Posts Tagged ‘lessons from summer camp’

Put on Your Swimsuits, Goggles, and Sunblock–It’s Time for a Swim!

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Almost every camper will name his or her waterfront area as one of the best parts of camp.  Many camps are built on lakes and their waterfronts play a crucial role during the summer, not only as a place for swimming but as a gathering place and the perfect backdrop for outdoor evening activities.  Learning to swim at summer camp is a rite of passage.  But learning to swim not only provides a great foundation for building camp memories of sunny days spent at the waterfront, it has lifelong benefits as well.  

Of course, there are the much acclaimed physical and mental benefits of learning to swim that we all know.  It’s a great low impact exercise that is suitable for almost everyone, which makes it an ideal part of a regular fitness regime.  It’s also not age restrictive.  Rather, it’s an activity that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.  The fact that muscle strength is also greatly improved as a result of pushing oneself through the water goes without saying.

Swimming also improves coordination, emotional well being, concentration, and social skills.   In fact, it’s the largely social aspect of camping that likely makes it such a positive and popular part of the camping experience.  The relaxing atmosphere of a pool or waterfront area provides the perfect setting for children to let down their guards and enjoy the type of casual conversation that builds and strengthens friendships.  When combined with the sheer fun of the activity, it’s the perfect setting for building memories.

Camp waterfront locations are extremely active and full of almost endless possibilities for campers experiences.  There are often several activities taking place at once, which is why camp Waterfront areas are typically generously staffed with well trained, fully certified lifeguards who complete an extensive and rigorous training program prior to the start of camp.

The pool area is not merely a place for swim instruction at summer camp but fun activities such as  synchronized swimming competitions in which campers have fun using creativity and teamwork to choreograph a musical number that combines dancing and swimming.  Pool parties are popular evening activities at camp, complete with music and plenty of opportunity to socialize.    

Even more adventure can be found on larger lake areas that, in addition to swimming beaches, also often have water toys, such as trampolines, rock-its, and climbing rocks for campers to enjoy.   Since these areas require campers to pass a swim test prior to being able to use them, they provide fun and attainable goals for campers: first, to pass the test that allows them to swim to these special areas, then the challenge of climbing the wall or walking the plank.  Camps also incorporate their waterfront areas into their special event planning.  Water games and pirate themed treasure hunts are just a couple of ways that water play is used creatively in camp programs.

Swimming at camp takes on a new level of excitement when included in camp activities–such as decathlons, apache relays, and Olympics or Color Wars–that give campers the opportunity to use their swimming skills to rise to a challenge.  Many camps also compete in swim meets through their inter camp leagues.   Whether racing against other campers or a time clock, being able to apply their swimming instruction in an engaging way and seeing firsthand how they’ve improved has been a moment of pride for many a camper.

So the next time your child regales you with tales of the waterfront at his or her summer camp, remember that it’s not just summer memories that they’re gaining from their swimming experiences, but lifelong skills.

Competition at Camp Weequahic

Thursday, February 17th, 2011


You may have heard the Weequahic directors and year round staff were college athletes. It’s true. Well, Cole played golf at Virginia, so he was almost an athlete! Between the four of us, we’ve coached baseball, soccer, and golf at the NCAA Division 1 level for more than 20 years.

So, Weequahic must be a pretty competitive place, right?

Wrong.

Our focus is activity and skill development, rather than outcome. Competition is a wonderful tool for developing teamwork, community, and communication. It also helps determine areas for improvement. In essence, when done correctly, a little competition can really help a camper.

Weequahic is a part of the Wayne County Camp Association. Among its other duties, the WCCA organizes tournaments throughout the summer for our 31 associated camps in almost all of our activities. From swim and track meets to flag football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and lax games, we have just about anything a camper could want. We will even take campers to local USTA tennis tournaments so they can compete with kids from all over our region. While we have fun with a little competition, we are BIGGER believers in fun, skill development, and play.

If a camper wants to play on one of our teams, he or she simply needs to raise a hand and say ‘I want to be on the team.’ Once campers commit, they are good to go, regardless of their skill level. And, as long as they are supportive of their teammates and putting forth their best effort, they’ll play!

With one exception, we do not have tryouts at Weequahic. We require tryouts for tennis only because league rules restrict tennis rosters to eight players. If more than eight campers want to play, we hold a ladder tournament to determine the roster.

That said, sports competition is not for everyone. That is why we have incredible aquatics, adventure, and arts programs including things like Magic, Skate Park, Robotics, Radio, Music and more.

