The end of first session always seems to sneak up on us. We’ve gotten very close as a community, so it is hard to think about having our first session campers leave. Cabin groups have bonded during their wilderness trips, new friendships have been made, and everyone has discovered new things about themselves and their relationships with their peers and the natural world.
The weather of the last week has been a gift to all of us at Chewonki. After a soggy start to the season, we’ve enjoyed lots of sunshine. We’ve been able to go to the beach and hold cookouts outside- something unthinkable during the first part of the summer. Monday was a tent day and most of our campers went to Popham Beach for a day of swimming, sand castle building and beach games. A select group of our campers stayed behind to go to forage for wild edibles with our resident naturalist Fred Cichocki.
Fred writes, “Everyone is still raving about the last Nature Tent Day experience we call “Stalking Your Wilde Dinner”. And was it ever and extravaganza! We stalked the elusive Horn of Plenty mushroom in the crags of Blueberry Hill. As we foraged for mushrooms in Chewonki Woods, we snacked like the Indians before us on refreshing Cucumber Root. We trapped crabs and fish in Montsweag Brook. Finally, despite a brief downpour that almost drowned our cooking fire, we prepared a gourmet feast wilderness-style, washed down with exotic wild sarsaparilla-wintergreen tea. And so, our boys learned that with a spirit of adventure, living off the land is not a matter of just surviving but living well!
Monday night we enjoyed three outstanding presentations; a series of presentations from our recently returned three week sailing, canoeing, sea kayaking and whitewater kayaking wilderness trips, sharing the joys of their experiences; a presentation by our Traveling Natural History staff on Scales and Tales, featuring numerous live reptiles. Phil Lilienthal, a friend who used to direct a camp in Maine, spoke to the campers about a camp he started in Africa to provide AIDS education and prevention for South African young people. Global Camps Africa is a non-profit that has provided a 9-day sleep away camp experience for nearly 4,000 children at 27 camp sessions over the past 5 years. To reinforce what is learned at camp and for ongoing support, former campers meet at Kids Clubs after camp for follow up activities for 6 hours every other Saturday. Both the camp and Kids Clubs are free of charge. I thought the campers and counselors responded very positively to Phil’s message and some campers expressed some interest in getting involved in some way. Phil has a “Change for Kids” program that asks children here to support children there by collecting their own spare change (and, perhaps, having friends participate, too) and then having you send a tax-deductible check to Global Camps Africa in exchange for the money your child has collected. Please contact Phil if you are interested in support his camp at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your consideration.
Tuesday was our Chewonki-style carnival where each cabin made a booth. Booth offerings included bowling, card games, bean tosses, and popcorn. Campers used beans as a currency and then pooled all of their beans together to bid on a dessert. Adding to the fun was the fact that the desserts were boxed up, so the campers didn’t know what they were bidding on. In the end, every cabin enjoyed a tasty dessert treat prepared by our staff.
Now we are preparing to end the session. The campers and counselors are busy packing up their belongings, having final showers and health checks at the health center, and preparing for departure tomorrow morning. Tonight will be a special evening dinner and campfire, providing us the opportunity to celebrate our time together and our many accomplishments.
Challenge Activity Update
This session Chewonki introduced the Challenge Activity to the camp program. During the academic year, school groups come for up to a week in the fall and the spring. Based at one of our campsites on our 400-acre campus, they spend their time here learning a series of natural history based lessons and developing group dynamics and community building. To facilitate this growth, students participate in group challenges and games, as well as a Tyrolian traverse across the Gulch, and the Barn Climb.
These activities had been offered to campers in past summers and scheduled throughout the summer as a special cabin activity, but we weren’t always able to schedule every cabin for a barn climb. While team building is one of the our primary goals at camp, these activities are designed to be a “challenge by choice.” After careful thought this year, we decided that offering Challenge as an activity would allow for maximum benefit and so far it has been a huge success. The activity is under the oversight of Challenge Coordinator, Helen Westcott, and Papa Osprey, Sam Hoyle.
Helen has spent the last several years at the Alton Jones Center in Rhode Island as a professional outdoor educator. She will be returning home to Britain this fall to pursue a higher degree in education. Sam Hoyle has been a counselor here for the past three summers and is finishing a full year here as one of our Outdoor Classroom instructors before heading to Gould Academy to teach Spanish this fall. It has been their insight, experience, energy, and character that has propelled the curriculum of this activity. We look forward to another exciting session!
– Sandy Bandhu, Program Director
FOR THOSE JUST RETURNING HOME:
I know our families will be anxious to learn all about their son’s experience here. Campers have their own way of sharing their camp experience with you. Some will be eager to tell you all of the details within the first 24 hours. Others will prolong their stories, and want to fit right back into their home routines. Every once in a while throughout the school year, you will undoubtedly hear another camp story – “At Camp, we’d always…….!” Some campers may actually be “camp sick” for a few days, as they struggle with the separation of their close community and adjust back to their home lifestyles. One tool to help with these emotions is our camp newspaper, The Chronicle that contains camper addresses and emails.
“So how was Camp?” is so broad a question that it is too much for most campers. Most will be able to express not much more than “Fine. Fun.” for a few days. Try asking questions about specific parts of their summer. “Who was your best friend in camp?” “What were your counselors like?” “What was your favorite activity?” “What was the most fun part of camp?” “Where did you go on your wilderness trip?” “What was the best day you had all summer?” “What did you accomplish that you did not think you would be able to?” “How was the food?” “What was your favorite special event?” “What kinds of songs and skits did you see at campfire?” Often times the more specific questions produce the most interesting responses.
Our full summer and five week session campers and trippers will receive notes written from their counselors and trip leaders in the mail over the next few days. We hope that they will be helpful to you in evaluating your camper’s experience. In return, we hope you will help us by filling out the evaluation that we have provided a link for here.
It has been a most memorable first session. I am grateful for you trust and support in all that we do here at Chewonki.