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.
I was nervous and excited to send my son Connor to Camp Weequahic this year. Connor’s best friend attended the camp the summer before and could not stop raving about it. So after plenty of research and discussions, we decided to let Connor spend the summer away. I won’t lie, my “mommy heart” broke a little when he practically jumped out of the car at drop off and didn’t look back, but I was pretty sure we were making the right decision. Last week, when we picked him up, I was 100% sure we had made the right decision. The excited, smiley kid who jumped into our backseat was….different.
I couldn’t pin point many differences right away, except for the excitement in his eyes and voice when he talked about all of his new friends and cracked himself up remembering inside jokes and hilarious conversations with his new buddies. One of the main things I noticed when we got home was how helpful he had become. Without me asking, he would make his bed, take his plates to the sink, offer to bring in the groceries or even simply ask if he could get us anything from the kitchen since he was going that way. I noticed a new sense of thoughtfulness when he came back. Not that he was heartless before by any means, but I definitely noticed a change in his willingness to help others and think of others before himself. As the days passed, my heart exploded with joy to see him excited to email, chat and FaceTime all of his new friends. He went to camp a little reserved, and came back social and confident. I loved seeing him interact with his peers, I loved seeing how he was truly listening to what others had to say, and how he felt confident contributing to the conversation.
Just today, he told me he was going to try out for soccer tryouts at school, a sport he had never played before camp. He said he was encouraged to try it at camp and played it almost every day while he was there. As a mom, I am blown away at what positive changes have come from sending my son to camp. I knew he would make friends, try a new activity or two, and learn to live both independently and with a group, but I had no idea about the social skills, character development, relational growth, and boost in confidence that spending just a few weeks away could create.
Any parent that is even thinking about sending their kid to camp should stop thinking right now and sign them up. Not only will you enjoy a few kid-free weeks of relaxation, but when your kid comes home, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at everything they’ve learned, and more importantly, who they’ve become.
Camp Weequahic changed my son for the better, and we are both looking forward to the growth and changes that will happen next summer at camp!
Did you know that there are certain things, certain scientifically proven things, that are shown to create and increase the hormones in our brain that make us happy? This isn’t just some fluffy stuff we made up, it’s proven by really smart scientists who know their stuff!
The amazing thing is, that most of the things doctors and scientists recommend people to do to be happy can all be done at camp! No wonder kids who spend their summers at Camp Weequahic are some of the happiest kids around!
Stop and Smell The Roses: Well, any flower will do, really. A study done from the Human Emotions Laboratory at Rutgers University found that “flowers in general are a powerful positive emotions inducer.” In the study, people exposed to floral scents were three times more likely to have immediate associations with happy and positive memories. Lavender can decrease anxiety and depression and jasmine can have a calming effect. Lucky for campers, the grounds are a hot spot for beautiful fauna, and sweet smelling flowers can be found just about anywhere. There are many distinct smells at camp, including sunscreen, bug spray and s’mores. But the soft scent of flowers will definitely boost your mood anytime.
Exercise in the Morning: Exercise plays a huge part in your mood. When we are feeling slow and lazy, our mood tends to reflect that. When we are active and moving about, we tend to be happier. Exercise releases endorphins and proteins that make us feel happier. Getting active first thing in the morning is an excellent way to prepare your brain for a great day. At camp, kids have plenty of opportunities to start their day with a run, a swim, yoga class or a game of football. Getting an early start is a great mood changer, and can be the first step in a happier day!
Spend Time With Happy People: Everyone has had that one friend or acquaintance who is negative all of the time and who complains a lot. It can be mentally exhausting to be surrounded by all of that negativity, and it’ll eventually take a toll on your personal happiness. Scientists say surrounding yourself with happy, positive people will make you a more positive and happy person. It’s hard to be down and depressed when you’re around people who are hungry for life, laughter and adventure. And, what do you know, camp is chock full of happy people. Both the campers and the staff are having the time of their lives, and their mood, vibes and happiness are totally contagious.
Go Outside: Being outside and connecting with nature can do wonders on your mood. Getting out and about has been proven to increase concentration, reduces stress, and (surprise!) can boost your mood and overall happiness. The fresh air is good for you, the Vitamin D you get from the sun is beneficial, and the ever-changing scenery of the outdoors is an excellent way to get your brain working and help you to focus better. A large portion of a camper’s day is spent outside, enjoying the sunshine and exploring nature, and this helps them to feel energized and excited.
