Happy New Year from Camp Winnebago where our gaze is beginning to shift towards June 23rd when the buses will roll into camp and disgorge a cadre of gleeful campers marking the beginning of our 98th camp season.
In the next five months, one of our primary focuses is building a staff full of talented, mature and fun loving counselors who will teach, role model, inspire and help create a safety net for campers to explore, grow and enjoy deep friendships. We recruit staff from all over the globe and seek individuals who are excited to work with children, to learn and grow themselves, and have a mastery of skills that they will teach. Their job is multi-faceted; they instruct in a focused activity, live with and supervise campers, and develop healthy relationships with campers that they use as a platform to teach life skills, and inspire campers to take safe risks, which helps promotes camper self-discovery and growth.
Because of the diversity of the counseling job and the importance we place on the staff, our interview process is multi-tiered. We spend hours interviewing candidates, and their references, honing in on who they are as people and what experiences they could bring to the Winnebago community. Counselors often comment on the Winnebago interview process as being unique, deep and thought provoking. The most common candidate response is, “I’ve never had a job interview like that before”.
Because we are not only hiring individuals but also building a community, we seek to understand the values each candidate has incorporated into their life. We explore their family backgrounds, the role models in their lives, and their developing worldview. We seek individuals who have unique perspectives and the ability to articulate their points of view. Because counselors wear many hats, we seek individuals who can teach their activity while owning a broad and diverse set of skills to share with the campers.
Potential staff appreciate the rewarding aspects of working at camp and our investment in their personal growth. S.A.L.T Week (Staff and Leadership Training) is an in-depth and intense training that focuses on personal awareness, child psychology, Winnebago values and many practical tools to help them be wildly successful counselors.
Like all aspects of camp, we strive to bring thoughtfulness and intention to the hiring process. This is of utmost importance so we can feel confident that when those busses roll into Fayette in June, we have created the framework and assembled the talent to help create another unforgettable summer at Camp Winnebago!
The winter solstice is approaching marking the beginning of winter and the shortest days of the year. As we settle into our comfy warm clothes and sip hot cocoa, 2016, a tumultuous year to say the least, begins to fade into the background while 2017 begins to crest the horizon and present itself to us all. The last weeks of December are a time to reflect on the past year and hopefully begin to formulate an intentional plan for the upcoming year.
At Winnebago, we have just completed a series of reunions across the U.S. Campers, counselors and parents came together, thumbed through summer yearbooks, reminisced on the past summer and played games.Thank you to all who attended and those of you who couldn’t make it, know you were in our thoughts and your presence was missed.
In this time where spring flowers and warm weather seem so far away, know that preparation for camp has already begun. A beautiful Maine fall allowed our maintenance crew to make many improvements. We’ve already begun to hear back from last years counselors and it looks like we will have a significant returning group from last summer’s exceptional staff. We have spent the Fall reflecting on the past summer in order to set course towards an exceptional upcoming summer.
Camp Winnebago has long been a place where boys are supported by positive role models and encouraged to explore their own developing world-view and personal value systems. For many, our weekly campfires are ground zero for that type of introspection and thought. Each campfire is based on a theme such as truth or friendship or other more playful topics like laughter, which last summer resulted last summer in a camp fire full of funny personal stories and jokes. Other themes can be more complicated such as peace or perseverance.
The purpose of introducing these concepts to campers is multi fold. For younger campers, we introduce these themes and help them understand their meaning and why they may be important. It is an amazing moment when a young camper comes to understand a concept like truth and then hears an older camper discussing the theme and perhaps how it relates to their camp experience while becoming role models for perhaps the first time because of what they think.
On a deeper level, intellectual and verbal exploration of themes gives our older campers a platform to use critical thinking in an abstract manner. Often times, children have an innate understanding of right and wrong but lack a deeper cognitive connection to the value system. By exploring a concept and finding the words to express their beliefs around it, we are helping campers clarify their thoughts. Campers who are not as comfortable with this process often reap the benefits of listening to their peers and internalizing the thoughts of others.
Exploration and verbal expression of values is an essential component that children should use to better understand their own belief system. By helping children become more deeply connected with their sense of right and wrong, we increase the possibility that when they reach a moral crossroad they will act more intentionally and less instinctively. By doing so we increase the chance of wise decisions and the development of a strong and healthy self-concept.
Now that fall is here, leaves burst with color and complete their journey, which began as buds on bare limbs in spring. This spectacular display of fall is a beautiful extension of spring rain and summer sun. At camp, we too make the transition from season to season. Our maintenance crew is busy making improvements around camp and we are happy to announce a number of reunions across the country where campers and counselors will have the opportunity to connect with fellow Winnebegans, see pictures from the summer past and reminisce about the incredible “Summer of Imagination.” Memories of trips, B&G games and summer swims will rush back to the boys as they receive and pore through their Echoes.
