Monthly Archives:July 2018

A 6-week Woodland Camper from Head to Toe

Posted by on July 31, 2018

Now that campers are into their 6th and final week of camp for this year, we thought we would give you a glimpse of what kind of camper you can expect from head to toe upon their return home….

Six-week campers have a good foot to stand on, two feet in fact. Feet that have been stepping one foot in front of the other, as they have taken steps giving them newfound independence. Feet leading your camper down paths untravelled, to step onto new shores. Your camper’s feet might be a little dirty from all the tromping through trails, and they might be a little tired from all the running, skipping, and dancing that comes with camp discoveries. But through the summer, these feet have carried your camper to places they’ve never been, planted themselves firmly into the ground with newfound confidence, and they have left footprints marking their way as evidence of their adventure.

Your camper’s hands held onto backpack straps tightly at first, then began waving to old friends and new faces. Hands giving high fives with successes, reaching out to others when they needed extra support. Your Woodland camper has creative hands that make and mold and paint in unique and exceptional ways. Hands that grab onto reins or canoe paddles, hands that work together to reach new heights and open new doors.

Let’s not forget about your camper’s eyes. A Camp Woodland camper’s eyes sparkle with a sense of adventure. These eyes widened at the sight of the many possibilities that were on the horizon several weeks ago. Eyes seeking opportunities not obstacles. Eyes watching new friends grow, and eyes gleaming as they realize they’ve grown too! Eyes capturing the most intricate pictures and memories of all their endeavors. Eyes shining with excitement at each new day, and eyes barely able to keep open at the end of each exhilarating quest.

Finally, the most important part of a Camp Woodland camper is the heart!  A heart overflowing with joy as memories from camp experiences are held ever so close. A courageous heart, that bravely tackled the newness, and even as the heart races, it carries on, over new obstacles and into the hearts of the friends we make here at camp. A heart that beats to its own tune, not like the other hearts you might know. This heart outpours in the forms of laughter and song. This heart has room enough for friends to stay and adventures to continue on past six weeks. The heart of a Camp Woodland camper, the essence of their very core, came to camp to be inspired, and in turn, inspired the hearts of each person it met.

How lucky we have been, as you shared your Camp Woodland camper with us for 6 weeks! We are looking forward to seeing you for Applause Weekend and celebrating all we have accomplished this summer!!

Kudos to Ansley D, a GA camp friend, for this awesome blog inspiration!


Counselor Commitment to Camper Success

Posted by on July 28, 2018

My daughter is a first year camper at Camp Woodland.

Picture a beautiful, smart six year old girl who is very shy and has  limited athletic coordination.  In the Northern Virginia girls soccer league, my daughter is very easy to spot. Look for “Cinderella,” the princess who runs away from the ball. Let’s just say she isn’t naturally adventurous. She’s especially fearful of dogs and very picky about what she eats…all the time.  

Like most parents, I hate to see my daughter struggle, or worse, fail and quit.  So, you can imagine my apprehensions with her being the youngest girl in a full six-week camp program.

  • If she is quiet and reserved in her 1st grade class from September-June, how will she connect with new people (from multiple countries) in a contained camp cabin?
  • How can she succeed in sports activities when she’s accustomed to struggling, failing, and quitting?
  • If she’s afraid of a soccer ball rolling in her direction, how will she respond to a thousand-pound horse or even the smaller animals on the camp property?

As a Dad visiting Camp Woodland in July, I was surprised to see these questions were not only unwarranted, but absurdly funny.

After this visit, I found myself asking a new set of questions:

  • How did my daughter embrace archery, swimming, and tennis without fear of failure or inferior comparison to others?
  • How did she become a comedian in her cabin and an enthusiastic contributor performer in Song Contest?
  • Why does she love riding large horses (Snoopy, Kazoo, and Tango) when her boot heels don’t even reach their flanks?
  • Why does she greet the camp dogs Jake (Bernese Mountain Dog) and Juno (beagle mix) like fellow campers instead of hungry timber wolves?
  • Why are camp meals never a problem for a kid accustomed to ordering “off the menu?”
  • How does she learn to independently clean her group table in the dining hall and sprint to cabin cleanup?

In three short weeks at Camp Woodland, how did exactly did my daugther overcome her traditional limitations?  After serious reflection, I’ve conclusively ruled out Northwoods mosquitos, bug juice, the camp bell ringing a dozen times a day, bunkbeds, or daily immersion in beautiful Sand Lake.  

