It’s that time of year again — time to share with you the results of our 2014 Post-Camp Parent Survey. Today I’m going to tackle the activities part of the survey for you, providing you with feedback from what we heard.
In our surveys we offer parents an opportunity to not only answer short questions, but also to ask their own questions and suggestions.
One of the questions that came up in the surveys for a couple of parents concerned horseback riding — why don’t we offer it at Camp Alleghany.
We used to have horses at camp, but in the late 1990s we ended the horseback riding program because it had become increasingly more difficult to manage the program in the way that it needed to be managed.
Since we’re not a year-round facility (and there is no full-time winter-time caretaker on site), we had to rent the horses. This was a challenge because we didn’t always know what we were going to get with the horses we rented. With this as a factor we had no chance to develop a long term relationship with the horses or really get to know them, increasing risks that we weren’t comfortable with around young people.
Finding quality horses proved difficult as many of the horses we rented for the summer had been used in high school, college or private lesson programs all year and were worn out. We found from year to year that the quality of the horses we were renting was going down.
We did have some dedicated staff members who were loyal to the riding program, but it can be difficult sometimes to maintain riding staff if the program isn’t solely a riding program (i.e. a horse camp).
Given the difficulties with the best of this — the horses themselves — the other compounding issues, such as increased liability and insurance in not having a year-round program, made the business side of things problematic while the practical side — facilities and supply upkeep — was time consuming to a degree that was out-of-proportion to our other actives programs.
Camp programs that focus on riding puts us in a different American Camp Association (ACA) standards category, with its own set of compliance. Since we were never a horse camp first (as in our primary focus), these increasing demands lead us to decide that we needed to do what we do best — be a traditional, all-around girls camp and not a riding camp.
We do encourage girls whose primary interest is in riding to seek out many of the high quality horse camps available out there. And for those who love Alleghany too much to let horses be a barrier, to make sure you get some riding time in at a local day facility near your homes!
In the swim
We also had a few parents question why we don’t have a pool and/or suggest that we build one.
I’ll end the suspense quickly by letting you know that, while we’re very sorry, we won’t be building a pool for Camp Alleghany. 🙁
The gentle, rolling, and babbling Greenbrier River has always been at the heart of the Camp Alleghany experience, inspiring nearly a century of campers and alum with its stories songs, barge crossings, and natural and scenic presence (to say nothing of its lapping voice). We love our river! WE LOVE IT!
With such an exquisite slice of nature available to our campers, we feel a pool would be an unnecessary addition without any added value — girls can swim in a pool any time, but where do they get the experience treasured for millennia of swimming in a river? Dipping into our Greenbrier joins campers to the family of humankind, ensconced in nature. It’s simply “not who we are” to take that away to replace it with — or augment it with — a pool.
Some parents asked why we don’t do gardening or chickens or farming at this point in time. Like horses and pools, we’re again faced with the particular demands that come with not being a year-round facility.
We close up camp for the winter after family camp ends, and except for a small amount of maintenance and occasional renovations or construction, we are not on-site to maintain farm animals nor do we have the extra staff time to “farm out” the animals for the winter. It simply isn’t practical.
A challenge with gardening is that the garden would have to be planted before campers came in order to be on track for the growing season but then they would not see much change — not much if anything to harvest — at the end of three weeks’ time. We like our programs to be deeply engaging for our campers and feel that gardening just wouldn’t offer enough of an opportunity for that to happen.
New and exciting
After all those “no’s” I do want to share some good news about possibilities that are viable for us and that we’re actively looking into.
We’re considering having a photography/videography class, where the campers would learn the finer points of “learning to see,” framing a shot, composing a short video narrative and then taking the pictures for the website and end-of-term slide show. They’d also likely learn some basics of photo editing and things like that.
We’ll also have some fun additions to the Waterfront program, including kayaks, water basketball hoops, and more.
In Sport & Fitness we’ll have a new game that may rival our Gaga Ball pits: 9 Square in the Air! Both of these are great group game activities that add more context for friendly rivalry and bonding. And there are other changes in Sports & Fitness to stay tuned for.
Next summer we’ll also have a continuation of the strong sewing program we started in Arts & Crafts this year which proved to be so engaging for so many campers.
And the Alleghany Singers will be tackling some modern, current songs in addition to traditional camp songs while the Alleghany Singers will also be offered at Mini Camp!
Finally, there will be some new (well, old but revived!) hiking paths for Wild World — hiking up the mountain from the up river side of camp (like starting near the Ropes Course and heading up the hill that way!)
I hope this helps explain in depth the kind of thinking that goes into programming, which above all is driven by our mission: naturally inspiring growth through honor, loyalty and friendship. Still, if you have any further concerns or questions, do feel free to e-mail me.
— Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls