Camp Woodland Blog

Happy International Literacy Day from Starshine

I realize that I am a week late with this post, but I decided to write it anyway because of the significance this September 8th “holiday” has with the program at Camp Woodland. International Literacy Day serves as a reminder of how important literacy is for individuals and society, women in particular (2/3 of those who can’t read are women).

As you can see from the headline photo for this blog, reading is something that girls have time to do at camp. Without the influence of screens for 6 weeks, campers can enjoy those things that often get pushed to the side due to busy school schedules. It is not uncommon for campers to grab a book while waiting for a turn at the archery or riflery range. Afternoons at the beach during Rec Swim offer another carefree chunk of time that can be filled with favorite characters or storyline. We also encourage campers to use their daily rest hour as a time to cozy up with a book or two. And, one of my personal favorite times of the camp day is right before bed as counselors read aloud to their cabin group as a way to transition to the quiet time necessary for a good night’s sleep!

The theme for International Literacy Day 2019 was ‘Literacy and Multilingualism’. Multilingualism is where a person or group of people can use more than one language when communicating. Without multilingualism, we wouldn’t be able to communicate on a global scale or understand different culturesAt Woodland, we practice multilingualism every day due to the blending of domestic and international cultures. Having campers from multiple states and several countries, we embrace the opportunity to learn from and understand each other’s cultures. This happens organically on a daily basis as girls have conversations in the cabin, at meals or in activities – they start to see the world as a bigger place than the community from which they are from.

Here are reflections on the recent summer from the girls in Starshine:

How did you SHINE this summer?

Sydney: I showed all the things about myself that I was proud of and not being afraid of doing.

Lilah: I felt I was my best self this summer!

Katie: I got up on the kneeboard and passed levels.

Libby: I learned to dive off the docks.

Pollita: Passing my goals.

Kaitlyn: I tried a new activity, passed levels in swimming and archery, made new friends, and did new things.

When were you at your BEST this summer?

Sydney: Just being here with everyone I love.

Lilah: Trying my best!

Katie: When I tried my hardest.

Libby: At gymnastics I kept trying to do a handstand until one day I did it!

Pollita: When I was at arts & crafts or tennis.

Kaitlyn: I was at my best the whole summer!

Describe a CHANGE you noticed in yourself while at camp.

Sydney: Looking at the bright side and being more open.

Lilah: I have grown more as a woman.

Katie: I was happier.

Libby: I envisioned myself diving and then it happened.

Pollita: Getting better at what I try.

Kaitlyn: I became a better gymnast, swimmer, horseback rider, dancer, and I also became better at archery.

What lessons were learned from something CHALLENGING?

Sydney: In swimming lessons I learned that I have to be patient as I improve.

Lilah: I learned how to make a mooring in sailing.

Katie: How to shoot a bow and arrow.

Libby: Learning to dive off the docks.

Pollita: Swimming lessons were challenging for me.

Kaitlyn: Teaching a cabin mate to be more patient while waiting for a turn to use the bathroom.

Happy ‘Just Because Day’ from Tamarack

On August 27th National Just Because Day offers up an opportunity to do stuff…just because.

Every day we all do things that are expected or required of us. Sometimes we even do things because we have to do them, we don’t know why.  At Camp Woodland, that does not apply.  Every day is a chance to do something without rhyme or reason.

It could be that you stop to notice a unique leaf on the path…just because.
Maybe you want to use rest hour to read a favorite book…just because.
Perhaps you would like to do something nice for a cabin mate having a bad day…just because.
Possibly you want to sing really loud while you’re in the shower…just because.
Or surprise someone with a note…just because.
Make something up…just because.
Or maybe, just maybe, do something just because your counselor said so!

The girls of Tamarack lived the essence of ‘Just Because” all summer long! It is interesting to note that more than half of this cabin are daughters of camp alums and they, too, have a few years of camp under their belt. They have been at camp long enough to know the ropes and are really progressing in various activities. From earning the highly esteemed Skipper Award in sailing to having a lead role in all 3 plays this summer, these girls can do a lot! Tamarack took cabin cleaning seriously and won “Clean Freaks” 3 weeks of the summer. They earned a pizza party, a trip to Cathy’s Ice Cream, and an evening of tubing on Sand Lake.

Here are reflections from the Tamarack girls on the recent summer:

How did you SHINE this summer?

Brooke: I tried canoeing.

Maria: Passing out of swim lessons and getting better at archery and riflery.

Tess: I learned to waterski and got significantly better in all of my other activities.

