Summer Camp: Our Kids’ Antidote to Pandemic Living

By Andy Pritikin and Jaime Pickles

For a decade, we’ve been heralding the importance of Summer Camp to families who have never attended. Years before COVID-19, there existed a world-wide outbreak amongst our youth in technology addiction, social skill deficiency, indoors isolation, and over-parenting. And now, since March 2020, our kids have been living an increasingly bizarre, unnatural life of screens and quarantines, hybrid schooling (if they’re lucky), and enough fear and disappointment to last them into adulthood. However, in the midst of the insanity, we learned that Summer Camp can become a beacon of hope, a lifeline towing them back to their normal selves.

Over 400 lucky children, and 125 staff attended Everwood Day Camp in summer 2020. While strict safety guidelines and a modified program where necessary, the fundamental essence of camp remained intact: Kids, playing together, mentored by caring staff, and in most cases- outdoors. According to the campers, parents, and staff at camps that ran last summer, it was by far their most meaningful camp experience ever, as well as an impactful life event. And think about it, that was after only FOUR months of screens and quarantines- Imagine what it’s going to be like in 2021?

In 2020, 70% of camps didn’t open, many due to government restrictions, others by choice. The camps that did open showed great resilience and creativity in adapting and flourishing within their new parameters, doing it better than most schools. While some families and staff chose to postpone their camp attendance until 2021- many didn’t want to miss out, even in the midst of a pandemic, despite apprehensions. Were these people, crazy? Absolutely not. They strongly believed that the benefits outweighed the perceived risk. This June, after two compromised school years and everything that’s gone along with it, our children’s need for the benefits of Summer Camp will be crucially important:

REAL HUMAN CONNECTION- Zoom and remote learning have saved us in so many ways. But there’s NO substitute for real human connection. Making and strengthening relationships while being guided by loving people is what camp is all about. The essence of camp is in the friendships we forge, something we are all lacking and craving these days.

REACQUAINTING OURSELVES WITH NATURE- While society has been trapped indoors for the past year, most of the world is OUTDOORS, and it is amazingly beautiful, and fills our soul with joy. From picture perfect days, to “liquid sunshine” washouts- it’s REAL living- the way our ancestors lived for thousands of years, until the advent of central air, video screens, and the internet. Our bodies yearn for the outdoors, and that’s where most Summer Camps happen.

RESILIENCY- Our kids are certainly developing it; experiencing disappointments that will make them stronger. Learning to be brave and confronting challenges and fears are also important facets of resiliency. It’s easier to stay at home and stare at screens – but we want our kids to grow up with the kind of courage and “can-do” attitude that our health care, essential workers, and superhero school-teachers have learned and cultivated.

*MENTAL HEALTH* – While Summer Camp is widely known for its physical health benefits, according to the CDC, “Children’s mental health during public health emergencies can have both short and long term consequences to their overall health and well-being,” so it’s no surprise that hospital visits related to mental health have risen dramatically for school age children and adolescents. Kids are resilient and can bounce back quickly. But a year and a half of stress and anxiety is bound to leave a mark. Extroverted kids are suffering, missing the energy of their peers. Introverted kids may seem to enjoy sitting in their homes, away from life’s normal pressures – but they need social interaction just as much. 

A set of camp parents shared this analogy regarding observations of their children and their 2020 experience:  “Despite their best efforts, after months of isolation and the ambient stress of the spring, their children were like wilted flowers.  Camp, with the sunshine, fresh air, and social connection has brought these wilted beauties back to life.”  As both a parents and a camp directors, this imagery is spot on. 

Why can Summer Camps be successful during a pandemic? 

Good camps breed creative adaptability, and get things done- We always have. How do you get a group of 3rd grade boys to listen? What do we do about the incoming storm? The bus is running late, animals got into the supplies, no electricity in the kitchen…Camp people don’t complain- WE FIGURE IT OUT, and make it happen. Last summer, we were able to facilitate a large part of what we normally do at camp- including a variety of activities and assemblies. Were they a little different than usual? Sure- but all were accomplished, with smiles and appreciation, and no transmission of COVID-19.  

