To all the first time counselors, congratulations you’ve made one of the best decisions you could possibly make … trust me, I made it three years ago. Getting to this point is an achievement in itself, the process isn’t easy, and the list of things to do at times seems endless, but the good times are coming.
As a first time counselor at Camp Wekeela, this summer at camp will mean more to you than you could possibly imagine, not only to you, but to your campers. Now that I am returning to Wekeela for my third year (yay 3 year hoodie), I can offer a little bit of insight into what to expect, but perhaps the most prominent piece of advice I can give is that the experience is entirely yours for the making. Before I arrived for my first summer, I felt I knew a little bit about what to expect. I did my research, watched the camp videos, read countless ‘First time counselor’ forums, and thought I’d established enough of an understanding of what I was walking into. I quickly realized that I really only knew the foundations of what I was set to learned over the seven weeks that followed. So try not to feel overwhelmed on arrival, just be prepared to roll up your sleeves and learn the ropes!
Everyone’s experience varies, but I can say with full of confidence, that there is nothing quite like your first summer. You will have the excitement of discovering for the first time for yourself what it means to be a camp counselor. When the summer is over, there are few days that go you won’t find yourself drifting into your own memories of camp. I often think about the first act of kindness I got from a returning staff member on a chilly June night during Staff Week in 2017. You’ll recall teaching a camper how to paint something that makes them happy in Creative Arts or how you would look down into big hopeful eyes, while trying your best to answer that meaningful question that your camper just asked you. You think of the rainy days that saw you sprint alongside your entire cabin to get to the dining hall only slightly drenched. Or the inimitable feeling of going from strangers to family as you glance around at the faces during the final campfire of the summer; as you feel tears start to slowly flow down your face. But it’s ok because you tell yourself that everything is fine, because you’re coming back. … Read More
Last spring we were fortunate enough to meet one of the world’s best mind’s on childhood. As big of a camp champion as you will ever meet, Wendy Mogel, PhD, truly understands and knows the power that summer camp can have on children. Dr. Mogel is an author of several parenting books, including, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, The Blessing of a B Minus, and most recently, Voice Lessons for Parents: What to Say, When to Say It, and When to Listen, “help parents and other child caregivers avoid the pitfalls of perfectionism, overprotection, overscheduling, and overindulgence, and engage with children in ways that nurture, enrich, and encourage.” In her lecture that we attended about Voice Lessons, Dr. Mogel gave some wonderful insight into the language and manner in which we as parents, childhood professionals, and camp directors speak with all children.
Dr. Mogel’s recent interview “Voice Lessons for Camp” with Camping Magazine sparked our interest. In the interview, Dr. Mogel said she wished that camps provide parents with a set of things that they would be worried about… but shouldn’t. What she called, an emotional packing list. We thought it was as great idea, so decided to make one for our Wekeela families. Below you will find our comprehensive list of “Camp Wekeela’s Emotional Packing List for Parents”
Do you have any communication advice for camp professionals in talking with parents?
I want camps to prepare parents, talk about things they are going to be worried about but don’t need to be. Give parents an emotional packing list before camp starts. Camp directors may fear that if they name the worries, parents will start ruminating on them, but it normalizes and nationalizes the fear. You can say, “You’re going to worry about this and this. Here’s what we have in place to deal with that. Expect your children to voice their concerns.” Then tell them the high rate of returning campers you have.
Things you may be worried about but do not need to be…..
Who takes care of my child when I send them to camp?
Counselors, cabin leaders, peers, nurses, directors– we all take care of each other.
How do you screen your applicants?
Interviews, references, criminal background checks.
Do the counselors live in the bunks with the children and what is the supervision like?
Yes, there are at least 6 counselors per bunk, and they sleep in the cabin. There is always an adult with the campers.
Is there security from outsiders?
Yes, there are gates at each entrance.
What happens if my child gets hurt?
We have a health center run by nurses & EMT’s. There are two major hospitals nearby.… Read More
Here in the northeast it’s cold. Like really cold. The snow at camp is starting to pile up and our summer home is starting to look like a winter wonderland. But nothing warms our hearts like the thoughts and memories of our time spent at camp. What is the best way to rekindle these memories during the cold months of winter? How about catching up with some camp friends? With social media, technology, and everything else, it’s easier than ever to keep in touch with your camp friends more often. Recently, we did a blog post about our former campers who have become roommates in college. We also know that there are many former campers and staff that have gone on to live together in the real world; Wekeela weddings and families; and of course many bar and bat mitzvah’s throughout the year where we all get to re-connect with our camp friends! There really is no place like camp and there are no better type of friends than camp friends, during the summer and year round!
Below are Camp Wekeela’s top 5 ways to rekindle your camp friendships during the winter:
- Create a weekly video-chat with your camp friends.
So many of you out there do this already or have big group chats with your camp friends. Whatever social media app you use, having a scheduled, weekly conversation to pull together old jokes and memories. It might make you miss camp, but you’ll get excited to see familiar faces! We recommend using a Snapchat group to get all your camp friends in together or another popular group video chat app.
- Express gratitude to your camp friends randomly & give them a call!
