We are all pretty good at hearing things. As I write this, I can here my neighbor’s mower, Mac barking at a squirrel in the yard (again), and Mr. Nichols typing away on his computer. But, while I hear those different noises, I’m not listening to them. In fact, I’m doing my best to listen to my own voice as I write this short Friday night Campfire idea for you all.
Most of the time, when we listen, we are spending more time preparing what to say rather than truly understanding what the person in front of us is saying. In this fall of a Presidential campaign, there is a lot of responding and not a whole lot of understanding. And, I think, that’s a problem. A ‘YUGE’ one.
We all have the challenge of being a little ‘too long on mouth’ and ‘too short on ears.’ They do outnumber the mouth, you know. In fact, I’d even add the eyes to the mouth as listening instruments since 80% of communication is body language. What does that mean? Well… we should all listen a lot more than we talk.
Have you ever been around a really great listener? They make a difference to you. You leave their presence being more comfortable, attended to, valuable, and jazzed up. It’s such a big effect, some companies test applicants by putting them in a room with a bunch of other applicants and tell to speak about whatever they’d like. The company then hires those who show themselves the best listeners.
We do something similar in our interview process for staff and a lot of that during orientation. Our staff give up their personal time to listen to our campers. And, they are listening both with their ears and their eyes. So many times, our staff will pull one of us aside and say something like “could you keep an eye on….” That means, while things might seem great, they are concerned about a camper. Listening a campers body language and interpreting it is one of the most important skills a camp counselor can develop.
Sometimes, with great friends, not saying a word and just being together is all that needs to be said. We see that (sometimes) at camp. Most of the time, our campers and staff can’t stop talking and laughing with one another. But, every now and then, just being with one another is enough.
I’ve seen our campers sit quietly next to buddies at campfire or reading next to each other on their bunk porch before bed. In fact, I’ve had some of the best talks in my life with a friend on the basketball court when very few words were spoken but so much was said. That’s camp!
Back in the world, though, with all its distracti….
Oops, sorry, I just got a text….
As I was saying, back in the wor….
Sorry – another text…. Annoying, isn’t it?
When we are really listening to someone, the distractions may be heard but should never take our attention away from the speaker. It’s a skill that takes practice and one that is very important to develop. If you want to be a good friend, a good camp counselor, a good student, etc., learn to listen. It’s more than worth the trouble for you and those around you.
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”
Being a summer camp counselor has well-known benefits for college students. From building leadership skills to practicing time management, working as a counselor is guaranteed to improve on the personal qualities that make a great student.
That being said, being able to point to a summer of camp counseling on your resume has some other lesser-known collegiate benefits that you should definitely check out if you’re considering diving into camp life. Depending on your school and major, you might even be able to get credits on your transcript! If all this sounds awesome, read on…
Proven leadership skills to highlight in program admission essays
Getting accepted at your top-choice school is only half the battle. Many specific major programs require you to apply from within the school, and they won’t just be looking at your grades; just like college applications, they want to see unique experiences that set you apart from the pack.
If you’re considering a major in outdoor rec, education, psychology, or any other field related to working with groups and/or children, having real work experience will set you far above applicants with only academic experience. Camp counseling isn’t just a job; it’s a key selling point on your resume!
A leg-up for qualifying for work-study positions
Work study can make or break the college experience. If you get a good position that’s aligned with your interests and declared major, it can give you a serious bonus when you enter the job market after graduation.
Unfortunately, work-study is highly competitive, and sometimes there are only a limited number of positions available. Priority goes to students who can demonstrate that they have the commitment to do the job well, and the time management skills to balance it with their course load.
So, who do you think is going to get the job? The student with zero work experience, or the student with glowing employer recommendations from their summer of full-time employment at Camp Weequahic? You do the math!
Internship credits for special programs
If you’re looking at a track that requires extracurricular engagement, be sure to check if they accept camp counseling experience for credit. It could be that your summer at Camp Weequahic has already earned you a bonus on your transcript without even realizing it!