Camp offers kids the unique opportunity to step back into a simpler time, with no internet connection or mute button needed. A place where a small community can have faith in the human spirit and support from one another without judgment, simply because it’s the right thing to do. Our kids need to be out of our homes, playing with other kids, and camps have proven that it can be done safely, even under the most challenging circumstances.

Andy Pritikin is the Director of Liberty Lake Day Camp, in Mansfield Township, NJ www.LibertyLakeDayCamp.com, as well as Founding Partner of Everwood Day Camp, Past President of the American Camp Association NY/NJ, and Host of the Day Camp Podcast

Fun Friday: Paint with Nature!

Painting with items found in nature is a great way for kids to get in touch with their natural surroundings, while engaging in a sensory painting experience.  We paint with nature all the time at Everwood Day Camp. We go on “nature walks” to collect our items and come back to paint on different canvases.

You can find a lot of great natural painting ideas at Hands On As We Grow and Kids Craft Room !  Here are a few ideas to get you started!

Natural Items that can be used for painting:

  • Pine needles
  • Leaves
  • Small sticks
  • Pinecones 
  • Blades of grass
  • Flower petals (preferably found on the ground and not pulled from their roots!)

Once your natural items have been collected, you can use them in lieu of the everyday paintbrush.  You will still need the paint, but now you can use the items you collected to “paint” onto your chosen canvas (paper, construction paper, an actual canvas, etc.).  For example, you can combine some pine needles together to create a natural “paintbrush,” or you can use a pine cone to roll paint onto your canvas. Natural items lend themselves nicely to stamping opportunities, as well!  This is a great way to show off creativity and resourcefulness. We can’t wait to see your natural masterpieces!

 

Fun Friday! DIY INDOOR CAMPFIRE!

Creating your own indoor campfire can be a fun, low key activity for a rainy day or just a fun way to use inside time. Whether it’s partnered with learning activities, a movie night, or just plain old fun, an indoor campfire can be exciting to build together and provides the perfect quiet moment for your family to share, connect, and relax together. Here’s how you can turn any space in your house into an indoor campfire.

What You’ll Need: 

Logs: Real logs/sticks, Brown paper bags rolled up, toilet paper or paper towel rolls, tan building blocks, stones around the “fire” if interested!

Fire: string lights, orange/red/yellow tissue paper, colored felt or fabric (even a t-shirt will work), fake candles (or real candle used safely)

Tarp or old blanket underneath for easy cleanup

BONUS: Feel free to create your own “tent” out of pillow fort materials or pitch a real tent inside!

Campfire Activities:

Make a campfire treat! (See below)

Sing your favorite camp songs! Some of our favorites are:  The Moose Song, Pizza, Oh a Milkshake, Bumble Bee, Boom Chicka Boom

Tell a story! Make up one or read some books!

Play some board games or watch a movie together by the fire’s light.

Have a campfire dance party!

Fun Campfire snacks to make:

Chocolate fondue: https://www.melskitchencafe.com/perfect-chocolate-fondue/ (great way to use up random snacks and things, super easy, you can use any chocolate chips you may find lying around your house and any kind of whole milk or cream will work for this recipe! Stays warm and melted for a while, even when taken off heat) Dip marshmallow and graham crackers for a good way to do “indoor s’mores” as well!

Popcorn on the stove: In a large pot, line the bottom with oil and sprinkle popcorn kernels. Turn on heat. Once kernels start popping, shake pop continuously until the popping mostly stops. After popped, pour into a bowl and add your favorite seasonings!

Indoor S’mores:  You don’t need a real fire to enjoy this ooey gooey treat!

Indoor campfires are a great way to bring the Camp spirit into your home.  Take a look at this video of our Head Counselor, Sarah Faulkner and Division Leader, Angie Weldon leading a group of camp professionals in an indoor campfire just a few weeks ago!

