Monthly Archives: July 2016

Still So Much To See And Do

Written by Laura Pierce - Owner/Director, Camp Birchmont

frisbee-dog-hiphop2

We are now officially into our second half of the summer, and all of us are here after arriving by cars, buses and planes. We hosted our 65th Parent Visiting Day on Saturday, and greeted our new campers on Sunday, and we are in full swing with camp activities and trips.

We enjoyed some great post Visiting Day entertainment this weekend with blow up rides, frisbee catching dogs and an outrageously great hip hop dance artist who involved our campers and counselors whose enthusiasm carried the night.

softball-girls2

Our girls Birchmont Braves softball team placed as finalists in the Tri-State softball tournament taking second place in a full day tournament off grounds with 5 other camps, bringing back lots of pride and a beautiful trophy we held high in our Dining Hall. Congrats to Paige Lind, Erin Ahern and Sophie Cowen for their dominating pitching skills.

Our weekly trips are still underway with our Super Senior group , climbing Mt Chocorua this morning. This legendary peak in the White Mountain range will give the climbers a view of three states from the summit. Our campers know the legend of Chief Chocoura as it is one of the most well told tragic tales in regard to Native American history in New Hampshire. Then it’s on to enjoy a dinner together to celebrate the climbers’ accomplishment at the popular restaurant, Poor People’s Pub.

The Senior boys and girls are enjoying a day at the beach. The Ogunquit beach in Maine just an hour away, offers some of the most beautiful coastline in New England, the swimming beach is vast and gorgeous, with the artist colony of Perkins Cove nearby waiting to be explored, many of our campers will be enjoying a classic “lobsta” dinner in the cove under a setting sun.
Our Pioneers and Explorers will be heading out to play on the water rides at Aquaboggan and Splashtown, followed by next weeks trips to the Polar Caves, and Lost River, both amazing natural sites in the area.

kayaking-lower-explorer-boys

Greg and I went kayaking yesterday afternoon with the Lower Explorer Boys. We were a colorful flotilla of 12 boats, some more experienced than others. We took off from our lake on a stunning day of sunshine and still waters. Everyone paddled down to the tributary about 1/4 mile away, portaging over a spit of sand leading us into the brook where we kayaked a few miles, through yellow flowered lily pads, to a beaver damn, seeing some painted turtles along the way.

I don’t bring my cell phone while kayaking, we have our radios, but I wish I had the phone as a camera. We saw a majestic eagle in the tree tops above us when we finished our paddle and went for a swim on the beach nearby. The eagle then soared over our heads, and we were all in awe, just for a moment , before splashing around and boarding our boats back to camp.

boys-water-fight

Pioneer girls enjoyed a campfire and some raspberry picking this week. And we know they had fun because we could hear their squealing to a campy combo of jokes and storytelling around the fire. The Pioneer boys and Super Senior boys bonded over water games on the field in front of their cabins with Head of boys camp Scott Shallcross and Group Leaders, Harris and Gary overseeing the fun.

We have so many camp highlights coming up… Bagel Sunday, Dance Socials, Aladin, the camp musical production, Booth Carnival, Color War, Song Fest, Banquet , and other surprises. We have many days of fun on the fields with our friends, and time in the lake to swim, sail, ski and relax. I could write more, but then I would be missing more of this wonderful camp day. Hope you are all enjoying your summer days too. We will try to keep you posted…

Words From Our Woods

~ Laura Pierce

Lake Sunset

“When I see birches bend to the left and right…
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.”
– Robert Frost

“We have not merely escaped from something, but also into something…We have joined the greatest of all communities, which is not that of man alone, but of everything which shares with us the great adventure of being alive.”
– Joseph Wood Krutch

Lake and Field

“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountain.”
– John Muir

“Children learning about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.”
– Thomas Berry

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
– John Muir

words-from-our-woods
These quotes are just a few of the many powerful and poignant statements made about our natural world, and really fall under the “I couldn’t have said it better myself” category.

