Camp, Preparing Boys for a Successful Life

Boy Playing ChessIncreasingly, parents make decisions for their children in an effort to boost chances for their children’s success in both the short and longer term.  Over ten years ago the U.S. Department of Education and a number of industry leading businesses (Apple, AOL/Time Warner, Cisco, Dell, among others) came together to form the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21).   P21 identified a comprehensive set of skills, which all sectors of business recognize as essential for success in the global marketplace.  These skills include what they call the 3Rs and the 4Cs. They are as follows.

·       The 3Rs include: English, reading or language arts; mathematics; science; foreign languages; civics; government; economics; arts; history; and geography.

·       The 4Cs include: critical thinking and problem solving; communication, collaboration; and creativity and innovation.

As the 3Rs serve as an umbrella for other subjects and core content, the 4Cs are shorthand for all the skills needed for success in college, career, and life.

In our next few blogs we will examine how Camp Winnebago intentionally cultivates the 4Cs (critical thinking/communication/collaboration/creativity) and will explore how both the ethos of camp and specific activities are aligned with P21 to help children “successfully face rigorous higher education coursework, career challenges and a globally competitive workforce. “  We will examine how camp creates and reinforces skills needed for boys to become intellectually agile independent young men prepared for the challenges of entering college and eventually the work place and discuss how both the skill sets and social aspects of the camp experience are aligned with what industry leaders and policy makers have identified as essential.

We are excited to explore these topics and welcome your thoughts and perceptions. Please comment on Facebook, Twitter or our website!

Camp Winnebago Waterfront

Posted by: Ej Kerwin | Nov 13, 2014 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Vibrant Waterfront at Camp Winnebago

Lake Waterfront with boy's kayaking, canoeing and swimming

Waterfront at Camp Winnebago, A Boy’s Camp in Maine

Camp Winnebago occupies a portion of shore along beautiful Echo Lake. Our waterfront is an exciting and vibrant hot bed of activity each and every day throughout the summer. Campers swim twice daily, one period of instructional swim and one period of free swim. Our docks are an explosion of activity, campers receive instruction in paddling both rowboats and canoes as well as kayaks. In addition boy’s receive expert instruction in sailing and windsurfing.

Visit our Selected Activities page on our website to learn more about the myriad of activities Camp Winnebago offers.

How do you handle bullying?

Posted by: Ej Kerwin | Nov 11, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments »

CW1_8202Camp Winnebago takes bullying very seriously. Because we are a relatively small camp, and a community that is open and trusting, there is not much that we do not find out about fairly quickly. When a conflict arises between campers, we strive to nip it in the bud through honest direct communication. Campers are encouraged in various manners to communicate with staff or administration any time they feel unsafe. Emotional and physical safeties are our #1 priorities!

Check out more Frequently Asked Questions for Parents at

Pride and Responsibility

Posted by: Ej Kerwin | Nov 6, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments »

CW1_6469Pride and responsibility are two qualities Camp Winnebago counselors role model to the campers in their bunk. Each morning campers make their beds and clean and sweep out their living space. This is a time of community building where counselors, through their actions and words, role model the importance of taking pride in keeping a clean living area. Because campers participate along with the rest of the campers in their bunk, they develop a sense of responsibility in being a contributing member of their living community.

Parenting Resilient Children

Posted by: Ej Kerwin | Nov 4, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments »

Boy cooking over Campfire at Boy's Camp in Maine

How We Handle Building Grit at Boys Summer Camp

young boy at Camp Winnebago, a Maine boys summer camp, cooking over a fire

In our previous blog we looked at the concept of resilience; “the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress”.  The ability to bounce back is an essential quality many parents view as paramount for their children to possess as they develop through adolescence into early adulthood. Being at camp is often the first opportunity children have to face adversity and resolve issues outside the protection and guidance of their parents. In our last blog we highlighted ways in which Camp Winnebago intentionally fosters and promotes the building of resilience in campers. We used the American Psychological Associations (APA) 10 tips for building resilience in children as a guideline.  In this blog we will revisit these tips in building resilience examining the ways in which parents can help their children develop the ability to face and overcome adversity.