Teachers and parents have said time and time again that they can just tell the difference between kids who go to camp and kids who stay home. “There’s just something different about kids who go to camp. It’s their confidence, their mood, their overall happiness” is something heard quite often about campers. And it makes sense! Spending the summer at Camp Weequahic is the perfect formula for happiness, and gives a whole new meaning to the term “happy campers”
Summer camp is already super fun. So as you can probably imagine, adding international campers and counselors to the mix turns up the fun-dial even higher!
…But international camp isn’t just the same camp activities and friendships with a few exotic accents thrown into the mix. The secret sauce that makes international camp so special to returning campers is the chance to learn something about people who are truly “different” — and learn something about themselves in the process.
1. Difference is the spice of life
Everyone is different and special in their own way — at international camp, they’re just a little more different! Meeting peers from other countries and finding common ground with campers from the other side of the world teaches international campers to value differences.
After all, no one wants to be around people who are exactly like themselves all the time! Learning to appreciate different cultures helps international campers grow into curious, tolerant, and fun-loving world citizens.
2. Communication is everything
Is talking about communication redundant? We sure hope not, because workshopping camper communications skills is a huge part of the leadership programming out here at camp! International camp is a chance for campers to put their communication skills to the test.
Especially when all the campers come from different cultures with separate languages, finding common ground and making oneself understood can become a challenge; every international camper learns the rewards of sharing a part of yourself with someone completely different.
3. Meaningful friendships
Friendship is at the core of the camp experience, and it’s what keeps campers returning year after year.
“Who’s going to be in my group this year?”
“Where will they come from, and what will they be like?”
Questions like these are at the top of any young summer camper’s mind.
…The best part is, once the summer ends, international campers return home with pen pals from every corner of the globe. Who knows — maybe you’ll even go visit some of your new friends in France, China, and Spain some day soon!
4. Tolerance is the international passport
In a world that’s more connected every day, learning to be tolerant of those who are different from you is an important lesson for everyone to learn — not just summer campers.
International campers learn first-hand how the differences between cultures can be fun and interesting rather than intimidating or alienating. Bridging cultures is the name of the game at international camp.
5. Curiosity is key
International campers know that the secret to making friends is to always be curious. Instead of assuming things about people from different cultures, international campers simply ask.
When it comes to making friends with campers from other countries, listening with a curious ear is the easiest path to a fun summer. Who knows what you might learn!
Always open to new experiences
The world is an adventurous place full of fun and opportunity for those who know where to look. International camp is an excellent first step, teaching campers not just the exciting things the world has to offer, but an appreciation for the things that make their own culture unique and interesting.
Every country in the world seems exotic from someone’s perspective — for international campers, the world is one big family!
When you hear the words “summer camp,” you probably think of three things right away: campfires, friendship — and nature.
Without any of these essential elements, camp just wouldn’t be the same. Spending much-needed “digital detox” time in the woods is what brings many of us back year after year, so it’s no surprise that hiking in the natural areas around Camp Weequahic is one of the most popular activities each summer!
There’s nothing like fresh mountain air to remind us of the things that matter in life.
The healing power of nature
Hiking is a serious workout, but it isn’t just about “building character.” Life on the trail has many proven emotional and health benefits that make it a wonderful way for campers and counselors alike to pass the afternoon.
For example: did you know the average person only walks half as much as doctors recommend for a healthy lifestyle?
This is particularly unfortunate for kids, many of whom aren’t spending nearly enough time outside. Aside from missing out on the emotional benefits of sunshine and endorphins, it’s no mystery to parents that time spent in front of iPads and Playstations is rarely time well-spent.
Needless to say, everyone gets in plenty of exercise out of an afternoon in the woods!
Connecting with the natural world
But it isn’t the health benefits of hiking that get campers excited about getting out on the trail. Quite the opposite: in the high-energy world of camp sports and games, hiking is a perfect slow-down time.
New friends can use the time to talk and get to know one another, and others can use the time to “zen out” with the forest and enjoy the experience of being out in the wild.
With so many campers coming from urban and suburban areas, time spent hiking around Camp Weequahic may be a first-time experience with the peace and quiet of the woodlands!
The journey is the destination
Like all the activities at summer camp, hiking contains many lessons that strike to the core of what the camp experience is all about.
Most importantly, campers are reminded that the journey is as important as the destination. The summit may be spectacular, but the best part of hiking come from the camaraderie and togetherness of tackling the trail — and the pure value of experiencing the great outdoors.
