can turn it into both a deer and a mountain goat. Getting the shape just right for less recognizable critters than dogs and birds can be tricky, but it’s worth the effort once you’ve nailed it!
Level 4: Rabbit and Bear Cub
The final step in shadow animal mastery is the jump from faces to full-bodied creatures! The trick here is using one hand for the legs and body while the other takes care of ears and mouth. Getting the angle “just so” is more important here than with easier animals. Once you’ve got it, they can crawl, wave, and give high-fives!
Bedtime is fun time!
Hand shadows can also add some interactive fun to traditional camp stories, or even make an appearance in your group’s skit or talent show performance!
Once you’ve mastered the basics, what other unexpected animals and shapes can you and your campers dream up?
Practice at home and be sure to share your creations with us, whether on Facebook or in person!
In our first summer at CW in 2009, we had 120 campers from seven states and two countries. It was great – our campers came from lots of places and were thrilled to meet kids and staff from all lots of different places..
Over the ensuing eight years, camp has grown to include over 200 boys and 200 girls from sixteen states and eleven different countries. In fact, our campers fly or drive in from every continent on Earth (well… except for the big block of ice at the South Pole….)
When families ask ‘where do most of your campers come from?’, the East Coast is the best way to answer. We have pretty equal numbers from New York City, southern Florida, greater Washington DC and New Jersey. We have smaller but still vibrant populations from Westchester County, Philadelphia, Georgia, Long Island, and California as well as several states.
This allows our campers to build relationships with kids who they can see throughout the year either close to home or on a vacation to fun spots. We love seeing all the pictures of kids who get to see one another throughout the year!
In addition to our US kids, we enjoy campers from France, Spain, Belgium, China, Russia, India, Columbia, Sweden, Texas, Italy, and Equatorial Guinea among others. While our international campers make up only about ten percent of our total population, they add a wonderful ‘smaller Earth’ perspective for all of our campers and have been a joy to have at CW.
While our campers are our main focus, we could not have nearly as much fun as we do without our amazing staff. Two-thirds of our staff come from all over the US while the rest come from too many countries to list. Suffice it to say, our international night gets pretty rowdy! These staff members come for one reason alone: to create a remarkable experience for every person they encounter through Gratitude, Attitude and Courage.
We are so excited to have campers and staff of all sizes, colors, and backgrounds at CW each summer. Our diverse community has a blast learning, growing and laughing together.
So, don’t be surprised if you see Weequahic gear being spotted on the Champs-Elysees, Broadway, Cinque Terra, the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the Golden Gate Bridge or near the Great Wall. Our people wear Weequahic all over the world!
We are firm believers in continual learning and challenge ourselves to get better each year. Thankfully, we are blessed to be in a field that is full of generous, smart people who are passionate about their work and happy to share.
At Weequahic, we’ve started our own book club. Each month, a different one of our year round team members picks a book and applies its lessons to camp. We have enjoyed learning from the likes of Brenee Brown, Charles Duhigg, and Andy Stanley among others.
In addition to our self-guided learning, we get to spend time each year with camp professionals both within Wayne County and from around the country.
The Wayne County Camp Alliance is made up of 30 diverse, engaging, and fantastic camps. We gather multiple times a year to share ideas, questions and plan for the future success of our partners. (Our campers who like to compete also get a kick out of being a part of this group as we join in tournaments in all of our sports and several of our arts!)
Recently, many of our year round team just returned from the ACA National Convention where we learned from great ‘camp thinkers’ like Jeff Leiken, Bob Ditter, Michael Brandwein and Kerry Plemmons.
We got caught up on the most recent research on working with kids, guiding teens, training and evaluating our staff and building a camp culture that thrives. We also go to poke and prod at these ideas and other with camp professionals from around the world.
The common comment leaving ACA Nationals was ‘Wow – that was kind of like our own pre-camp orientation. I’m so energized for camp!’ I couldn’t agree more.
The best learning, however, comes from the summer itself. Hosting 200 staff members and 450 kids from around the world gives us all innumerable opportunities to learn, grow and add to CW. Many of our best ideas have some from our community such as the Prize Wheel, amazing EAs, the Weequahic Competition Leagues, “Jinter” (the name for our fifth and sixth group), the Fort, and more.
Yes, there are some things that will never change at camp. The safety of our campers and staff will always be paramount. We will create amazing experiences for everyone we encounter using GAC. We will collect the best group of staff and kids we can find and have more fun than we thought possible.
Everything else? Well, we’ve still got a lot to learn….
Can’t wait for camp!