Camp Woodland Blog

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