Life is like a trail, and every journey begins with a single step. Whatever your dream may be, it’s waiting for you at the top of the mountain. The journey may be long… but there’s no reason to make it alone! Stick with your camp friends and you’ll be there before you know it!
I could hear my heart pounding in my chest and I felt like I was going to throw up. I could hear the whispers of my fellow campers just behind the curtain, and I became absolutely certain that this was a very very bad idea. And then, like slow motion, the curtain lifted and I saw the entire audience looking at me. And the music that was all so familiar from practice started, and my feet started moving and my lips started talking and I was doing it! I was preforming in front of a huge crowd and to my surprise, I was LOVING it. It was so much fun pretending to be someone else, and I lost myself in the character I was playing. I had never been in a play before, and never thought as myself as the “in the spotlight” kind of kid, but I felt right at home on stage.
One of the reasons I felt so confident on my big night was because we had so many opportunities to practice. Every day, almost from the first day at camp, we would all get together and practice our lines, our movements and we got a lot of guidance from our counselors, some of whom had been in dozens of plays in high school and college! They were so helpful in making us feel comfortable and confident, and sometimes we forgot we were “working” because we were having so much fun.
Some of my cast mates were from preforming arts schools, and had a lot of theatre experience under their belt. We all really learned a lot from them, and were lucky to have them on our team. But no matter if we had done 10 plays or this was our first one, everyone was treated like a very valuable part of the production. I loved the feeling of being part of a team (since sports have never really been my thing) and feeling valued, wanted and appreciated. When I got nervous, I just had to look out of the corner of my eye to my friend Jake who would give me an encouraging nod or wink, and I suddenly found my confidence. When someone else got tripped up on their lines or forgot their mark, I was able to mouth the words or improvise so that the show flowed smoothly.
Since I was in the play at camp, public speaking at school has been much easier. I even tried out for the play at school, and although I didn’t get the role I auditioned for, I’m having a great time being part of the production. That is another thing that being in the camp play helped me with; understanding that you don’t always get the starring role, but that without the supporting roles, the play can’t go on! Everyone has such an important role, no matter how small, and I love that about being in theatre.
After the play, everyone clapped and cheered, and for the rest of my time at camp, people I didn’t even know came up and told me how funny I was and what a good job I did. It was so nice to get that encouragement from my fellow campers. Some even said that they’re going to try out next time!
Being in the camp play was one of the most exciting, nerve-wracking, and amazing things I’ve ever done, and I learned so much!
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!
Camp is super duper fun… but every summer camper (or camp counselor) knows that with the fun comes a dash of craziness!
The days are packed with activities, and among those activities are tons of quirky camp traditions.
One of the most special things about summer camp is how traditions are passed on through returning campers and counselors.
Here are a few of our favorite classic camp traditions!
No morning is complete without the traditional Camp Weequahic flag ceremony! Like the traditional evening campfire, flag-raising is a time for everyone at camp to gather together and remember that we’re all in it together. (And of course, double-check that no one overslept!)
Like with everything at camp, there is always time to be a little goofy, and flag ceremonies are no exception. From spontaneous camp songs to call-and-response games, you never know what the counselor’s are going to pull out of their sleeves!
Ah, the sweet smell of soot and s’mores…
No camp would be complete without a campfire. Community campfires are a time for the entire group to come together for songs, dance, theater, and of course the infamous talent shows.
Usually the campfire starts with fast, silly songs and a few games to get everyone grounded and relaxed. As the night progresses, slower songs and fun stories are shared around the fire until it’s finally time to say goodnight and return to the cabins. (And brush our teeth! That means you!)
Mmm, lunchtime — everyone’s favorite activity of the day!
(Aside from breakfast and dinner, that is.)
Feeding dozens of campers at the same time would be chaotic if there were no traditions to make mealtime run smoothly. Everyone has to “sing for their supper,” so it’s no surprise that so many camp songs center around food. “Heeeey burrito!”
Camp songs may be one of the strangest traditions to those who have never been to camp — but these ridiculous jingles are something that campers everywhere have in common!
Traditions that keep on giving
Summer camp is an integral part of American life, and the rhythm of day-to-day life lets everyone play their part in the story.
From all-camp events like dances, talent shows, and barbecues, to specific hiking songs, camp life has something for everybody. Trust us, you’ll get into the swing of things before you know it.
…And before long, you’ll be ready to participate in the best camp tradition of all — making your own!