Not all of our camp competition, however, is relegated to WCCA events. What summer would be complete without a Color War type of competition?

Campers in our first session enjoy Tribals, a four team multi-day spirit competition. Vying for the “Deed of the Land”, campers play, sing, cheer, and laugh as they compete in spirit competitions in which everyone adds value to their Tribe. Campers in the second session enjoy Olympics, a five day competition between Army and Navy teams that dates back to our founding in 1953.

So, whether you are an athlete who wants to improve or an artist that is thrilled to explore the creative side of camp, Weequahic has something fun to offer. See you at camp!

Cole

Start Here: Find out More About Camp Now

Monday, February 7th, 2011

If your child is dreaming about camp, it’s not too soon to make a choice for summer 2011! Many campers are counting the days until they can return, anticipating seeing friends and staff, and looking forward to another super summer. Others are wondering about camp for the first time. For everyone, there are a number of resources and ways to find out more about each camp.

Here are a few suggestions for choosing which camp is the best fit for your camper:

1. Talk to friends and family who have already been to camp. One camper recently chose Camp Weequahic to follow in the footsteps of a cousin and a friend. Since the seasoned campers had a wonderful time and could not stop talking about their adventure, the new camper decided to go and experience things for herself. Other first time campers go to camp with a special friend or cousin who is also a first-timer. Some campers follow in the footsteps of an older relative and start a new generation of alumni—so, make sure to ask for suggestions from family and friends who may have been campers!

2. Watch camp videos, attend an information night (or both), and it will be easy to visualize the fun ahead. It often helps to picture the experience and imagine a specific setting. Campers can watch a video more than once and report that the video often gets them “hooked”. They start to see themselves at camp. A home visit is also a great way to make personal contact with actual campers and staff.

3. Explore each camp website to find out what’s distinct about that camp, check faqs and read firsthand accounts. You’ll find links to social media conversations and get a feel for each unique location. The websites are also a good place to check out changes and additions from previous years—there’s a lot going on.

4. For questions about homesickness, safety, how to tell if your child is ready for camp or more, read previous blogs that are packed with information and answers. If you’re wondering, someone else is probably wondering too!

5. If you’re planning for Summer 2012, make arrangements to visit camp this year. You can tour Camp Weequahic during the summer. Throughout the summer, Camp Weequahic your child can also sample the Weequahic experience through the Camper for a Day and Camper for a Week programs. Camp Starlight offers tours, as well.

6. Always remember that there are no dumb questions. Make a list and don’t feel that you can’t ask. Now is the perfect time to communicate with camp staff before camp is in full swing and fun is in full gear!

A Camp Weequahic parent recently shared with us that after seeing camp pictures, she immediately felt jealous and wished she could go too. That summer, her daughter’s first letter from camp arrived asking if she could stay 6 weeks instead of the 3 she had signed up for! Those first instincts from looking at photos online and a little research had helped find a perfect fit. Moral of the story: You don’t have to go far to find out more about camp. Don’t be surprised if the process turns out to be a lot of fun—everything about camp has a way of being that!

Do you have a story to share about selecting a camp with a friend or relative? Who would you choose to take to camp?

Building Character at Summer Camp

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

As parents, we are always on the lookout for experiences that help our children learn new skills. We enroll them in music lessons, martial arts, sports, theatre, choir and, of course, summer camps. But we all know that the best programs (and the best educational experiences) are ones that go beyond the basics of teaching skills to help develop our children’s character. The basics of character — trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship — are all essential ingredients in summer camp experiences.

“Camp teaches values such as self-esteem, teamwork, and caring — areas where traditional schools sometimes cause more detriment than good. And camp allows everyone, not just the top student and the best athlete, to thrive and enjoy the process of learning,” says Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association (ACA).

Everything we’ve written about on this blog so far — being ready for camp, unplugging from the digital world, traveling to camp, developing interpersonal communication skills, interacting with camp counselors, participating in camp traditions, and learning new sports and skills all contribute to building character.

When mom Martha realized that her son Jaden had come home with crucial life skills — taking care of himself and making good choices — she knew that camp had served a crucial role in his life.

“I felt like they were living a free life,” she says. The rules were there, just not stressful. This kind of independence creates the necessary space for the foundations of character to blossom. “I could not believe the person he had become – just a new person – totally confident in himself,” she says.

It’s no surprise, really. Camp activities, to be successful, require all the participants to have self-discipline and an unselfish sense of camaraderie. “There is just something about living with a group of boys,” mom Wendy says after sending her only son Justin to camp for the first time. Living communally in cabins and bunks requires teamwork, creativity and a willingness to work together.