Make connections

Beyond making connections it is important to continue to develop and maintain relationships. Encourage your child to be aware of the role they play in maintaining positive relationships right in front of them (school friends) and in those relationships created during the summer at camp or in other activities. In the age of social media it is easier to maintain superficial relationships through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media outlets. Encourage your children to remain connected on a deeper level by encouraging direct email or snail mail correspondences and notice the valued connections your child will begin to become aware of and enjoy.

Help your child by having him or her help others

Find ways in which your child can step into the role of supporter and foster a sense of confidence. This is also a way to recognize their strengths. By pointing out the unique qualities your child has that they may share with others you can draw attention to and exploit their strength/interest and your child can gain confidence in their abilities and self-worth.

Maintain a daily routine

There will come a time in early adulthood when your child will need to impose structure on them-selves. As your child progresses through adolescence it is important to begin to hand over some of the responsibility in the creation and implementation of their daily routine. As your child’s life becomes more complex including school, sports and other extra-curricular activities, begin to include them in deciding how their day will flow. Help them make a schedule for their upcoming weekend and how they will fulfill all their responsibilities and include rest and leisure time. One of the hardest jobs as a parent is to know when to step back and release control and scheduling is one area where often time children have no input.

Take a break

Oftentimes, parents feel their ultimate measuring stick is their children’s success in being accepted into the “right school” for college. Due to the competitive nature of this process, children’s schedules get packed with school, tutors, sports, philanthropic endeavors and more. Stress can cause a breakdown in resilience and developing the ability to know when down time is essential is a skill your child will value for the rest of their life. As you begin to notice the signs when your child is reaching their limit help them begin to notice these indicators and guide them towards restful activities that allow them to recharge and avoid physical or mental overloads.

Teach your child self-care

Similar to the previous bullet point, no one knows your child like you do. It is important that you take this deep understanding and help your child become aware of them-selves. Self-care, in a world that seems hyper focused on output and results, is often minimized. By role modeling the importance of self-care and helping your child develop an awareness of their physical and emotional wellness and ways in which they can promote both is an invaluable lesson. By making exercise, nutrition and emotional expression a topic of discussion you can increase your child’s internal awareness and development of healthy coping skills.

Move toward your goals

It is important for parents and their children to make sure they are on the same page with goals. As parents, with a developed frontal cortex, you are much more aware of the long term goals that are important for your child. Unfortunately, your child does not share your perspective (nor your fully developed brain) and what may seem important to you may be less so for your child. Helping your child develop and move towards more short-term goals can eliminate some common conflicts. Staying hyper focused on your own goals for your child can lower their confidence due to their inability to see the “long game”.

Nurture a positive self-view

Self-confidence is one of the most important qualities in facing adversity. You may see your child as the most amazing person in the world, but that is not necessarily an indicator of his or her own self-perception. Just as a teacher looks for mistakes on a test instead of correct answers, oftentimes parents become focused on areas of improvement instead of strengths.  Strive to find a balance between the two.

Keep things in perspective and maintain a hopeful outlook

Children have a very short time line in comparison to their parents. Their tendency can be to create mountains out of molehills and catastrophize events their parents may perceive as inconsequential. It is important to help your child keep events in perspective while at the same time not minimizing their experience. Oftentimes a child can benefit from merely being listened to instead of having their problem solved for them.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery

parent’s profound understanding of their child can create barriers in their child’s own self-discovery. A parent may feel as if they know the perfect sport or activity for their child, but it is important for children to have the ability to explore on their own. By becoming familiar with trial and error in his or her own life as an adolescent, your child then becomes more adept with this process as an adult.

 Accept that change is part of living

The ability to become comfortable with change is one of the most important life skills that can be passed down to your child. Change is inevitable and often it is a stressor humans struggle with the most. Acquaint your child with the changes you have faced in your own life and the positives and negatives, which resulted from the change. Stay aware of minor and major changes your child is going through and open up a dialogue. Help your child develop a deeper awareness of how they are adapting. Again, stay out of judgment and merely guide them through a deeper awareness of their own process.

