Did you know body language – the positioning of your body, expression of your face, and movement of your limbs – communicates more of your intended meaning than your words?
It’s true and you’ve seen it before. You’ve seen someone walk into a bunk for the first time with a smile on their face. The concern in their eyes, shoulders, and arms, though, were screaming out. Our counselors are really good at seeing this and helping that camper get comfortable. Once they’ve built friendships, the camper opens up to who he or she really is.
The Power of Body Language
Camp Mom Judy – the queen of welcoming kids to camp!
Your body language has a huge effect on how others judge you how you judge yourself. If you are open, friendly, and interested, you are more likely 1) to be judged as a friendly person, 2) more likely to have those around you mirror your actions, and 3) more likely to see yourself as a friendly person.
On the other hand, if your body language shows you as intimidating, uninterested, or rude, you’ll be marked as an unfriendly person to be avoided. And, just as in the above example, the people around you are likely to offer the same type communication to you or simply leave.
Now, we’ve all had moments in our lives when our bodies are giving off messages we don’t intend to show. We are really upset about something totally unrelated but make a friend feel we are mad at them. Or, we are deep in thought about something and don’t pay attention to those around us. It makes them feel ignored or left out.
(Aside: The middle school years for many of our kids are full of these moments. So much is being thrown at them in the forms of academic, social, and outside demands. It’s overloading their ability to manage. This creates interactions that adults sometimes view as… unpleasant. We are lucky that camp creates a community that mitigates most of those concerns. Instead, our campers get to drop everything and just be their happy selves.)
Um… guys? Not too inviting, there….
Those moments of negative body language are ok. One moment does not define you as a person. Rather, it’s the long arc of your actions that make the biggest impact. If you decide to consistently show yourself as a trust worthy friend, a person who is excited to see those around you, and polite to everyone you meet, a few moments of not-so-great body language will be forgiven or forgotten.
A Real World Lesson
Here’s the good part: what you say with your bodyis yourchoice. You get to decide in every situation. You simply have to 1) understand the power of your body to convey meaning and 2) learn how to manage that ‘language’ through practice.
I learned this lesson very early on in my camping career. At 27 years old and running a camp for the first time with over 250 girls, I was totally out of my depth. Masking my anxiety from the kids and parents had been working but it did not have the same effect with our staff.
One team member was brave enough to call me out on it. (Thankfully, Flick did it in a private and thoughtful way.) After spending some time monitoring myself and asking others, I realized she was completely right. So, I decided to change. Rather than seeing myself as a harried, in-over-his-head camp director, I started to act like I knew what I was doing and smiling a lot more for everyone.
It worked. I believe that lesson in body language has made me a better camp director, mentor, and father. It’s something I continually practice and ask our staff to do the same.
So, what are you saying to those around you? Are you friendly, open, and trustworthy to everyone? Do you help to light up a room when you enter with a smile, looking people in the eye? From what I’ve seen at camp, you are ALL able to be great at this. It’s your choice.
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.
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”
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.
Alright campers, it’s time to get serious about another classic summer activity: archery.
It may look easy to hit a bullseye if your only point of reference is the Hunger Games or Avengers, but remember — they have CGI special effects to make it easy for them!
As anybody who’s fired a bow at camp can tell you, getting an arrow to fly through the air and hit a target is a whole lot easier said than done. Chances are it’ll take some serious practice before anything aside from chance gets your shots anywhere close to the mark.
…But that feeling when you land one directly on the bullseye? Priceless.
Here are some of our favorite strategies for going from zero to bullseye as quickly as possible.
Before you even shoot, proper stance is key to being able to shoot consistently. If you’re dancing around and shooting from different positions, trust me, it’ll take forever to get a feel for where to aim.
First step: make sure your body is completely parallel to the target. That means shoulders and hips pointed directly sideways to the target. This may seem obvious, but we see campers struggle to keep this pose going, especially since it feels more “natural” to point your toes at the target like when you’re throwing a baseball or football.
Keep your whole body from your toes to your shoulders pointed sideways, and you’ve already won half the battle!
Something campers often struggle with is figuring out where to aim.
Bows don’t come with crosshairs, so it’s a question of figuring out where the sweet spot is for your particular bow, at your particular height, at your particular distance from the target.