Internship and work experience requirements vary depending on your school and program, but even if your school doesn’t have a policy about internship or work experience credits, sometimes all it takes is asking nicely at the advisor’s office to get a special exception. And if they do have a program for summer experience credits, be sure to explain to them why your time at camp is a good fit. I guarantee they’ll love hearing about it and be very impressed.
Meeting with academic advisors can be intimidating, but trust me — they want to help you. You just have to show them how!
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!
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.
If you’re considering going to camp for the first time, you probably have some ideas and expectations about what it’ll be like. Fire circles and archery! Ghost stories and sailing on the lake!
However, there are a few misconceptions about camp that many campers arrive with, mostly passed down through movies and books.
Want to know what it’s actually like at camp? Keep reading to find out four common camp myths that are just totally not true!
Myth: Making friends is hard.
Fact: Camp is the perfect place to make new friends!
From the moment you arrive, your camp counselors will introduce you to the other campers by leading fun “get to know you” activities. Emphasis is always on having fun and learning about each other. Classic camp games like “two truths and a lie” give everyone a chance to share something they’re passionate about — whether it’s Minecraft, ice cream, or just being at camp finally!
Unlike school, camp is filled with games and sport activities, giving you plenty of time to talk with other campers and work together as a team. Teamwork at camp builds trust and memories, a perfect foundation for lasting friendship.
Myth: I’m too old for summer camp.
Fact: Summer camp is fun for all ages.
Younger campers enjoy experiencing a variety of activities at camp. Everything is new and interesting and so you sample everything camp has to offer.
Older campers enjoy more in-depth, focused programs. For example, as a young camper you might create a simple clay project during arts and crafts. As an older camper you may have the opportunity to spend more time working on the pottery wheel. While the activities are similar, older campers have the opportunity to go more in-depth to the “craft” of an activity — it’s never just the same thing year after year!
Leadership programs are also available for older campers, with activities like overnight camping and high ropes coursework that younger campers don’t get to do… yet! These give older campers leadership experience, a bit more freedom at camp, and look great on college applications.
Myth: I won’t like any of the food, and I’ll go hungry.
Fact: There are many food choices and your counselors will make sure you get a balanced diet that suits your preferences!
Camp offers a huge variety of food at every meal. (Honestly, lunch is one of the highlights of the day! It’s that good.)
Besides special meals for campers with dietary restrictions, you are always able to choose from a selection of main dishes and a salad bar. Fruit is also available during meals and as a snack. Your counselors may encourage you to try new things, but no one is “forced” to eat anything — counselors work tirelessly to make sure campers get all the nutrition they need for a long day of running around camp!
Myth: I’ll feel “out of the loop” if I’ve never been to camp before.
Fact: Camp is a fun and lighthearted place — perfect for newcomers!
There’s no such thing as trying new things without feeling a little “out of the loop” sometimes. Luckily, camp is among the easiest places to break the ice and start getting into the swing of things. The whole structure of camp, from the activities to the group meals, is specifically designed to make it easy for campers to get to know one another and feel like “part of the team.”
Camp may seem like a mysterious place before you go, but there’s no mystery about how to have fun once you’re here!
Sometimes, the only way to find out for yourself is to take the plunge and come out to summer camp. It’s an unforgettable experience that will keep you coming back again and again.
Camp is filled with activities that allow you to learn new skills and test your limits.
Perhaps one of the most unique activities here at Camp Weequahic when it come to having a blast and building character is sailing.
Sailing teaches many skills; how to tie nautical knots, understand the weather, and control a boat with nothing but the wind to guide you. But like any camp activity, the most important lessons being learned are team building, communication, and the power of believing in yourself!
Sailing is a team activity, so learning to work with your “crew” is critical! Whatever style of boat you happen to be sailing, campers are constantly practicing team building skills with other campers on the lake.