When you see the impact, both subtle and profound that is made upon a child who is discovering the woods, and mountains around them, it is impossible not to take notice.

That our campers enjoy a lot of time outdoors is no surprise, but the amount of time we spend plunging into lakes, running in the rain, watching wind in trees, seeing the light of day fade away, tramping up trails, sailing in sunlight, feeling firelight, as part of our daily experience might surprise you; we sometimes surprises ourselves, and that’s a good thing.

Because we are aware, that we have something very precious here; it’s the luxury of time in the beauty of nature. Unlike computers and television … Nature does not steal time, it amplifies it. The camp community is about taking time to make friends, time to experience all the nature that surrounds us everyday and every night. Sure we are busy till the setting sun, but what sunsets they are, and what peace comes with knowing we will wake up with our friends the next day and be able to play with them in this beautiful place where the air always smells of fresh pine, and we notice things like moss on trees and flowers falling over fences, and dragonflies and frogs and robins having babies up in the rafters of Notches… For this we are grateful!

Lessons From Camp

Free from school-year demands, summer camps are a key venue for social-emotional learning

By Leah Shafer, on July 1, 2016 11:23am

Summer camp: For so many kids, it signifies carefree days of swimming, playing sports, singing songs, and reveling in freedom from the demands of the school year. Camp means no homework, no studying, and no teachers.

But significant learning is still taking place at summer camp — even if the campers don’t necessarily realize it.

Summer Learning (Without the Books)

All those classic camp dynamics — being away from home and parents, making new friends, being part of a team, and trying new things — are building blocks to crucial social-emotional skills.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) can encompass a variety of practices, but most experts agree that a child with high SEL skills is successful in five core areas: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. These skills are increasingly understood to be central to success in school and in professional life beyond, but schools don’t always have the time or capacities to teach them explicitly. Obligations to complete curriculum and boost student achievement often make it difficult for teachers to prioritize community building, goal-setting, or problem solving in their classrooms.

Unconnected to the commitments of the school day, summer camps (particularly overnight camps) can dive head-first into social-emotional learning — and many do. These opportunities are especially importance for low-income students, many of whom already have fewer opportunities to gain these skills outside of school.

A 2005 study of 80 camps by the American Camp Association (ACA) found significant growth in children’s social-emotional skills after a session of summer camp. Camp staff, parents, and children reported increases in children’s self-esteem, independence, leadership, friendship skills, social comfort, and values and decision-making skills, from the beginning to the end of a session.

What a Good Camp Experience Looks Like

It’s not just the new environment and flexible schedule that builds kids’ social-emotional skills. Many camps have an intentional focus on social-emotional learning. YMCA camps, for instance, explicitly discuss their four values — honest, caring, respect, and responsibility — constantly, through songs, skits, and rallies. And most camps train staff to coach kids on becoming more independent, socially aware, and reflective.

In particular, camps foster relationship skills and social awareness by:

  • Introducing children to an entirely new group of peers. Camp may be the first time children have spent substantial time with people whose background — home, race, or religion — is different from their own.
  • Setting up opportunities for children to find their own friends. According to education researcher and longtime camp counselor and director Claire Gogolen, counselors often begin a session by leading icebreakers and regularly sorting a cabin group into different pairs. These activities give campers explicit opportunities to get to know each other, allowing them to figure out who they want to become better friends with.
  • Creating a space where silliness is accepted, and bullying is not. Without the need to plunge into academic content, camps have time to use the beginning of a session to prioritize group norms, says learning specialist and former camp counselor and director Ari Fleisher. Counselors can make it very clear that bullying and teasing are not acceptable. At the same time, camps can encourage songs, jokes, and general silliness that allow campers to relax and be themselves.
  • Taking a break from technology. Many overnight camps restrict or prohibit phones and computers. For many campers, this means it’s the first time they’ve made friends without the help of Instagram or Snapchat, and they learn how to navigate social cues to build and maintain friendships in “real life.”
  • Modeling teamwork and sportsmanship. During staff training, many camps stress the importance of adults demonstrating cooperation and friendship to their campers. When campers are surrounded by positive role models — particularly role models closer to their own age than teachers are — they learn how to get along with peers who may be different from them.

