Posts Tagged ‘sleepaway camp’

21st Century Skills at Weequahic

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

As a parent, I find myself falling into the trap of wanting my kids to “grow up” too quickly. In my more impatient moments, I find myself thinking, “Why can’t they make/do/think/etc. like I can?” Why can’t they grow up?

 

And then I see one of the greatest coaches of all time talk about the importance of attitude and joy and the consequences of college kids acting like 12 year olds.

 

Which reminds me – my boys are young! And, while I’ve taught them what it means to make good decisions, treat others kind, be thoughtful of others feelings, know and how to stand up for what’s important, they are still kids and they are supposed to make mistakes.

 

They aren’t grown ups and that’s a good thing. A very sweet story from Fredrik Backman illustrates this point beautifully:

 

“Tell me about school, Noahnoah,” Grandpa asks.

 

He always wants to know everything about school, but not like other adults who want to know if Noah is behaving. Grandpa wants to know if the school is behaving. It hardly ever is.

 

“Our teacher made us write a story about what we want to be when we’re big,” Noah tells him.

 

 “What did you write?”

 

“I wrote that I wanted to concentrate on being little first.”

 

I like that. And, it helps me explain the gift of camp. We want our kids to concentrate on being kids before anything else. They’ll grow up soon enough and we’ll have done our part in equipping them for that growth.

 

But what does that mean? At Weequahic, we think it means:

 

Play

Our campers get to play. They turn off, unplug, and engage with other kids who want to do the same. The get to explore with no expectations other than their safety, adventure without knowing the end result, and laugh without a care.

 

This leads to….

 

Experiential Learning

These big words really just means ‘figuring things out.’ You get your hands dirty. You sweat. You get confused and then break it apart and try again. Then, you figure it out and that knowledge is yours… forever. And, it not just about doing things – its about emotions and handling missing home and everything else. (This is where independence starts to blossom.)

 

This is helps and is helped by….

 

Making new friends

The more our campers get excited about something, the more likely they are to get connected with kids doing the same thing – they want to learn together. They want to build community. They want to reach out and trust and explore with others who feel the same. PLUS, they are surrounded by mentors excited to guide, prod, and team along the way.

 

This leads to….

 

Building Courage

Here’s the thing we don’t realize all the time: Courage is a muscle that is built with use. It’s not about being ‘unafraid.’ Being uncomfortable is the only time we can practice courage. And, the more friends/support we have around us, the easier it is to build those courage muscles.

 

Higher levels of personal courage allows us to be a peace with ourselves, more comfortable in our own skin.

 

This leads to…

 

Practicing Gratitude

It’s pretty simple: grateful people are happier people. And, it actually takes some courage to express gratitude since it might make you feel awkward the first time or two you do it. It takes even more courage to live by those grateful words. But the more we do, the more we get to experience….

 

Wonder and Joy

This is the final step in that ‘what do we campers out of camp’ chain. If they’ve played, learned without knowing it, made some friends, built their courage, and started practicing a grateful outlook, the are MUCH more likely to live with wonder and joy.

 

So, are these 21st Century Skills? Well, I think they are. We’ll still need to be able to cook our meals, change a tire, etc. But, with the rise of automation and technology, we’ll need to prepare our kids to become adults with these important skills. And, to me, camp is a great place to get them rolling.

 

Can’t wait to get everyone to camp! With GAC,
Cole

 

It’s Natural! A Note to Nervous Campers

Monday, May 8th, 2017

I enjoyed a great visit with one of our returning campers yesterday. This camper had ton of fun at camp, loved his counselors, made a bunch of friends, and was really nervous about coming back to camp for a second summer.

 

Why? You probably can guess it – our returning camper remembers missing parents and it seemed to dwarf everything else. The family was surprised as every word out about camp was ‘I had SO much fun! There are so many great things to do!’

 

This is not uncommon at all. It’s actually pretty normal. In fact, I believe it’s built into us from our lives thousands of years ago. Let me explain….

 

Many, many thousands of years ago, we humans led a pretty precarious existence. There were lots of things in our world that were bigger, faster, stronger, and meaner than us. We had little in the way of natural defensive or offensive weapons – our hands and arms are not very strong compared to a gorilla, our skin not nearly as tough as a rhinos, and our teeth and speed paled in comparison to sabre tooth tigers.

 

The difference – that which kept us alive and thriving when the physical odds were stacked against us – is that thing between your ears.

