I love how much fun our summer camp in NH has together, even when we are hundreds of miles a part. With the start of Camp 150 days away, and with a massive snowstorm bearing down on much of the northeast, many of our campers, parents, counselors and alumni spent Tuesday connecting with us online for some virtual snow day fun.
There may be fresh snow all over the East coast today, but the start of our summer camp in New Hampshire is only 150 days away! And as our June 27th start is approaching, the most common questions we are getting from new parents and campers are about bedtime. Is there a set bedtime at Kenwood and Evergreen? Am I allowed to read after lights out? What if I need extra time or attention from a counselor? During the winter and spring months we try to tackle a different aspect of life in our intentional NH community each week, and hopefully provide some insider information for parents and campers. This week’s subject is all about bedtime rituals.
Every night of our 7-week session we have a fun, exciting evening activity that starts at 7:30pm, and ends around 8:45pm. Evening activities include ceremonial campfires, slam dunk contests and home run derbies, costume dance nights, capture the flag games that include all of Kenwood or Evergreen, lip sync nights, Minute-to-Win-It game show nights, theatrical performances, and, of course, wrestling in over 1,000 pounds of Jell-O. The evenings are pretty incredible at our overnight camp.
Over the past few months I have been profiling some of our very talented coaches and teachers at our summer camp in New Hampshire. Our staff do an incredible job simultaneously teaching both the hard skills -- like how to swim the front crawl, throw a fast ball or build your own furniture in our wood shop -- and vital non-cognitive soft skills like adaptability, critical thinking, and resilience. To understand our summer camp you really need to understand how they foster such incredible outcomes. If you missed any of them, here are some of the more recent staff profiles:
Who takes all of your camp's beautiful photos? It's a question I'm asked all of the time. Like Madonna, Prince or Cher, she's known by one name (at least in our community): Sheila. She's also Scott's mom, and for the last 10 years she's been the official photographer of Camps Kenwood and Evergreen. Each day of the summer she is out trying to capture every aspect of life at our overnight summer camp -- the candid moments of friends being together, the fun and learning that takes place at activities, life in and out of the cabins, and the natural beauty of New Hampshire that surrounds us. And almost every day she posts her photos so that parents can see on their computers and tablets just how great a time our campers are having. Last summer Sheila posted over 12,000 photos in 49 days!
In speaking with prospective parents we’re often asked the question so how do you find and interview your staff? It’s an important question, since our camp counselors, coaches and teachers are such a vital part of what makes the Kenwood and Evergreen experience so powerful. Thankfully, most of our counselor and specialty positions are already filled for this coming summer, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still interviewing lots of quality candidates.
Currently, our Program Director David Walsh is traveling to universities throughout the United Kingdom. As part of our interview process, it’s important that we have a chance to sit down, face-to-face, with the men and women who may become mentors and role models to our counselors. On this trip David has personally interviewed almost 100 candidates, and hired 9.
David has an incredibly good track record at hiring quality staff. It's really his specialty. Before he left I asked him to list some of the questions he asks that help him best understand the applicant he is reviewing. Here’s what he told me:
David also employs a multi-layered approach to his hiring process when he’s at universities and colleges. While he conducts the full face-to-face interviews, he brings along some of our most seasoned counselors that live in the area to help with the sorting process. At each UK fair this year he had experienced Kenwood and Evergreen counselors, specialists and unit leaders on hand to first meet our applicants. They helped to gauge if these young men and women had the requisite hard and soft skills to even warrant a sit down with David. Literally hundreds of young men and women never made it past this stage of our vetting process.
We can’t wait to meet the 9 general and specialty counselors that David hired during his UK travels! Every summer, some of our best, most creative, most nurturing, most dedicated staff hail from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales!!
One thing about our staff and alumni from the United Kingdom: they are incredibly passionate about our little summer camp in New Hampshire! This past Saturday more than 30 current and past K&E counselors gathered together for a night of celebration. Our UK Camp Reunion is now a major annual tradition, with people traveling hours and hundreds of miles to spend a night laughing and hanging with their Camp friends. As I look at the photos from this gathering – which I am so sad to have missed – I certainly see staff from 2013 and 2014, but also from almost a decade ago. I love that our camp community now extends all over the United States and the globe, and that it is just as powerful for those who didn’t join it until they were adults.