After following her around for three days, there is one and only one reason that explains this.  It’s the counseling staff. They are simply more committed to my daughter succeeding than she could ever be committed to giving up.  Each time she struggles, the counselors double-down on attention, encouragement, and a simplified learning approach. They slow down, repeat the action, or find another way for her to succeed and have fun – until she does succeed.   

Patience from the counselor transfers to patience in the camper. The generous ratio of staff to campers allows counselors the time and focus to ensure every camper earns personal victories throughout each week. It’s a safe environment for kids to be themselves, disconnect from TV’s and iPads, and be creative with others.  Success then becomes a habit and an expectation for every camper, even for activities they’ve never attempted.

Every day is a new chance to learn and experience success.  Woodland counselors are committed to all campers meeting their growth potential.  Sam gives encouragement by saying, “The horse is not in charge of you. You are in charge of the horse.” Ana reminds campers of the racquet skills, athletic movement, and effort the girls need to bring to each tennis drill.  Jackie is in the water with her instructional swim class demonstrating the fundamentals of stroke coordination. Woodland counselors take their job of youth development seriously!

Similarly, the camp culture reinforces campers responsibilities to themselves and each other.  Mommy and Daddy are not there to sweep up dining hall tables and sleeping cabins, so everyone has to pitch in as a team.  Along with rest hour, recreational swims, campfire nights, and Sunday special events – responsibility is built into the daily routine of every camper and counselor.  It becomes something my daughter takes pride in, rather than a time to dig in her heels in protest.  Actually, please visit for the proper definition of “rebellion!” With a broom in her hands and a smile on her face, she tells me if she does an exceptional job over a few days, she earns ice cream from Cathy’s!

While I got plenty of hugs from my daughter during my visit, she hasn’t been the least bit homesick.   She is having far too much fun with her cabinmates to talk about her room, dresses, toys, or neighborhood friends.  The Camp Newsletter that I get in the mail is quite helpful for me to understand the program activities, weekly developments, and the cast of audacious camp characters.   When she returns home in two weeks, I expect to hear these retold from the individual viewpoint of a confident 7-year old camper!

Author: Matt Biear, camp parent




National Camp Kindness Day

Posted by on July 23, 2018

A warm smile is the universal language of kindness. -William Arthur Ward

Camp Woodland is excited to participate in #CampKindnessDay #KindnessEvolution. We are joining camps across the country to intentionally focus our programming around kindness.  Acts of kindness occur every day at camp, and the best part is that campers take that spirit of kindness with them out into the world and spread it around. Kindness in the camp community is visible in every smile, every word of appreciation, and in countless acts of empathy and friendship. It happens every day organically, but we are taking time to recognize it on July 24th.  We hope to fuel a positive cultural shift to more fully incorporate the practice of intentional kindness and care into every aspect of our society.

When you are kind to others, it not only changes you, it changes the world. -Harold Kushner

Here are some ways that campers FEEL kindness from others this summer:

  • I don’t have to be perfect and it is OK to make a mistake
  • My opinion is respected
  • People are nice to me and include me even though this is my 1st year
  • Things are explained to me when I don’t understand, and I always feel part of the group
  • I am comforted when I am missing home
  • I am encouraged by others in activities
  • Others listen to me and what I say is taken to heart when I am sharing something

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. -Maya Angelou

Here are some ways that campers SHOW kindness towards others :

  • I try to cheer others if they are having a bad day
  • I do my part to clean the cabin even though I won’t get to take part in a “Clean Freaks” party
  • I let others borrow my stuff (even if I don’t want to)
  • I talk to my cabin mates, respect their opinions and make sure that everyone is comfortable
  • I help others when I am finished with my job during cabin clean-up and explain what is happening to new campers
  • I don’t get upset when others sit on my bed
  • I try my hardest to include everyone in all that we do

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. -Amelia Earhart


Homesickness – A crash course from a Woodland “Veteran”

Posted by on July 19, 2018

by Susan Austin Short, Woodland alum and parent

We all know our children will get homesick. Six weeks is a long time to be away from home. It’s only natural that they will miss us, the comforts of home, and the routine and known entities about being home. (Not to mention missing their connection to electronics -most kids probably go through withdrawals as they detox from their phones or other electronic devices.)