 

Our brains allowed us to recognize danger quickly and figure out ways to get out of trouble and fast! This ‘fight or flight’ mechanism in our brain, combined with our ability communicate and coordinate better than any other species, kept us going when we probably should have been a blip in the historical record.

 

Umm… And this relates to camp how?

 

Don’t worry – I’m getting there.

 

Ok, so our brains got really good at recognizing and avoiding danger. But sabre tooth tigers and most other major dangers we used to face are no longer issues for us in today’s world.

 

But, while we’ve made the environment around us safer, our brains have not changed much at all. Our brain still puts a great deal more focus (three times as much) on situations it feels are dangerous or scary over. situations that are perceived as fun.

 

What this means for us at camp

 

When a camper misses home – which 99% of campers and staff do at some point in the summer – their brain records it as a threatening experience and weighs it a lot more heavily (300% more!) than all the good stuff.

 

AND, if a person has not yet come to realize that they have a great deal of control on how they react to things and what they focus on, they can very easily fall into focusing on the negative rather than the positive.

 

Courage and Gratitude to the Rescue!

This is why courage is so important. Courage is a like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. And, you do need to demonstrate courage when facing those negative emotions.

 

You’ve got to recognize your feelings and then think, “Okay, does it make sense to be really that concerned about this?” If it’s a sabre tooth tiger, then absolutely! But, if it was remembering those 5-10 minutes of missing your parents after reading a note from home?

 

It’s a lot easier to battle the negative feelings when you combine courage with its best friend, gratitude. When you are remembering a negative part of an experience, you’ll need to balance it with at least three things you are grateful about concerning that same experience.

 

In the case of camp, when you feel a bit down or nervous about returning, you could think about all those new friends you’ve made, how you’d never get to play shaving cream whiffle ball at home (or something just as whacky and fun), and that a s’more with your fun counselors from Oregon and New Zealand are just better at camp.

 

At Weequahic, we are lucky to build dozens and dozens of great memories each day. All you have to do is start creating a highlight reel in your head to keep for those “rainy day” moments.

 

Final Thought

 

So, remember – those nervous feelings are totally natural and totally normal. They are an echo of what allowed our ancestors to keep going each day. BUT, if you start building your gratitude and courage muscles, you can overcome the feelings that are holding you back from enjoying the most out of each day.

 

We are excited to help along the way! Can’t wait for camp,

 

Cole

 

PS – One more point on this topic. Many of our campers, especially the boys, have a hard time reaching out for help when feeling a bit down at camp. The common thought is ‘It would be too embarrassing to talk about it with my counselor.”

 

I get that and felt the same way when I was there age.

 

Luckily for me, I have always been a really bad actor. Good friends recognize things quickly and help me when it’s obvious I need a pep talk. The hard part comes when the kiddo in question is a really good actor for those few moments when a ‘stiff upper lip’ may seem necessary.

 

Let’s dispel that myth with two questions and two facts. Question #1 for our campers:

 

“Do you like feeling like a hero?”

 

I have to imagine your answer is a resounding ‘yes!’ Ok, it may be a, ‘Um, yes – why do you ask? This seems a little off base.’

 

Either way, yes, you like feeling like a hero! Which leads to the first fact:

 

So do your counselors.

 

Question #2: “Is it fun to help another person feel like a hero?” Of course it does! Which then leads to the second fact:

 

When you open up to your counselors about missing home or some other concern you have at camp, they are so appreciative. Then, when you let them help get you back to those wide-open, holy-moly, “this is amazing stuff” feelings about your day, they are going to feel like a hero.

 

And, it’ll be due to you showing the courage to share your thoughts and let them help. So, be hero by sharing and help your counselors be a hero by helping you!

Just Dance!

Monday, April 10th, 2017

Dance is one of the most popular activities at Camp Weequahic. It is a great sport and beneficial in many ways. It is first and foremost a really fun way to spend the summer, but it also serves as a creative outlet for campers, is a great workout, and can be helpful for both novice and seasoned dancers to assist in skill progression.

 

Taught by counselors who have a love and passion for dance, this activity is popular with boys and girls of all ages and experience levels. The great thing about participating in dance at Camp Weequahic is that you can do so much more than dance. Not only do you get all the perks of a traditional sleep away camp, but there is the option to include other similar activities to your daily routine such as fitness, gymnastics, and cheerleading. Campers can expand their horizons and try different sports and activities that will help them become better dancers.

