July 29, 2017
The third week of camp is always our favorite.
The first week is a demanding one. We bring together groups of 8-14 campers and counselors and make them into roommates. The cabin is the place where so much of he magic of camp happens. Campers form powerful friendships. They learn to accept people that they might disagree with. They develop norms and inside jokes. But the process of coming together takes effort and work.
The first week is also when we deal with new camp jitters and homesickness.
New campers need to learn the schedule, the names of places and the traditions. It can be a little intimidating when virtually everything has a camp name. The dining hall is the Fillin’ Station, the office is Home Plate and the health center is the Ill Eagles Nest (our first camp nurse was Nurse Bird).
As a result, the first week is very demanding.
The second week is easier – we spend less time adjusting and more time enjoying. The new campers have developed an understanding of the language and rhythms of camp. Homesickness is fading, if not altogether gone and the cabins begin to function as teams. We hear more excited cheers and fewer uncertain questions.
In short, it becomes more fun for everyone.
The difference between week three and week two is not as pronounced as that between two and one, but it is still different. We see deep bonds forming between campers. After 14 days, the counselors not only understand each camper, but they also understand the dynamics between campers. Everyone settles in.
Also, the returning campers start to savor the moments at camp. They know they are way past the halfway point of the session and that everything going forward with be the “last” of the summer: the last dance, the last Division night, or the last Taco Salad day (a particularly sad event). Nostalgia brings out a wistful positivity that is generally infectious.
Also, the extra week of camp is a time when many of the important skills grown at camp flourish the most: communication skills, leadership, creativity and collaboration. The campers feel settled and comfortable, so they are more willing to take the “reasonable risks” that foster growth.
I have friends that run camps that run 4 – 7 weeks long. Frankly, I think that is more than most campers or parents crave. Please do not get me wrong. On one level, I would LOVE to have your children here all summer, like my best friend’s camp in New Hampshire. But I also understand that this does not fit your schedule. I also know that three weeks is the sweet spot for growth. Finally, by having 2-3 week sessions, we are able to serve more families than my friend who can only offer one session.
So we enter the third week with excitement and anticipation. To kick it off, we will have “water torchlight” tonight, during which we will fill the bottom of the Coliseum with water and let the campers have a unique evening gathering full of splashing and silliness. I also love the most frequent complaint of water torchlight – “I was cold”. Not something you hear every day at camp.
I will leave with a fun detail I saw today – the weather service is predicting a “cool front” this week that will reduce our high temperatures by 10 degrees.
Sounds like great weather for a great week.