Whether your son attends a reunion or not, we encourage parents to take some time with their camper(s) and reflect on the past summer. Just like it is important to review materials covered in a class at school, the more subtle value based lessons learned at camp are embedded in a summer of friendships and fun. We mention how campers consistently share that they find their most genuine selves at camp and at the end of summer we encourage Winnebagans to reflect back on the lessons learned when they return home. Our reunions give boys a chance to remember and reflect on both the fun and what they learned at camp.
If you have a camper who is unable to attend a reunion, this would be an excellent opportunity for them to write a letter or an email to a camp friend and a chance for parents to help teach their boy(s) the art of sustaining relationships over time and distance. To show your child that thinking of a friend or acquaintance is nice, but taking action by making contact is the work, which gives a relationship the opportunity to deepen. This level of awareness, thoughtfulness and initiative is a useful life skill, which will help your child both socially and professionally.
May you enjoy this beautiful month of October and please keep your eyes open for our Fall newsletter that will arrive in the next few weeks. It will be wonderful to see many of you soon!
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.”
In a world where, for many, efficiency and specialization has become the perceived pathway to success it is easy to forget that free play in a child’s life is essential in the healthy development of a child as they grow into adolescence and adulthood. Adult lives are scheduled; most of our minutes are accounted for of our life in order to meet the demands of our varied roles; parent, spouse, professional, athlete, philanthropist (the list goes on and on). A natural byproduct of this structure is that our children’s schedule begins to mimic our own. Between school, athletics, homework and other extra-curricular activities, children have very little unstructured time and even less time for unstructured imaginative play.
The beauty of children disappearing, into the backyard to build forts and create their own worlds where they imagine, explore and assert themselves is for many a faded memory. So too is the invaluable opportunities such play affords to solve a broad range of problems on their own that results in increased confidence and the development of important critical thinking skills in a broad set of mental processes.
Camp Winnebago is a place where we intentionally create the time and setting for imaginative play. Literally, every day campers have the open space to play and socialize within a safe/supervised yet unstructured time period. There is openness to this time that allows mixing of age groups and access to and incredibly broad range of activities. Campers create games, navigate social dynamics, interact with nature and explore their power and identity within the world as an individual. This unique experience allows boys to develop a deeper confidence in their ability to function autonomously. According to both alumni and parents, the experience has a profound and positive affect on campers that stay with them for a lifetime.
Psychologist Walter Mischel conducted the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment in the late 1960’s. This experiment focused on delayed gratification. In the study Mischel offered children one marshmallow if they would like to eat it immediately and two marshmallows if they could wait (unsupervised) 15 minutes before eating it. In over 600 children who took part in the experiment, a minority ate the marshmallow immediately. Of those who attempted to delay, one-third deferred gratification long enough to get the second marshmallow.
This portion of the experiment validated what anyone who interacts with children knows, delayed gratification is a trait which most children struggle with. The experiment was filmed, you can literally see children struggle to stave off their impulses. They squirm, wiggle, kick and even cover their eyes to avoid their impulse to give in to their tendencies. But, in the end over two-thirds of the children in the study were unable to wait 15 minutes for the second marshmallow.
The most interesting portion of this research project involved ongoing testing years and even decades into the future. Mischel found that the children who managed to control their impulses tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index (BMI), and other life measures. This research indicates that helping children develop the ability to manage their impulses is a skill, which may help them in numerous areas of their lives.
Camp is an experience where children, often for the first time, experiment with their autonomy and begin to develop a sense of self outside the hemisphere of their family unit. Boys at camp manage impulses of their own character and begin to develop an understanding of the benefits of taking into account the needs of their peers and the greater camp community. Campers participate in activities such as archery, riflery and canoeing where establishing safety takes precedence over jumping right in. Camp teaches boys that taking the time to build a solid foundation of safety allows a deeper freedom when developing and exploring a new skill or activity.
At Camp Winnebago we teach and role model impulse control in our activities and social interactions. We extrapolate the importance of the skill by naming it, helping them understand how it is useful in the moment, and how it has the potential to make a positive impact in their lives in other realms as well. We role model to campers by staying patient with this process and understand that the development and refining of traits like patience are taught through repetition in a longer span of time.
So, although eating your s’more immediately sounds nice, waiting that extra fifteen minutes and adding the second marshmallow may just be worth the wait!
Summer of Imagination
Why? Because the camp experience helps increase the expanses of a boy’s imagination by offering space, time and a broad canvas of which to paint through a medium of activities, self-discovery and relationships. Leaving technology and the clutter of busy lives behind, boys develop the ability to become more dynamic thinkers over a summer at Winnebago. It begins with staff training where counselors are encouraged to be innovative in how they frame both their activities and many other facets of camp. From the moment campers set foot into camp, minds fill with options for imaginative play. From regular free time to activities that require thinking differently and openly, campers develop their imagination.
By setting Imagination as the theme for 2016 we hope to help campers stimulate their minds and help them develop more innovative thought patterns and an appreciation for the importance of imaginative thinking.