Camps also nurture self-awareness, self-management, and responsible decision making by:

  • Requiring children to solve day-to-day problems on their own. With limited contact with parents, campers have to learn how to manage their own conflicts, whether it’s a disagreement with a bunkmate or not getting their first-choice activity.
  • Presenting activities that are new to everyone. Counselors often purposefully lead games and activities that none of their campers have tried before, says afterschool specialist and former camp counselor Nicky DeCesare. Without the fear that some peers will already have a leg-up on lava tag or basket making, children may be more likely to decide to try new things.
  • Offering kids the chance to set and accomplish daily goals. The sheer amount of new activities makes it possible for kids to continually set and achieve goals, deepening their understanding of personal limits. One day a camper may be set on reaching the top of the climbing wall, and the next she may be determined to collaborate with her group to create a new song.
  • Helping children uncover new skills. Kids who are usually immersed in academics may become aware of new skills that they didn’t know they had. For children who struggle in school, these opportunities can increase self-confidence.
  • Providing time for reflection. Many camps begin or end the day with reflection activities, in which campers can think about the challenges they’ve faced, how they’ve grown, and what they’re excited for. These moments, rare in a typical school day, can develop self-awareness and mindfulness for all kids.

Additional Resources

Read the full American Camp Association report.

We Are All Here!!

Written by Laura & Greg Pierce - Owners/Directors

It’s July!! The camp is in full swing with children settling into cabins with names as strange now as they will be beloved soon… Abenaki, Kancamagus, Tecumseh, Devil’s Den.

Our bunks at Birchmont are named for great chiefs of Native American tribes that occupied these lands, and mighty rivers and mountains in this area of New Hampshire where we make our summer home. Its true enough our camp motto comes to life this week “There are no strangers within, only friends waiting to be met” and our campers are making friends and sharing smiles in all areas of camp life.

It’s also true what they say … A picture is with a thousand words and we will by summers end have a thousand pictures to share with you of your children, our campers, and we couldn’t be more excited as our 65th summer unfolds.

The weather has been picture perfect too, sunny skies, clear nights with just enough rain to sprinkle our ball fields and flowers. Our youngest campers have gotten out tubing on the lake at sunset, our 11 and under boys tennis took 2nd place at a regional tournament, and our girls are playing an inter-camp tennis competition today. Over 200 children have passed their laps, and we are sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding with friends and counselors. We have had our opening Firelight ceremonies under starry skies. The boys gathered at the huge stone fire pit overlooking the lake, and the girls Firelight was held in our Candlelight fire pit where long standing traditions are held, like Song Fest for Color War and of course our closing Candlelight. At the boys Firelight some staff new and old asked each camper to make the most of their time at camp, to go outside their comfort zone and try something different and to make a new friend. At the girls’ ceremony, every camper and counselor in camp were held together by one symbolic piece of yarn which was cut into bracelets as a remembrance of a first night together where we know we can become whoever we would like to at camp. If you’re the “arty” one at home, try some new sports, if you’re the ” sporty one, make a clay pot, if you’re the “little sister” learn to lead, if you are the “quiet one” reach out towards friendships. Camp is a beautiful place for invention, for goal making, turn taking, a place where all of us can be our best selves, and you know what… It doesn’t feel like work, or school, it just feels FUN!!

We have so much to look forward to as we go into this holiday weekend. We hope you enjoy your 4th of July, we have races, and ice cream sundaes, fireworks and more…

  • Birchmont Girls
  • Boys Tubing
  • Girls Tubing
  • Enjoying the Lake
  • Fun!
  • Friends In Bunk