 CLICK HERE TO VIEW VIDEO

 

An exciting announcement about our Founder, Scott Brody!

Kids jumping with towels

We’ve got some exciting news to share!  Everwood Day Camp’s Founder, Scott Brody was just elected to serve as the Chairman of the Board of the American Camp Association! This is a major honor for Scott, and an opportunity to help children from across the nation to thrive and succeed in a rapidly changing world.   The American Camp Association, accredits high quality camp programs like ours, and supports the training of camp staff  so that all can benefit from the learning and growth that occurs at Camp. Scott’s hard work and dedication to children and to supporting his fellow camp professionals has resulted in this incredible honor and opportunity to serve, and we couldn’t be prouder of our founder, friend and mentor.

From their announcement:

Scott is an educator and thought leader in the areas of 21st-century learning, workforce development, and child development. He is the founder of Everwood Day Camp in Sharon, Massachusetts, and the owner and director of Camps Kenwood & Evergreen. Scott is also a strategic partner of IDEAS Education in Beijing, China. Scott has been an Executive Board member of the Partnership for 21st Century Learning in Washington, DC, and leads P21’s work in “Beyond School” education. Scott has led multiple briefings for the US Congress on the ways in which high quality camp experiences promote college and career readiness and speaks globally on these issues on behalf of the camp profession. Scott is the government affairs chair of both the American Camp Association and the Massachusetts Camp Association and is a member of ACA’s CARE Committee. Scott is a member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Jewish Camp and the American Camp Association where is also a past Board Vice President. He is also the author of an award-winning article for Camping Magazine entitled “Teaching the Skills that Children Need to Succeed.” Scott is an honors graduate of UC Berkeley and received a juris doctor from Boston College Law School in 1990.

Click on the image above to see the full announcement!

Please join us in celebrating our friend Scott’s incredible achievement, and for his continued work on behalf of young people all over the world! 

Announcing Everwood’s New Swim Program

Here at Everwood Day Camp we fully embrace the idea of growth mindset, and that there are always ways we can learn, grow and improve. With that in mind we are so excited to share with you some updates to our swim instruction curriculum and programming for the Summer of 2018. In partnership with the incredibly knowledgable and talented Andy Broido of Swimconsultant.com we have created a child centered swim program that will keep your swimmer moving forward and developing a love of the water! Some of you may recognize Andy’s work as she has closely consulted with the beloved Little Flippers Swim School as well as PODS in Providence…. Here a little more about what to expect…

Our Goal:
Our goal for our swim program is to teach water safety and instill in all students a true love for the water.  In fact we want our campers to love it so much they could live in the water.  To achieve this our goal is that all swimmers feel safe, balanced, comfortable, and happy in the water. This is how swimming and a love of water becomes a skill for life!

The Curriculum:
Our new and updated curriculum has been developed over many years of teaching experience and have proven effective in teaching children to swim. The curriculum focuses on learning breath control, bouyancy and balance in the water.  All our instructors will follow our progressions and lesson plans to insure consistent, effective classes.  Classes will incorporate lots of fun games, songs, and unique equipment to motivate every child

Recognition and Awards: Campers and their parents will receive continued feedback on their progress through our new ribbon rewards.  As campers achieves a new goal/skill they will receive a ribbon recognizing this achievement.  Collect them and watch your child’s confidence and pride soar.

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Staff Training: Just a few weeks ago we had the opportunity to bring all of ourswim instructors to the Little FlippersSwim school facility in Winchester, to learn from Andy and other Little Flippers leadership team members.  Staff were in the the water practicing with each other and are ready for a summer in our beautiful lake with our campers!  

Please feel free to reach out with any questions about the swim program.  You can Direct questions to the following Everwood Leadership Team members:

Megan Martinsen, Main Campus Waterfront Director

Meredith Bertoni, Main Campus Head Lifeguard

Tom Doering: Upper Campus Waterfront Director

Kristen Kelly:  Upper Campus Head Lifeguard