Ava: Skiing, riding, tennis and swimming quick laps.

Anika: Trying my best when working to pass levels.

Sofia: I improved in skiing and I cantered for the first time in riding.

Maya: I have always done riflery, but this year I felt more confident about this activity.

Isabella: I did really well in skiing, arts and crafts, drama and dance.

When were you at your BEST this summer?

Brooke: I’m at my best when I am being kind and nice.

Maria: When I am having fun!

Tess: When I was laughing in a carefree way with my cabin mates and when I soloed in a sail race.

Ava: I am at my best when I am with my friends, doing what I love, and having the best time.

Anika: When I was laughing and being happy.

Sofia: Dropping a ski and cantering.

Maya: I felt my best when I was trying hard to pass my level in archery and go to 40 yards.

Isabella: I was my best at ropes course. I am my best when I am genuinely having a good time.

Describe a CHANGE you noticed in yourself:

Brooke: I made more friends this summer, and I got my 5-year pendant.

Maria: My hair grew!

Tess: I became less stressed and more confident. I also became more attuned to other’s emotions.

Ava: I got a tan and my hair got lighter (hee, hee)!

Anika: I feel for others when they are sad.

Sofia: I became more open and not afraid to be myself.

Maya: I am more empathetic towards others.

Isabella: I became more open.

What lessons were learned from something CHALLENGING this summer?

Brooke: Facing my fears.

Maria: I worked hard to pass my beginner in waterskiing.

Tess: I learned that perseverance pays off (archery) and listening to others helps (riding and sailing).

Ava: I learned how to stay calm during an intense situation (capsizing a sailboat).

Anika: I have learned patience!

Sofia: Winning “touch the fence” because I learned from losing.

Maya: I learned never to give up even if the goal will not be completed this summer.

Isabella: I learned how to confront people.

Leaving Home to Go Home: A Message from Closing Vespers

by alum Alice Decker Burke (camper, counselor and parent of 1st year camper)

For the past 25 years the following essay written for Alice’s AP English class in 1994 is read at the final Vespers on the last day of camp. Parents often tell us that Sunday is such a hard day. Hard to understand. Hard to know what to say. Hard to know where to be or not be at any given moment so as not to impose. On one hand, the excitement of seeing your daughter/s after a long hiatus is hard to contain. On the other hand, the struggle is obvious as campers are torn between the sadness of leaving a tight-knit family and the connection to a place that is also home and seeing parents and family. The good news is that all of these conflicting feelings are normal!

For some, the beautifully chosen words Alice uses may give a little insight to the mixed emotions and awkwardness of Parents’ Weekend. For others, it will bring back memories and nostalgia of being at Woodland whether away for 10 days or 10 years. Either case, we hope you are enjoying whatever this side of summer brings before another busy school year is in full swing. We look forward to seeing you at Camp Woodland in 2020!

The car hums quietly beneath me as we turn onto County D. My father comments cheerfully about the houses on either side of the road, my mother marvels at the beauty of the tiny lakes as we pass them by, at least one every five minutes. But I sit, perfectly still, feeling my heart beat stronger with every roll of the tires. As we follow the twisting road, we round a curve and look straight into an open field, canopied by Eagle River clouds. My soul stretches to the tips of my fingers as I reach my hand out the open window and towards the sky. My parents hear my indrawn breath and smile at one another, a little sadly, knowing this love is one they can never share.

We turn the corner, and I lean out the window quickly, drinking in the air with a thirst that has grown steadily for nearly a year. I welcome every trace of sunlight filtering through every tree stretching over every curve of every trail that branches off the road onto the shadowy forest. I know exactly when the stable will peek through the branches, and which horses will greet me with quiet whickers and shimmering manes. I see the tips of the sailboats over the edge of the hill, waving at me with their graceful masts bobbing in the waves. Pure happiness bubbles up from the depths of my blood, and I laugh with familiar wonder as I feet it course through me.

I jump free of the car, and wander up the hill, feeling my soul run ahead of me, peeking into corners and rolling with delight in the sun-warmed grass. Friends run out of cabins into my arms, and I am scrunched in a twenty-person hug. They grab my bags and set off for my cabin, but I cannot follow yet. My soul is still up in the trees, and I stand with my face turned up to the sun, twirling around with unconditional joy, my arms spread wide, my soul singing the familiar song of wind in the birch trees.

Eight weeks later, I throw my duffle into the trunk, amazing my father with my strength. Mom laughs and tells me that I am stronger than my dad now. Mom. Dad. Those words stumble off my tongue like a long-forgotten language. I need to remember it now.