Close your eyes and think hard about one of your favorite camp memories. What did you do? Who was there? Once you picture these, give a call to that person. As you read in our last blog sharing gratitude is scientifically proven to make you happier. Giving a call to a friend from camp will truly warm both of your hearts this holiday season.… Read More
Gratitude is such an important pillar of our camp environment. One of our favorite things to do during staff week each summer is our “Gratitude Letters” activity. It is pretty simple exercise, derived from the popular Youtube video “The Science of Happiness“. We ask our staff to take a blank piece of paper and write a letter of gratitude to anyone in their life: their parent, a friend, a teacher, etc. We ask if anyone would like to share. The letters are always beautiful and give a glimpse into the life of our staff, where they come from, and who helped them get to where they are. There are beautiful stories of grandparents who inspire, parents who lead, friends who encourage, and so on. As those who share express their gratitude, their eyes tear up, and they smile. It is very moving. Naturally, because we are at camp, what usually ends up happening is that our returning staff and former campers write about camp. They share letters to their own counselors from when they were campers, or to their co-counselors, who have now become their best friends. The most powerful, as you would think, is when that person is in the room. The tears can flow and hugs are always exchanged. You could think this isn’t a very good training exercise, but we feel it is a great way for our staff to get to know each other, laugh, and bond. At Camp Wekeela we feel it’s important to cultivate gratitude during the summer and throughout the year.
Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis:
- Write a thank-you note/letter: Just like our exercise at camp! What will make you feel even better.. sharing your note with the person.
- Thank someone mentally: No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
- Keep a gratitude journal: It takes 21 days to cultivate a habit. Writing down 3 things a day is a great way to start!
- Do Rituals as a family: Pick a high-point of the day, do some MadLibs, make up a line-by-line story. It’ll be great!
- Meditate: Meditation has so many positive effects, especially in today’s busy world.
It is officially that time of year again; time to put on your corduroys, grab a Pumpkin Spiced Latte, and jump in some leaves! We hope the turn to the autumn season finds the Camp Wekeela community well.
Here in New Jersey, we have always felt that we are fortunate to have seasons. It’s a perfect opportunity for us to recharge and regroup. Fall is a time to celebrate our summer successes. It’s a time to invigorate and align ourselves to the cycle of preparing for summer 2019 where we will develop healthy, happy, and confident children.
Below are the Camp Wekeela 5 Tips for Enjoying Fall as a family!
- Go to a Farmer’s Market.
Staples of the fall and early winter, farmer’s markets are wonderful places to support your local community, try new foods, and meet new people. Going as a family can be great on a Sunday morning to get out of the house and enjoy the weather, have some good food, and have fun!… Read More
There are certain words, phrases, or lyrics that bring powerful memories into focus.
Any camp that has a Color War contest has their own traditions and histories, rules and regulations about Color War. At Camp Wekeela, Color War is one of, if not the best, parts of the summer. For 4 days our campers and counselors pour their hearts onto the fields, courts, water, stage, and everything else to gain valuable points for their team. Every camper and every counselor has an impact. They scream and cheer, paint their face in Green or White, and compete at the highest levels.
But every game, activity, and cheer leads up to Sing on the last day. At Sing, the banners, programs, and totem poles are revealed; the commercials and dances are performed; the poem is read, the photos are hung up, and of course, the Fight Songs, Cheers, and Alma Maters are sung. Now just reading this blog you may think, well what do these entail? If you haven’t been to any camp but especially Camp Wekeela before, describing Color War is a very tall task. For 3 days, Counselors work hours on end to give the kids the best banner, totem pole, song, etc. that they can. No prior work, they are given a blank canvas, a chopped down tree, or just a guitar and get started. Having worked on several of these myself, it is a daunting process and something that is hard to describe; however, the central ethos to why the hard work is done- why you are awake at 4am carving a tree- is to give the campers something to remember, something to enjoy for years.
In my opinion, however, the Color War Alma Mater is one of the most special. The Alma Mater is a song that “represents all core components of the team.” Traditionally at many camps, an Alma Mater is a re-write of a popular song, for example, when Ephram was a Color War General in the 80’s, his Alma Mater was a version of “Open Arms” by Journey. However, at Camp Wekeela, the Alma Mater is an original song that is written during Color War by a few counselors and sometimes campers.… Read More
It’s that time of year, from kindergarten to college, kids are heading back to school. Here’s what you need to know about keeping your family healthy.
Focus on nutrition & exercise:
- Start the day right with a healthy breakfast and continue the day with healthy snacks.
- Avoid added sugar that will lead your child to crash during the school day.
- Enroll kids in after school activities where possible, enjoy a walk or bike ride with your kids whenever possible, and encourage them to move. If parents engage in physical activity, their kids will follow along.
- Stay hydrated and drink lots of water throughout the school day!
Know the risks children can face:
- Talk about bullying and school related stress & anxiety before school starts.
- Check for head lice before and after the first day of school.
- Get a health screening before going back to school.
- Have vision and hearing checked.
- Make sure backpacks fit well and aren’t too heavy.
Make sleep a priority
- Power down electronics one hour before bedtime.
- Keep electronics out of bedrooms.
- Avoid exercise and warm showers before bedtime.
- Have a routine, go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day!
To our former campers and Junior Counselors starting their senior year of high school, don’t stress out. Yes, you should continue to work hard, but make sure to enjoy your senior year because a year from now you’ll be on your way to college. That being said, to our former campers heading to college, we wish you all the best of luck. Set your goals, work hard to achieve them, and all of your dreams will come true.
Wishing our campers a great rest of the summer and a fantastic start of the school year! And keep those campfires burning; Camp Wekeela, starts June 22, 2019!! … Read More