Monthly Archives:June 2022

A More Authentic Life

Posted by on June 30, 2022

It has been so fun to watch the campers being refreshingly real over the past few days. They are truly open and genuinely themselves. I am convinced that they are possibly more so here at camp than in other situations. It’s not a stretch to think that these young kids are living a more authentic life when they are away from technology and other distractions. These camp girls are free to simply be kids, to not worry about things generally, and to romp through their day enthusiastically ready for anything.

For example, I witnessed our youngest campers stop to look at something they saw in the grass as they were walking to the lodge. I decided to join them because my curiosity was getting the better of me. They happened upon some bugs that had met their demise. So, what did they decide to do on the spot? Have a funeral for them. I’m not kidding. It was precious! They covered the bugs with grass, said a few words, and were on their way. This same group was seen riding their “horses” around the cabin the next day. Such impromptu and boundless imagination!

On Sunday afternoon, the CIT’s put on “Alien Invasion,” a camp wide hunt for “aliens” that just happened upon Camp Woodland in their space travels. Innovation and problem solving collided as the cabin groups went on a search for the oldest campers who were “hiding” and worth various points if found. Campers had to put their heads together and use their sleuthing skills to figure out where to look for the uniquely costumed “aliens”. While Sunnyside earned “winner” status for this event, to me it was more about seeing kids smiling and skipping as they went from place to place around camp. Such a welcome sight!

For the drama rotation this week, counselor Kate had the girls write a character (pilot, detective, cowboy, etc.) on a piece of paper. Each camper then selected a character and picked 2-3 props/costume accessories that gave identity to their adopted persona. Campers took turns in front of the group “acting” out their character while the rest were able to ask questions to gather clues and figure out the portrayed role. What a great opportunity for imaginations and unencumbered thinking to run wild.

So how do these campers do it? How do they live at this level? Do they have some kind of hidden strength? Or, do they lack a certain maturity, seasoned insight into life, or assumptions about what is “correct” that most others possess? Or, can we attribute it to the environment of camp, the social landscape and culture they enjoy here?

We can probably assume all of these play a role for these kids.

They certainly do have inner strengths— a sense of curiosity toward the natural world, a playful energetic attitude that seems easy to apply, an inherent trust shown to everyone around them. Kids have a special power to laugh at almost anything. They can be entertained by almost anything and be fascinated by the most “ordinary” things. Young children in particular are generally accepting and can make friends quickly and easily, happily able to join any group of other kids doing something together.

As we get older though, other tendencies take over. We begin to understand that praise and reward come from meeting certain standards and thus we feel some pressure to do that. We become aware of social expectations. We compare ourselves to others, making judgments about our self-worth. We learn what’s proper in various circumstances. We develop habits where convenience and comfort are the highest ideals. Each of these aspects of being an adult, it seems, work against the authenticity that is remarkable about our campers. Kids have the joy of being themselves and ignoring most of this… while they’re kids.

I think the camp environment plays a role too and helps even the older campers here tap back into their childhood spirit. Our camp culture provides a real sense of freedom to be your true self without too much social pressure, attention to “perfection,” or worry about being accepted. So much of the day at camp is self-directed, girls have more opportunities to follow their own interests and explore everything camp has to offer.

We encourage silliness, joyful experimentation, and giving things a try just for the fun of it. The girls can sense that Woodland is a place that applauds creativity, self-expression, and positive relationships. It is a place where it is “Cool to be YOU”. We’re not competing with each other or making comparisons to assign value. Instead, it’s a place that celebrates no matter what the outcome… no matter the winner or the weather.

Woodland is a place to put aside some of the assumptions, concerns and habits of being a “grownup,” and to experience the freedom to unearth more essential ways of being your true self… your sense of wonder and joy, your compassion, and your optimism. It’s place for kids to be kids.

Of course, the older we get, the more difficult that can be, and we might not be capable of fully embracing the openness of childhood. Worry has a way of wiggling in. But camp has a special ability to move us closer to that childhood truth. It can provide an enticing glimpse into living life more authentically.

Perhaps, that’s another reason why we love being at camp. I know it is for me.

Adapted from RBC blog.

Summer 2022 is FINALLY here

Posted by on June 27, 2022

Woodland Welcomes 2022 Campers!

You can’t open a summer camp without the people. The moment we have all been waiting for is FINALLY here…our favorite people have arrived! Dressed in their snazzy Woodland polos, the counselors were literally jumping up and down with excitement, clapping, and singing the welcome song as cars came into camp on Opening Day. Everything we’d been talking about during pre-camp training was coming to reality!

