Posts Tagged ‘American summer camps’
Thursday, May 16th, 2013
As long as there has been summer camp, archery has been a part of it. Although the amount of available activities at summer camp has grown immensely since the early days of camp, archery still remains popular. It’s a classic outdoor sport that doesn’t require the stamina or athletic prowess of, say, soccer, but a good eye, good aim, and precision when firing. There is a certain amount of satisfaction in being able to see yourself move closer to achieving a goal. It’s not always apparent that your swim stroke has gotten better since the beginning of the summer, or that your baseball pitch has improved over the past couple of weeks. Although your counselors and friends may compliment you and tell you that you’re better than you used to be, there isn’t really anything tangible for you to immediately be able to tell for yourself. With archery, however, there is a target with a bull’s-eye on it. It’s not at all unusual for campers to begin the summer not even being able to hit the target and then, as the summer moves along, hit and then inch closer and closer to the bull’s-eye. The closer they get to that bull’s-eye, the more arrows campers want to shoot.
It seems like a small goal, and it is really. However, it’s still an exercise in goal setting. Hitting the bull’s-eye requires focus, and being focused requires you to survey your surroundings, determine where you need to aim, and then focus on the details as you attempt to hit your target. Being successful at archery requires this same effort from everyone. Campers have no advantage if they run faster, jump higher, or throw harder. Every camper enters the archery range on a level playing field with the same potential for hitting a bull’s-eye. Some get lucky, some work hard. Either way, archery promises a path to success for anyone who is willing to set a goal, take aim, and work hard. Perhaps that is why after decades of being a summer camp staple, archery remains one of the most popular activities.
Monday, April 22nd, 2013
1.) Go Tubing
2.) Ride a Zipline
3.) Paint Yourself a Different Color
4.) Throw a Clay Pot on a Wheel
5.) Take Part in a Bucket Brigade
6.) Learn a Balance Beam Routine
7.) Sing at Campfire
8.) Jump in One of These
9.) Perform a Musical Number
10.) Perform in a Musical
11.) Have a Sleepover Every Night with Your Friends
12.) Slide on a Really Huge Slip and Slide
13.) Learn a New Sport
14.) Play Roller Hockey
15.) …And Ride a Horse
16.) …And Go Tubing
17.) Learn to Waterski
18.) Climb a Wall
19.) Build a Rocket
20.) Play Gaga
Sunday, April 14th, 2013
A joke telling session in the cabin during a rainy morning, lying in the cabin during rest hour, or sitting by the waterfront and talking with friends as the sun goes down are what we call downtime at summer camp. Children need downtime to process learning experiences and recharge their creative juices, notes parenting expert Michael Grose. He believes downtime is an important life skill that every child should learn to enjoy and appreciate. Yes, sleepaway camps like to keep campers busy. After all, that’s what they come for. But camps also place emphasis on the value of the summer camp experience as a way to get out of the routine of everyday life, which is what makes summer camp the perfect place for children to learn downtime.
At home, it’s easy to get lost in the constant “go” routine to which so many children are accustomed. Many of them go straight from school to sports rehearsals or music lessons, sometimes both or several in one night. Then there is the inevitable stack of homework waiting when they finally get a few moments in the evening. They also see their parents constantly on the move. In such an environment, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that one should always be operating at full speed. At camp, however, the environment is decidedly one that is about slowing down and appreciating individual moments and accomplishments.
Camp is also contained. Campers have only a few weeks each summer to maximize their camp experience. They can’t look too far ahead without looking beyond camp, which no camper wants to do. That’s why campers like to take advantage of that brief rain shower, an hour of rest in the afternoon, or a few moments after dinner to enjoy the camp environment and bond with friends.
Says Grose, “Free, child-initiated play is the ultimate in relaxation. Fun games, games with few rules and games that kids control help them to unwind.” And learning to unwind is what camp is all about.
Thursday, April 4th, 2013
From the rituals they lead to open camp on the first night until the moment they say teary farewells to their final summers, summer camp plays as significant a role in older campers’ lives as they play in carrying on its traditions. There are a lot of camp articles that sing the praises of summer camp for young children, but few focus on the value of the camp experience for young teens. By the time many campers reach their teens, they already have several camp summers behind them. For them, it’s not really about newness anymore, but reliability and tradition: who is at camp, what is at camp, camp rites to which they’ve looked forward since they were young. In a period of child’s life that can be a roller coaster full of ups and downs that come at full speed, summer camp is oasis of stability. It’s solid ground, a safe place where teenagers go to be themselves and to let loose of the stress and strain that are inextricably part of the teenage years.
At summer camp, teenagers can still be young while getting a taste of what it means to be grown up. They connect with a small group of people with whom they’ve shared experiences since they were very young and with whom they continue to share experiences. They not only share experiences, they share memories that only a select group of others shares. Both give older campers a distinct sense of belonging. Regardless of who or what they are to their school peers the other ten months of the year, camp is a circle of inclusion that often extends far beyond the camp years. Older campers also benefit from privileges that come from being older. They’re tapped to lead camp activities, given leadership roles on teams of younger campers, and charged with being examples in honoring camp traditions. In short, older campers “train” younger campers how to be good campers. For many of them, being a role model and a mentor is one of the best aspects of camp. The pride in having played a role in a younger camper’s life is what brings many former campers back to camp in their adult years to work as counselors.