Thanksgiving has come and passed. Hopefully, it was a time of connection with those that matter; a time to slow down and be grateful and thankful for the abundance and grace in our lives. A passage that harkens the beginning of year’s end and a culmination of all we have accomplished in the last 365 days. The whirlwind of December has begun and requires an extra helping of mindfulness and intentionality to end 2015 with the same positive intentions we began it with.
We have begun to hear from many returning staff and we are gleeful to know many of the 2012 Senior Lodgers will be actualizing their dreams of returning as counselors next summer. As plans begin to crystalize into a June arrival to the shores of Echo Lake, we’d like to share a highlight from the 2015 Summer of the Echo.
The newly ushered in Appalachian Trail camping trips provided the challenge and experience we had hoped for our 13, 14 and 15 year old campers. The Bows began 100 miles away from Mt. Katahdin and through a series of trial and errors helped us lay the seeds for a successful Bow AT Trip in 2016. The Arrows hiked a total of 34 miles, through the middle of the 100-mile wilderness, beginning and ending their trip with resilience. While the Senior Arrows showed unwavering positivity and fortitude hiking over 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail, up Mt. Katahdin, across the Knife’s Edge, and down to Katahdin Stream. Each returned to camp fortified, energized and gushing with stories of adventure and success. We look forward this upcoming summer to award the 100 Mile Patch to the first campers completing all three legs of the journey.
These trips are a shining example of how so many people play an essential role in creating the Camp Winnebago Community. From administrative conceptualization, training well prepared Trip Leaders, trip meetings, camper/counselor integration and a strong group dynamic that carried the hikers over challenges and across mind blowing terrain, our trip program is only one example of the way in which our community connects, interlocks and almost seamlessly makes the impossible possible.
In a community that spans the globe, let’s all take a moment in the next few weeks and look at how we have been positively influenced by Camp Winnebago. We can reflect on the values learned and reinforced at camp and make a conscious effort to integrate them into our holiday season. May the Summer of the Echo, or whatever summer most deeply reverberated with you, continue to help signal our best selves forward. We look forward to thinking about and working toward another extraordinary experience during the Summer of 2016.
By identifying respect, empathy, resilience, leadership, integrity, community, effort and creativity as the 8 key values at Camp Winnebago we hoped to be more specific in how we teach and form community.
Throughout our staff training counselors engaged in thoughtful conversations regarding each of these values and shared their personal relationship with them. In small groups, and as an entire staff, we developed a deeper understanding of the words and then began the process of integrating values into activities.
Each counselor had the dual task of becoming prepared to teach a skill while also understanding the more subtle lessons, which may be taught in the process. For example, the athletics staff pondered how to help campers learn how empathy and effort are two key pieces of competition; how treating a teammate who is struggling respectfully instead of negatively brings cohesiveness to a team. Boating and Canoeing counselors developed communication strategies to help a camper understand the resilience they are developing and how such an effort will aid them when out on their trips.
These words also helped provide an awareness of the depth of the Winnebegan experience and by continually focusing on teaching skills and values in unison, our staff gained a broader and deeper insight into the impactful role that they play while maintaining strong motivation to succeed.
We are dedicated to our core values in every phase of camp and are excited to continue to examine and hone in on the perfect set of words that best reflect the Winnebago experience. Please take a look at these 8 words: respect, empathy, resilience, leadership, integrity, community, effort and creativity.
Feel free to let us know which words seem most integral to you and if there are values you believe we are missing? With your thoughts and input, we will continue to drill down into the Winnebago values and implement them in every facet of camp.
Winnebago Trip Program
Since 1920, when Winnebagans took their first steps on a trail leading up a remote mountain peak and dipped their paddle into a pristine Maine lake, they began profound and life changing multi-day adventures. On every trip seemingly insurmountable challenges are overcome while the boys realize untapped potential and newfound skills in deep and meaningful ways. With the help of caring and skilled counselors, boys navigate through uncharted physical and emotional spaces to emerge stronger, more resilient and capable. We regularly examine our trip program to identify ways to edify and enrich the experience. Currently, the Bows (rising 8th graders) have had the opportunity to hike a 24-mile portion of the Appalachian Trail (AT), arguably the most famous hiking path in North America if not the world, and Senior Arrows (15 year olds) culminate their Winnebago career with an ascent of Katahdin, the highest peak in Maine and the northern terminus of the AT. In an effort to create a more thoughtful and sequential journey, we are excited that now the Bows through Seniors will have the opportunity to experience a 100 mile hiking journey, spread over three years, along the AT culminating in the summiting of Mount Katahdin. In camper’s Arrow year there will be three trips (AT Backpack, Acadia and St. Croix River) of which they will choose two. Campers who choose the Arrow AT Backpack will be awarded the 100 Mile Patch in their Senior Arrow year after summiting Mt. Katahdin. This patch will recognize the monumental feat of backpacking 100 miles on the AT over their final three years at camp. Our hope in creating this series of trips is to provide a peak experience for campers that will result in them having a deeper understanding of their potential for extraordinary accomplishments.