It is funny, really, how the beginning and the end are the only concretes here. The minute I arrive, it is as if I never left. The minute I leave, it is as if I just came. The middle is a maze of joy and laughter and memory, like a disorganized stack of colorful photographs. I throw them into the trunk of my mind along with my duffles – I will pull them out some cold November night when I cannot fall asleep, and look through them quietly until the peace of their memory drowns out my fears.

My mother strolls out of the cabin, letting the screen door shut carefully behind her. She has a look of incomprehension and mild distaste, as if she wonders how I live in these conditions for two months. My home, but not hers. I start to tell my mother that the director needs to speak with her before we leave, about the payment, but she interrupts me, laughing. She says that she cannot understand a word I say, that we speak a dialect up here, and I will need to start annunciating when I get home, if I want anyone to understand me. My language, not hers.

Dad shuts the trunk and announces that we must be leaving so we can get back “home” by ten o’clock. They must go to work tomorrow, he reminds me. He tells me to say my goodbyes. Not as if he understands. I cannot say “goodbye” to happiness, then climb in the car and roll off around the corner and leave love behind. It is not that simple.

I am bombarded by my friends, who cling to my arms and cry on my shirt and ask in choked sobs why I’m not crying, too. Am I not sad? How can I stand leaving home to go home? Very few understand that there are bands of loss around my chest that are squeezing so tightly with agony that I can hardly breathe, but I fight the tears. I do not know why. I keen with them all, clinging as tightly to them as they do to me, but the tears never come. Pain, but no release. My own kind of grief, I suppose.

My parents stand patiently behind me. They do not understand, but they do know enough not to try, and I am grateful. At last, Dad gently takes my arm and leads me to the car, and the others let go. My family tears me from my family, and the car door shuts me in.

I sit perfectly still as the car starts underneath me. The motor is so foreign, so mechanical. We turn into the driveway, straight and narrow, that leads to the corner and the highway and the real world. A real world without sailboats, without campfires, without unconditional love and universal family. For just a moment, I hate it so intensely I dig my nails into my hand to stop myself from tearing out of the car and plunging back into the woods. But, like passing through an open door, feeling the sudden burst of wind then stillness, the momentary hatred fades, and is replaced with the long familiar emptiness. The corner turns behind me, and I close my eyes, with only my memories to keep me company on the long drive home from home.

 

Happy National S’Mores Day from Sunnyside!

Posted by on August 9, 2019

Now that summer 2019 is a collection of cherished memories, we will begin our series of highlighting each cabin throughout the upcoming months. You will find “best moments” and fun photos from the girls of the spotlight cabin from the recent summer. Sunnyside is going to kick us off this year with a fitting tribute to National S’mores Day (August 10th).

These girls will be CIT’s next year and are already up for the challenge! They stepped in to take on “singing” duties before bedtime and a number of other leadership roles for the 2nd half of the summer including hosting a S’Mores Party on the last night of camp. Here is what they had to say about their 6 weeks at Woodland:

How did you SHINE this summer?

Lucy: I started and finished the sitting levels in riflery in 4 weeks!

Tori: I improved my skills in sailing and sail race.

Ellie: Passing levels in riflery and being a good role model for the younger girls.

Katherine: By passing out of level 4 swimming – it was very hard for me to pass that level.

Monica: I tried chicken!

Molly: I passed levels, tried new things, and made friends.

Isa: I made new friends, passed levels and I had lots of fun with everyone.

Aubrie: I passed out of swimming, achieved my advanced level in canoeing, learned to play tennis and so much more!

When were you your BEST this summer?

Lucy: The whole summer I was at my best. At school my best is studying hard.

Tori: I think the 5th week was my best as I really improved in wake-boarding and sailing, and I had a ton of fun at Olympics.

Ellie: Being at my best at camp means learning from and loving my friends here. At school it means getting good grades and being confident with myself.

Katherine: I was at my best at the beginning of 2nd session because I had no stress. My best at school is when I’m on top of my school work.

Monica: I was at my best practicing for horse show. My best at home is being on top of my school work/violin and hanging with friends.

Molly: The final week because I have excelled in activities and special events. I’m at my best at home when I’m on top of my school work, in a good place with my friends and feeling confident.

Isa: I decided to have a good time and enjoy everything I did. At home or school, I try my hardest to do my best and be with my friends and family.

Aubrie: I was at my best when I was with my friends laughing and having an amazing time at my activities.

