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!
When you hear the words “summer camp,” you probably think of three things right away: campfires, friendship — and nature.
Without any of these essential elements, camp just wouldn’t be the same. Spending much-needed “digital detox” time in the woods is what brings many of us back year after year, so it’s no surprise that hiking in the natural areas around Camp Weequahic is one of the most popular activities each summer!
There’s nothing like fresh mountain air to remind us of the things that matter in life.
The healing power of nature
Hiking is a serious workout, but it isn’t just about “building character.” Life on the trail has many proven emotional and health benefits that make it a wonderful way for campers and counselors alike to pass the afternoon.
For example: did you know the average person only walks half as much as doctors recommend for a healthy lifestyle?
This is particularly unfortunate for kids, many of whom aren’t spending nearly enough time outside. Aside from missing out on the emotional benefits of sunshine and endorphins, it’s no mystery to parents that time spent in front of iPads and Playstations is rarely time well-spent.
Needless to say, everyone gets in plenty of exercise out of an afternoon in the woods!
Connecting with the natural world
But it isn’t the health benefits of hiking that get campers excited about getting out on the trail. Quite the opposite: in the high-energy world of camp sports and games, hiking is a perfect slow-down time.
New friends can use the time to talk and get to know one another, and others can use the time to “zen out” with the forest and enjoy the experience of being out in the wild.
With so many campers coming from urban and suburban areas, time spent hiking around Camp Weequahic may be a first-time experience with the peace and quiet of the woodlands!
The journey is the destination
Like all the activities at summer camp, hiking contains many lessons that strike to the core of what the camp experience is all about.
Most importantly, campers are reminded that the journey is as important as the destination. The summit may be spectacular, but the best part of hiking come from the camaraderie and togetherness of tackling the trail — and the pure value of experiencing the great outdoors.
Life is like a trail, and every journey begins with a single step. Whatever your dream may be, it’s waiting for you at the top of the mountain. The journey may be long… but there’s no reason to make it alone! Stick with your camp friends and you’ll be there before you know it!
I could hear my heart pounding in my chest and I felt like I was going to throw up. I could hear the whispers of my fellow campers just behind the curtain, and I became absolutely certain that this was a very very bad idea. And then, like slow motion, the curtain lifted and I saw the entire audience looking at me. And the music that was all so familiar from practice started, and my feet started moving and my lips started talking and I was doing it! I was preforming in front of a huge crowd and to my surprise, I was LOVING it. It was so much fun pretending to be someone else, and I lost myself in the character I was playing. I had never been in a play before, and never thought as myself as the “in the spotlight” kind of kid, but I felt right at home on stage.
One of the reasons I felt so confident on my big night was because we had so many opportunities to practice. Every day, almost from the first day at camp, we would all get together and practice our lines, our movements and we got a lot of guidance from our counselors, some of whom had been in dozens of plays in high school and college! They were so helpful in making us feel comfortable and confident, and sometimes we forgot we were “working” because we were having so much fun.
Some of my cast mates were from preforming arts schools, and had a lot of theatre experience under their belt. We all really learned a lot from them, and were lucky to have them on our team. But no matter if we had done 10 plays or this was our first one, everyone was treated like a very valuable part of the production. I loved the feeling of being part of a team (since sports have never really been my thing) and feeling valued, wanted and appreciated. When I got nervous, I just had to look out of the corner of my eye to my friend Jake who would give me an encouraging nod or wink, and I suddenly found my confidence. When someone else got tripped up on their lines or forgot their mark, I was able to mouth the words or improvise so that the show flowed smoothly.
Since I was in the play at camp, public speaking at school has been much easier. I even tried out for the play at school, and although I didn’t get the role I auditioned for, I’m having a great time being part of the production. That is another thing that being in the camp play helped me with; understanding that you don’t always get the starring role, but that without the supporting roles, the play can’t go on! Everyone has such an important role, no matter how small, and I love that about being in theatre.
After the play, everyone clapped and cheered, and for the rest of my time at camp, people I didn’t even know came up and told me how funny I was and what a good job I did. It was so nice to get that encouragement from my fellow campers. Some even said that they’re going to try out next time!
