Monthly Archives:July 2021

Woodland’s Climax Forest and Other Delightfully Sensorial Experiences

Posted by on July 31, 2021

Let me tell you about the “Climax Forest.” That’s the name for the untouched virgin forest located that makes up a large portion of the 80 acres of Woodland property. It is on your right as you drive down the Woodland Road. It is quite possible that you would see several whitetail deer scampering across the only artery leading into camp. The Climax Forest has various trails that wind their way through this enchantment of trees and other natural habitat. You may even notice that it is a few degrees cooler once several steps inside this magical place. The canopy trees are so incredibly tall that sunlight has a hard time slicing its way to the forest floor.

The Climax Forest itself is beautiful. It feels like an opening to something special, a secret part of the forest preserved for those lucky enough to stumble upon it. Yet, it is right off the main road into camp with several other access points in various locations. I like to wander in deep enough so that the County D traffic is barely a hum or noticeable at all. There is something about it that’s immediately attractive. You can’t help but think, “Wow, this is really cool.” You may even expect to find fairies and gnomes hustling about as that is precisely who would spend their days in such a mystical place. The fuzzy green moss and leafy ferns are the perfect decor for their forest home. A few days ago, several riding classes took a trail ride in this extraordinary spot. It feels like you are miles away from camp civilization, but actually, it is only a few hundred yards. We are so fortunate!

Visiting the Climax Forest, like so many of the experiences at Woodland, is delightfully sensorial. It quite literally bathes these girls in sensations, rich experiences that stimulate all their senses. The examples at camp are endless— the firm muscle of the horse they’re riding, the soft fur of the bunnies at Farm Zoo, the refreshing chill of the lake water. At camp you hear amazing things too: nighttime forest animals, loons calling, the 50-year-old camp bell, and the occasional intense thunderstorm, for example. And taste! —the homemade lasagne we had earlier this week, a different cookie flavor every few days, and the explosion of cool watermelon in your mouth when you take that first bite. At camp we get to smell the earthiness of the forest all around us, encounter the sharp smoke from a campfire, and breathe in full lungs of the freshest air. And of course, what we see everyday is the beauty of Woodland, this historic camp snuggled up close to our very own Climax Forest.

You have to love this for your kids! When so much of their ordinary lives is spent staring at screens, passively receiving a filtered, curated version of the world— and even more so during the recent pandemic restrictions —they really need all their senses exercised. You might even say that their longterm cognitive and emotional health depend on it! They need rich real world experiences like taking the plunge off the Aqua Tramp or a bite out of a freshly roasted s’more. Camp teaches them that feeling these things is normal and good, that the diversity of sensations offered by the world can be experienced by simply reaching out. Children naturally do this. They’re curious and eager to explore. They instinctively revel in the sensorial character of camp life (no A/C needed!). Unfortunately, the tragedy is that those childhood instincts are being hindered by the all too common allure of technological entertainment.

Thankfully, life at Woodland is a relief from all that. We know how to break the spell of those screens and return to more genuine experiences, more rewarding inter-actions, to a more colorful world. Your girls love it because they need it. And at camp, they enjoy it everyday.

Reference: J Carter, RBC, 7-28-21

“Crunch” Time

Posted by on July 28, 2021

Time is such an interesting phenomenon. Young kids, especially, often have a distorted view of time and can have no concept and/or easily lose track of it (both good things!). They generally know that a few minutes is shorter than a few hours or days, but that is about the extent of it.

You might be familiar with the quote, “the days are long, but the years are short”. I sometimes feel that way about camp; the days are long, but the summer is short! I have often said that a typical camp day is really 3 days. The morning is a day. The afternoon is another day. The evening is a third day. This explains why we are so tired at night. By the time we crawl under the covers, we have really been up for 3 days straight! It is also the reason we sleep so deeply and so well in our cozy cabins.