There are clearly a broad range of qualities that help a child develop into a resilient adult. But, a common theme which seems to tie all of these tips together is building of self-awareness and being intentional in decision making. Children all have natural tendencies both positive and challenging. By helping your child become more self-aware you afford them the opportunity to use their strengths to help them achieve goals set before them and lead a more happy healthy life.


Role Modeling

Posted by: Ej Kerwin | Oct 28, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments »

At Camp Winnebago we look for counselors who have expertise in a skill set and are able to teach it well, but more importantly we look for individuals who are interested in being role models to boys and young men. We ask prospective counselors to articulate who their role models were, why they were drawn to them and how they think they might connect with our campers!CW1_3122

Building Resilience

Posted by: Ej Kerwin | Oct 21, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments »

Senior Raft Trip 2014

Senior Raft Trip 2014

As children grow up, parents recognize they will face adversity. Parents recognize their children cannot be raised in a bubble, but instead hope to provide them with an environment in which they begin to develop the ability to face and overcome the inevitable obstacles they will face. This quality is referred to as resilience. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines resilience as, “the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress”. Furthermore, the APA reports resilience is a skill, which can be cultivated in children. The APA recommends “10 Tips for Building Resilience in Children and Teens” the structure of our program at Camp Winnebago follows each of the following tips.


  • · Make connections
    Camp focuses on relationship and community above all. There are both micro and macro communities where campers develop the ability to connect with others. Campers navigate interpersonal relationships with campers in their division (age group), their sections (where they sleep) and with adults (counselors).  This layered approach to community offers campers the chance to learn to create and foster relationships with a broad range of age groups. Older peers, counselors and the administration of Camp Winnebago support campers in navigating these relationships.


  • · Help your child by having him or her help others
    Campers must learn to be supported and offer support. With the broad range of activities at camp, it is inevitable campers will need to offer support to another camper. The ability to support another individual is key in developing self-confidence.


  • · Maintain a daily routine

From the moment campers arrive at camp there is a schedule of events each day, keeping campers busy from the moment they wake up until their bedtime. Within that time, there are highly structured times, as well as periods of time where campers experience free play, allowing them to develop imagination and initiative.
· Take a break
Within the structure of the day at camp, there is a rest hour each afternoon at lunch. During this time campers shower or write a letter to their parents. This teaches campers the importance of self-care and connecting with those outside of our immediate sphere.


  • · Teach your child self-care
    Camp offers your child the opportunity to navigate self-care outside the influence of their parents. A counselor sleeps in each bunk; making sure campers are showering, brushing teeth, taking showers and cleaning their bunk area. This supervision is meant to give campers the opportunity to begin to take personal responsibility for their own self-care.


  • · Move toward your goals
    Campers earn patches in a variety of activities (archery, canoeing, sailing, etc.). There are tiers of patches in each activity. The skills, which must be mastered to earn each patch, are concrete and clearly explained, allowing campers to set goals (each summer and longitudinally over years) and work towards these goals, with the assistance of counselors offering them expert tutelage.


  • · Nurture a positive self-view
    We employ 70 counselors each summer who role model a host of positive attributes to campers. Positive self-esteem is one of the qualities we look for in counselors. We role model a balance between high self-esteem and humility. Campers are coached, in their weeklong training before campers arrive, to focus on camper’s strength by offering positive feedback when campers exhibit their strengths.


  • · Keep things in perspective and maintain a hopeful outlook
    Athletic activities are an area at camp which demands campers to learn from their mistakes without dwelling. One of the guiding ethos at Camp Winnebago is that the strength of the effort is most important. A culture has been created that rewards positivity in the face of adversity, a skill essential in overcoming adversity.


