Category: Uncategorized

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!

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?)!

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!

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