Being in the camp play was one of the most exciting, nerve-wracking, and amazing things I’ve ever done, and I learned so much!
In our first summer at CW in 2009, we had 120 campers from seven states and two countries. It was great – our campers came from lots of places and were thrilled to meet kids and staff from all lots of different places..
Over the ensuing eight years, camp has grown to include over 200 boys and 200 girls from sixteen states and eleven different countries. In fact, our campers fly or drive in from every continent on Earth (well… except for the big block of ice at the South Pole….)
When families ask ‘where do most of your campers come from?’, the East Coast is the best way to answer. We have pretty equal numbers from New York City, southern Florida, greater Washington DC and New Jersey. We have smaller but still vibrant populations from Westchester County, Philadelphia, Georgia, Long Island, and California as well as several states.
This allows our campers to build relationships with kids who they can see throughout the year either close to home or on a vacation to fun spots. We love seeing all the pictures of kids who get to see one another throughout the year!
In addition to our US kids, we enjoy campers from France, Spain, Belgium, China, Russia, India, Columbia, Sweden, Texas, Italy, and Equatorial Guinea among others. While our international campers make up only about ten percent of our total population, they add a wonderful ‘smaller Earth’ perspective for all of our campers and have been a joy to have at CW.
While our campers are our main focus, we could not have nearly as much fun as we do without our amazing staff. Two-thirds of our staff come from all over the US while the rest come from too many countries to list. Suffice it to say, our international night gets pretty rowdy! These staff members come for one reason alone: to create a remarkable experience for every person they encounter through Gratitude, Attitude and Courage.
We are so excited to have campers and staff of all sizes, colors, and backgrounds at CW each summer. Our diverse community has a blast learning, growing and laughing together.
So, don’t be surprised if you see Weequahic gear being spotted on the Champs-Elysees, Broadway, Cinque Terra, the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the Golden Gate Bridge or near the Great Wall. Our people wear Weequahic all over the world!
Camp is super duper fun… but every summer camper (or camp counselor) knows that with the fun comes a dash of craziness!
The days are packed with activities, and among those activities are tons of quirky camp traditions.
One of the most special things about summer camp is how traditions are passed on through returning campers and counselors.
Here are a few of our favorite classic camp traditions!
No morning is complete without the traditional Camp Weequahic flag ceremony! Like the traditional evening campfire, flag-raising is a time for everyone at camp to gather together and remember that we’re all in it together. (And of course, double-check that no one overslept!)
Like with everything at camp, there is always time to be a little goofy, and flag ceremonies are no exception. From spontaneous camp songs to call-and-response games, you never know what the counselor’s are going to pull out of their sleeves!
Ah, the sweet smell of soot and s’mores…
No camp would be complete without a campfire. Community campfires are a time for the entire group to come together for songs, dance, theater, and of course the infamous talent shows.
Usually the campfire starts with fast, silly songs and a few games to get everyone grounded and relaxed. As the night progresses, slower songs and fun stories are shared around the fire until it’s finally time to say goodnight and return to the cabins. (And brush our teeth! That means you!)
Mmm, lunchtime — everyone’s favorite activity of the day!
(Aside from breakfast and dinner, that is.)
Feeding dozens of campers at the same time would be chaotic if there were no traditions to make mealtime run smoothly. Everyone has to “sing for their supper,” so it’s no surprise that so many camp songs center around food. “Heeeey burrito!”
Camp songs may be one of the strangest traditions to those who have never been to camp — but these ridiculous jingles are something that campers everywhere have in common!
Traditions that keep on giving
Summer camp is an integral part of American life, and the rhythm of day-to-day life lets everyone play their part in the story.
From all-camp events like dances, talent shows, and barbecues, to specific hiking songs, camp life has something for everybody. Trust us, you’ll get into the swing of things before you know it.
…And before long, you’ll be ready to participate in the best camp tradition of all — making your own!
“It’s just a camp thing.” If you’ve ever been a summer camper or camp counselor, chances are it’s a phrase you know well. I mean, how else can you explain all the wacky traditions at summer camp?
