Monthly Archives:July 2021

Rebuilding Social Muscle

Posted by on July 12, 2021

A parent shared an interesting comment this past weekend. She said that she could tell her daughter was relaxing and settling into camp. Looking at the photo gallery, she could “see it on her face.” After these first couple of weeks at camp, her daughter’s smile was more natural, her body language more comfortable, and her closeness to the other girls more obvious.

That was great to hear! We’ve noticed it too. As we’ve moved along into the session, and spent more and more time together— living in the cabin, playing in activities, and singing at meals —the girls have gotten to know each other better and begun to absorb the camp spirit that guides our relationships here. They recognize the Woodland community is uniquely kind and supportive, upbeat and inclusive. It’s a place where being your true self, perfectly imperfect, is celebrated. Your girls feel like they belong at Woodland, staying happily busy and deepening their friendships. It’s so nice to see this important growth.

We were worried this common experience at camp would be tougher or slower this summer following the social isolation most kids experienced during the pandemic. Social skills are like a muscle that needs both training to be fully formed, and regular exercise to maintain its strength and ability. And like a muscle, social skills can atrophy if neglected. By squashing in-person peer interactions and forcing relationships online, the coronavirus pandemic robbed our kids of crucial social development, potentially weakening their ability to relate positively with one another. Being separated from other kids this last year, our children received very little social-emotional learning.

Fortunately, the power of camp life to bring us together has been proven stronger. The spirit of the Woodland community has inspired us all again, helped us understand ourselves and each other. It’s working. We’re rebuilding social muscle and providing it regular exercise. The results are amazing!

Such results can be seen at our recent Cabin Unity Campfire, a culminating event of the first two weeks of camp. Each cabin comes dressed in a particular color that signifies its uniqueness as a group (and all the colors/cabins together form a rainbow). It is at this special campfire that cabins are presented their flags. The cabin flag has been a tradition since the late 80’s and is a way for campers to leave their mark at the end of the summer. Before returning home, each camper signs her name as a permanent record of being part of a special cabin group (Sunrise, Treetops, Silver Birch, Sunnyside, Starshine, Tamarack, Hilltop, Driftwood, and Aquarius) for a given year. Alumni who come visit always ask to see the flags with their names that give a timestamp of their moments in the history of Camp Woodland.

The activities that are incorporated into this special milestone of the summer intentionally focus on the diversity each camper adds to making a strong team. It would be boring if we are all alike! One of my personal favorite exercises of this evening by the lake is sitting in a circle and passing around a ball of string. In this simple yet powerful gesture, each camper shares a positive affirmation about the person to whom she is passing the string. The end result shows a web of how the girls are all connected to each other. It is amazing how strong the bonds are in just 2 short weeks (and they will grow even stronger in the 4 remaining weeks of camp)! After hearing something kind and genuine from a cabin mate, each girl can’t help but to sit/stand a little taller with a smile that is a little wider. We love seeing that social muscle flexing and rebuilding!

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

The Growth Zone: A Great Place to Be!

Posted by on July 9, 2021

You may be familiar with the idea that kids should be encouraged to go outside of their “comfort zone.” At camp, there are many chances to do that. It’s almost inevitable, in fact. New activities, new people, new food, new weather— life at camp is very different from the “comforts of home.” For most children, all that newness is bound to be challenging in some very unexpected ways, especially when it occurs without one of the main sources of comfort in a child’s life: parents and other trusted adults. But after all, that’s exactly the point. Because it’s so different, camp is not supposed to be entirely “comfortable.” It’s supposed to be (appropriately!) challenging. Some of the magic of camp comes from that fact, and when combined with a supportive, encouraging community, it’s a powerful force… even transformative.

Our hunch is that most parents who send their kids to camp already get this. They don’t want their kids to sit back and coast through life always choosing what’s the easiest. They don’t want their children to develop a habit of complacency, to always need a road map of conformity to feel safe. They don’t want their children to be afraid to explore, or be tethered too tightly to what’s familiar and predictable. They don’t want their kid’s world to be that narrow and fragile, that strict and ultimately stale. Even though it might feel good at first, the “Comfort Zone” is ultimately unfulfilling. The irony is that it’s usually the adults who effectively build this trap for kids just as we care for their needs. We are the ones who supply the comfort zone, sometimes making it extra plush!

Of course, the opposite should be avoided too. We don’t want our children to be in danger, to be faced with extreme consequences, or to risk permanent suffering. There are situations where attention to safety warrants taking specific, careful action to protect our children from harm. Certainly, we do our best to help our kids avoid being in the “Danger Zone.” We don’t want the challenges our children face to be so extreme they become discouraged. We don’t want them to take on so much risk that there is no way to recover. We don’t want for them to explore so much that they become lost.