The mostly perfect weather added to the delight of the day— old camp friends reuniting, new campers being welcomed and suddenly finding themselves swept along as cabin groups began setting up their bunks. Soon groups of girls led by their counselors were exploring camp, warming up the tether balls, and getting to know each other. Lunch was a perennial favorite: mac & cheese, salad bar, and Rice Krispie treats. All hot and gooey, Dan’s homemade mac & cheese is a pasta dish (and comfort food) that always pleases the crowd. With pizza, another salad bar (the edamame was a big hit!) and salted caramel cookies loaded with white and milk chocolate chips for dinner, the girls got to enjoy several camp favorites on the 1st day! The organic beauty of Woodland was sparkling all day long and into the evening as the bus with our campers from Mexico pulled into the drive. It truly was an extraordinary day.

The first weekend is always packed full of action and fun! On Sunday morning Lucy Landsports and Wendy Waterfront (below) set the stage for activity instructors from each area to take turns making short presentations, performing skits, and engaging campers in short games to give them a glimpse into the summer ahead. These silly presentations are great ways for the girls to meet the counselors and pick up on the joy they have for what they teach. It demonstrates that there is big fun to be had at the barn, waterfront, tennis courts, art room, target sports ranges, farm zoo, and Rec Hall.

Today is the start of several days in a special rotation of activities designed to help campers feel like they are settling into the flow of camp. Getting to sample many of the instructional offerings, making tie-dye t-shirts, and taking a group photo are instrumental to having shared experiences and building community as a cabin. By mid-week your daughters will be pros with camp routines. They will anticipate the ring of the Woodland bell to signal moving from one exciting activity to another. They will know all about “hopping” and the “job wheel” and will have had enjoyed getting “canteen” after Rec Swim. They will have joined in signing the “Ship Titanic” and the “Woodland Song” after dinner.

Monday evenings after dinner are designated as Cabin Nights that continue the process of cabin unity and bonding. Fun choices that vary each week including cabin canoe trips and trying out the Aqua Tramp at Towering Pines. Themed activities such as Nature Week or Water Week are typically scheduled for Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday evenings. Dinner on Wednesday is a cookout at the picnic tables by Treetops followed by Campfire at the beach where your camper will be working with her cabin to prepare a song or skit (and write the first “official” letter to update you on all that has been happening since arrival at camp!). Camp will feel more like home with each passing day and the week will FLY BY in no time!

It’s “Cool to be YOU” at Camp Woodland!

Camp Woodland’s 53rd season is officially underway, and we couldn’t be more elated! We also know that there are a lot of mixed emotions from campers and parents alike on Opening Weekend. Shedding tears and feeling your heartstrings pull tight after giving one last hug is NORMAL. You packed, prepared and did everything you could to get your camper(s) ready for an AMAZING summer. We know that you love your daughters very much and that you will miss them while they are with us.

WE THANK YOU for giving them the gift of camp! Now it is our turn to do what we do bestWoodland has been in the business of youth development for 52 summers. Our theme this year is “It’s Cool to be You,” and we are very much looking forward to seeing all the ways your daughters will grow into the best versions of themselves!

Stay tuned…it’s going to be an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G summer!


A Peek Into Pre-Camp Staff Training

Posted by on June 20, 2022

Around thirty Woodland staff have arrived safely to County D Road and now the huge task of getting everybody ready for the 53rd Camp Woodland summer begins. It goes without saying that some things just happen almost by themselves – the sun comes out, the sky turns blue and the cabins seem to gleam against the backdrop of pine and hardwood trees – but that’s just a small part of summer. Camp just wouldn’t be the same without the amazing people, both campers and counselors alike, who become our friends and surrogate family for just a few weeks.

Our staff this year comes from 10 states and Mexico – that’s a lot of air and road miles clocked up just getting here! Our staff are some of the best in their field and it is testament to Camp Woodland’s reputation that they want to spend the summer sharing these skills with others. The passion, the drive and commitment of all our staff is evident and unquestionable, but how do we get everybody to come together and create a unique summer experience for the youth heading our way in a few days?  That is what pre-camp orientation is all about!


Firstly, it’s a time to make new friends and to form community and working relationships that will provide the support, guidance and instruction for our campers. Co-counselors are spending time getting cabins squeaky clean and learning how to be a united team. In a fun “Big Deal or No Big Deal” session, counselors do activities that showcase the importance of communication, problem solving and trust. They answer questions and compare notes about living habits and preferences, leadership styles, and professionalism/work ethic. Activity Directors are working with their staff to plan classes and prepare their areas for the weeks ahead. Calla is working hard to pull all these great ideas into a structured program, and you can be assured that this summer is looking awesome!

Secondly, it’s about acquiring or building on the skills that make for a safer, healthier and (most importantly) happier summer for us all. For new staff, this means such simple things as learning the structure of the camp day, camp expectations, and how meals work in the dining hall. There’s a range of talks from youth development professionals (we have a strong bench of educators on our team!) on issues such as camper concerns, behavior, child protection and mental health. Several Woodland staff members are parents themselves and this offers our college age counselors a wealth of experience they can fall back on. It’s not only about learning what to do, but also who to turn to when back-up is needed.