From the absurd lunchtime songs to the campfire skits full of inside jokes, camp and school are as different as apples and orangutans. (And just like apples and orangutans, one is a whole lot more unexpected than the other!)
Here are just a few of the ways that camp is different from life at school! A word of warning: don’t read this list if summer is far away!
Yes, summer camp is that awesome. 🙂
Fact: “fun in the sun” is good for your health
You know that “fun in the sun” puts a smile on your face — but did you also know that it provides you with vitamin D, keeping your mind and body healthy?
Not only that, but some studies have even shown that time in the sun can combat a variety of common problems from depression to fatigue. Who knew!
Our “thesis” has always been that camp makes you happy. Turns out there’s some science to back up our hunches! 😉
A break from homework
Homework is a healthy part of your school experience, but it certainly won’t be following you out to Camp Weequahic.
In fact, we have a strict anti-homework rule in place! (Just kidding — if you really want to do some multiplication tables or summer readying, be our guest! And more power to you.)
Learning still happens at Camp Weequahic, but it’s all experiential learning. While math class is good for you arithmetic skills, the activities at camp tend to focus on building other skills: like leadership, compassion, and teamwork. Thankfully, playing games with your friends tends to be way more fun than practicing grammar rules before a test!
Learning at camp
Just because it’s far away from school doesn’t mean learning stops when you’re at summer camp. From team sports that build your communication abilities to craft workshops that get you in touch with your inner artist, camp activities are carefully designed to always be teaching you an important life skill.
Taking a break from “hitting the books” is great for making sure you’re fully charged for the next year, and all the activities and social opportunities at summer camp make it the perfect place to recharge!
Counselors vs. Teachers
Just like school, camp isn’t completely a free-for-all. Our team of highly-trained and passionate counselors are always on hand to make sure the fun and games go off without a hitch.
That being said, counselors and teachers have a few differences. If you’ve ever been in a big brother or big sister program, you probably have a good idea of what having a counselor is like. Someone who looks out for you, guides you through any conflict or questions you have about life at camp, and makes sure you brush your teeth a couple times a day.
The difference is, camp counselors act about 100 times more zany while they do it! Remember, we’re here to have the time of our lives!
…But don’t take our word for it. Come join in the fun!
The only way to truly discover how different camp life is from school life is to try it out. It’ll be different from anything you’ve ever done before, but we have a feeling you’re an adventurous sort anyway. Plus, you’ll finally understand what everyone means when they say “it’s just a camp thing.”
Those of you who are summer camp regulars, be sure to keep your grades up and hang in there. We promise summer will be here before you know it!
Most people will tell you that growing up means having less time to play. Summer vacations for kids? Nothing but fun! Summer vacations for grown ups? “Booooring!”
…Well, here’s a secret: summer doesn’t have to be totally boring when you get too old for summer camp. All you have to do is become a camp counselor — problem solved! (Not to mention your Mom will be happy, since you’re “technically” getting a job!”
If you love camp and you’re worried about getting too old to go, don’t worry. Taking on the responsibility of a summer camp counselor is both rewarding and super fun!
Transitioning from summer camper to summer camp counselor is probably easier than you think.
Building dependability and good leadership skills are already a huge part of the activities and games that campers participate in every year. For former summer campers, all the leadership skills that make a good counselor are already there — it’s just a question of stepping up to the plate and trying on a different hat this summer!
Leadership is “hard-wired” into the activities at Camp Weequahic; oftentimes, campers don’t even realize they’re building leadership skills. Camping, team sports, and problem-solving games all feels like “fun in the sun.” programs are usually adventure based and allow you to explore your budding leadership style through hands-on activities.
If you’ve ever wondered why the ropes course and team sports get just a little more challenging every year at camp, that’s why. Just like life, camp gets a little more complex every year. Luckily, with harder work comes bigger rewards. Few jobs are quite as fun and satisfying as that of a summer camp counselor!
Responsibility and freedom
For college students, there’s no way around it; summer jobs and internships can be a drag. Camp is different from a regular job; perhaps the only summer job in the world that requires so much time playing games!
While counselors have plenty of responsibilities when it comes to their campers, counselors who have been campers themselves have a special place in their heart for the relaxation that camp offers. Digital detox is worth its weight in gold — I mean, can you imagine if you were in summer classes right now?!
