Camp Woodland Blog

Charting a Course for Life

by Alice Lurain (camper, staff, sailing director, alum)

Last July, I returned to Camp Woodland for the first time in 22 years. This small slice of heaven was the locus of my universe for 10 summers in the 1980s and 90s, and what struck me most the moment I turned onto Camp Road was how little it had changed. Despite the accelerated pace of modern life and the constant churn of new technology that alters the way we interact with our world and each other on a daily basis, Camp Woodland has remained wonderfully steadfast in its values and commitment to developing each girl’s sense of herself and nurturing independence, confidence, and good old-fashioned fun. Everywhere, this was in evidence – from the intricately choreographed song contest performances, to the quirky outfits and boundless enthusiasm for best-dressed cabin, to the Inspiration Hour led by Silver Birch Cabin.

For me, one of the most impactful experiences of the alumni weekend was sailing on Sand Lake. I still remember the sense of weightlessness, freedom, and elation I felt the first time I went out on a Woodland X-Boat at the age of 9; I couldn’t stop smiling and I never wanted that feeling to end. When I was a camper, I would have spent all 6 periods down at the waterfront, if they had let me. As it was, I could usually be found on a sailboat at least 3 hours a day. When I became Director of Sailing as a counselor, I could hardly believe that someone was paying me to do something I enjoyed so much. This notion that work and responsibility could exist in tandem with fun and self-determination is an invaluable lesson that I carried forward in life.

When I walked down to the Woodland waterfront to see the sun glinting off the waves and the boats bobbing on their moorings, I felt my chest expand and a lightness enter my being. The buddy board still hung reassuringly on the side of the beach house, and when I entered, the smell of sunblock mingling with wet towels, soggy life jackets, and
lake detritus and the scrape and crunch of sand on the red all-weather carpeting instantly transported me back through the decades. How many times had I changed in that very room, hurriedly pulling on a bathing suit so as not to miss one precious moment of sailing or swimming or water skiing? How many confidences had I shared with friends while changing for the next adventure? How much sand had I personally tracked in from the beach or swept back out with the broom? It was impossible to know.

During alumni weekend, I sailed a Minifish until it hummed with the perfect sail trim; I breezed by Camp Menominee, which always looked to me more like a resort than a summer camp; I wound my way through conversations about life and love with old friends as we tacked back and forth until even camp life seemed far away; I was admonished by
JoAnne, who drove out in the ski boat to tell me I shouldn’t sail in the cove. How many times did that happen over the years? It is impossible to know.

What I do know is that sailing continues to be an essential part of my life as an adult, not only as a recreational activity, but as way of investing myself in my community. For the past 11 years, I have been involved with a non-profit organization, called Hudson River Community Sailing. Its mission is to use sailing to teach science, math, and engineering concepts, build leadership skills, and support the academic and personal growth of underserved New York City high school students. Despite growing up on an island, many of our kids have never set foot on a boat and have certainly never thought of the Hudson River as a resource for recreation and learning. I have seen participation in this program literally change the direction of kids’ lives and the possibilities they see for their futures. When we head out from the docks, I feel as though we pass through a portal to an alternate universe. Manhattan, with all its noise and fervor looks quiet and serenely beautiful from the river; time slows, and all that matters are the other people on my boat and how we will work together to make it glide seamlessly through air and water.

In my “day job,” I am a high school chemistry teacher. In addition to teaching about the behavior of matter, I encourage my students to figure out what they care about, what brings them happiness and makes them want to engage deeply and share part of who they are with others. Then I urge them to find ways to turn that into meaningful work, whether in the form of a future career or volunteer service. I feel incredibly lucky that Camp Woodland offered me the opportunity from a very young age to identify my passions for sailing and for working with young people, passions upon which I have constructed the foundations of a joyous and meaningful life.

Six Ways Camp Can Help You Focus in 2020

Happy New Year!

Not only is it a new year; it is also a new DECADE. I love that this year is 2020 because that gives us even more impetus to become crystal clear about what we would like to focus on in the year ahead. In addition, 2020 is a leap year, which means that we have an extra day to take actions towards becoming the type of person we would like to be for ourselves and our families.

In reading the daily blog I receive in my inbox from Growing Leaders, I couldn’t help but think about the recommendations the author was making to becoming intentional with raising kids in 2020. Tim Elmore believes that the “problem is not intention; we all intend to raise good kids. Our problem is hectic lifestyles. We become so busy—we unwittingly shift into defensive mode. We stop playing offense and play defense; we began reacting to all the events, payments, and the demands that today’s “system” places upon us. We fail to heed our intentions and turn them into intentionality.”

Elmore offers a starter list for leading your kids intentionally this new year, and I am going to add to it with how Camp Woodland is already intentional with each of these points.