At our Sunday staff meeting earlier this week, we talked about “Crunch” time (and enjoyed a tasty treat – thank you Nestlé!). We recognize that the number of days at camp are dwindling. And quickly. The end of the summer always goes faster than the beginning. When staff arrived and had an extra week of pre-camp training this year, the 8 (previously 7) weeks of summer stretched out ahead of us. We had all the time in the world. In June there seemed to be an endless supply of the camp days we long for the rest of year. Or so we thought. The roughly 1.5 weeks remaining now seem like nothing. All of a sudden, the surplus of time we thought we had earlier in the summer can be counted on two hands. Now we wonder where did the time go?

This realization brought us to have an interesting conversation. To make the most of the remaining days that are left, what do we need to do MORE and LESS of so that we are truly present and enjoying every single minute of this precious commodity called time? We reflected on the idea of “more” and “less” from an individual perspective and then broadened it to include the staff team. What can WE do more/less of that will impact the camper experience to an even greater degree?

I was impressed with the honesty of the staff in this opportunity to hit “pause” for a moment. While we can’t completely stop the clock from ticking, at the very least we can make it appear to slow down as we ponder and make note.

Things we should do MORE of:

  • Spending time with friends
  • Singing
  • Being in the moment
  • Adding new twists to activities
  • Being flexible (knowing that some things are out of our control)
  • Recognizing the good things
  • Focusing on the positive
  • Appreciating nature
  • Getting rest
  • Being grateful
  • Assuming the best intentions of others

Things we should do LESS of:

  • Spending time on our devices (I know I’m guilty)
  • Complaining (it’s so hot, the water is too cold)
  • Comparing to others (better to compare to earlier versions of ourselves)
  • Drama (unless it is your activity)
  • Eating Dan’s lasagne (well, maybe not…)

I can assure you that since we know what we are up against with our fight against time, we are acutely aware of what needs to happen to make the “Here Comes the Sun in ’21” one for the books! Bucket lists have been made. We don’t want there to be any regrets. Staff are pouring everything they have into making the final sign-up of activities one of progress and skill advancement. Cabin night was Cathy’s ice cream for Hilltop, Aqua Tramp for Tamarack, and a swim party for Sunnyside (just to name a few!).

Today is the much anticipated all-camp Olympics. As I write this, I can hear the Dominican Devils and Maylasian Medusas cheering across the swim area, field and Woodland Road as they root for their own and the opposing team (Everybody Plays, Everybody Wins). The counselors are SO into it – face paint, costumes, energy, and spirit – nothing short of the best kind of pure camp fun. Yes, it is “crunch” time and the days are getting less and less, but there is still MORE summer to do!! A LOT more.

p.s. What can YOU do more/less of in the days before your camper/s return home?


Eye of the Fun Storm: From Accelerate to Celebrate

Posted by on July 24, 2021
Day lilies arrive like clockwork in time
to celebrate Woodland’s 52nd Birthday!

Today (Saturday) marks the end of the 4th week of camp, and as Woodland alum, Athena K, so eloquently stated several years ago, this weekend is the “eye of the fun storm”.  Yesterday was Camp Birthday and tomorrow is TP Fair, and so today is sandwiched in between two extremely FUN and highly anticipated camp traditions (hence the appropriateness of the phrase “the eye of the fun storm”). Be on the lookout for photos from these 2 events to get the full experience – birthday cake, ice cream, 5 and 10 year recognitions, clown contest, siblings reunited, carnival games and more!

Gymnastics*, dance*, and drama* classes will be performing for the entire camp and visiting parents this weekend (not exactly the calm that really occurs during the eye of a hurricane!). The girls in gymnastics will demonstrate their perfected skills through floor, beam and bar routines. The dance classes are ready to showcase their moves to upbeat music. The grand finale of the evening will be the brightly costumed Woodland Player’s rendition of “Annie.”

We are also transitioning from “Accelerate to Celebrate” as we get ready to begin the final two weeks of the summer. The girls have been at camp for a month now, and they are seeing the results of their efforts and persistence in activities. This is evident in the NUMEROUS announcements made by counselors at our daily evening assembly celebrating campers’ many achievements. Woodland girls are passing levels in archery, riflery, and swimming, gaining proficiency on the kneeboard, wakeboard or skis during Rec Swim, trotting and/or cantering in riding, sailing off a mooring or canoeing solo,…you name it…campers are doing it and we are celebrating it!