Beyond rituals and traditions, there is also the encouragement that many older campers get from staff members in pursuing college and career goals, be it allowing them to sample career life through Apprentice type tasks, giving them the opportunity to write an essay for the camp blog, giving them a camera and letting them take photos for the camp website, helping them write a college essay or work through a summer reading assignment, or just talking to them about what life as a teacher or a coach is like. By the time campers reach their teenage years, they’ve learned to appreciate what staff members bring to the table and are eager to learn and listen. Ask any former camper to name a camp staff member who had a special impact on their lives, and within seconds they’ll share the story of a beloved counselor or staff member who taught them something about life that they still practice today.
Although many bonds form when campers are young, some of the most special form when they’re older. Sometimes something as simple as a team building exercise helps teenage campers realize that they have more in common with a fellow camper than they thought they did. At an age when it’s all too easy to feel isolated, being able everyday to realize life as a valuable part of a whole translates into some of the most special memories of a camp career.
Camp is more than just a summer away from home hanging with friends. It’s a learning experience, and some of the most valuable lessons are learned in the midst of teenage fun at summer camp.
Sunday, February 24th, 2013
Robert Fulghum wrote a great poem entitled “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.” Since so many campers and staff members often speak of all of the valuable things they learn at camp, we thought we’d do a tribute to Fulghum’s original poem, as well as to all present and former campers and staff members, with our own camp take on the classic…
Everything I Need to Know in Life…I didn’t learn in a classroom or in a book. I learned it at summer camp. I learned….
- I can make good decisions for myself
- Living with other people requires compromise.
- Learning to say ‘I’m sorry”
- Making my bed every day
- Clean up my own mess
- Don’t overpack!
- Don’t take things that are not yours.
- Write letters. People still love getting mail.
- Trying new things is fun, even if they don’t turn out to be something you’d want to do everyday.
- Sometimes being able to laugh at yourself is the best medicine.
- Everyone should take the time to act silly —even grownups.
- It’s okay not to be the best at something as long as you try really hard.
- Just because you don’t succeed the first time, that doesn’t mean you should give up.
- It’s not so hard to smile and say ‘hi’ to someone you don’t know.
- New friends are great! Old friends are the best!
- Traditions tie us to others forever, no matter where we are in the world or how much time has passed.
- You have the power to choose whether you have a good day or a bad day. And even if your day doesn’t get off to such a great start, it doesn’t have to end that way.
- No one wins all of the time. It’s what you take away from the game that matters.
- Having a routine is a really good way to stay organized.
- Words CAN be just as powerful as sticks and stones, so think about what you say to someone else before you say it.
- Judging people by what they look like or what they wear won’t get you very far in life, and you might miss out on some great friendships because of it.
- Cheering for others is just as fun as being cheered on.
- Every great thing comes to an end. But the memories of it last a lifetime.
The world would be an awesome place if everyone went to summer camp!
Saturday, February 16th, 2013
Whether it’s a school spelling bee or a soccer game, as parents we want to see our children win not just to experience the joy of seeing them excel but because we know that they want to win. Being raised in a competitive culture naturally makes us all want to be number one. Children equate being number one with being the best. However, as grownups we know that it’s impossible to win all of the time and that winning doesn’t necessarily mean being the best so much as being the best on that particular day. The idea that losing, in reality, is closer to not winning in that it’s possible to “lose” yet gain something valuable from a contest or competition is one of the most difficult concepts for children to embrace. Camp is a place where not only is this point driven home daily, but it’s a lesson learned at camp in a fun, constructive environment.
The pressure of anxious parents and coaches on the sidelines of sports competitions combined with the knowledge that school performance affects everything from what kind of classes they can take, extracurricular activities in which they can participate, and what colleges they will be attend place a great deal of emphasis on children’s performance. The ability for children to be able to process that good can come from not winning is clouded because the end goal is the emphasis. The underlying message that children sometimes inadvertently receive as a result is that they will be valued or loved less if they lose. Camp, on the other hand, emphasizes process and embraces novice. One of the primary messages conveyed to campers is that winning is a great thing at camp, but it’s not everything. Improving skills, finding activities one really loves, having fun and making friends are valuable attributes at camp. In such an environment, winning
takes on less prominence. Children are less likely to feel less valuable as campers for losing.
Camp leaders and staff work very hard throughout the summer to make sure this atmosphere is maintained. Children are encouraged for performance, accomplishment, and attitude regardless of being winners or losers in a contest. Many special camp games or competitions are also structured in a way that encourages children to work together in order to win and provide excellent opportunities for those children who may not be excellent athletes or extreme intellectuals to have their moments to shine.
Learning how to “not win” at camp makes it much easier for children to put “not winning” at home into proper perspective!