 

Learning a dance takes dedication and persistence. It is a very physical activity that can push campers out of their comfort zone, but it is also a huge confidence booster. Finally being able to perform a dance you’ve worked so hard to learn is a major accomplishment and a rush many dancers strive for. Dancing is a great way to build self-confidence, and many campers look forward to their time in the dance studio as a way to unwind, relax and let go. It provides a healthy outlet for creative expression and can be a stress reliever for many campers.

 

Dancing will definitely get your heart rate up, which is why it is such a good option for campers looking to stay (or get) physically fit over the summer. The upbeat music, the time spent with friends and the mental and physical challenges that come with learning a new dance make it one of those exercises that doesn’t feel like a workout at all. Dancing is a great cardio workout and improves coordination, flexibility, and balance at the same time.

 

The other thing campers love about dancing at camp is that regardless of skill level or experience, every camper feels welcomed, encouraged and supported. Everyone helps and learns from each other, and it is a safe place to be vulnerable and try new things. So put on your dancing shoes and let your inner dancer shine at Camp Weequahic!

 

No Better Place than Camp Weequahic

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

For a first time summer camp experience to remember, there’s no better place to spend your summer than Camp Weequahic. Specializing in first time campers, this exiting sleep away camp gives campers a unique camp experience based on a flexible program where their parents can choose from a wide range of options and choices to customize their summer to best suit the camper’s interests, strengths and passions. From high-energy sports like soccer and basketball, to creative outlets like theatre and robotics, Camp Weequahic’s focus on choice, spirit, adventure, tradition and family creates a safe, welcoming and exciting camp experience for those who are new to the summer camp experience.  With two three week sessions or the option to stay for all six weeks, families have a lot of flexibility in planning their children’s summer.

 

The gorgeous waterfront location of Camp Weequahic makes it a picturesque place to experience fun and excitement on the water. The sparkling, spring-fed lake is where campers can try kayaking, water skiing and fishing for the first time, and the lighted and heated waterfront pool offers a refreshing place for a swim. For a more extreme summer camp adventure, campers can step out of their comfort zone and try the ropes course, rock climbing wall, mountain biking or zoom down a 400’ zip line. First time campers become forever campers after spending their summer at Weequahic, and it is easy to see why. The safe, positive and welcoming environment makes first time campers feel right at home, and builds a love and appreciation for the summer camp experience that they will cherish forever.

 

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone at Camp Weequahic

Monday, March 20th, 2017

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

How Camp Taught Me to be Humble

Monday, March 13th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jamming Out at Camp

Monday, March 6th, 2017

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Taking the Camp Weequahic Spirit Home with You

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

When camp comes to an end, you’ll pack up your trucks and head home to get ready for another busy school year. When you leave, you’ll leave with a lot more than you came with. Your journals will be full of memories, your phones will be full of new phone numbers for all of your new friends, and you, as an individual, will leave with a new sense of confidence and independence that you only get when you spend a summer at Camp Weequahic.

 

There are different ways different campers bring a little piece of camp spirit home with them. You may find yourself humming one of the whacky camp tunes as you clean your room, which will bring back memories of campfires and canoeing on the lake.

 

You may find yourself digging through your laundry basket to find your super comfortable camp t-shirt, the one that reminds you of scoring the winning soccer goal or laughing until you cry at one of the shows put on by some of your best friends. You may search your room for your beloved camp hat or sweatshirt, as the perfectly worn in feeling brings back warm memories of late night talks and adventures outside.

 

Your family members may notice that you come back with a new sense of confidence, a new passion for sports or the arts, or a brand new sense of independence. They may notice that you left for camp one way, and came home with the camp spirit still dancing inside of you. They may notice you are happier, more active, and more willing to try new things. A lot happens at camp that causes changes and shifts within you, and it is impossible not to take those experiences and lessons and apply them into your normal routine back home. Shy campers may find it easier to make new friends, outgoing campers may learn to find comfort in quiet time and connecting with Mother Nature. Camp has this special way of exposing campers to a side of themselves that they may not normally see. This is the spirit of camp that comes home with each and every camper.

 

And next summer, when you come back, you’ll be amazed at all of the new things you take home with you. Year after year, even after you think you’ve done and learned and experienced everything camp has to offer, you still come home with something new each summer. You may learn that you don’t need to be constantly connected to Wifi to feel connected. You may learn that there is something special about spending time in nature. Every summer, campers take a little something extra home with them that stays with them for the rest of their life.

 

Lucky for you, a lot of the camp spirit that you’ll take home with you, and carry with you for the rest of your life, won’t take up any extra space in your camp trunk.