Describe a CHANGE you noticed in yourself this summer:

Lucy: I noticed myself becoming more mature and ready to be a CIT.

Tori: I became more confident.

Ellie: I have gotten better at being situationally aware and have more confidence in myself than before. I can do big roles in drama well.

Katherine: I’m more carefree and don’t care what others think. I learned that even if it takes a long time, if I persevere, I can do it.

Monica: My tennis got better, and I became better friends with my cabin mates.

Molly: I’m not afraid to do things like speak my mind, be creative, and be myself!

Isa: I had a good attitude and tried to live camp to the fullest. I learned that there are always people to help you.

Aubrie: I became more patient and understanding and became skilled in new activities. I learned to persevere and get back up if I fail.

What is something you are THANKFUL for this summer?

Lucy: Joining cabins – I missed my cabinmates from 2016.

Tori: I am thankful for being able to try new things and have so many opportunities at camp.

Ellie: The friends who are there for me no matter what.

Katherine: I am thankful for having such an amazing cabin!

Monica: My cabin mates and the staff.

Molly: Having the ability to keep coming back to camp!

Isa: I am thankful that I can have this experience.

Aubrie: I am thankful I was able to grow the camp bond I have with so many people.

From Camp to Home: Totally Unplugged and Fully Connected

Posted by on August 2, 2019

One of the great things about being at camp for 6-weeks is that it gives us all more time to spend just hanging out and enjoying each other’s company. Girls can be found chatting about everything under the sun, playing a game of cards, making a sand sculpture at the beach, reading a book, or just being together at one of many favorite gathering spots around camp. From morning to night, camp life provides an uninterrupted flow of friendly conversation and opportunities to do whatever the present moment offers. It is a true luxury to enjoy spending time like this with the amazing people at Woodland.

When campers are asked what they love about Woodland that’s different from home. There are lots of answers to this question, and it’s those differences that help explain why girls love camp. Many of the answers you might expect: “My camp friends… they know the real me,” “There’s so many fun things to do here,” “I love the food at camp.” It may come as a surprise campers also include, “I like not having my phone.” Teen and pre-teen girls who happily give up using their smartphone? Say it isn’t so!

You might expect the opposite, that the girls at camp are missing their phones, that they can’t wait to return to their Instagram accounts or Snapchat streaks. But it’s not true.  Back home though, we’ve all seen it. Their lives revolve around their smartphones, using them for daily communication, socializing and entertainment.  We’ve also seen this technology use effectively rule their lives, with teen girls spending an average of 9 hours per day on their phone, according to one study. Being constantly drawn to those little screens is a powerful force that we all deal with. As this sculpture “Absorbed by Light” portrays, our communication devices are effectively isolating us and distorting what we know about the world and feel about ourselves.

So why is camp different? If girls are happy to not use their phone here, why not at home too? The answer to that question is that at camp there’s simply no need for a phone. The authentic days of camp make any mediating device unnecessary. Here the community provides plenty of socializing, face-to-face communication, and rich real-world entertainment everyday.  Having been at camp for 6 weeks now, campers have become totally unplugged and fully connected with each other. Girls here have lots of free time, but are never bored because there are friends all around, always engaging things to do available, and no pressure to perform a certain way.  At home, unfortunately, all of this is less true, and their smartphones are used to fill the gap.

What’s amazing is that the girls recognize all of this. Living here at camp in this technology-free community has demonstrated for them that their smartphones, while convenient and perhaps even necessary in modern life, are also a burden.  They feel a real sense of relief giving them up and not needing them. They welcome reclaiming those 9 hours per day, freeing themselves to enjoy all that camp offers. Woodland girls love camp because they feel fulfilled without needing their phones.

At home, where the tight-knit community of camp is absent, the challenge is to find a healthy balance between using our phones and the kind of real-world, fully-engaging experience we all crave. The challenge is to structure our time, identifying when using technology is a benefit and when it is distancing us from what we really want and need. The luxury of camp life is not available all year long, after all that’s why we love camp and return to it every summer, but we can recognize what it provides and with this awareness, implement elements of it more broadly.

As you prepare to reunite with your camper(s) this coming weekend, we encourage you to put some thought around fostering this idea of being fully connected at home as well. Take advantage of good habits that have been in practice for well over a month now and help your daughter resist the urge to return to spending more time on a device than with the people around her that matter the most or doing the things she enjoys away from technology. Empower her to lead the way…she is up for the challenge and who knows, you may be too!

another post adapted and inspired by RBC of NC