1. Determine screen time and its replacement.

This is the most common categories that parents get off track and fail to lead their kids—especially their teens. Part of the reason for the mental health challenges kids face today is social media and the high number of hours teens spend on a portable device. Dr. Jean Twenge notes that two hours or more per day puts them at a greater risk of anxiety and depression. Less than two hours a day makes them less vulnerable to such mental health issues.

At Camp Woodland, we believe that outside is the place to be! We take advantage of being in a natural setting by unplugging and communicating using real ‘face-time. Campers tell us that they enjoy the break from being tethered to a device. What a treat to hang out with friends from sun-up to sun-down! 

2. Determine family time and what will be engaging.

Studies have shown that families who enjoy meals together also enjoy greater satisfaction and less stress than those who don’t. As our kids were growing up we tried to schedule at least three dinners a week at our kitchen table. When they were teens we also tried to insert at least one monthly family date. This meant we limited their extra-curricular activities to one per semester.

We eat 3 squares a day with our cabin group. If you do the math, that is 21 meals together in a week which is UNHEARD OF in today’s busy world! There is nothing better than the exchange that occurs as we share with each about our daily successes and challenges while getting the fuel we need to keep us strong for active days at camp. 

3. Determine financial boundaries.

This one is tough because we are frequently guilty of merely reacting to bills and invoices instead of planning our spending. We follow this simple rule: give first, save second, and live on the rest. This means we choose the charitable giving we want to do and decide our amount each month; then we put money in savings, and then we see what we have left to cover all else. This offers a guideline for the emotional conversation about buying “stuff” for your kids.

Our tuition fee is mostly all-inclusive. Regular programming for daily activities (like horseback riding) and services (such as laundry) are included in the cost to come to camp. We’ve got you covered for snacks and other incidentals. There truly is no need for anything else during your camper’s stay with us. The best thing you can send is a weekly letter or Bunk Note!

4. Determine service projects.

As our kids grew older it became more challenging to do this one together. But, we attempted to schedule one time a month to find a place to serve together. It may be a homeless shelter; it may be a local food pantry, or a department in a local church. For years, we sponsored a child overseas (in Africa) to fund his or her education and personal needs. This gave us perspective on our own “first world problems” and conditioned to be generous and grateful.

We believe that kindness really does matter! Being kind to one another with words and actions is part of the fabric of living in our camp community and the service project we embark on all throughout the summer. Campers bring the spirit of kindness back home to their families, schools, and world.

5. Determine growth and quiet time.

We didn’t do this as regularly as we should have. But after researching the topic, I believe kids (especially Generation Z) need time when it’s quiet. This can be reading time; or journaling time, or a project where they learn to think critically. Neuroscientists say silence and solitude cultivate creativity and empathy in us. This counter-cultural act won’t make sense at first to adolescents. I’m convinced that it will foster peace of mind.

We incorporate rest hour into our daily schedule. We recognize the need to give our bodies and mind time to just “be”. The hour after lunch is designated as the official camp-wide time for rest. Campers can choose to nap, read a book, write letters, or just enjoy some down time. Hanging out at the beach during Free Swim is another potential time for a slower pace if desired. Rest hour is personally my favorite time of day and something I try to incorporate into my schedule in the off-season!

6. Determine work time and chores.

If you don’t plan this, it usually doesn’t happen with most tweens and teens. I believe it is healthy for every family member to contribute to the family, by doing age-appropriate tasks around the home—and eventually working a job.

Cabin clean-up and other community chores are also part of our daily schedule. Every morning after breakfast we go back to the cabin where each camper makes her own bed and tidies up her area in addition to contributing to keeping the communal living space clean by sweeping, putting away clutter, taking dry clothing off the clothesline, etc. Cabin groups take turns for a week at a time to set tables in the dining hall prior to each meal. We also divide the camp into various areas that cabin groups will check weekly for any left items or trash on the ground. The CIT’s even cook a pancake breakfast outside on a Sunday morning! Parents often tell us that they are amazed at how their camper will make her bed or put dishes away without being asked after returning from camp!

Camp Reunions are Family Reunions

Now that the holiday season is upon us (as indicated by the long lines at the post office and popular shopping spots!), many of us have plans to spend time with family and friends in the upcoming weeks. For some, this may be the one of the few times when an entire family (or close to it) is able to get together, a family reunion of sorts.  We do the same thing ourselves when Woodland/TP campers and staff come together on a Saturday in November for an afternoon with camp friends in the Chicago area.

Just like the excitement for the holidays has been building up for several weeks now in anticipation of being with family and friends, the excitement for meeting at Jeff and Jenny’s house also ramped up as campers and staff made plans to spend a few hours together at the annual reunion the weekend before Thanksgiving.  We even have a few die-hard camp friends among us who make the trip to Chicago from the surrounding states.  It is also fun to see alumni come back who weren’t at camp during the most recent summer!