There’s a sweet spot, however, between comfort and danger. This is often called the “Growth Zone.” And it’s where we try to dwell at Woodland. There are plenty of challenges to be found here, for sure. There are bound to be moments when your daughter/s will struggle, experience some kind of minor setback, or feel frustrated by something not going exactly like what she’s used to. There are challenges built into the activities too: hitting the target in archery, balancing on the gymnastics beam, getting on a horse, learning your lines in drama, and so on. And there are even challenges to just living at camp and being part of this community: doing cabin chores, working through personal disagreements, handling the insects that find their way into the cabins, and trekking up and down the path to the waterfront, to name few.

We hope you can see how all of these challenges are appropriate, ones where the campers here can successfully develop the skills, confidence, and perseverance to overcome them and grow. That’s where the the camp community is crucial. All around us at camp there are helpful friends. There is encouragement and support. There’s coaching and plenty of good role models to demonstrate how attitude and effort can make a big difference in moments of discomfort.

And when so much of camp life is also incredibly fun, there’s a unique power inspiring kids to carry on and accept the challenges that come. The result is recognizable personal growth in self confidence and resilience. Over time, adapting to challenging situations becomes normal, expected. In this special environment, individuals develop a sense of who they are— capable and strong. They begin to understand that what’s new and different is potentially an opportunity. They realize that stepping out of their comfort zone, but not so far to be in danger, is a recipe for growth. They learn that growing, not comfort, is what makes life fun. With the first 2 weeks of acclimating and adjusting to camp life, cabin groups, and the routines of community living in the rearview mirror, there will be even more opportunities for growth ahead!

Will your camper/s describe their camp experience like this? Certainly not in so many words, but we know they are absorbing this idea. They’re living in the growth zone everyday while they’re here at Camp Woodland. Amidst all the action and silly fun you see at camp, there’s something lasting and beneficial happening too. Such good stuff!

Reference: RBC blog by J Carter, 6-14-21

Play Matters

Posted by on July 6, 2021

Independence Day is quite a celebration around here!  The CIT’s helped us celebrate in style by hosting 4th of July Games, which this year was on the actual holiday (and not the Sunday before). Woodland alum will recognize perennial favorites such as the clothes relay down the Woodland Road, water balloon toss, lifesaver pass, shave a balloon, and water relay (just to name a few!).

In addition to a multitude of laughs and memories to recount later to friends and family, there is a LOT more embedded within an afternoon of fun and games than just meets the eye. I’m sure it is no surprise that there is a noticeable decline in the amount of time spent playing for both kids and adults. Busy schedules drive us from the moment we open our eyes in the morning until our head hits the pillow at night. The great news is that there is an abundance of play at Camp Woodland! Play is what we do!

In a TEDMED Talk Jill Vialet shares that, “It is easy to dismiss play as trivial and unimportant; however, there is nothing farther from the truth. Play is kids’ work in that it is a form of experiential learning that contributes directly to a person’s ability to handle failure, to work in teams, and to take risks.” (Jill sounds like she must have spent some time hanging out with Mr. and Mrs. Jordan at Woodland & Towering Pines!)

If a very large balloon covered in shaving cream pops during one of the games, then a camper is faced with an opportunity to gracefully handle the situation. Learning not to take things seriously and to laugh at oneself are good qualities to master for more challenging dilemmas later on. Being able to work with your teammates to toss water balloons down the line involves problem solving and collaboration. The awkwardness of passing a lifesaver from person to person is great practice being silly and not caring what other people think. Playing offers a multitude of little ways to step out of our comfort zones and make frequent deposits in our confidence banks. This will pay huge dividends later!


According to Jill Vialet, play matters because:

  1. it provides a brief respite from the tyranny of apparent purpose (I guarantee campers are not thinking about the final math test they took at the end of the semester during the water balloon toss!).
  2. it compels us to choose to say, “I care” and better come to know ourselves (Stuffing a giant marshmallow in your mouth is a great way to do just that!).
  3. people matter and it reminds us of our interdependence with others. It gives us a chance to see other people and in turn to be really and truly seen (There is a whole wide world out there, and it is a lot of fun to play with others!).

Of course, this fun afternoon of play was followed by the annual 4th of July Campfire at Towering Pines (another opportunity to play)!  

References: More Than Fun and Games – Play Matters by Nancy Brown (Huffington Post) and TEDMED Talk by Jill Vialet.

A special shout out to Bill Gonio, friend and former Towering Pines staff, for your inspiration in writing this blog!

It Never Rains at Camp Woodland!

Posted by on July 3, 2021


Aquarius performs “Get’cha Head in the Game”

In case you didn’t know, it never rains at Camp Woodland! How is this possible you ask? We just get a little “dew” as was the case earlier in the week. Woodland Girls do not let gray weather dampen our spirits…the “show must go on”! The ever popular Lip Sync Contest is one of the most highly anticipated rainy day activities hands down. I can remember dry summers when we actually got to the 4th or 5th week of camp, and the campers were wishing for a “dewey” day just so that they wouldn’t miss out on Lip Sync Contest.