Sounds like a lot to think about, right? Well don’t worry; there’s an easy strategy that figures out the trajectories for you:
Firstly, never move your feet. If you keep your feet in the same place between arrows, you ensure that your position relative to the target doesn’t move. So resist that victory dance just for a minute!
Secondly, you have to miss on purpose. Yep, you heard me right: miss the target.
For your first arrow, shoot low on purpose. Low enough that you know it’ll hit the bottom of the board, or even the turf below the board. For your second arrow, aim high on purpose. Shoot so that you see where the “crosshair” is pointing when you’re going way overboard.
Finally, on the third arrow, shoot in the middle. Just like goldilocks, but instead of getting porridge, you get a bullseye!
Blame the wind
My personal favorite tactic: always blame the wind. Missed the target? Crossbreeze! Hit someone else’s target by accident? Another darned crossbreeze!
Enthusiasm is as important for archery as it is for all camp sports, and a little humor goes a long way. Don’t get too serious — and always blame the crossbreeze, never yourself!
The last thing that holds a lot of campers back from their bullseye victory dance is so simple it’s ridiculous: breathing.
It’s tempting to hold your breath or hyperventilate while you aim, simply because that’s the natural human reaction to being excited. Although archery feels like a precision exercise when you first start, the truth is that a lot of it is up to chance. Every arrow is a little different, every bow is a little different, and jokes about cross-breezes aside the wind absolutely plays a factor that can thwart even the most talented and practiced archery master.
The key to success in archery, as it is in many camp sports, is simply letting go. Bullseyes don’t really matter as much as having fun, and part of the game’s a gamble anyway.
Just relax, smile, breath, and give it your best shot. Chances are that’s all it’ll take for you to start hitting bullseyes left and right — in archery, and in your life.
We were thrilled to unveil our new Studio, the fine arts space at Camp Weequahic, for our Summer 2015 campers. This brand new space offered campers of all ages a chance to explore, create and play surrounded by engaged and excited staff.
Campers with “Studio” on their daily schedule were invited to join one of several project offerings between drawing & painting, jewelry, crafts and more. A number of very playful and creative kids developed their own projects to the wonder of our staff.
Memorable projects include picture frames, scrapbooks, melted wax, spray paint art and innumerable bracelets. The most interesting, though, was the homemade soap.
Campers spent time picking herbs from our garden to dry and then add to the soap. After a few successful attempts, several campers starting trying new options like citrus, oatmeal and crushed oreo cookies. (More than one visiting staff member wanted to take a bite….)
We hope you’ll spend some time with us next summer in The Studio. It’s a colorful, fun place where you can explore and create to heart’s content!
During the school year, there is no better way to learn about camp than to have a home visit with our camp director, Cole Kelly. These roughly one hour gatherings give each family time to ask any and all questions they have about the camp, learn more about the overall program, and see pictures of our campers’ daily lives.
The goal of each visit is to build a connection between your family and camp. We are going to be caring for your camper for three or six weeks. Therefore, it is vitally important that each family feel comfortable with Cole as he sets the tone, oversees all staff hiring, and is an integral part in each camper’s experience. And, when parents call during the summer, Cole will be the person calling them back to answer questions.
Another reason for the home visit is answer all the questions that arise. What is the daily program like? How do you select, hire and train your staff? What are the campers in my child’s age group like? These questions, and many more, are asked in the comfort of your own home and with (or without) your camper present.
If you are interested in learning more about CW, please call us to speak. If after learning more you’d like a home visit, we’ll be happy to schedule a time when Cole and stop by to learn more about your family.
So what makes a great summer camp experience for your child? Awesome friends, a ton of fun activities and great memories, but most of all an amazing group of staff members. The counselors we hand pick to join our staff are really what makes the camp experience that much better for campers. But what draws counselors in to the Weequahic family? Let’s ask some of our new and returning staff members to find out!
Camp: “Sidney, this is your second summer. It’s great to have you back! What brought you back to CW?”
Sidney (Junior Girls): “I had an incredible all around experience last summer, so I had to come back for another. I was also really excited to see returning staff who have become some of my best friends. And, of course, I can’t forget the awesome campers here!”
Camp: “We are so happy to hear that you had such a great time. Tell us what your favorite part of this experience has been?”
Sidney: “I would have to say watching and getting to know the kids and staff has been an incredible experience. Forming the awesome relationships that make up the Weequahic family has been great too.”
Camp: “And what have you learned this summer?”