  • · Look for opportunities for self-discovery
    Campers have the opportunity to sample a broad range of activities. In addition to in camp activities, campers each summer are pushed beyond their comfort zone in our Trip Program. We consistently receive feedback from alumni, that their trips were incredibly profound experiences where they discovered their capabilities exceeded their expectations of themselves.


  • · Accept that change is part of living
    Camp, by nature, is full of adjustment to change.  Campers adapt to leaving their home and develop confidence in their ability to be an independent entity outside their family unit. They shed the social structure they have established within their family and school and adjust quickly to the multi-layered community of camp. This transition is supported by counselors and administration, camper’s innate strengths and capabilities are highlighted in this process.


In our next blog we will examine how parents can continue to follow these 10 tips, which APA recognizes, build greater resilience in children and teenagers.





Intuition at Camp Winnebago

Posted by: Ej Kerwin | Sep 29, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments »

CW1_0928The sun has set on the Summer of Intuition.  It was an amazing summer full of fun, learning and growth. The theme of Intuition guided us throughout the summer. Campers seemed to settle upon the idea that intuition is a sense developed through everyday experiences. They discovered a clear difference between instinct and intuition.  Instinct resides in the gut, guiding them to make snap decisions, but intuition is something a bit deeper and more value oriented.


Community was at the heart of camper’s conceptualization of intuition and they worked to find a balance between the needs of the individual and the group. Nowhere was this concept more evident than on the athletic fields, where competition was fierce and an exciting Brown and Green season came down to the final day. On that day, campers ran around camp from field to field. Would tennis or team handball decide the winner? Or, was there was enough wind that a sailing meet, which had been postponed earlier in final week, would be the deciding event? The excitement was intoxicating; staff and campers ran from game to game sharing different theories of what it would take for either team to clinch a victory.  Seven weeks of hard fought Brown and Green games all came down to the last hours of the season. It was clear both teams were on the cusp of having their color painted on the B&G Rock and receiving a Hershey bar. In spite of the tense competition, camp was not divided. Campers were united in the excitement of a well-fought and exciting season! It was truly remarkable to watch the maturity and poise of Winnebagan campers experiencing the excitement and competition while maintaining poise, sportsmanship and friendship.


The final day of intense competition was validation of some of the summers more subtle work helping campers gain skills in keeping perspective. At times, during the summer, campers were overwhelmed by competition or pushed to the brink by difficult social dynamics and in the heat of the summer’s last moments; they could have been divided by the pursuit of individual and team glory. However, Winnebagans remained unified recognizing how special the experience was for everyone. When the final team handball game finished, a hard fought game with admirable performances by both teams, campers shook hands knowing they could both be proud of not only their athletic feats, but of the character they had developed throughout the summer.


Spring has Sprung at Camp Winnebago!

Posted by: Ej Kerwin | Apr 14, 2014 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

candidcoverSpring has arrived in Maine and the snow is melting fast and the grass below beginning to show. That means summer is not far behind! Last week, the administration met over a long weekend to plan and intentionally map out the particulars of the summer that we will ask each staff member to embrace.

We have enjoyed nearly a century of fun, excitement and safety, and it is our goal to look at how camp is run and continually strive to improve. We take the feedback we received last year from parents, campers and staff and use this valuable information to tweak our program making subtle and sometimes profound changes.  The richness of the shared community viewpoints are invaluable in helping us refine camp and helps create the incredibly special place that is Winnebago.

Our Staff and Leadership Training (SALT), a week of training for the staff, is an area we continually alter in response to the needs of the campers. The week’s goals include the staff to bond as a cohesive unit while preparing to be mindful role models who help facilitate peak experiences for campers. We prepare the staff to grow personally while preparing them to foster healthy positive relationships with campers with a strong understanding of healthy boundaries. We focus with them on their roles as youth development professionals, which goes a long way in helping campers have fun at camp while engendering among other things, happiness, resilience and and thoughtfulness.