Whether they’re a veteran camper or excited newcomer, every single counselor at Camp Weequahic goes through intensive training and team-building activities before the first group of campers arrives.
Counselor training is where former campers really shine — because they already know what a magical experience they’re in for, and have all the traditional camp songs down by heart!
Most of all, former campers excel as counselors because they remember what it was like to be a camper themselves, helping them understand the value they offer to their own campers as role models. Veteran campers know that fun and games is serious business, and that all the planning and training is worth it to make sure the summer goes off without a hitch!
Summer camp is an incredible chance to spend time among your peers, gain independence, and learn about yourself.
Whether you decide to become a bunk specialist, or work in a specialty programing at your camp, you will surely develop important life skills that will help you become a responsible adult — not to mention a super fun role model for generations of Camp Weequahic campers!
Remember, growing up doesn’t have to mean letting go of that summer camp spirit!
Have you been keeping up on Parks & Rec lately? Yeah, so have we. (You have to do something when summer ends, right?)
Here at camp pretty much everything reminds us of camp activities, but apparently we’re not the only ones: and Nick Offermans’ goofy woodworking-obsessed character has gotten us particularly excited to dive into some traditional American crafting in the shop at Camp Weequahic!
“It’s difficult to name a favorite wood. They are all so noble, each with its own special characteristics.”
– Nick Offerman, Parks & Rec
Okay, maybe you don’t have to be as serious about woodworking as they are on Parks & Rec, but getting crafty in the shop is definitely a ton of fun.
Traditional skills are hip and practical
Woodworking is one of those traditional skills that is slowly being lost in much of the country. Trying it out at camp is as much about getting in touch with the history of craftsmanship as it is about learning practical skills that will serve you well next time you need to use a little elbow grease on a home-improvement project.
It’s like the school shop with extra imagination
The best part about woodworking at Camp Weequahic is that it isn’t “just any” woodworking class. If you think building a chair in the shop at school sounds boring, how about building a rustic necklace, or something you can use in your room — like a laptop tray? Campers have built some pretty crazy stuff in summers past, including:
…and the list goes on.
If you can imagine it, you can build it. Staff specialists work with you to help you learn the tools, and then your creativity gets to run wild making something cool along with the group… or going rogue and making something else entirely.
Woodworking projects are great gifts for family (hint, hint)
If you’re racking your brains trying to think of a good Father’s Day, Mother’s Day or Holiday gift, keep it in mind when you hit the shop next summer. Everyone loves homemade gifts, so a handmade gift from the camp woodworking shop is sure to fit the bill. It’s certainly less boring than socks!
Whatever you bring home from the camp woodworking shop, it’s guaranteed to surprise your folks. Camp isn’t just fun — it can also be practical.
We can’t wait to build more awesome stuff next summer! See you in the shop!
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.
We talk a great deal about gratitude at CW. Even though it comes up often, not everyone knows exactly how to define it.
There are a number of definitions but our favorite comes from researcher Robert Emmons. He tells us that gratitude “is an affirmation of the good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received… and we recognize that the sources of this ‘goodness’ are outside of ourselves.”
So, how do we work gratitude into our daily lives at camp? Lots of ways!
It comes up every night before going to bed in the form of a question: “What are your two ‘happies’ for the day?” This forces (in a good way) our campers to think about all the great things they’ve enjoyed that day before going to bed.
It’s explored with our staff during their interviews and repeated often during their nine-day orientation before camp starts. We find that college aged women and men who already hold gratitude as an important part of their life to be more interested and interesting staff members. It comes up often in our winter office when we look back over the previous summer and plan for the next. (We have a fantastic job!) And, thankfully, it mentioned a lot when speaking to parents and campers about their experience with us.
At Camp Weequahic, we find it vitally important to demonstrate gratitude on a daily basis by saying thank you, writing a quick note, or sharing a kind word with one another. This is so much more effective than simply speaking about it or learning from a book.
We believe community that practices gratitude on all levels throughout the day is a happier, more patient, and more engaged community. And, it’s one worth building every day.