Camp is a BLAST during the last two weeks because of the effort poured into the weeks preceding it. Friendships are closer, confidence is stronger, and experiences are unforgettable. New abilities and perfected skills, honed over an extended period of time, become manifest. Campers can’t help but to stand a little taller! We are looking forward to celebrating both individual and group success in the days to come. There is still MORE SUMMER TO DO!

*Note: the gymnastics, dance, and drama photos used in this blog are from 1st session. We will post the ones from this evening’s shows at some point next week!

The Stuff from Which Growth is Made

Posted by on July 19, 2021

When others see what appears to be “success”, whether it be getting a good grade on a test or paper, a stellar performance at a recital or show, a star athlete on a winning sports team, a beautiful drawing/painting or piece of handmade art, a scholarship to a prestigious school, or any number of successes not mentioned here, the finale or end result is typically the only thing that is attributed to that success. The prize. The win. The score. The medal. The championship. The title. The award. The encore.

As the above illustration shows, this is really just the “tip of the iceberg” to that person’s success. There is so much else that is below the surface to that accomplishment that it is often overlooked or dismissed altogether. Jealousy and envy can creep in because from the outside looking in, the successful person makes it look so easy or natural. It may even appear to be effortless. We often think to ourselves that “this person has it all” or “they don’t even have to try”. We may even pass judgment that the success was a handout vs something earned.

In my last blog about the story of how Formula 409® got its name (it was the 409th attempt that was deemed to be “it”), I talked about all of the failures and mistakes that went into getting to the end result or success. At Woodland, we embrace the missteps, taking 2 steps back in addition to the 3 steps forward, the snafus, the blunders, the mess-ups, and/or the “almost” got its. I left you thinking about how finally being able to canter on the 12th attempt or doing a dive from the dock after the 21st bellyflop is the stuff from which growth is made.

On a recent run, I went down a street that is not on my usual route. Interestingly, I spotted a graduation sign in someone’s yard that read, “The tassel was worth the hassle.” To my earlier point, we often only see the “tassel”. We may not recognize the “hassle” that it took to finish a program of study and make it to graduation day. We know that graduating at any level is the culmination of several years of hoops and hurdles, struggles and challenges, and twists and turns. This is the “hassle” that helps get to the “tassel”. This too is an example of where the roots of growth spread far and deep.

If we take each of the characteristics that are below the surface on the iceberg – that which we don’t see attached to someone’s success – we can better understand the growth campers experience that leads them to their “win” (big or small) and what you will observe at the end of their time with us.

These are a few of the ingredients practiced on a regular basis at camp that make up the recipe for growth (one of our core values) which leads to success:

  • Persistence: getting back up on a horse after being spooked, practicing a cartwheel over and over until you land it
  • Failure: missing the target in archery or riflery, serving a tennis ball into the net
  • Sacrifice: letting someone else have a turn on the Big Banana, even though you really want to go (and it means you have to wait for another day) or offering to help with someone else’s cabin clean-up chore when yours has been completed
  • Disappointment: finding out that you were the only person in your cabin who didn’t get mail or that your favorite art project turned up missing
  • Discipline: coming to the barn before the official wake-up bell rings to feed the horses or doing your summer reading a little bit every day
  • Hard Work: paddling across the lake to the other side for an overnight canoe adventure, cleaning animal cages in Farm Zoo
  • Dedication: working on your lines for the play during rest hour or sailing different boats in varying wind conditions and with ever-changing crew experience
  • Grit: delaying gratification by working on an advanced level for multiple summers because more time to practice and develop skills is needed (I’m adding this one because I think this is a great word to describe the effort and determination shown to keep pushing through even though it is hard)

As parents, you have watched your daughter/s grow before your very eyes. Sometimes this comes in ways we can physically see (getting taller), while other times it is harder to pinpoint (having more confidence). It will be exciting to hear what transformations you notice when you reunite with your camper/s at the end of the summer after having been apart for several weeks or more. You can bet that for every “success” you do see, there was a whole lot of growth that occurred beneath the surface. The “tassel” of coming to the end of the camp season was definitely worth the “hassle”!