Each year we are blessed by a strong core of returning counselors and a large group of first year alumni counselors. Unusual this year, is the large group of staff, 8 to be exact, who are returning AFTER taking more than a year off.  It is a joy to see the excited looks on campers faces when they reunite with a beloved counselor at camp and we thought it would be fun to share the names of some counselors that are returning.

Uncle Sam Metzger, an alumni and 2 year veteran, is back after a year off  to help run our theater program. Sam is graduating from Bates College next month with a degree in Fine Arts and we are thrilled to have Sam return to the Winnebago stage!

Returning for his second summer is Uncle James Marais. A very popular figure last summer, James’s positive nature and love of Winnebago and working with youth makes him a wonderful role model and counselor. Hailing from South Africa, James will be returning as Head of Swimming this summer.

In the weeks to come we look forward to sharing information about more returning staff member and hope you find yourself as excited at the possibilities of the Summer of Intuition as we are!

The Power of Camp

Posted by: Ej Kerwin | Mar 11, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments »

1st night assemblyWhat is the power of camp? Since 1919, Camp Winnebago, for boys, has fostered an environment based on effort not achievement, on learning not results and ultimately creating a unique emotional experience and building a community that focuses on each camper while appreciating their unique qualities. In fact, the adage “Winnebago is not only for the boy who can but especially for the boy who will” is the philosophy that overlays all we do at Winnebago.

Today, children and families are under increasing pressures to succeed; whether in the classroom, on the athletic fields, or related to financial security, we are being asked to excel at extraordinary rates and to stay in a perpetual state of strife. What is this race doing to us and our children? The evidence is persuasive that while our children are becoming better test takers and more career focused, we are probably not helping them develop into stronger more resilient, tenacious, and well-adjusted people.

While Winnebago is beautiful; it sits on 400 acres of beautiful pine forest that includes 2 miles of lake and is comprised of beautifully groomed fields, tennis and basketball courts and a 12,000 square foot indoor field house, our footprint is a mere window dressing to the core elements of what makes Winnebago special.

We see child development through a prism of four basic tenets; emotional and physical safety, friendship, learning and role modeling. Our belief is, if a camper feels safe he will feel more willing to try and will generally push his envelope and whether succeed or fail, will do so knowing the result is acceptable and therefore become comfortable consistently pushing his own limits. If a child enters an activity and feels a modicum of challenge in a safe environment while being motivated to put forth effort to learn, odds are that the result will be positive. That with learning and skill acquisition, there will be a desire to continue to improve.  Nothing feeds a boys desire to continue than the feeling of real success. It can’t be faked!

Friendship is also a core driver of child development at camp. Deep and meaningful relationships are forged through shared experiences and true understanding. We don’t pretend friends don’t experience difficult episodes. Rather, when such times arise, the staff help facilitate real and meaningful dialogue allowing boys to resolve issues and learn communication skills they can use forever in managing positive relationships. Such understanding, coupled with respect and true caring gives boys the opportunity to enjoy friendships they view as special and not replicable in other realms of their lives.

Finally, the 60 role models comprising the staff is a touch of magic. Witnessing 60 adults all working under the same philosophy is a powerful developmental engine. Campers are shown repeatedly that the adults that comprise the staff listen to them, want to help them succeed and care for them. The strength of such a focused and thoughtful group of role models can’t be overestimated.  Boys leave camp embodying the values the staff shows by example: respect, thoughtfulness, caring and helpfulness.

The basic tenets of what we deem important at Winnebago are seemingly universal and can be instituted at any youth development program in the world (allowing for cultural differences). Why then is it relatively hard to find programs that are successfully implementing such basic programmatic tenets? We have found that staying true to these values takes a consistent intentionality, in order to change people’s habits in fundamental ways; it takes long term and consistent attention to the basics. At Winnebago, we have enjoyed remarkable consistency in having 4 Directors and 6 Head Counselors in 95 years. With such a remarkable run, values are inculcated and repeated and staff, campers and parents enjoy a consistent philosophy that gives campers an experience dedicated to their development while affording them opportunities to experience activities and meet people they probably would not enjoy otherwise.