Archive for March, 2017

Conquering the Rock Wall at Camp Weequahic

Monday, March 27th, 2017

One foot in front of the other, don’t look back, stay focused, keep your eyes on your target. All of these are popular phrases we hear throughout our lives; timeless advice that encourages us to be persistent, dedicated and to face our fears. In many ways, when campers scale the daunting Rockwall, they hear and learn many of the same principles. Climbing the wall can be used as a metaphor for camp, and camp prepares kids and teen for the real world. Campers may think they’re just doing anther camp activity, but a lot of foundational and character work happens on the wall as well.

 

There are some things at camp that are easy, and some things that aren’t. Climbing the rock wall is hard work. It takes muscles and skills you aren’t used to using, it is unfamiliar and can seem overwhelming; f you’ve never done it before, you may feel like it is too much, too hard, or too scary. Camp can bring about many of the same feelings. In the beginning, it can feel like it is too much to take on or that you struggle to get a hold on this new and unfamiliar experience. You may lose your footing, have a slip-up, or even make a mistake that sends you a few steps backward. All of this uncertainty is part of the learning process, and with encouragement from friends, campers slowly begin to embrace the newness of climbing, and of camp and find the courage to step out of their comfort zone.

 

Another way climbing the rock wall is like camp is that as you go through the process, you learn things about yourself. As you get further and further up the wall, you learn that you are stronger, more capable, braver and more determined than you did when both feet were on the ground. You learn that instead of focusing on climbing the whole wall, you simply focus on the next move. Camp is the same way, as you spend your days at camp trying new things, you uncover parts of yourself that you never knew. You discover strengths and passions that you never knew existed, and you learn to enjoy the moment instead of worrying so much about the big picture. A lot of these principles are true for life as well. You learn a lot about yourself when you step out of your comfort zone, and when things feel overwhelming, focusing on the next right step can help any problem seem more manageable.

 

When you finally make it to the top of the rock wall, there is a sense of accomplishment that can’t be put into words. It makes you realize that with hard work, persistence and a good support system, you really can do anything. Finally making it to the top proves to yourself that ever when things look challenging or even impossible, you are strong and capable, as long as you put your mind to it. Most of the time, campers who make it to the top are eager to come down and climb again, this time with a new perspective and confidence. Similarly, most campers find themselves ready to come back and try the adventure of sleep away camp once the summer has come to a close. They are excited to take the journey again, even if it means there will be days and activities that are hard, even if it means they may make mistakes or feel frustrated, they know that the end result is worth all of the hesitation and fear, and the sense of accomplishment and the self-realization that comes from taking the journey.

 

Climbing the rock wall can be a life changing, eye opening, pivotal moment for many campers. It may be the firs time they’ve faced a fear, or it may be the boost of confidence that they need as they navigate the teenage years. Climbing the rock wall is more than just a fun summer camp activity, just like camp is so much more than a place to go when school is out. Climbing the rock wall builds strength, character, self-confidence, teamwork and encourages campers to face their fears, and the goal of Camp Weequahic is to do the same thing.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone at Camp Weequahic

Monday, March 20th, 2017

It is pretty hard to step out of your comfort zone when you are literally in your comfort zone. Being in the comfort of your own home makes breaking your normal routine a little difficult.  When you are at home, you find that you are always waking up in your same room, eating breakfast at the same place, going to the same places and hanging out with the same people who are doing the same things.  Many people like routine; they enjoy the security of knowing what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen and not having any surprises. Unfortunately, things can get very boring very quickly this way.

 

So when you make the decision to physically get out of your comfort zone, and head to camp for the summer, you have no choice but to do different things, with different people, in a totally different place. Breaking your usual routine is a little bit easier when you’re somewhere else.

 

Breaking up your routine is good for you for many reasons.  First, it helps you to see things differently. It also help you to become more creative, more perceptive, and be OK with not being in control all the time.  When you get out of your comfort zone, you are bound to make mistakes. The good thing about mistakes is that they are a learning opportunity. The more mistakes you make the more you learn.  Doing things that make you nervous, afraid, or uncomfortable can be a great teaching tool.  If you are normally an indoor sort of person, bike riding, rock climbing, or learning to sail may make you kind of nervous. However, trying these things exposes you to experiences that are new and exciting, and can teach you a lot about yourself.

 

When you expose yourself to things that are unfamiliar, it makes your brain work. When your brain is working, you’re constantly learning and growing. It is great brain exercise to step out of your comfort zone and do things that are a little different.

 

Another great benefit of breaking up your every day routine is that it also allows you to break bad habits. If you find that you are constantly biting your nails while you watch TV, you may be able to break that habit at camp since you will be too busy having fun to care about TV.  If you have a bad habit of interrupting people, you will quickly learn to communicate more effectively by being surrounded by new people at camp. Breaking up your routine also causes you to break bad habits.