The camp directors, staff and counselors deserve much of the credit for the character development Martha and Wendy saw in their sons after just a few weeks at camp. They work hard to develop programs that bring a diverse community together around common values and goals, and everyone benefits – campers, parents and staff, and the world they come back to each fall, bringing their good character with them. Camp is about educating the whole child and allowing them to flourish, so that we all as a society may do so.

Susan

Everything I Learned Outside. . .

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

In Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv retells a moment in a restaurant when his son asked, “Dad, how come it was more fun when you were a kid?” Louv had been telling his 10-year old about how he caught crawdads by stringing bits of liver across a creek. When asked to explain, the son replied, “Well, you’re always talking about your woods and tree houses, and how you used to ride that horse down by the swamp.” At first, Louv thought Matthew was irritated and owns up to the fact that like other parents, he can romanticize his own childhood at the expense of his children’s current experience. But Matthew really felt that he had missed out on something, and Louv realized that his own childhood had been different.

If you’re in Louv’s age bracket, you may also recall a childhood filled with a kind of free, natural play that today seems like an antique artifact compared to current kid’s lives. Lives filled with mobile devices, instant messaging, screen time, digital games and fears of “things” outside. In his book, Louv explores “the increasing divide between the young and the natural world, as well as the environmental, social, psychological, and spiritual implications of that change.” He discusses the accumulating research that implies that secure children (and adults for that matter) must connect with nature to fully develop. This need for contact with the natural world is as imperative as good nutrition and adequate sleep. So, while multiple reasons give us less and less time to connect outdoors, more and more studies suggest that embracing nature is a human necessity.

The ways in which children understand and experience nature has changed beyond recognition for Americans born during the last two decades. While children today may be more aware of the global threats to our larger environment, they are much less aware of their immediate natural surroundings. As children, Louv and his peers may not have discussed global warming, or holes in the ozone layer, but they loved “their woods” and fields intimately and felt connected to the people and their location in the world. They identified specific bends and crooks in creeks and holes in backyards—explored the woods in solitude, lay in fields listening to the wind and marveled at clouds shape-shifting overhead.

Louv discovered that many people yearn for what they have missed living in de-natured environments and they are consciously making choices and decisions to ensure that they will not be “the last children in the woods.” Families and intergenerational groups are finding ways to better live with nature and each other. Summer camp, for example, is one marvelous way for youngsters to make long-lasting memories and deep connections in natural surroundings. With easy access to the great outdoors and opportunities to develop self-reliance within a nurturing community, today’s campers will remember fun-filled childhoods unplugged from urban life—and share their unique memories with future generations.

How can you make sure that you and your kids don’t miss out on the benefits of exploring outdoors? (For the record, I’ve been known to insist that my children at least squish mud between their toes and jump in puddles!)

Deborah-Eve

Choice – A Weequahic Core Value

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Three or six weeks is really not a lot of time to impress life lessons into children (or staff for that matter). Therefore, we do our best to keep it simple at Weequahic. I’ve already written about gratitude as a core value. Today I’d like to touch on another of our core values: Choice.

While campers have a lot of choice in daily program at Weequahic, that is not the aspect of choice on which I mean. Rather, I’d like to focus on the more global meaning of the word.

Campers who attend a Friday night non-denominational service or just sit around for a chat with me will notice I often bring up the idea of choice. How do they choose to react to a situation? What are they choosing to say to themselves and to others?

Many young people don’t think about their choices, much less that they have control over them. I know didn’t really think about it until college. That is when I heard about William James and his very simple but profoundly important conclusion: We are the only ones who have control over our thoughts.

Simple, right? For anyone who has ever thought about it, it makes absolute sense. However, we rarely think about this most fundamental choice. Rather, we simply glide along reacting from habit or the way ‘crowd’ might expect.

A mentor of mine recently told a story of doctor who works with people with difficult injuries and afflictions. Rather than ask his patients “How are you feeling today?”, the doctor always asked “What are your plans for the day?” Do you see the difference?

The first question makes you react to your situation, whatever that may be. The patient would focus on their ailment or pain. The second question prompts the patient to think about the choices that lay ahead of them. It also reminds them that they are in control of those choices.

Seth Godin, one of my favorite thinkers and this year’s keynote speaker at the ACA Tri-State Conference, recently wrote about choices a person chooses to make. Choices, and their consequences, are even a mantra in the recent thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Choices abound in our incredible society. We are fortunate to have protected choices of religion, action, and thoughts. It’s vitally important that we think about these choices and there consequences and teach young people the power they have over their own choices.

So, what are your plans for the day?

Cole Kelly, Camp Director

Keeping Kids Safe at Camp: What Every Parent Needs to Ask/Know

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Even when you are right there next to your child to offer comfort, care and treatment, accidents and injuries can be difficult to deal with. So as we prepare our kids to go to summer camp, it is important to ask some questions of the camp and prepare our children well. That way, everyone can rest assured they are having a summer of fun and making memories to last a lifetime in a safe environment.

We’ve discussed many issues parents need to consider when choosing a camp, enrolling their child and sending them on their way on this blog. As parents are making decisions on sending their children to camp next year, here is a list of things to ensure are in place as you get your family ready for a summer away:

  • Camp is accredited by the American Camp Association. This requires camps to follow certain guidelines, including counselor to child ratios and other safety procedures.
  • Camp requires staff safety training.
  • Camp has emergency contact information for your child.
  • Camp has been notified of any medical conditions and/or allergies your child has. Be sure to be specific when you communicate with the staff. Let the camp know the specific name of the condition as well as warning signs and steps to take to help your child. Click here for an ACA article on administering medications at camp.
  • Camp has provided written health protocols and policies.

Beyond physical safety concerns, ask how the camp deals with homesickness. We’ve talked about that topic on this blog as well and will also be discussing staying connected in an upcoming post.

Just as the camp can have multiple safety policies and procedures for kids, it is also important for our young ones to learn how to stay safe independently. So take the time (repeatedly) to ensure that you and your child

  • Know what’s safe and what isn’t. Review the camp’s handbooks for rules of conduct for campers. Review these with your child before he or she leaves for camp.
  • Understand which kinds of behavior are acceptable and which aren’t. Breaking the rules can put others in dangerous situations.
  • Have good hygiene practices. Cover sneezes and coughs with their elbows (not their hands) and wash hands frequently.
  • Know when to notify a staff member and ask for help. Not every bump and bruise requires medical attention – make sure you and your child knows which is which. Camp Weequahic has a health center with nurses present and a doctor that is on campus or visits daily.

These are all fairly simple ideas to keep families safe and camp is no different. If, as parents, we do our research, read the parent handbooks and camper manuals, ask all the right questions and talk with our children, everyone spends the summer relaxing, being cared for and as safe as possible. For more information, visit the ACA website and read more about this and other camp topics on their parent pages.

Thanks to Tom@HK and cjc4544 for the photos!

Susan

A Whale of a Lesson

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Have you ever heard of Humphrey the Humpback Whale? Before our campers (and many of our staff) were born, Humphrey’s odyssey held our nation’s attention for many, many days.

Humphrey, as his name suggests, is a humpback whale. Getting turned around one day chasing plankton or following a misguided hunch, Humphrey found himself in San Francisco Bay. A few days later, he was in the Sacramento River. If you are trying to get to Sacramento, it’s a great plan. Just not it if you are whale.

Rescuers and researchers tried everything they could think of to stop Humphrey’s progress up the river. He escaped traps, ignored the pleading, and continued his meander up river all the while showing signs of physical distress and confusion. Thankfully, one researcher had a great idea.

With the help of the US Navy and a local boat owner, Dr. Bernie Krause started sending out whale calls through the water. (If you’ve not heard them, they are really interesting!) Within no time at all, Humphrey appeared. The astounded rescuers had called to Humphrey and he came to them!

Taking the boat with its whale calls down river, Dr. Krause and his team led Humphrey out to the San Francisco Bay and then to the Pacific. It was a great rescue that captivated the nation that actually advanced science. We found out it takes a whale to speak to another whale.

That’s a lesson camp teaches every day. In this age of video games and iPhones, PSP’s and tweets, we mustn’t forget one of our most basic requirements: It takes people to speak to other people.

Great camps surround children with great mentors and develop a community in which everyone is valued and cared for. At Weequahic, finding and training the best staff possible is, along with safety, our most important priority. The more interested, exciting, patient, and prepared a staff, the more likely it is for our campers to have an extraordinary experience. This, I might add, also provides the staff with an incredible experience as well!

If you know of someone interested in joining a community of people who want to provide an extraordinary experience for campers, please ask them to apply here. We’d be thrilled to speak with them!

Hat tip to Chuck Hodges (and Humphrey) for the story.

Cole Kelly, Camp Director

Growing Up Global

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

As parents, we often hear predictions about the necessity for our children to prepare for a new and “global” world. While some people explain that the roots for global interactions were planted centuries ago, current electronic and transportation technologies make people across the globe even more connected and interdependent. So how can we prepare our children and give them experiences to help them become globally literate?