I was no exception when I attended camp. I still remember crying on the porch of Silver Birch- what seemed like every night – after dinner and before evening activity. That was my worst time of day. But, on the flip side, I also remember being comforted. My own homesickness didn’t curtail me returning to camp for eleven summers. I loved camp like it was a part of me, probably because it was. Homesickness was just part of the deal.

Then why did I panic when my own 12 year-old daughter started telling me she was homesick much more this summer, didn’t know why, and wanted to come home? She had changed her mind and could I come visit after all? (She had told me multiple times leading up to camp that she did not want me to visit her this summer. She wrote me a letter the first week of camp confirming, “You can cancel your reservation. I don’t want you to visit.”)

Okay, Okay, I get it. Honor she’s growing up and just cancel the darn reservation. This is what we want for our kids! Become more independent! Rely on the friends and counselors to help you through the tough times! Mommy isn’t going to be there for every challenge or setback to help you through! This is a part of what being at camp for the whole summer is about, right?

I embraced her independence as best I could and canceled the reservation. Case closed.

Then the letters started coming about how homesick she was. I started doubting the choice to cancel the visit. I worried she would feel abandoned if I didn’t come. I wondered if there was something more serious going on that she couldn’t tell me about in a letter -that only seeing her would make the difference. But, I also knew from my own experience that when parents leave after a visit, the kids usually dip even more. It can be helpful and reassuring to be with them, but when they leave again, it can feel worse. Was this to the point that that temporary setback was worth it?

Her sadness was in between comments like, “The aquatramp was really fun!” or “I passed out of level 4 in swimming,” but I was still stunned and worried. This communication was from a girl who barely wrote letters her previous summers, and now I was getting 4 or 5 a week.

I checked in with camp leadership to ask the counselors if they thought it would be better or worse if I came. The feedback was to visit – that this could help her over the hump for the last 3 weeks.

I found a hotel! I reorganized responsibilities with my family and work at home! I was going to see my baby and make everything alright again! I was needed! Mom to the rescue! (Easy Ego)

That first hug was amazing. Of course. And, it was so good for me to see my daughter in the flesh, confirm she was safe and sound, and see her in a few of her activities. To listen to her tell me about some of the wonderful occurrences and some challenges was only further confirmation that indeed all was well. In fact, I’d even say she was thriving.

As I said to JoAnne after spending some time with my daughter the first day: “She is beyond fine.”

She was going through typical challenges at camp. It’s just the way it is. I was with her for 2 activities on Friday, and 3 Saturday morning. We stayed in the camp environment, and I left quickly after a last hug. We had our time to talk. I had time to see her in her world. And, ironically, it was just enough time for me to begin to annoy her; thus reminding her of one of the many reasons why she was counting down the days until camp all year: to get away from Mom. 😊

Would she have been okay if I hadn’t visited? ABSOLUTELY. I may have even robbed her of some additional learning and growth by coming. I’ll have to live with that possibility. But, I would have spent the rest of the summer wondering if I had let her down by not coming. This time, I don’t regret my decision.

If there’s a next time, though, I just might make a different choice.

The Great Outdoors

Posted by on July 16, 2018

by Aron Christopher (Camp Mom and Woodland alum)

I was awoken one night by the sounds of a barred owl calling. I lay there, taking it in and celebrating the closeness to nature that I can experience at camp. While here, there are no amenities to keep me comfortable except for the cool Woodland breeze and the ebbs and flows of humidity and temperature. Far away from air conditioning, with the windows open and all the nighttime sounds surrounding me, I sleep as part of nature. I don’t particularly enjoy the bugs that can sometimes join me in my cabin, but I take solace in knowing that this means that my air is a little fresher.

I played golf recently with a pinecone and a stick with a tilted end. In a world where we need to have everything and need to buy our children their own set of golf clubs to teach them a love of golf, it’s rather reassuring to watch children enjoy a good game of pine cone golf.

Being a full time working mom in the suburbs and coming to camp seem like two completely polar opposite sides of myself but I am astounded at the fulfillment that both leave me in different, yet complementary ways. Although many of my friends may have been puzzled at my desire to leave my comfortable amenities to spend the summer at camp, I think that, just possibly, this deep connection to nature that I am experiencing will allow me to see more subtle beauty in the nature around me even when I’m far, far from camp.

Can you spot the hummingbird?