This morning I saw a video about bullying that I felt needed to be shared. The short, 6-minute documentary is titled “Opening Doors and Hearts”, and it profiles a young man named Josh and his struggle to find social acceptance in a new school. Initially withdrawn and seemingly unnoticed, Josh begins holding the door for anyone and everyone he encounters. It eventually becomes a way that he gets noticed by his peers, and recognized in a positive way. As you will see in the video it eventually leads to him becoming a minor celebrity in his local community, and even someone who changes the culture of his entire school. Take a look at this short film.
At our summer camp in New Hampshire we know that many first-time campers and parents are an ever changing combination of excited and nervous. That’s perfectly natural, and something we have a lot of experience helping with. One thing that we’ve learned is that it’s important to provide new families with tools to help them both prepare for their first overnight camp experience, and give them real insight into what it’s like to be a member of our camp community.
A common question we are asked by campers is “what will I be doing during free time?” In an age of constant connectivity, many campers wonder what they will be doing when their mobile electronic devices are at home for the summer. Recently, I wrote about two games that our boys and girls love playing when they aren’t at regular activities: Magic: The Gathering and Sleeping Queens. If you aren’t familiar with these games I highly recommend checking out those two blogs!
As we approach the start of the summer I am using this blog once a week to share "insider" information about the Camps Kenwood and Evergreen culture. My hope is that it will not only give our new parents and campers insight into what life is like at our 7-week summer camp in New Hampshire, but help them feel even more prepared for their first summer in our community. Over the coming weeks I plan to write about everything from the games that our campers play during downtime, to the silly accessories boys and girls often bring with them for our spirit events, to our intentional bedtime rituals that help our campers feel nurtured and cared for as they head off to sleep.
Topics: sleeping queens
On Tuesdays we like to profile our summer camp’s talented coaches and teachers. During our 7-week program each summer they not only help our campers acquire new activity skills (e.g., learning to catch and throw a baseball; fashioning a dovetail in the wood shop; becoming a better point guard), but also help them further develop their non-cognitive/21st century skills. These skills include creativity, follow through, leadership, independence, effective communication, problem solving, and the ability to collaborate in groups. Our summer camp in New Hampshire focuses on teaching these skills because business leaders and researchers across the globe recognize them as the key character traits young people will need to become leaders and innovators in the 21st century.
So how exactly do we teach children to not give up on a task, and instead be resilient? What do our counselors do each day to help our campers learn to be creative thinkers and self-directed problem solvers? Over the past few months I have shared in this blog some of the teaching methods that our amazing specialty staff use to create these important outcomes.
Sadly, the 15th annual Senior Camper Winter Weekend has come to an end. Yet again our campus in New Hampshire is quiet, as our Camp friends have all gone home until June. But what a weekend it was. The weather was absolutely perfect -- cold enough that the snow was great for sledding and the lake remained almost a foot thick, and yet warm enough to enjoy being outside. We did just about everything we could on a snowy NH day: we sledded, we played football, we rode around on a horse-drawn sleigh, we skated, we played hockey, we hiked and we enjoyed the majestic night sky...both on its own, and when we launched an incredible fireworks display.
The beautiful New Hampshire night sky as we stood in the middle of the lake before launching the fireworks
We woke up to a gorgeous New Hampshire sunrise over our lake. It was a perfect start to a pretty perfect day #2 of our 2015 Senior Camp Winter Weekend. The weather was much warmer than we had anticipated, without a hint of clouds or wind. Campers and counselors made their way to Cypress Lodge for a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, fruit, fried potatoes, bagels, and more. And from there we put on our winter weather gear and got outside to play!
It's the start of our 15th annual, totally amazing Senior Camper Winter Weekend at our summer camp In NH! At 11am this morning about 70 Kenwood and Evergreen campers and counselors and I boarded a private Amtrak train car at New York's Penn Station and headed north. Along the way we picked up friends in New Rochelle, Stamford, and Providence, ultimately stopping at Boston's 128 Train Station. When we arrived there were another 40 or so campers and counselors exitedly waiting to join us on our journey.