Sunnyside wows the crowd with “Drivers License” 

Lip Sync is the perfect cabin bonding activity regardless of when it happens in the summer. However, this year in particular, it was a great way to continue solidifying and strengthening the bonds that have been forming in cabin groups this first week. There is a different feel within groups now than on June 26th. By the end of week #2 – LOOK OUT! Campers will really be hitting their stride with adjustment to and comfort with being at camp,

Driftwood gets into the spirit with hairbrush microphones

With the help of their counselors, campers negotiate which song will be chosen for the performance, and then they must come together to decide on costumes, props, and dance moves. It is not unusual to see hairbrushes used as microphones and other interesting items (such as a broom and dustpan) appear. Driftwood went all out with “This is Me” from Camp Rock. The oldest group of campers (behind the CIT’s) really let loose and were “all in”. It was almost like I sometimes sing in the shower (as if no one else is listening)!

Treetops takes the stage with “Levitating”

Aquarius brought back a High School Musical tune, “Get’cha Head in the Game” while Sunnyside chose “Drivers License” by Olivia Rodrigo. Treetops brought us “Levitating” by Dua Lipa featuring DaBaby. Silver Birch’s award winning performance was a Lion King favorite, “Circle of Life”.  This group of campers went all out with colorful costumes, wigs, face make-up and teased hair. If truth be told, some cabins actually decide on the song they will use prior to the announcement of Lip Sync Contest so they are ready when the event is called – what dedication!

Silver Birch takes 1st place for Lip Sync Contest 2021

As you can see from the vibrant faces in each photo, it’s really hard not to have a smile on your face when in lip sync mode. Let’s just say that courage and confidence show up in a big way even if being on stage is not your thing. The annual Lip Sync Contest fits right in with “Here Comes the Sun in ‘2-1” because we make our own sunshine (even when getting a little Woodland “dew”)!



Camp…More Than Ever

Posted by on July 1, 2021

Hello from Camp Woodland! We are SO EXCITED to be open for the summer 2021 season! You might say that we have been a little busy (hence the delay on getting our first blog out this week!).  After months of planning, and really two years of thinking about how camp would be this summer, opening day arrived. Finally, we were able to welcome girls to camp, introduce them to all the other amazing campers and staff members that make up this community, and begin to experience all the special aspects of camp life. “More than ever” seems to be an appropriate phrase. Given the feelings of loss, and many struggles imposed upon everyone by the pandemic, we all need camp more than ever.

The time outside, the laughter and smiling faces, the closeness of friendship, the hilarious silliness, the opportunity for fresh, real-world (tech-free) experience— yep, more than ever. You can already see it on the girls’ faces and hear it in their voices. They’re so happy to be here, so ready to play, to be carefree kids, and to enjoy the fun of camp. For the staff too, they missed this place and the simpler, more genuine life camp provides. This has always been true at Woodland, summer after summer, but this year, it’s even more so.

Thank you parents for helping make opening day go as smoothly as possible! Your attention to the details of our pre-camp protocols and instructions (so many forms! emails! messages!) really helped. We especially appreciate all the effort you put into keeping your camper/s healthy before arriving. We know some things were added burdens, but we think it was well worth the benefit it provides the whole camp community. So, THANK YOU!

One worry about this new procedure was that the campers would not have their parents to help settle them into their cabin. From the camper’s point of view, this turned out to be unjustified. This allowed everyone to set up their bunks together. A fun new group project was born, with the counselors and bunkmates helping make the whole cabin more comfortable. It’s amazing what colorful blankets, stuffed animals and a few personal items can do to make the cabin feel like “home”. And, we were able the launch the whole cabin group into action right away. A great thing!

As campers arrived, cabin groups enjoyed playing various games and exploring the main areas of camp. Having Dan’s famous mac-n-cheese for lunch was a much anticipated treat. Over the years this has become a favorite opening day meal because it is a true crowd pleaser. I think the secret is that mac-and-cheese is “comfort” food and makes campers feel like they are in a familiar place. And, because it was Saturday, there was pizza for dinner (double YUM)!

Over these first several days, time as a cabin has been important for creating a supportive group dynamic. General rules and good habits for getting along in such close living quarters are discussed and camper input is requested (better buy-in when you are able to help make the “rules”!). They have been working on “cabin contracts” that can help address disagreements and guide their interactions positively. For example, a cabin may agree that you should ask permission before sitting on another person’s bed as part of showing respect.

The lake was a popular spot on Opening Weekend! The lifeguards and cabin counselors of course took time to explain the safety procedures of the waterfront area and answer everyone’s questions about how to make the most of the swimming opportunities at camp— the raft, diving board, “floating” mats, log roll, tubing, Big Banana and other fun free swim activities. Is the water cold?! We always choose to say that it is “refreshing!”

At its core, camp is about connection. It’s about taking a break from our screens, and discovering the beauty of nature that’s been there all along. It’s about the joy of friendship found in simple shared experience. In these ways and others, camp is such a relief. And yes, this summer, that’s true more than ever!

Reference: RBC