Opening Day E Session!

Dear Parents & Friends,

It was a splendid day in the Valley.  Thank you for dropping off your children and I hope that all of you made it safely to your home or other destination.  We just finished dinner which was of course a child friendly meal of Macaroni and Cheese (super cheesy) salad, fresh peaches, and a giant cookie for each cabin.  I was able to sit next to Cabin Echo as they had their first full meal in the dining room.  It’s always an experience to see them in action.  They will have breakfast together again tomorrow morning and then we’ll all divide up and sit at different tables for the duration of E Session.  The boys at the table were excited that the cookie was served on a giant pizza pan.  That’s a pretty darn big cookie remarked one young man.  After several helpings of the mac and cheese, I think several of them struggled to finish their cookie portion.  It’s hard to not finish when it’s chocolate chip and tastes delicious.

Our afternoon was full and activities started just after lunch which was from 12 – 1.  We all went to the Lodge to learn about Discovery activities, which the children signed up for today and then afternoon activities began as soon as everyone got back to their cabin to change.  Everyone had a swim assessment this afternoon to determine their swim level.  The Farm, Mill, Sports, Arts & Crafts, Pottery, Climbing, and Horses were among the afternoon activities that got things rolling here for the first day.  Sign-ups included the following: Farm/Mill, Horses, Archery, Canoeing, Climbing (3 different kinds), Gourd-eous Gourds, Martial Arts, Weaving, Fine Arts, GV Rescue, Web of Life, Marbling, Fine Arts Puppets, Fine Arts Behind the Scenes, Candles, Creative Writing, Felt Making, Mountain Biking, Pottery, Outdoor Living Skills, Soccer, Aqua Games and Jackson Kayaks.  The campers will find out what activities they got out of their many choices.  The will have a chance to take 4 of the above choices in the morning every other day (2 each day) and then we’ll have sign-ups in the afternoon which will be different every day all week long.  They can participate in 2 one hour activities or 1 two hour activity.

Tonight we held our first campfire of E Session and just finished the cabin introductory skits.  Each cabin puts on a skit and introduces the cabin to the whole camp.  About half of the cabins provided their skit tonight and the others are on tap for tomorrow.  They were excellent tonight.  All kinds of music and fun activities acted out and sung right on our own stage.  Everyone is back in their cabin tonight and will soon be off to sleep.  We have a tradition at Gwynn Valley, where a group of staff circulate first on Hillside then on the Brook and sing to each cabin to let them know it’s time for bed.  They’re called the Serenader’s.   Speaking of campfires, some of our cabins have campfire rings near their cabins so I expect that many of those groups will have campfires just for their cabin or maybe team up with another group.  It’s a busy 8 days and so much to do and so little time to do it in.   For those of you that have children for the 3 weeks of Mountainside and Riverside they’ve begun to prepare for their adventures and will be leaving on Tues. morning bright and early.  I hope to join at least one Mountainside group for a day this week.  It will either be the bikers or paddlers, maybe both.  I’ll keep you posted.

Thank you for sharing your children with us this summer.  We have an excellent staff and I’m excited to have them work with your children.  Our college-age students and young adults possess a completely different kind of skills than do parents, and they put it to good use encouraging children to become independent while at camp.  Their job description includes the following: encouraging them to set tables, make beds, keep track of their clothes, take showers, take turns and, more important, take risks and accept challenges that would melt parents into a puddle of anxious empathy. These young adults often teach complex, challenging skills:  horseback riding, rock climbing, whitewater kayaking, building a fire, handling a bow and arrow, using a knife, and survival techniques. They also teach character and community, resilience, caring and sacrifice. And they do it all in an environment free of electronics; hallelujah!

Why is it that these children pay such close attention to counselors who are actually just a few years older than they are? How can these counselors, so young and relatively inexperienced with children (though they have far more training than in the past), get campers to do things without a struggle that are often an occasion for tears and tantrums at home?

In his masterwork, “Childhood and Society,” Erik Erikson reminds us that not all learning comes from “systematic instruction.” In preliterate societies and in non-literate pursuits, he points out, “much is learned from adults who become teachers by dint of gift and inclination rather than by appointment and perhaps the greatest amount is learned from older children.” 

Children love to learn, and sometimes they learn more from older children, and, at a camp that means older campers, S.I.T.’s (staff  in training) and camp counselors. They want to live with them, emulate them, absorb them. In our age-segregated society, camp is the only place in America where an 11-year-old can get the sustained attention of a 19-year-old. In return for the attention of these “older children,” campers will make sacrifices. They will follow all kinds of rules and adhere to all kinds of rituals that they would likely fight at home.

We hear this all the time from parents after children return home.  “He is so grown-up,” they observe. “He is so responsible!” “She cleans up after himself.” A mother, amazed at her child’s growth in only a couple of weeks, remarks, “She tries so many new foods!”

There’s just no contest between parents and counselors. The college students are vastly better looking than we are; they are truly cool and they have dazzling skills. When children need a summer filled with growth and change (not to mention fun and adventure), summer camp should be on the agenda.  So…. thank you for putting us on your agenda and we’re looking forward to a great E session with these children.  Stay tuned!

PS    Our upload for photos is going really slowly tonight so bear with us.