Hello Green Acres!! Camp is right around the corner! Allow me to introduce myself, my name is David Levine, and this is my 6th year working at camp. I just finished my freshman year at Cornell University, and I am seeking a BS and a Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering. Now you may ask, how does a college student from New York end up at Green Acres? Well, the answer is simple: I was a camper here! I started all the way back in 2001, when I was in Unit B! I moved up through all of the units, finishing up my time as a camper in Unit H. Next, I became a community service counselor after taking a year off, before becoming a counselor in training, and then reaching my current position as a counselor! As you may see, I have been at Green Acres for a very long time, and I absolutely love it here! This camp helped shape my childhood, and I have had a blast helping my campers enjoy camp as much as I did! I am so excited to get started this summer, which has nearly arrived!!
Now the next question you may ask is: what do I do at camp? Well, I am a counselor in Unit GH here at Green Acres. I teach sports to our Senior Campers, and I am also one of the day trip counselors this summer. I will be accompanying our oldest campers on fun weekly excursions to places like the Adventure Park in Baltimore, and on a tubing trip on the Shenandoah! Throughout the summer, I will be posting updates to this blog regarding all of our fabulous camp activities, and what all of our great campers are up to, from the Kangaroos in Unit K to our oldest campers in Unit GH! From the July 4th Fun Run to swimming and Spirit Days, I am giddy with excitement for all of the fun things we have in store for the campers!! Check back frequently for more blog updates.
I cannot wait to get the summer started!! Go Camp!!
Inspired by a recent article about the benefits of camp, I am taking off my pool director hat and am writing this post with my parent hat on. Last summer we decided to send our oldest child to camp hoping that it would be a great transition from the small family day care he had been in for many years to kindergarten. We hoped that he would make new friends, improve his swimming skills, build his confidence, and have fun. However, the most noticeable and long lasting skill that he gained from camp was increased independence.
Our oldest child has always been quite responsible and responsive, but his actions were always based on our requests. Imagine my surprise when, after the third day of camp, he came home, emptied his backpack and hung up his wet swimsuit and towel without being asked. To top it off, he then remembered that he had swim lessons after camp the following day, and ran off to grab two swimsuits and packed those and two towels himself. Once I pulled my chin off the floor, I commended his efforts, and then wondered if this amazingness would continue or if the whole thing was a fluke. I remember saying to my husband, “This is really great, but will it continue?” Shame on me for underestimating my child because it was not a fluke; he continued to unpack and pack his backpack every night for the remaining six weeks.
Sure, the transition to kindergarten last fall was a big one; I think it is for many children. However, I credit his six weeks of camp for helping build many, many skills that provided him with an even stronger foundation for school. This summer, all four of our children are old enough to attend camp, and while I know they will have a lot of fun, I can’t wait to see what they learn and how those skills with help them outside of camp as well. What skills have your children gained from their camp experience? What are you hoping they come away with this summer?
As Pool Director, I always get a lot of questions about our swimming program. Below are some frequently asked questions as well as our responses. If you have questions that are not included here but would like to answer to, please leave us a comment, and we will respond.
My camper has swimmer’s ear and cannot swim for several days. What will he do during swim lessons?
Your child will observe the swim lesson each day so that he receives the same information the other campers receive. Because this is a common event, swim instructors work hard to include the non-swimmer in the lesson by having him or her throw the rings for other campers; hold noodles, dive sticks or hula hoops for the other campers; or involve them in games from the pool deck.
Can my child wear floaties or water wings in the pool?
No, and please do not send these to camp with your child. We really want the campers to feel comfortable on their own in the water, even if they only enter the pool for a few minutes or remain in the shallow beach entrance area. Flotation devices provide children with a false sense of security, and we work hard to help children feel comfortable in the water on their own.
Do you provide googles for campers?
While we always have a few spare pairs of goggles around, we cannot provide goggles for every camper every day. If you child prefers to wear goggles, please send them each day. It is important to label these so that if they get left behind, we can return them to your child. To ensure a proper fit, have your child put them on and take them off a few times on their own. If your child cannot try them on in a pool before camp starts, do a test run in the shower!
My son is VERY afraid of the water. Will you force him to swim or throw him in the pool?
No, we will never force a child to do anything he or she is not comfortable doing. Through splashing on the steps and through many interactive games, we encourage campers to enter the water and to gain confidence while in the water. Our goal is to help each camper learn new skills each summer and to remain confident while swimming.
Do you offer private lessons and how do I register for them?
We offer 30 minute private lessons each day before camp between 8 and 9 AM and after camp between 3 and 4:30 PM. Although we try to have the same counselor with your child in private and group lessons, we cannot always guarantee that. Most campers take two private lessons per week, but some campers swim with us as many as three times per week or just once a week, depending on family schedules. Parents can register their camper for private lessons by sending an email to email@example.com Please note that we DO NOT begin scheduling lessons until the first full week of June.
Are swimming skills really being taught because my daughter says she only plays games during her lesson?
This is my favorite question each summer, and every time I hear it, I jump for joy because it means that campers are learning and practicing skills in a creative way. Camp follows the same progressive philosophy that Green Acres School has, and we work hard to make our swim program developmentally appropriate and fun for campers. Our counselors engage campers in lessons through many games and have them practice the target swim skills via these games each day. Games include but are not limited to: Four Corners, Red Rover, Mother May I, and Sharks and Minnows.
Is the pool heated?
Yes, it is. In the early days of June, we often have the heater turned on so that the water is at a comfortable temperature for swimming. However, as the days grow warmer, the water heats up rather quickly, as Mother Nature takes care of heating it for us.
Should my child wear her swimsuit to camp?
This is really a matter of preference. There is time for campers to change into their swimsuit each day, but if your child needs a lot of time to do so or cannot do so without significant help, then wearing the suit might be more practical for her. Some campers love to arrive at camp showing off their suit, while others hate find that it gets in their way. Please remember to pack underwear in the backpack if your child wears her suit to camp!
Should I pack two swimsuits since my child may swim twice a day?
Again, this is a preference. Dry suits are always easier to get on and off, so it may make your child’s transition to afternoon swim or private lessons easier, but some campers have a favorite suit that they would prefer to wear every day, if they could. Whether or not you pack two suits, remember to pack a plastic bag for the wet suits so that the other items in the backpack remain dry.
We are always very pleased that 80-85% of our staff return to camp each summer, and that continuity is great for families and staff alike. As I looked closer at the statistic, I realized that many of our staff members are those who started as campers, and I wondered what compelled them to continue at camp as a counselor. A couple weeks ago, I had a conversation with Eliza, a former camper turned SSL counselor whose first summer was last year.
Eliza was a Green Acres camper for many years and found camp to be fun. However, she was quick to point out that during her time at camp she also found that she was learning while she was having fun, and that the friendships that she formed during her time at camp were lasting ones that continued long after the camp sessions ended. Eliza also found the camp overnights to be fantastic opportunities for campers and counselors to form strong bonds that lasted from summer to summer, and the camaraderie among her counselors inspired her to want to work at camp.
As an SSL counselor, Eliza hoped to make camp fun for the campers and convey that learning can be fun, much like her counselors had done for her. She looked forward to being a role model for campers, and during her first year, she found that her move from camper to counselor felt like a natural transition. She credits her experience at camp with helping her make this transition a smooth one; however she quickly added that she learned A LOT last summer, particularly through the SSL program and from her unit leader and head counselors.
Although she has extensive babysitting experience, last year’s camp job was her first “real world” job, and Eliza found that she learned more about working with children during her six weeks at camp than she has babysitting over the past few years. She enjoyed working with professionals who have years of experience and who are willing to impart their knowledge to those around them. Eliza also found that camp gave her an excellent idea of what holding a job is like, particularly since the SSL counselors are expected to arrive on time, to ask for clarification when necessary, to participate fully in all activities, and to work with others who have different personalities and working styles.
Her SSL experience was so fantastic that Eliza is returning to camp again this summer. Now that she has a year of experience under her belt, she is looking forward to learning more activities and to having more responsibilities than she did last year. An avid Pinterest user, Eliza is always bursting with new ideas, and she is hoping to take a more proactive approach this summer and suggest new and different activities for the campers in her unit. She loves the team approach to camp and looks forward to helping another group of campers learn, explore, and experiment with new activities. I wish her loads of fun and enjoyment back in Unit A this year.
After speaking with Eliza, I contacted a few other campers who have worked as counselors at camp, and each one stated that the reason they became a counselor was due to their camp experience. They were inspired by their counselors, and they wanted to make learning fun, and to “give back” to camp. We are looking forward another summer full of inspiration and engagement, too.
While searching for stickers at our local arts and crafts store last weekend, I heard a little girl say, "Mom, look, there is the pool lady." At first, I did not think she was referring to me. Did she really recognize me in my sweatshirt, jeans, and sneakers which are are a far cry from my camp "uniform" of shorts, swimsuit, and flip flops? However, as the two approached, I recognized the camper from Unit A last summer, and kneeled down and inquired, "Are you excited for camp this summer?"
"Yes," she began, "I am so excited to see everyone in Unit A again!"
"Well," interrupted her mom, "she has not realized that this summer she will be in a different unit, and that there may be some differences, although I have tried to explain this to her."
We spent some time talking about camp and the parts of camp that may be different this summer, and while she was apprehensive at first, once I begain to tell her more about Unit B, particularly the Unit B Special Day with extra swim time, she began to understand and clearly became more excited about experiencing a new unit. I was peppered with questions and spent time answering each and every one. Finally, we parted with thoughts of the fun summer ahead and with hopes that warm summer weather will arrive soon.
However, while driving home, I began to think about my own children and their expectations about camp. I realized that they are excited, but that I may need to do a bit more to help them understand that as campers move from unit to unit, there will be differences. Transitions are often hard for children of any age, and it is important for children to have realistic expectations and an understanding of what camp will bring each summer. How are is your child feeling about camp? What steps can we take to help make the transition a smooth one for everyone?
If your family is new to camp or if your camper is moving up to Senior Camp, please join us on Wednesday, March 26, 2014, for a New Parent Night. We will share information with parents and take time to answer questions that you may have. We hope to see you there!
Cheers erupted on the field as another Maryland Madness event drew to a close. Teams congratulated one another, and campers scurried to their next event. The swimmers on the pool deck, though, were oblivious to the action. Each one stood quietly, focused on the clear blue water below them. One camper’s nervousness was evident. He shifted his weight back and forth from foot to foot, while fiddling with the string on his swimsuit. "I am not sure I can do this," he murmured. Susan, one of the senior camp counselors, reached over and ruffled his hair. "Just do your best, Carl," she encouraged.
The whistle blew, and the swimmers entered the water. Carl surfaced and looked around; his competitors were already a fourth of the way down the pool. As Carl began his freestyle stroke, Susan leaned over the pool to encourage him. Meanwhile, his teammates gathered at the opposite end of the pool, eagerly awaiting his arrival at the finish line. Carl reached the deep end and slowed to a near stop. Susan, ever present, leaned over and yelled, “You are almost there. You can do this!” Carl began his strokes again, and each time he turned his head to take a breath and saw Susan’s face, his pace increased. Speed up, slow down, take a breath. Speed up, slow down, take a breath. Many times Susan’s face was so close to the pool deck that her cheek scraped the warm concrete. As Carl approached the finish line, his teammates inched closer to the edge of the pool, yelling and encouraging him. Finally, his hand hit the wall, and cheers erupted from the group. Carl surfaced, smiled proudly, and reached for the hands of his teammates as they helped hoist him out of the pool. Despite the fact that the competitors had exited the pool many minutes before, Carl’s teammates congratulated him as if he had won the heat. The upbeat, celebratory conversations continued as the campers entered the locker room.
As the group passed, one of the lifeguards, a former camper herself, smiled and said, “This is what camp is all about.” When asked to explain, she continued, “It’s really not about winning around here. It’s about everyone doing his or her best and then celebrating those accomplishments whether they are on the sports field, in the pool, in the art room, or in the units. It’s everyone coming together to help and support one another,” and with that she sat back, sighed, and smiled.
As we head toward the end of November, lots of talk on campus has revolved around the upcoming holidays and the plans for these festivities. Inevitably, at some point in these conversations, the word tradition is used. Traditions play an integral role in many family events, whether it means making Great Aunt Millie’s cornbread stuffing for the hundredth time or continuing a reign of victory in a friendly family flag football game.
Traditions are also important at camp, and as campers move from unit to unit, they look forward to participating in the various traditions each summer. Special days or theme days are a part of every junior camper’s summer. Events on these days revolve around a unit’s name for the summer, and the special activities are kept under wraps until the big day. Even lunch and snack are related to the unit’s theme, and campers enjoy activities such as creating tie-dye t-shirts, making puppets, or participating in an extra swim session for their unit. The pinnacle of these theme days is the Unit D overnight when campers spend the night on campus.
The Unit D overnight provides a springboard for the traditional overnight off campus experience that senior campers have each summer. Echo Hill Camp is a favorite destination of campers, and campers explore and learn about the environment as well as participate in activities that require collaboration and consensus in order to complete physical tasks. Senior campers also participate in weekly day trips during the summer. Popular trips include laser tag, river tubing, rock climbing, and bowling.
Summer would not be complete without camp’s annual Fourth of July parade. Campers in each unit create noise makers, banners, flags, etc., and everyone participates in a parade around the campus. Last summer we added an extra event to the festive day: our First Annual Fun Run/Walk, and parents were invited to participate with their child/children. Each finisher received a medal, and cheers echoed across the field as the runners and walkers raced to the finish line. This event is one that will certainly become a tradition.
Other camp traditions include the end of camp Vaudeville show, the two day Maryland Madness competition, Fun Friday festivities, and weekly special assemblies and events during morning gully. What camp traditions are your child’s favorites? Which one or ones is he/she looking forward to this summer? Leave us a comment!
We are very proud of our new camp video. Take a look and let us know what you think.
Now that the school year is in full swing, the thought of summer camp may be far from one’s mind. However, the off season is actually the ideal time to begin thinking about and deciding upon a camp for the coming summer. Countless articles have been written about how to choose a camp, and some even include lists of questions to ask when visiting campuses during the off season. What does one look for in a camp? What are important factors to consider?
When asked what makes Green Acres Camp unique, more often than not, parents, staff members, and campers respond with two words: The Staff! When asked to elaborate, most people comment on the relationships that the staff members have with campers and the connections that the staff members help campers make during their time at camp.
What makes a Green Acres Camp staff member unique? Every member of the Administrative Team has a degree in the education field as well as years of classroom teaching experience. Unit Leaders also have degrees in education and countless years of classroom teaching experience. In addition, Head Counselors are college students who are pursuing degrees in education, and most of them have had some student teaching practicum experience. Younger staff members are mentored by experienced staff members, so that they, too, can develop a strong understanding of child development. In a nutshell, Green Acres staff members understand children. They have a good grasp of the developmental needs of campers and work hard to make sure that those needs are met in a variety of ways. Each and every day staff members work hard to make a camper’s experience rich, meaningful, and fun-filled.
Visiting camps in the off season can be challenging because visitors do not get to see the camp “in action.” However, ask questions about the staff members. Ask about their experience working with children, and ask about how they connect with the campers. After all, these are the people who will be spending several weeks with your child!
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