One thing I’ve really been wanting to share with you is some feedback to our parent surveys on last summer’s experience.
In particular, I want to answer to those parents who wondered if it would be possible for campers to do more than four Activities in a Term?
Some feedback said that campers might want to do four different activities each week, equalling twelve activities in a summer. This might be due to attention spans, eagerness for something new, or wanting to be in an activity with a new camp friend, or other reasons.
While we take the surveys very seriously, and make some changes based on feedback, this is one where we’re sticking to our guns on offering four activities total for campers (plus “tastes” of other activities) and I will explain our very good reasons why.
Before I get into those reasons, let me remind everyone that in addition to their four activities, campers also experience one morning per Term called “Try Something New,” where they select two activities they are not currently signed up for, and get to do those for the two morning activity session periods.
In addition to this, campers have camp-wide Evening Activities every night, where a whole array of activities happen from campfires to performances, relay races to crab soccer, International Night to Banquet, and so on. A myriad of exciting and meaningful experience-based activities happens throughout a camper’s Term!
And then on top of that, we’ve discussed as an Admin Team (as well as with the 2019 counselors who attended the most recent Winter Counselor Brainstorming Retreat*) about new ways we can open up the activities to campers during other times in the summer to allow for more opportunities to Try Something New. Maybe this would be having some activities open on Sunday afternoons, or an Evening Activity with some day activity areas open, etc. We don’t know exactly what that will look like yet, and we’ll update you as it takes form.
One thing I want you to know though, is that YES, we understand your campers wanting to try a number of activities! That makes sense and we’re open to working more “tastes” in. 🙂
At the same time, an essential aspect of our mission is staying true to the founding principles of Camp Alleghany for Girls (while integrating contemporary issues as needed, of course).
‘Ghany was founded on four-week Terms back then — and most campers stayed Full Term for eight weeks at camp! I’ve written before why our current three-week Terms are now the best length for camp (six-week Full Term is also excellent for kids). I believe strongly in the value of that tradition and its purpose — to provide campers with in-depth experiences giving them enough time to truly develop new skills and hone favorite ones.
That campers benefitted from this as long as a hundred years ago, when there was so much more outdoor time, so much less consumption, and so many fewer distractions, shows me that campers today need it even more!
We live in a world where kids (and adults, let’s face it) aren’t necessarily expected to stick with things long term, especially if they don’t “like” it.
We find ourselves in a disposability paradigm where everything is throwaway because there’s so much of everything that it often becomes cheap and meaningless. Don’t like a food? Chuck it down the disposal. Don’t like a toy? Throw it in a heap in the corner with the rest and forget it. Don’t like a person? Unfriend them. It’s not a recipe for the best human development and we’re all up against this in troubling ways.
We believe there’s a better way.
Take the Time to Get It Right
Relying on our three-week camp tradition with four activities offers a model that works to the advantage of kids today. First, it helps them grasp and see in practice basic goal-setting. Secondly they develop a perseverance, a follow through that they don’t experience in the disposability paradigm. These are life skills and even attitudinal perspectives that will serve them so well in all their other endeavors.
Unlike all those situations where we don’t have to wait for anything — drive-throughs, swipe left, hit the remote — there are plenty of situations where we simply must take time, wait our turn, allow something to grow organically, refine our skills through going back to the drawing board. This is essential, and committing to four dedicated activities for three weeks offers the perfect context to shoot for goals and achieve real growth!
Often times we hear from longer term camper alums that the three weeks was exactly what they needed to master a tennis stroke or shoot their expert in Rifle or finally get to deeply explore Arts and Crafts or Drama since there’s so little of the arts in schools today.
And counselors at our Winter Counselor Brainstorming Retreats have also shared that structurally adding more changes would erode the already tight time they have for activities and make the experiences too fractured to teach or develop. That structural piece is important to keep in mind as well.
Again, we appreciate the feedback and we are definitely going to find ways for more activity “tastes” to compliment without detracting from the existing four activities structure. We think it’s a compromise that will continue offering the best that camp can give to summertime experiences while also expanding those to include a few more choices and a little more variety!
— Elizabeth Shreckhise, Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls
*A blog on this year’s Winter Counselor Brainstorming Retreat is coming up soon!