 

The great thing about stepping out of your comfort zone at camp is that you hardly have to do any work at all. Just by merely being at camp you are already taking the first step in changing your routine.  Every morning when you wake up at camp, there is a new day ahead of you with new experiences to try, new people to meet, and new things to learn.  Unless you sail, dance, create, climb, swim, bike ride, hike, and explore on a daily basis at home, being at camp is definitely going to be a change in your normal every day routine.  It is going to require you to do things that make you a little nervous, but in the end will give you a boost of confidence.

 

Habit and routine can be comforting, and can be a great way to stay organized and on track. However, switching it up a little bit is good for your brain, good for your soul, and good for yourself confidence.

 

Snow Day at Camp Weequahic

Friday, March 17th, 2017

Camp Weequahic is somewhere under this snow!

In middle March, with plans on putting our new Senior Camper building in the ground, we woke up to a big surprise. And then watched that surprise get bigger… and bigger… and bigger!

A great hill for sledding

Just about three FEET of snow fell onto Camp Weequahic between March 14th and 15th. It was an impressive dump for so late in the year. Everything was covered. It would have made for some pretty incredible sledding!

The slushies will be cold at canteen this year
And that leads me to this point for this Friday’s Campfire: you can figure out ways to make the best of almost any situation. There are really very, very few things I can think of when this idea does not apply. You know the phrase “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?” Well… when life gives you three feet of snow, go sledding!

HQ will be open soon!

Now, I’m not suggesting that things won’t always be perfect. Three feet of snow certainly does put a damper on a few of our plans for the coming week. But does it help if we get all bent out of shape about things?

No, of course, it doesn’t.

We can get frustrated and stew for a bit. But, if you want to move forward and make the best of a situation, you’ve got to make some plans or workarounds. Sometimes we feel we have to be perfect and that everything needs to go exactly as planned.

Sometimes we feel we have to be perfect and that everything needs to go exactly as planned. Having run a summer camp for sixteen years, I can promise you very, very few things go exactly as planned. (Remembering my experiences when going through middle school, high school, and college only adds weight to that conclusion!)The important thing to remember is where you are trying to get to. If you are dealing with a friendship, you want to make that relationship awesome. If you are running a summer camp, you want to help families create great humans. (We do it by creating an amazing experience for everyone we meet through gratitude, attitude, and courage.)

The important thing to remember is where you are trying to get to. If you are dealing with a friendship, you want to make that relationship awesome. If you are running a summer camp, you want to help families create great humans. (We do it by creating an amazing experience for everyone we meet through gratitude, attitude, and courage.)

Creative tool use!

We’ll get through the snow just as we’ll get through anything we put our mind to. We will need to ask for help to get unstuck at times. And, sometimes, we have to use the tools available to us in creative ways. Sure, it may be a little embarrassing but those experiences are fantastic learning situations. Plus, you can laugh at yourself a bit which is always beneficial.

So, when plans don’t go exactly as you want, give yourself a few moments to be frustrated. Then, make a plan and move forward. In most situations, there are lots of ways to get things done. You just have to be creative. And, make sure to have a little fun along the way.

Have a great weekend,

Cole

(PS – As I finished up typing this, Jerry F., our long time Operations Director, facetimed me while walking around camp… in a tshirt! It seems Camp Weequahic can’t wait for summer!)

How Camp Taught Me to be Humble

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Camp is a lot of things. It’s fun and it’s gorgeous and it’s exciting. But it’s also very big. It’s acres and acres of land, its gigantic trees and sprawling landscapes and giant lakes. It is set against giant mountains and has a unique way of quickly reminding everyone who enters about how small they are in the grand scheme of things.

Camp has a funny way of putting things into perspective for both campers and staff, and it can be a humbling experience. It’s interesting how one camper who is considered “popular” at school enters the camp experience completely equal to the quiet and reserved student who doesn’t say much at school. Status at school and at home means nothing here and puts everyone on the same playing field from day one.

Take Max for example: Being the star athlete was how he defined himself at home. He was the fastest and strongest on his team, and everyone knew it. But when he got to camp, he met some other guys who were equally as talented, some even more so, and it challenged Max to find other ways to define himself. He did a lot of soul-searching that summer, and learned about the deep and foundation character traits that defined him, and learned that being a great athlete was just a part of who he was, not all of who he was.

Life lessons like this are learned all the time at camp. Campers can learn humility in other ways as well. One of the best ways to learn to be humble is by serving others. Campers see first hand how to serve others selflessly every day as they watch counselors and staff work hard for them. Campers also act as Big Brothers and Big Sisters and learn quickly what a big responsibly it is to have people look up to you.

Camp is such a unique experience, and many campers leave with a deep appreciation of the experience they were gifted. They understand that so many kids across the country don’t have access to such an innovative, hands-on, safe, fun and diverse camp experience, and they leave camp truly humbled and grateful for what they have.