An article for parents caught my eye a few days ago titled "6 Things The Happiest Families All Have In Common". It was actually a summary of the book The Secrets of Happy Families by author and social commentator Bruce Feiler. You may be familiar with Feiler, as he has written for the New York Times, New Yorker, is a regular commentator on NPR, and has a series of TED talks that have millions of views. Based on his research here are Feiler's 6 tips for creating a happy family dynamic:
- Create a family mission statement
- Share your family history
- Hold weekly family meetings
- Fight right
- Have family dinner together... any time of the day
- Just try
As I look at this list and think about my own family (including the one that I grew up in, and the one that my wife and I co-parent in now), I recognize some things that we do, and at least one then never occured to either of us. I've included a link below to the entire article, which elaborates on each of Feiler's points.
When I was a Kenwood and Evergreen camper, one of my favorite parts of the experience was playing games in our bunk during downtime. No one had thought to bring hand-held electronic game systems to Camp, and no one had yet to invent Iphones or apps. During Rest Period after lunch, and on raining days, we would sit on the floor and actually play. Together. Without digital screens. It was incredible, and one of the ways we got to know each other each summer. We played a lot of board games, including checkers, RISK, battleship and backgammon. Our favorite card game was Spit, though we also played a ton of Gin Rummy and Crazy 8's.
Thankfully, not that much has changed at K&E during the intervening years. We're still a pretty unplugged summer camp. Campers are asked to leave their iphones and ipads at home, and are only allowed to bring devices that play music, and are unable to email, text, access the web, view videos, or use any apps. Our counselors are also required to keep their mobile devices outside of the bunks, away from the campers. We make this request of our community because it's part of our camp community's culture, but also because of the growing body of research about the importance of developing brains having extended unplugged time.
It usually takes our more plugged-in kids about 24 hours of being at our summer camp in NH before they forget that they even own such things, let alone how attached they become when they are using them at home. And then they (re)discover how lovely life can be without always being tethered to a mobile device. They use their free time for hanging out, being outside, goofy conversations, and a lot of olde school game playing. It's part of the magic life at our camp in NH.
This is what free time is like when you spend your summers unplugged with camp friends!
So what are the games that campers and counselors play at Kenwood and Evergreen these days? Many of the board games are the timeless classics: checkers, chess, backgammon, monopoly, and battleship. Spit is still the dominant card game, though Prez, Uno and War are still popular as well. But in the last few years one game kind of appeared out of nowhere and became the unofficial card game at Camp, or at least at Camp Kenwood: it's called Magic: The Gathering. Most in our camp community refer to it as "Magic Cards". Few parents seem to have ever heard of it.
Kenwood campers of many ages spending a Rest Period playing Magic Cards
So what exactly are Magic cards? I must admit that while I've watched kids play it for many summers, it was only recently that I came to fully understand the rules and strategy involved. On the same day that I gave one of my kids a deck of Magic cards for Hanukkah this year a long-time K&E parent forwarded me this article:
Since the New Year we have been inundated with pictures and stories at Camp friends seeing each other over the last few weeks. Some of these gatherings were planned, while others were purely accidental. There were sleepovers, birthday parties, mini-reunions, and even trips to other countries! We love how much our Camp community loves being together, and how so many Camp friendships span years and even decades of time!
Where to begin...?
In our first batch of photos, sent to us by campers and counselors, we had a sleepover after the Camp reunion in Boston; cousins hanging out together on the beach; a vacation to Michigan to visit a long-time close camp friend; a big sleepover in the Boston area; two former campers hanging out with their counselors from YEARS ago (including one who flew in from the UK); a reunion of Kenwood campers playing Gaga in NYC; and a massive, multi-family trip to Mexico that included current Camp parents, alumni from the 70's, 80's and more recent era, one of our fabulous Camp nurses, and a whole lot of Kenwood and Evergreen campers Yes, everyone on the trip was related to each other, but they still had more than a dozen members of our NH summer camp community on the trip, and we think that's just awesome!