Of course, travel is an obvious way to help children increase their cultural currency, but going to camp also helps foster global thinking and skills in specific ways. Summer camp is a place where children from around the world and different parts of the United States connect with each other, build lifelong friendships, try new things and practice living together. At Camp Weequahic for example, campers have recently travelled from France, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela to join in the fun. On average, about 5% of campers come from outside the United States but wherever your child departs from, they can benefit from the diverse mix of kids at camp. They can practice a language and will definitely learn about different customs with daily interaction and time to soak it all in. Most importantly, they will learn how to respectfully engage with people with different views, who may not approach everything the same way.

In her book, Growing Up Global:Raising Children to Be At Home in the World, Homa Sabet Tavangar says that the first step towards developing a global outlook requires “embracing the mind-set to make a friend and be a good friend.” Making friends means practicing universal qualities like empathy and respect, and building lasting friendships at camp is a huge part of the total experience. Counselors and staff are trained and at the ready to help campers grow in this area, build new skills when necessary and model caring for others. Tavangar explains that versions of the Golden Rule, or “treat others as you wish to be treated,” permeate all cultures and faith traditions and elaborates on these in her book. When children embrace the universal values of caring for each other, they employ humility, curiosity and compassion which then leads to making true friends—and that’s what makes a world citizen.

So, wherever we go in the world, it’s the experience of breaking down the elements of diverse cultures and seeing what makes them similar or distinct, that prepares us for relating to each other. For kids, a baby step towards negotiating new cultures can be overcoming the fear of new foods or being away from home at camp where things are “different”—after all, every camp, and each year, has it’s own special character or culture. For example, many campers bond over the issue of learning to like new foods and it’s that kind of experience that prepares children for the future.

Growing up global is not just about preparing to do business in the world economy. It’s about having the comfort and desire to connect with the Kenyan dad who coaches a local soccer team, a Turkish neighbor with distinct fashion style or an American who expects consistent electrical power! Ultimately it’s about being curious about differences instead of afraid of them and valuing making friends with the diverse people we meet. Psychologists link friendship to an individual’s health and ultimately to the ability to survive—so friendships are key to feeling at home in our individual skins as well as feeling at home on our planet.

Our experiences at summer camp are a key component in raising globally aware and confident children. The friendships and lessons learned at camp will last long after camping season ends as campers continue to expand their horizons, stay connected with friends across time and geography and find their life’s passions. How do you plan to raise global kids and make camp a part of their preparation? Have you read Growing Up Global or used any of Tavangar’s suggestions? We’d love to hear how camp contributed to defining your world view!

Deborah-Eve

Thanks for the images Horia Varlan and woodleywonderworks.

Gratitude – A Weequahic Core Value

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

It certainly is a good time to thinking about gratitude. Two days before Thanksgiving, we are now planning our trip to the grandparent’s house, making our list of yearly ‘thankfuls’, and looking forward to spending some extra time with those most important to us. Thankfully, even the media gets into the action as well.

I just finished a great article on gratitude which you can find here. Kate and I always felt feelings of gratitude lead to a happier, more productive life. It’s nice to see science catching up with us!

Gratitude is so important that I end each day with our boys at camp asking them about their two favorite things from that day. Our Head Counselor or Kate does the same on the girl’s side. We center our first campfire around gratitude. (Here is a great poem I’ve found for the occasion.) We also have a longstanding tradition of our sport teams thanking their coaches, refs, and drivers in front of the whole camp, win, lose, or draw.

Researchers believe feelings of gratitude are 50% genetic. The remainder is learned. We focus on teaching our campers to be thankful for their many blessings (and make it fun in the process!)

At this thankful time of year, I challenge each of you to make a list of people and experiences for which you are grateful. Happiness is colored most effectively and durably from these two categories. Further, I challenge you to start your own gratefulness habit: Each evening, before you fall asleep, find two things you are happy about from the day. Write them down or say them out loud. It’s a great way to end the day.

As for Weequahic, we are thankful for:

  • The vision of our founder, Art Lustig, in creating the traditions of Weequahic
  • The work of the Lustig and Seffer families for shepherding and adding to these traditions along the path
  • The incredible staff with whom we have the pleasure of working during the summer and throughout the year
  • Our supportive and thoughtful families who share their children with our community each summer, and
  • Campers from around the country and world who bring energy, excitement, friendship, and joy to us each and every day

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!

Cole Kelly, Camp Director