Character building and life lessons are built into the foundation of Camp Weequahic. Campers learn a lot about themselves here and develop a deeper and more genuine understanding of themselves and the world around them, all while they jump, dive, sing, run, play, act, create, dance and swim the days away.

Jamming Out at Camp

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Music can be tied into so many activities and experiences at camp. From songs around the campfire to traveling songs, incorporating music into camp life just comes naturally. For campers who are interested in fine arts such as dance, music and theatre, music is a tool that can be used to express themselves in a way that written or spoken word just can’t. Dance classes give campers an artistic outlet to do what they love, and can create a strong sense of self-confidence.  Camp Weequahic gives them the opportunity to explore music as a way of self-expression, and has so many benefits for the growing minds of young campers.

 

Whether it is singing, dancing, or playing an instrument, music works wonders on a growing, adolescent brain, and can teach them things that build their character and helps them become more productive members of society. While they are having fun with their fellow campers and counselors through music instruction, they don’t realize they are becoming more creative, more communicative, and more well- rounded in the process. At the end of the summer, many campers are proud to go home and show off their new musical abilities, and it gives them a sense of pride to have learned something new while they were away from home.

 

Children who learn to play an instrument at an early age benefit in many ways. It teaches perseverance, helps with math and number skills, enhances coordination, improves memory, reading and comprehension skills, and can help sharpen focus and concentration. Studies have shown that learning to play an instrument has lifelong benefits, which is why music and access to instruments is such an important part of camp life. Campers can learn to play the guitar, participate in a live show, or learn about the behind the scenes workings of a real radio station. Camp provides plenty of options for all kinds of personalities and learning styles to really dive into music and everything it can teach them.

 

It is safe to assume that most campers are exposed to music on a daily basis back at home, but at camp they are exposed to different types of music, which broadens their horizons and helps them become more culturally aware. They learn to appreciate different styles of music, and learn the history behind specific music styles, instruments and songs.

 

Camp Weequahic is all about providing children with the tools and resources they need to build their character and set up a foundation for a successful future. This goal could not be reached without the incorporation of dance, songs and musical instruments into the every day life of the campers.

Mindset Matters

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

No too long ago, a very smart researcher and teacher wrote an important book that changed my thinking. In Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck discusses the differences between growth and fixed mindsets. To quote her website:

“Mindsets are beliefs – beliefs about yourself and your most basic qualities. Think about your intelligence, your talents, your personality. Are these qualities simply fixed traits, carved in stone and that’s that? Or are they things you can cultivate throughout your life?

People with a fixed mindset believe that their traits are just givens. They have a certain amount of brains and talent and nothing can change that. If they have a lot, they’re all set, but if they don’t… So people in this mindset worry about their traits and how adequate they are. They have something to prove to themselves and others.

People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, but that’s just the starting point. They understand that no one has ever accomplished great things—not Mozart, Darwin, or Michael Jordan—without years of passionate practice and learning.”

At Camp…

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had kids at camp who said they couldn’t do something: get to the top of the climbing tower, get up on stage, make a fire, or make it another day at camp… only to succeed after changing their minds.

There will be lots of cases when you may think to yourself, “I’m just not good at this. Nothing will help.” (I know I certainly felt that way in both my Statistics and Cost Accounting classes….)

But here’s the thing – that’s just not true. Sure, you may not be world class at something, even if you give it your best shot for many, many years. But you can ALWAYS improve. And, if you have that growth mindset, you’ve got the best chance of improving.

Words Have Power

Dr. Dweck ran an interesting experiment. Kids were separated evenly between two rooms and each room was given the same puzzle. Once everyone had finished, the researcher in one room told the kids, “Wow, you finished. You must be really good at puzzles.”

The other room was told something slight different. “Wow, you finished. You must have worked really hard on that puzzle.”

Not very different, huh? But wait – and this is where things get interesting. That same researcher gave each group of kids a harder puzzle to solve, a really tough one. What do you think happened?

The researchers found that the room of kids told they were “good at puzzles” gave up solving the puzzle at a much higher and faster rater than the kids who were complimented on ‘working hard.’ Hmm….

Are Good or a Hard Worker?

Being good at something is a zero-sum game. That means either you are good at something or you aren’t. And, if you feel you aren’t good at something, how long do you do it? Right… not long.

However, if you see yourself as a hard worker, someone who will persevere and take on a challenge, you’ll keep at things longer and have a greater chance of success.

As you can see from the experiment, it doesn’t take much to change your thinking. Just a few words are needed from an important source – a teacher or parent or mentor – to make a change in a young person’s mind.

But do you know who’s voice is most important on this front? Your own! As we are fond of saying at Camp Weequahic, you get to pick your attitude all of the time.

Do your best to choose a growth mindset going forward. It will help more than you can imagine. We’ll be ready to help you keep that rolling at camp this summer. Have a great weekend!