Sidney: “I’ve learned a lot being here; especially patience, how to work well with many different types of people, leadership, and how much the little things truly matter.”
Camp: “I would have to agree completely with that statement. One last question for you. What will you miss the most when you leave?”
Sidney: “I will miss waking up every morning and being here at camp with this Weequahic family. This camp truly is a home away from home and it’s because of all of the wonderful people here.”
Camp: “Thank you so much Sidney! Jeremy, same questions for you. What brought you to camp?”
Jeremy (Senior Division): “Well this is my first summer here and what brought me to Weequahic was the fact that I really wanted to do something new, but also fun over the summer. After my first interview I knew this was where I wanted to be.”
Camp: “That’s great! And what has been your favorite part of this experience?”
Jeremy: “I would have to say interacting with all the campers. No two kids are alike, even siblings! You have to approach each one differently which I believe allowed me to grow as a person.”
Camp: “Wow, that’s amazing Jeremy. What have you learned from being here?”
Jeremy: “I’ve learned that attitude is everything. I came into this with an open mind and a positive attitude and it has been the best summer I’ve had in a long time.”
Camp: “We are so happy to hear that you have enjoyed your time here! Tell us what you will miss most when you leave?”
Jeremy: “I’ll definitely miss the campers and my fellow counselors. They are irreplaceable. I’ll miss my co-co’s because they have gone through this camp experience with me from start to finish and I wouldn’t trade a single one. I’ve built so many great relationships with the campers and their genuine happiness and joy for life gives me energy each day. The first few days without seeing their smiles or hearing their laughs will be pretty tough.”
Camp: “Thank you so much for sharing that with us!”
On behalf of all the counselors and staff members here at Weequahic, we would like to say thank you. Thank you for sending your kids have one of the best experiences of their lives here with us. Thank you for giving all of us a chance to be mentors to your children. We have all learned so much from every camper hear and have truly grown to admire the wonderful people they are growing up to be. It has been an amazing and memorable summer that we will always remember and we wish only the very best to each and every member of the Weequahic family this upcoming year.
Confident leaders aren’t born, they’re made. And great leaders come from spending time at America’s Finest Summer Camps. Campers and counselors alike leave camp with a better understanding of how to serve others and act as positive role models for those around them.
From the first day they arrive, campers are thrown in a group setting that, for most of them, is very different from what they are used to. They eat with their peers, spend the entire day doing activities with their peers, and share their mornings and nights side by side with them as well. This is the perfect situation for campers to build upon their leadership skills, as it encourages them to quickly determine whether they’re going to follow the crowd or stand out on their own. Campers have countless opportunities on a daily basis to make good decisions to positively affect their stay, as well as the experiences of those around them.
Their involvement in sports helps to foster strong leadership traits, such as being a team player, being fair and winning (and losing) with grace. Team sports like soccer lacrosse, and baseball encourage campers to step up and be leaders of their team, and to be a positive example for their teammates. Campers who participate in other activities like archery, gymnastics and dance have the chance to be leaders when they choose to make responsible choices regarding their involvement and commitment to the activity that they chose. Arriving on time, respecting their competition and their counselors, and doing their best every day are all great ways campers can act as leaders at camp.
A good leader is someone who can serve others well. Campers have plenty of opportunities each and every day to be helpful and kind to their peers. They are encouraged to stand up for each other, support each other, communicate with each other and be an honest and loyal friend. Even if they aren’t aware of it, the building of these characteristics is also building a leader in every camper.
Campers aren’t the only ones who leave camp as stronger and more confident leaders. Camp counselors who spend the summer at Camp Weequahic also learn valuable leadership skills in a much more obvious and intentional way. They are trained thoroughly on what it means to be a leader and positive role model for the younger campers. They are very aware that there are always young and impressionable eyes watching everything they say and do. Counselors learn very quickly that being a counselor doesn’t just mean making sure all of the kids follow the rules. They become teachers, big brothers/sisters, role models and friends. Camp counselors also get an opportunity to improve their time management, problem solving, and multitasking skills. The training and education required to be a camp counselor prepares them for managing groups of children in a confident, patient and trusted way.
Whether they come to camp as a camper or a counselor, everyone leaves camp as a more confident leader. This confidence transfers over to their attitudes towards their siblings, friends, coworkers and teammates in the real world. The world is a better place with leaders like the ones developed at Camp Weequahic in it.