The start of Camp is just a day away and we could not be more excited. For the past two weeks our counselors, coaches and teachers have been working around the clock, learning how to create the most incredible – and impactful – summer experience possible for our campers.
Our counselor training process has been rigorous. It began with our specialists taking classes to grasp the outcomes that our so important to our community. We needed them to understand that on top of helping our campers acquire hard skills in lacrosse, basketball and tennis, we also need them to grow as people. At our brother-sister summer camps in NH sports like soccer and baseball are also important opportunities for helping children leadership, resilience, and the ability to collaborate with others. Because of this, we spend days in workshops making sure that our coaching staff understands how to help our campers grow as athletes, but also grow as human beings.
The same is true in our arts and adventure departments. While our newest instructors and guides have great skill at teaching children how to design jewelry or build furniture, it’s crucial that they also know how to help our campers go beyond just being creative, and actually become innovators. This is not an easy set of skills to master teaching, so it is what we worked on day after day last week.
This week the emphasis has been twofold – first, we have worked to create a sense of community and harmony amongst our staff. Second, we have done all we can to help them embrace the ethos of this community: that we take care of each other, and strive to make a profound difference in the social and emotional development of our campers. This lofty set of goals takes a great deal of intentionality.
It began with an opening campfire, run by our directors and unit leaders. We introduced our newest staff to the history of our community, and to the myriad stories of how it has changed lives (including our own). Our former campers and returning counselors stood up to share how much Kenwood and Evergreen has meant to them, whether they joined it at 8 or 18. And very powerfully, a number of the specialists who had only been with us for a week voiced how nervous they had been upon arrival, and how they already knew that this place had changed them forever, and for the better.
Each day we have taken our staff through a journey. On day #1 it was about understanding the values and goals of our community. Day #2 was about developing positive relationships with co-workers. We ran icebreaker games to facilitate introductions, and used art therapy techniques to help break down cultural and emotional barriers. We used games that we have created to help give our staff numerous opportunities to collaborate with different people, and to figure out what they have in common with one another. By lunchtime it would have been hard for an outsider to tell who was a veteran and who had just arrived.
The next few days were about learning how to mentor and look after children of different ages. Famed child psychologist Dr. Michael Thompson ran an entire afternoon looking at scenarios that will likely come up when working with kids. Using a variety of techniques he helped our counselors understand how to create better rapport, and resolve conflicts, faster and more effectively. There were educational sessions on the importance of proper bedtime rituals, debriefing the end of activities, creating a meaningful culture of belonging in bunks, how to be a more effective partner with your co-counselor, and so much more.
Amazingly, I never heard any complaining or saw any eye rolling, even during the last session of a hot day. Instead, what I heard from counselors was “I really learned a lot there” and “I was worried about handling that situation…until now”. Besides being a cohesive group, our counselors this summer seem to really look forward to the challenges that come from being surrogate parents for 7 weeks this summer!
Not surprisingly, some of the most impactful sessions were run by Scott. As the head of our community, he spends a great deal of his non-camp months studying the latest research on child development. This week he ran some incredible (and engaging) sessions on why teaching 21st century skills will give our campers a competitive advantage in life and how to create sports and arts sessions where the learning is deeper and longer-lasting. He also led presentations that required us to confront issues like preventing the abuse of children, and our responsibility to keep children just as physically safe as we keep them emotionally safe.
As you can imagine, it’s been a powerful two weeks. And now I am on a bus with our unit leaders, heading towards the Tri-State region. We will start the morning in NJ, and then make our way to pick ups in Westchester, NY and Westport, CT. Scott and many counselors will be on the bus that leaves from Newton, MA, and we have Camp administrators on their way to Logan Airport as well. By dinner tomorrow we will have campers at Kenwood and Evergreen from 14 states, and countries all over the globe. And we just can’t wait!
If you need information regarding tomorrow’s bus times and locations please click here. Our counselors and directors on the buses will help make sure that each camper has someone to sit with, and that our newest community members have a chance to meet as many new friends as possible. Our buses will be equipped with air conditioning, bathrooms, art projects, and the opportunity to relax while watching movies and tv shows (not that we’ll be doing any of that once they reach Wilmot, NH!). If you are packing food for your son or daughter please make sure that everything is entirely peanut and tree nut free, as we need to keep our campers with food allergies safe!
We are so excited about our counselors and coaches, and about the positive role models they will be for our campers this summer. I am so glad that the start of the summer of 2015 is just hours away.