P.s. I’m on revision #27 for this blog!

What Formula 409 and Woodland Have in Common

Posted by on July 15, 2021

I recently discovered how Formula 409® got its name. Surprisingly enough, it is actually a tribute to the tenacity of two young Detroit scientists hell-bent on formulating the greatest grease-cutting, dirt-destroying, bacteria cutting cleaner on the planet. As the story goes, creating the ultimate cleaner didn’t happen on the first try. And it wasn’t on the 101st or the 301st either. It wasn’t until batch number 409 that they were finally satisfied. And so, the name stuck. Formula 409®. True story.

So, what does the story of how 409 got its name have to do with camp you ask?! The answer is everything. It has everything to do with how we roll at Camp Woodland. Failures and mistakes are not shunned or discouraged. Rather, it is quite the opposite. Missing the mark (by a little or a lot) is celebrated as an opportunity for growth. It’s actually quite refreshing! Sure we have levels in certain activities; however, at the end of the day, no “tests” are given or “grades” recorded. Campers have the choice to challenge themselves as little or as much as they want in any given activity.

The idea of challenge-by-choice can be extremely rewarding and empowering. Campers typically make comparisons to earlier versions of themselves rather than measuring up to those who might be quite skilled in an area. Take archery, for example. There may be campers in the same class who are wishing they could simply hit the target and those who are shooting at 50 feet and trying for a given score or “qualifying” target.

One of my favorite things about having mixed ages and skill/experience levels in a class like archery is the mentoring that happens between campers. Talk about reinforcing what you know by being able to explain or demonstrate it to someone else! It is also really cool to see campers cheer each other on and recognize those small, yet important “wins” when they do something better today (have an arrow stick in the target) than they could yesterday (retrieve arrows from the grass).

When I was a counselor at Woodland, I taught water-skiing during the 2 periods of afternoon Rec Swim. It would indeed be rare for a camper to get up on skis, a kneeboard or wakeboard on the first try. First off, this activity requires that campers be at a certain skill level in swimming (to feel comfortable and adept at maneuvering in deep water). For some of the younger girls, this may take a year or longer to build up the skills of being a proficient swimmer in a lake setting.

Once campers have the swim skills necessary to give a more advanced water sport a go, it may take several days of multiple tries to get up only to face plant (and have a gallon of water go up your nose). It may take another round of Rec Swim periods to make a loop around the lake successfully (more face plants). For campers who want to challenge themselves even further, they may practice going in and out of the wake (with wipeouts being an imminent possibility) before they truly get the hang of it. For campers who choose to work on passing levels in an activity, instructors are good at spotting when a skill has been mastered and can be done without hesitation vs when it is only demonstrated one time. A “test” is not necessary!

I’m guessing the two scientists who finally landed on the best mixture of ingredients to make the ultimate cleaner, were pretty pumped when they realized the 409th try was “it”. If you could experience the sheer joy of seeing a camper improve the tiniest amount or reach proficiency in a skill, it is truly why we do what we do!

Hearing the squeals when a camper is finally able to canter after the 12th try, return a ball using backhand on the 31st attempt, do a forward roll after struggling the 19 times prior, learn lines for a play after fumbling during the previous 7 rehearsals, coordinate a string of dance moves after 42 run-throughs, read the wind direction in sailing after 4.5 weeks, do a dive from the dock after the 21st bellyflop, paddle in the stern position in a canoe after spinning in circles for several classes in a row, and more is absolutely the B-E-S-T. You see, it is through failure and mistakes that the stuff growth is made of can be found in abundance (more on that next time)!

P.s. In case you’re wondering, I’m on my 25th revision of this blog (but who’s counting?)!