 

 

 

 

Camp Weequahic: Forever Changing, Yet Exactly the Same

Monday, December 19th, 2016

Camp is one of those things that meets campers exactly where they are. It has this unique way of providing campers with exactly what they need, sometimes before the campers even know they need it. Camp has a way of being the perfect combination of excitement and relaxation and has been that way for over 70 years.

 

In 70 years, a lot has changed at camp, but a lot has stayed the same. Over time, camp has transformed to meet the needs of the campers who come each year. The lake has always been central to the camping experience; even before jet boats were invented. The style of bathing suits may have changed, but the memories created in the lakes stay the same. The cabins may have been without porches then, but the stories and late night conversations inside of them were as special then as they are now. The camp has seen many upgrades throughout the years, but the feeling that camp gives campers throughout the summer never changes.

 

If campers from last summer were to sit down with campers from 50 years ago, they would have a lot in common. They would be able to trade stories about competing in Olympics, and they would be able to bust out the lyrics to some of the camp’s most popular songs, songs that haven’t changed since day one. They would be able to reminisce about the delicious camp lunches, the campfires, and all of the different sports and activities that filled up their days at camp. Even though a lot of time has passed, campers from 50 years ago would recognize camp as a place where they felt cared about, understood and accepted. Campers from last summer would be able to talk about new facilities, updated cabins and high-tech classes and workshops, but would be familiar with the overall feeling of acceptance and encouragement that is the foundation of Camp Weequahic.

 

Camp must change in order to meet the needs of the incoming generations of campers. It must have a sense of flexibility and growth to cater to new campers while holding on to its foundational values and traditions that have made it the camp it is today.  Camp is constantly changing and improving, but as always, is committed to being a place of friendships, fun, and life-long learning.

What I Learned From a Summer at Camp Weequahic

Monday, December 12th, 2016

My mom has this ritual of asking me, every day, about what I learned that day. Sometimes I shrug and say “I don’t know,” and other times I spit out interesting facts about blue whales or Egyptian pyramids or volcanoes that I learned that day at school. So in the car the day I got home from a summer at Camp Weequahic, I wasn’t surprised when she asked me what I had learned while being away. She was surprised, however, at my response.

 

I told her that I learned a lot of new skills that I would never have experienced if I had stayed home. I learned how to play lacrosse and sail. I learned to fish and learned a lot of crazy songs that have been stuck in my head all summer. I learned how to get from one side of camp to the other in the shortest amount of time, I learned how to make the perfect S’more, and even learned how to paint. I was exposed to so many new opportunities and experiences, that I felt like I was learning something new every day!

 

But in the first few days at home, I kept thinking about other things I learned while I was at camp. Things that were more about character than skill. Things that will help me in life more than knowing the perfect ratio of chocolate to marshmallow ratio on a S’more. When Jessi and I had that big disagreement, our counselors walked us through a communication plan that left both of us feeling heard, understood and we walked away with our issue totally resolved. I learned how to recognize when someone was feeling left out or lonely, and quickly invited them to sit, play or hang out with me. I learned a lot about how to interact with different people and learned to appreciate differences in people without judgment. At the end of the summer, I realized that sometimes I was so focused on the quantity of friends that I have, that I wasn’t focused on the quality. After spending a summer at camp, I learned the importance of having a handful of true friends who are there for you no matter what, who accept you for who you are, and who are honest and real with you.

 

I learned quickly that I’m a naturally messy and unorganized person, but that keeping my stuff picked up and clean in areas that I share with others is a sign of respect, and learned quickly to live in close proximity with other people and respecting boundaries and personal space. I learned to compromise, to be flexible, and how to manage my time.

 

I learned that I can, in fact, function without my cell phone and that not everything I do has to be documented through a “selfie.” I learned that without a cell phone glued to my side, I could focus more on the actual experience rather than getting the perfect shot, choosing the best filter, and then waiting impatiently for my friends to “like” and “comment” on the picture through social media.

 

I didn’t overwhelm my dear ‘ol mom with all of these things that I learned, and instead just gave her little stories here and there to demonstrate all of the new things I had learned at camp. Sometimes, she was the one telling me about the difference that she noticed in me, things that I had learned that made an obvious difference in my attitude and character. She noticed I was more patient with my little sister, more helpful to her and my dad, I was a better team player for my soccer team, and as school rolled around, she noticed I was focusing more on my grades.

 

I learned a lot at Camp Weequahic. Some of the things are basic skills that are fun to know, while others are foundational qualities that I really feel with set me up for better relationships and experiences for the rest of my life. I’m thankful that going to camp was such a fun and natural way to learn so many new things.