Finally, being perfectly honest, pre-camp orientation is also about having fun. On Friday night the large majority of staff met each other the first time. The few nervous faces quickly disappeared once we ate dinner together and were playing games to get to know each other. On Saturday evening, we went to Towering Pines for an official welcome from the leadership team, insight into the history of both camps, and a burger/hot dog/brat cookout. After dinner we had our annual “Everybody Plays Everybody Wins” skill session with big and small group games followed by s’mores at the Counselor Cabin. Inspiration Hour on Sunday was spent setting our intent to be the best version of ourselves so that collectively we make camp the BEST it can possibly be. We did this by doing several exercises that helped us clarify our personal values and our part to upholding Woodland’s 5 core values.

All this fun has a purpose though, whether a returner or new staff member, we all have something to learn which can make this summer absolutely AMAZING. Anticipation is rising for the arrival of the campers – we wish the next few days would just hurry up as we can’t wait to meet you all!

Camp Woodland’s Foundation: Our 5 Core Values

Posted by on June 12, 2022

As we gear up for another summer, we remember 2020 when we brought our leadership team together for what we called our “Summer Summit”. With an end goal of 2 camps – 1 mission – no divide, we worked towards bringing Woodland and Towering Pines together in a way that allowed us to unify our message and plan for the success of the next 25, 50, 75 years and beyond. We also agreed to disagree. Without straying from the mission, there may be programs and systems that look different or are carried out differently at each camp, but we are on the same page with why we are here and what is fundamental to both camps.

Through an iterative process we landed on five foundational core values that guide and direct the decision making and culture of Camps Woodland and Towering Pines. Community, growth, respect, responsibility, and safety provide a compass for how we operate day-to-day and are a roadmap for future planning. Because the meaning of each value can differ based on the individual, we took some time this past year to give clarity to what each looks like when put in action. These phrases provide a clear picture to our camp community by identifying behaviors that demonstrate the underlying expectations of camp. This way we can truly assess if our camp culture is reflected in our everyday interactions and if that aligns with the intention of each core value.

The first value that gives a framework for everything we do is RESPECT. We expect that the members of our camp community respect everyone and everything. Respect is given to campers, counselors, support staff, parents, alumni, visitors, vendors, and people in the local community. Respect is shown in face-to-face interactions, on the phone and through virtual communication and social media. We respect camp property, the animals living here, and nature. It is courteous to respect the belongings of others along with our own. We spread kindness to one another. We show empathy by genuinely trying to understand the thoughts and feelings of others. And, we appreciate one another’s differences by embracing “it is COOL to be YOU”.

Next is COMMUNITY. We pride ourselves in knowing more than everyone’s name. Being a smaller camp, it is not uncommon to know not only the names of each person, but also their unique attributes, interests, desires, dreams, and goals. In our camp community we invite others and do our best not to leave anyone out. The counselors are experts at providing activities for the entire group. Feeling comfortable to be your authentic self is key to belonging and not just “fitting in”. We work to build each other up and offer encouragement and praise for both large and small steps. We aren’t afraid to work through conflict because of the growth opportunity that is presented when there are the inevitable (and normal!) disagreements and struggles that arise in group living.

GROWTH is an exciting part of camp life that we see on a daily basis! While it takes a lot of slow to grow (hence the reason we believe in a 6-week program), being enveloped in the ecosystem of camp over a longer period of time allows us to recognize incremental individual and group progress. We see campers (and counselors) stretch out of their comfort zone by having the courage and support to try new things whether it be activities, foods, or friendships. There is an incredible desire to try again when success is not reached on the first, fifth or 12th attempts. This is followed by resounding applause to celebrate achievements when hurdles and obstacles are overcome.

Next we move on to RESPONSIBILITY. We recognize that we must be responsible to ourselves and others. We train ourselves to think first before leaping into action. This way we can make more informed decisions and fight the tendency to be impulsive. We take ownership of our actions as we have sole control over what we think and do. We also recognize that we are part of a supportive community and can ask for help. It is a strength (not a weakness) to reach out and request assistance when needed.

We include SAFETY to round out our five foundational core values. While listed last, it is by no means least! We consider safety to be a priority every minute of every day. This means that it is important to be alert and pay attention to surroundings both up close and in the distance. When we remember the WHY a policy or protocol is in place, it helps us follow through (e.g. walking on the dock, instead of running, helps us avoid slipping and falling due to a potentially slick surface). Finally, we lead by example. If counselors routinely and consistently model safety practices for campers, and the older campers are a good example for the younger ones, it is relatively easy to stay on track. Safety is integral to our regular program and not an afterthought. When each person does the right thing, we can’t help but take good care of our community as a whole.

These five values intricately connect and relate to each other in a way that ultimately creates “camp” for Woodland and Towering Pines. They are not ideas we merely post on a wall to inspire; but rather, they are concepts we strive to live by every day in both speech and action. We will also share these values with staff and campers throughout the camp season and invite you to give us feedback as to how we are doing.

We can’t wait to see you on June 25th so that summer 2022 can officially begin!