Saturday, February 2nd, 2013
If your child regularly spends a half hour in the cereal aisle of the supermarket choosing his breakfast cereal or takes the better part of a day debating whether he wants to go to the movies or have a play date with a friend, there is a somewhat underrated and under appreciated aspect of sending your child to summer camp that you may want to consider. Camp helps children learn how to make decisions.
For many campers, sleepaway camp is their first real experience away from their parents. They find themselves faced with decisions every day, some of which are traditionally made by their parents. Camps, for instance, often offer campers several different dining options each meals. Without their parents there to tell them to eat salad because they don’t like tuna or pasta, children find themselves faced with the decision about what to eat. This sounds like a small thing, and in the scheme of larger things, perhaps it is. However, it’s not an exercise without long-term benefit. Once children understand the decision is theirs, they tend to get adventurous. As a result, many will try—and be surprised to realize they like—foods that they might not have tried at home if steered toward safer choices by us parents who, let’s face it, sometimes choose the path of least resistance if for no other reason than to maintain peace. The sense of adventure gained also carries over into their daily activities.
Most camps programs are designed around camper choice. While the level of choice varies from camp to camp with some giving campers exclusive control of their daily schedules while others plan part of the day and allow campers to choose a couple or a few activities, campers are still faced everyday with choosing at least some of their daily activities. Making such decisions forces campers to consider whether it’s better to stick to a tried and true activity that they love or try something new. While some campers are inevitably more adventurous than others, the ability to make decisions without the pressure of peers or parents and in the open, accepting environment of camp at which being adventurous is not only accepted but encouraged, children learn to choose what they want rather than what they feel that others want for them. Again, this may seem like a relatively small accomplishment in the larger scheme of growing up, but many books about success emphasize that the children who grow up to become the most successful adults learned early to understand what they wanted and how to make the choices in life that would help them achieve their goals. Additionally, when children know what they want, they’re able to be more assertive in pursuing goals and voicing when they’re unhappy.
So if you’re tired of perusing the aisles for the second, third, and fourth time while your child tries to decide between Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Cheerios or are frustrated about not being able to make evening plans because your child can’t decide what he wants to do, consider sending him to summer camp where he can get a crash course on learning to make decisions on a daily basis.
Saturday, December 22nd, 2012
Have you noticed subtle pleasant but odd changes since your children returned from summer camp? Have you peeked into your son’s room and noticed that he made his bed? Were you tempted to take your daughter’s temperature the other night because she volunteered to clean up her room? Maybe they just seem calmer or are better about sticking to routines about which you went hoarse more than once preaching to them before you put them on that bus or plane headed to their favorite summer zip code. Perhaps they’re better about saying ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ or spend less time all out at war with each other over little things like the remote control and whether they’re going to watch The Voice or Modern Family. Did they really mature that much at summer camp?
Not that you’re complaining. It’s a nice, unexpected bonus. When you initially enrolled them for camp, you were thinking it would be good for them to spend their summer working on arts and crafts projects, learning how to sail, going swimming, doing the silly things that kids do at camp, and playing sports instead of using up your entire cell phone data plan during twelve hour texting marathons or playing the Kinect so much that you can no longer tell whether you’re watching a video game or an actual television program. You thought, ‘Maybe they’ll even make a few new friends.’ But, oddly, it’s the smaller things they seem to be bringing away from their summer camp experiences that you find yourself enjoying the most.
Sure, you read all about the benefits of sending children to summer camp before you decided to send them. But you didn’t allow yourself to actually have expectations that your children would come home friendlier, more dutiful, more flexible, able to manage their time better, and generally happier–in short, more mature. Those are the special changes that you enjoy seeing and that make summer camp that much more valuable your eyes.
Friday, November 30th, 2012
If you’re a first-time potential camp family who has combed the websites, followed the blogs and Facebook pages, spent several weekends touring summer camps, spoken with the directors, and have made the decision that summer camp is definitely for your children, you’re probably wondering right about now when to enroll. Even though the obvious answer might seem to be when the snow melts–right about the time your children begin complaining of having to spend so much time inside and you hope the snow melts soon so that they can before you pull your hair out—most camp families are beginning to think about packing by then. Welcome to the world of summer camp! In fact, summer camps typically open early registration in late fall.
Because camps typically have a very limited number of remaining spaces after returning campers and their siblings commit to another summer, the earlier you enroll the better. Aside from guaranteeing your new campers a place at the sleepaway camp of their choice, it gives you adequate time to begin planning for the summer ahead. After all, now that you’ve made the big decision to send your children to summer camp, you’ll want to set your campers up for success.
Camps often give returning campers the first opportunity to enroll, and use the return rate as a way to determine how many new campers they can accept. However- there are almost always spaces in certain age groups throughout the year. Call the camp – they will help you and be the best source of availability!
If you’re a new or returning family who is not quite ready to commit yet, reach out the camp and let it know that you’re interested. Share concerns if you have them and get answers to questions. The camp is more likely to reserve a place for you if you are communicating with the directors than if they don’t hear anything at all. And, of course, if you’re a little behind the game, never assume that the camp of your choice is full. Sometimes additional space opens late in the registration season and camps can accommodate late comers. Always contact the camp!
We can’t wait for you to join us next summer!