Month: September 2011

Summer Camp: Defining Routine and Ritual

Routines.  Everyone has them.  For some, they encompass everything that takes place from the time we wake in the morning until we go to bed at night.  For others, they come in short bursts throughout the day, such as at mealtimes or bedtime.  However, establishing routines as daily parts of our lives is important, especially for children.  Childcare experts agree that establishing regular routines for children is essential for healthy development.  The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning reports that “Studies have documented that schedules and routines influence children’s emotional, cognitive, and social development.”

It’s no secret that summer camps provide loose routines that allow room for healthy creative development through structured daily programs and schedules that maintain consistent meal, activity, and bedtimes.  Maintaining a routine throughout the summer is also valuable in easing the transition from summer to fall and back into summer again.  However, one special aspect of summer camp that is often overlooked is that it helps children learn to understand the difference between routine and ritual—what makes one necessity and the other tradition.

Barbara H. Fiese, Ph.D., Syracuse University, defines routine as something that “involves a momentary time commitment so that once the act is completed, there is little, if any, afterthought.”  However, she defines ritual as “symbolic communication” that has “continuity in meaning across generations.”  Rituals take place within the home family setting.  However, for children, it’s not always clear how to tell the difference between what is done simply to be done and what is  done because it’s significant to their heritage.  This is where the summer camp ritual takes on a special significance.  Even executives such as Michael Eisner have publicly recalled the important role that summer camp rituals have played in their lives.

Summer camp often draws a distinct line between routine and ritual.  Campers understand, for instance, that cleaning their bunks or cabins everyday is part of a routine.  That following an activities schedule is part of routine.  That hearing TAPS in the evening to signal bedtime is a part of routine.  They, too, understand that campfires, however regular, are rituals.  They are more than just a fire that they gather around to eat s’mores.  Campfires have meaning that goes far beyond the fire itself.  The same can be said about opening night shows, closing, and fireworks.  Campers understand that these are not just routines done merely to achieve a goal.  They’re rituals that make their summer camp the place that it is and them a part of it.

By being able to tell the difference, children are able to accept routine as something that needs to be done and prevent rituals from simply becoming routine by understanding the value in them.  Dr. Fiese says that children will often revisit memories of rituals in order to “recapture some of the positive.” experience.”  This perhaps explains why so many camp rituals remain sacred to campers far passed their camping years.  Some of America’s Finest Summer Camps’ rituals hold special significance for campers and staff members.  For Camp Weequahic campers and staff, Flag Lowering and Wish Boats provide some of the most memorable moments for its campers and staff:

Nominations at Flag Lowering – At the end of each day of camp, we gather around the flagpole for some end of the day announcements. Once we have passed along information about the night’s evening activities, we invite counselors to pass along their nominations. Campers are nominated for many reasons – lending a helping hand to a friend in need, getting up on water skis for the first time, showing a great attitude to their team mates. The main thing is that we are rewarding campers for demonstrating our values of gratitude, a great attitude, and courage throughout the day. The nominated campers come forward to lower the flag. It’s a great ritual to end the day at Weequahic.

Wish Boats at the end of the summer are another Weequahic ritual.  Our campers are invited to put their wish boats into the water. Campers take their little boats and write a few wishes on the bottom. Then, with the help of our staff members, campers put their candle in the boat and float it out into our lake. While their light is heading home away from Weequahic, tradition holds that they float back to camp soon!

Waterskiing Fun!

We are blessed with a lot of natural physical gifts at Weequahic – a quiet setting, a beautiful tree lined camp, great field space, and incredible indoor facilities. However, when you ask the campers and our families what they like the most about our property, they always respond that it’s the lake.

Camp Weequahic is located on Sly Lake, a deepwater spring fed lake our campers enjoy on a daily basis. It’s a stone’s throw from our girls’ bunks and teems with activity every moment of every day. And, while it’s hard to determine which water program is the most fun, it would be hard to argue against our water ski program!

Many campers are introduced to waterskiing for the first time at Weequahic. With a set of docks reserved for our motor boats and a big lake to enjoy, our campers get a lot of time behind the boats on water skis, wakeboards, knee boards, and tubes.

During the program day, Weequahic’s professional staff of drivers and teachers support our campers as they get up on water skis or the wakeboard. Our boats are outfitted with a ‘boom’ a teaching aid that allows campers to learn to ski without being pulled on the rope. Once they’ve mastered the boom, they enjoy the long rope.

We find campers evenly split between water skiing and wakeboard (basically snowboarding on the water). Regardless, it’s our goal for them to ski as often as possible. That’s why we run the program every day of the summer and incorporate as many teaching spots as possible.

When campers aren’t improving their skills on skis, they are laughing and screaming around the lake with their friends on the tubes. Tubes are used as a fun outlet for all campers and each bunk is invited for a tube run or two each week. The look on our campers’ faces when they get off the tube is priceless – they simply could not have more fun!

A summer at camp would not be complete without having fun on the lake. We are thrilled to have a great lake at Camp Weequahic and can’t wait to see our campers enjoy it again in for Summer 2012!

Camp Tools for School

Well campers, it’s time for school. I know you’d rather be at camp – so would I! However, it’s time to leave your camp gear at home and head off to the classroom. Butjust because you are going to school doesn’t mean you’ll leave everything behind. Here are a few suggestions of tools you learned at camp that you should take to school every day.

Confidence! You just spent a lot of time away from home this summer. You made friends with campers and staff from around the country and world. You helped mold your own daily schedule into something you’d love. You swam in a lake, tackled a climbing tower, got up on stage, created pieces of art, and laughed until your belly hurt. Weequahic showed you that you have what it takes to be a success and revealed the path forward. This confidence will be huge in your day to day at school. Use it!

Community! When you look back on your time at Weequahic, I bet you’ll think mostly of what went on in the bunk. You, your bunk mates, and your counselors spent a whole lot of time building a fun, caring, and welcoming community. It took patience and commitment. Watching everyone hug (and even shed a tear) on the last day of camp, I know it was worth it. So, think of what you’ve experienced in building a bunk community and take it to your classroom. You can help be a leader in building a great community at school.

Character! At Weequahic, we stressed to you that it’s your daily actions that matter. The big and little things you do everyday show who you are. While others may listen to your words, you’ve learned that they’ll imitate your actions. So choose your actions wisely! Remember: little by little, character is built every day. Take what you’ve learned at camp and show everyone in your classroom and school what a person with great character can do.

You learned so much this summer – how to water ski, climb, create a radio broadcast, project your voice, cook, etc. More importantly, you gained independence, built character, created a community, and increased your confidence. These aspects of learning at camp will help you every day at school and beyond.

Rest assured that while you are in the classroom improving your knowledge of math, writing, history, science, and more, we’ll be hard at work preparing camp for another fantastic summer of laughter and learning. Have a great year at school. Study hard, do good, and stay excited for camp!

Cole Kelly