The video from the summer of 2019 was shown, scrapbooks containing numerous camp photos were passed around, stories from the past summer were retold, school year events were shared, and plans for next year were made to DO WHAT WE LOVE AT CAMP (and of course, all of this is accompanied by an assortment of yummy snacks!).  And, yes, this annual event was one giant family reunion!

As always, it was fun to catch up with everyone, and in case you missed it, here are the highlights!  Campers shared 1) their brightest moment since camp, 2) what they like to do when not in school, and 3) an adventure for this year:

Elizabeth: 1) relaxing, 2) swim or play video games, 3) maybe going to Disneyland for the first time

Audrey: 1) getting to go back to camp, 2) swimming, 3) swimming

Sophie: 1) seeing my friend that moved; I am looking forward to riding and water-skiing next summer

Izzi: 1) seeing my camp friends, 2) field hockey & lacrosse, 3) college visits

Kaitlyn: 1) I got another Ariana Grande shirt, 2) gymnastics, dance, and running, 3) gymnastics and dance

Libby E: 1) camp things, 2) drama & swimming, 3) Olympics

Sydney: 1) dancing at Chicago Bulls game, 2) gymnastics, 3) horseback riding

Lilah: 1) I got on the “all A’s” honor roll, 2) horseback riding, 3) trying something new

Delia: 1) getting braces, 2) playing tennis and hanging with friends, 3) Big Sur and possibly Mexico

Lou: 1) adversity, 2) volleyball, 3) going to Mexico

Sofia B: 1) I got braces, 2) volleyball, 3) trying something new

Brooke: 1) seeing my friends, 2) gymnastics and tennis, 3) everything

Heidi: 1) getting my back half on a trampoline, 2) gymnastics, 3) going to state for cheerleading

Tori: 1) winning a sail race, 2) violin, 3) Christmas

Lucy: 1) I gained a lot of friends and self-confidence, 2) studying, hang with friends, draw, and video games, 3) I’m going to be a CIT

Molly: 1) meeting new friends in HS, 2) cross country, drawing, hanging out with friends, 3) sports, HS, traveling

Dani: 1) becoming a better person, 2) I work, 3) going to London

Amelia D: 1) running a state time in cross country, 2) XC, track, and horseback riding, 3) hopefully going to state track

Libby B: 1) learning new Tik Tok dances, 2) tennis and riding, 3) being a 2nd year CIT

Irene: 1) making the tennis team, 2) tennis and homework, 3) teaching classes

Counselors:

Gigi: 1) starting college, 2) think about camp, 3) having a great summer

Cayley/Kelly: 1) camp reunion, 2) swim, volleyball, and horseback riding, 3) college and vacation

Jackie/Colette: 1) camp reunion, 2) hang out with friends and play just dance, 3) visiting each other

Elena/Amelia: 1) reunion, 2) be at camp, 3) HS graduation (Amelia)

Chelsea: 1) working weddings, 2) dance, cook, read, and Netflix, 3) internship

p.s. Don’t worry if you weren’t able to join us for the Chicago reunion, starting in January, we will be visiting camp families around the U.S. and bringing the reunion to YOU!

 

Beyond Grateful

We are grateful for our youngest campers in Sunrise!

As the last week of November rolls around, I am reminded of watching Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Special every year around this time on TV.  Charlie Brown ends up serving Thanksgiving dinner for his friends thanks to Peppermint Patti’s self-invitation when he is really supposed to go to his Grandmother’s for a traditional Thanksgiving meal.  Charlie Brown enlists the help of Snoopy to help set up for the feast and, low and behold, a non-traditional fare ensues.

When Charlie Brown’s guests sit down to dinner on an assortment of lawn chairs placed around a ping-pong table, his friends are surprised to find popcorn, toast, jelly beans, pretzels, and ice cream sundaes on the menu.  After a much disgruntled Peppermint Patti voices her opinion about the food selections, Linus reminds the group about the true meaning of Thanksgiving and how important it is just to be together by retelling the story of Myles Standish and the Pilgrims on that very first Thanksgiving Day.

After having recently celebrated the Woodland Camp Reunion this past weekend, we are thankful for the opportunity to get together with camp friends at the start of the holiday season.  It was so fun to see campers, staff, and alumni gather 3 months after the close of the summer of “Your Time to Shine in 1-9”.  It was a special time for friends to reunite and catch up on the events of our days away from camp while knowing that the summer of “A Place to Grow in 2-0” is now closer than it was in August!  We were even able to share a similar fare to Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving feast (popcorn, grapes, juice boxes, candy corn, 100 Grands and other tasty treats!) while huddling close to the TV so that we could watch the highlights of the summer of 2019 on the big screen.  Camp memories were relived and shared, stories retold, friendships rekindled, and plans for next summer were formed!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all campers, staff, alumni, and friends…we are grateful for your membership to the Woodland/Towering Pines Family!  Many blessings in the year to come!