Campers listen closely to what the rest of their crew is telling them, responding clearly and quickly to commands and questions. If you’re sailing solo, you will still have to communicate with other sailors on the water — so it’s lucky that all the sailing terminology is totally fun!
Sailing teaches you to trust in the skills of your crewmates (even if the worst that can happen is getting wet!) You won’t have time to check that every knot is tied correctly, so you’ll soon learn to trust that your friends will stay on top of their duties while you’re on the water, so long as you’re holding up your end of the bargain.
When you’re sailing, there’s a job for everyone on the boat. You and your fellow campers will quickly learn to identify situations where you can jump in and help each other.
It’s normal to feel a little hesitant your first time out on the lake. However, with practice you’ll develop your skills and, along with them, self-confidence.
Creating small, measurable goals such as learning new knots can slowly increase your confidence. Small setbacks (like having trouble steering!) followed by successes (catching the wind at just the right angle) teach the importance of bouncing back in the face of discouragement.
Organization and Planning
Managing any boat, even a single-person craft, requires organization and planning. You have to assess multiple factors such as the weather, obstacles in the water, and the lay of the shoreline to navigate your boat to your destination. You also have to keep your sails and lines organized for quick course changes — easily the hardest part of the sailing activity!
Sailing also taps into leadership skills, requiring campers to create a plan and divide responsibilities between the crew. Campers quickly learn to recognize crewmembers’ talents and divide the sailing tasks between everyone aboard accordingly.
Ready for anything
While you’ll learn plenty of physical skills while sailing the camp lake, you will also be practicing important life-skills that can help you at camp, in school, and everywhere else that teamwork and communication are important to success.
The secret to sailing is striking the balance between having a detailed plan and being adaptable when conditions change. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good strategy for most everything at camp — and life in general!
So have a blast on the lake this summer. May the winds always be at your back!
As a camp counselor, I’ve always been surprised by the wide range of lessons that campers take away from the outdoor adventure activities at camp.
Some campers benefit most from building a sense of self-reliance and resourcefulness. Others particularly enjoy the non-competitive aspects of the activities, which combine the adrenaline of sports with the positivity of teamwork. And of course, some campers just like having fun in the sun.
Regardless of interests, everybody at Camp Weequahic gets to benefit from outdoor education. Nature, like adventure, is universally meaningful — and universally fun.
A camper must learn to trust themselves before they learn to trust others, and outdoor skill-building is one of the greatest ways to build self-confidence.
The world is a scary place, and survival skills like fire-starting and shelter-building teach campers that strength comes from within; all it takes to survive and thrive in the world is a little know-how and ingenuity.
…Not to mention that knowing a thing or two about how to pitch a tent and read a map opens up a whole new world of outdoor recreation activities for life outside camp!
Teamwork vs. competition
Teamwork is one of the core values at camp, and nothing builds trust and communication between teammates quite like working together to solve the fundamental human needs that outdoor exploration puts us in touch with. That being said, outdoor adventure still requires a high level of teamwork, even though the objective isn’t “beating” another team.
There are no winners and losers when the goal is to make a campfire or build a cool shelter; it’s campers against the wilderness, rather than campers against campers. Students learn to work together to conquer a challenge, without worrying about accomplishing anything more or less than their absolute best.
Finding our place in the world
When it comes to outdoor adventure at camp, the “outdoor” side is at least as important as the “adventure” side.
Adventure is all well and good, but the raw experience of being in nature is what makes seemingly simple activities like hiking and camping so memorable. Particularly for campers coming from the city, a reminder of how small we all are in the grand scheme of things can be immeasurably valuable. The great outdoors are important for everyone. After all, it’s wild woods, crisp air and clean water that makes Camp Weequahic such a special place to “get away from it all!”
Whatever particular aspect of outdoor adventure captures a camper’s imagination, they are guaranteed to walk away with a new sense of empowerment. We live in a fast-paced and quickly changing world, and the outdoor experiences at camp leave campers ready to tackle the world with creativity, determination, and humility. Just get outside and try it!