What each cabin is thankful for…

Sunrise: having really nice counselors and making new friends

Silver Birch: new friends, having the time of my life, my cabin mates, friendship, camp, JoAnne, the weather, getting Camper of the Day

Starshine: food, activities, being able to come to camp, having fun, being at camp with friends, having great counselors and cabin mates

Hilltop: coming back to camp and the people, winning Gold Rush, thankful for everything from the food to my parents, cabin mates, friends and counselors, for this summer being the best I’ve ever had, everything, getting to try new things

Treetops: getting someone easy in Spoon Assassins, being at camp with nice people, making more friends, being able to have this opportunity and trying new things, riding horses and improving my skills, staying 6 weeks, learning how to waterski, making friends and learning skills

Tamarack: being at camp and getting my 5 yr pendant, having fun, my friends and this safe place where I can relax and be myself, my amazing cabin, everyone in my cabin, having amazing counselors and cabin mates, getting close with all of them and having the best summer ever, for close friends that I can always talk to, my friends, counselors and cabin mates,

Sunnyside: being with cabin mates again from 2016, trying new things and all the opportunities at camp, the friends who are here for me no matter what, having such an amazing cabin, my cabin mates and the staff, having the ability to keep coming back, having the experience I can’t have at home, being able to grow the camp bond with so many people

Aquarius: being able to be CIT’s with my friends, cabin mates and the food, the opportunity to come to a place where I can grow, be myself and learn more about myself, my friends and the memories we made this summer, my friends, campers and counselors

Happy International Camp T-Shirt Day from Silver Birch

Woodland girls never miss an opportunity to show camp spirit!  Whether it be dressing up for the weekly Sunday morning assembly Woodland spirit, making a tie-dye t-shirt with the current summer theme backdrop, going to Towering Pines for a class activity or special event, or being in the end-of-summer Coed Show, we are always proud to sport “Woodland Wear!”  As  you can see in the photo above, the Silver Birch girls are oh-so-cute in their coordinated Woodland t-shirts at the annual Song Contest at the end of the 3rd week.

On the last day of camp, the countdown begins for the arrival of the first day of the following summer, so it is fun to have a few “milestones” to mark the passing of time along the way.  International t-shirt day in mid-November is definitely one of them (we are closing in on 200 days until camp 2020!).  So, grab your favorite camp gear (t-shirt or other item), take a photo, then post on your favorite social media platform using #camptshirtday!

The inside scoop from the girls of Silver Birch 2019: 

In what ways did you SHINE this summer?

Angie: When I was hanging out with my friends.

Audrey: Trying new foods because when I am at home I don’t really try new foods at all because I am scared but now I know not to be.

Ivana: Passing my beginner in tennis, to 20 yds in archery, to level 5 in swimming. My counselors helped me shine!

Mariana: I met new friends!

Marion: I passed to level 4 in swimming.

Elizabeth: Making new friends and having so much fun!

Katherine: Sailing and archery.

Sophie: I made so many new friends and really improved in so many things!

When were you at your BEST this summer?

Angie: When we played games as a cabin.

Audrey: When I know I can do better at swimming.

Ivana: When I was helping people in Spoon Assassins.

Mariana: I liked when I was able to teach my counselors in swimming (and being in charge)!

Marion: When I tried new things.

Elizabeth: At the beginning of camp when I was meeting new people. Being my best is trying my hardest.

Katherine: Passing to 20 yds in archery and to level 4 in swimming.

Sophie: Learning to post in riding and doing good in swimming.

Describe a CHANGE you noticed in yourself while at camp:

Angie: I’m no longer afraid of the dark because my friends helped me with this.

Audrey: Taking a risk of trying fruits and vegetables and other stuff like different kinds of foods.

Ivana: I don’t cry as much anymore!

Mariana: My shooting improved.

Marion: I can do a back handspring.

Elizabeth: Doing better at trying new things.

Katherine: I accepted myself more.

Sophie: I really came out of my shell and found a way to fit in at camp!

What lessons were learned from something CHALLENGING this summer?

Angie: I learned to always stay calm when you are frustrated.

Audrey: Trying new things even though I was terrified at trying them. Now I know to try new things because I might like them!

Ivana: Passing levels and that if I try my hardest, I can do it!

Mariana: Passing levels was challenging, but I learned persistence and to work hard to achieve my goals.

Marion: Archery was challenging because it was my first time.

Elizabeth: Passing a lot of different levels.

Katherine: If you try your best, you will succeed.

Sophie: Sometimes swimming was hard, but I still did it and did great!