Camp Birchmont

Week 7: End of Summer

Written by Greg Pierce - Owner/Director, Camp Birchmont

Our Fun Is Almost Done

By Laura Pierce

Our camp summer is about to close but not before we have finished our Color War, Water Carnivals, Fireworks, Candlelight, Banquet and Cabin Parties.

We have played a lot, learned a lot, and grown a lot, and have perhaps taken for granted some perfect sunsets, blue-bird days, and friendships made rock solid by time shared together.

We have a few sayings at camp, but none exemplifies the perfect sentiment about camp friends: “to have a friend, be a friend”.

What a pleasure it is to see meaningful, relaxed, loyal, lasting in-person friendships being formed amongst our campers and counselors this summer. Face-Time will never replace Face to Face Time. This is an organic, fundamental truth we live at Birchmont every day.

The other saying we have at camp also comes into play this Color War week…

“Leadership is behavior.” Eleanor Roosevelt is the author of this quote, and her 3 words are still simple and true. Our camp community understands that being chosen for leadership positions through Color War is not just about a random selection, but about earning respect and recognition for behavior on and off the fields of play each day. There was tremendous support and enthusiasm shown at Color War team announcements after a fun and spirited Booth Carnival of our own making, with each bunk creating and running a booth in our circus-themed 4 teamed Color War and Carnival break out.

This past week we also held our annual Sailing Regatta on the first Wednesday in August to coincide with the St John’s Royal Regatta, North America’s oldest annual sporting event held each summer since 1816. We congratulate our sailors, Maven Flamhaft and Max Ferme took first place. Evan McVeigh took second place, and the team of Rafael Carlos, Kyle Kim and Michael Trokel placed third in the race.

We also congratulate Collin Kurtzman, our 2021 Checker Champion, and finalist Colden Friedman. And of course, we offer a huge congratulations to the Color War Lieutenants in each group (too many to list) and the 8 team Captains who will lead their camp teams this week: Jared Korn & Finn Byrne, William Sullivan & Ariana Koenig, Dylan Turkenkopf & Riley McKibben, Owen Banks and Rose Kobetz.

A big round of applause is also in order for all the talented and bold campers who performed in our second Talent and Variety Show of the season. Too many stars to list here, as were the winners of our annual Box Car Derby, both of these camp-wide, outdoor evening events brought much cheering and joy to the whole camp community.

We hope you have been enjoying these summer days too, because to be sure…

We will be having fun, till our camp days are done.

We leave you with one more saying until we see each other next summer…

“Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints” ~ Chief Seattle

Birchmont in the Rain, We Love You Just The Same

By Laura Pierce

We have had our share of stormy skies and spotty showers but we have not let some wet weather dampen our spirits. Our white-water rafting trip on the mighty Kennebec River had enough adventure to keep our whole upper camp engaged for 2 days in the wilderness lodge property we rented just for our campers. The vaccinated guides were true pros and helped our staff and campers tackle Class IV rapids, under blue skies, mountain scenery, and bright sunshine.

Our Pioneers and Explores had the camp to themselves with some home-grown special events like late night glow in the dark mini golf, Hawaiian 🌺 Luaus, Limbo at the waterfront, and tented camp out overnights in our Orchard. The boys woke up to a light drizzle so their cookout breakfast will be re-scheduled but the girls were luckier with a foggy morning where Melissa Head of Girls Camp, Harris, our Athletic Director and myself grilling up “bird in the nest” breakfasts that the kids said they would try at home, so easy and delish on an outdoor griddle or inside kitchen.

Our Blue and White Day was a camp-wide affair full of spirit and sportsmanship. Every group competed in virtually every activity with loads of effort and fun. The Blue Team was behind all day only to pull out a victory in the running relay marathon and tug of war. They probably heard the cheers all the way across the lake when Greg announced a Blue Team Win…Never underestimate an under-dog!

Today we hosted our annual Chess Tournament with 32 participants in a single elimination touch/move battle with the final round being played tomorrow at Rest Hour on the Directors Cottage patio.

And did I mention we have hatched a huge clutch of baby quail that we are handling and will release in the Orchard later this summer.

We are looking forward to our always popular Hoe-Down. The food, ( Kitty’s fried chicken, biscuits, pickles and root beer ) the country western band, the games, the mechanical bull riding, Greg’s wagon hay rides, Martine’s pony rides, face painting, and western dancing all help make this a beloved Birchmont outdoor event. If you see your kids in freckles, braids and bandanas, you’ll know what’s going on.

We have been raspberry picking, water-skiing, fishing, cooking, kayaking, sailing, swinging from the trees, and we are healthy and happy as can be.

We are almost half way done but with a whole lot more fun to come.

We’re All Here, And Ready to Roll!

By Laura Pierce

We have begun, and we have begun well!
After careful testing and monitoring, we have gotten back our 3rd PCR batch of tests, and happy to report we are all negative for COVID!This is great peace of mind, and we will be able to relax and ease into enjoying our bubble of wellness here at camp.

We’ve had some hot weather to start camp, but nothing was melting but our ice cream. The kids held up well and enjoyed our double swim days at the lake. Then a few days of rain followed and we are proud of our campers who are resilient, settling into cabins and becoming fully engaged in camp life. It is fitting that as we celebrate our country’s Independence Day, we celebrate our campers becoming more independent too.

We have gotten so much done already… campers are passing swim laps, horses are jumping, potters wheels are going, our tennis courts and fields are full, friendships are being formed, memories are being made as campers begin to think not so much about parents and pets left at home, but are allowing themselves to open up and enjoy this new experience that is the camp summer of 2021.

Our Pioneer Groups have been tubing at sunset, our upper and lower camps have begun their Club Nights, and we hosted our first DJ Social last night. We had our Opening Firelight ceremonies, boys in the Orchard Overlook and Girls at the Notches candlelight areas. We established goals for the summer, and welcomed everybody, new and old, as we sat around our roaring campfires. The girls’ firelight broke out into an impromptu dance party under the stars as we promised to hold each other in high regard, no matter where we came from before this first night of camp. For now we are all part of a big Birchmont family, with lots of fun in front of us.

At Quiet Hour this morning, Greg talked a bit about not being afraid to fail at camp. How simple and empowering it really is to change the mind set of “I Can’t” to “I Could if I…”
His examples seemed to resonate as campers began to realize that it’s true, “I Could If I” is a powerful little key to unlock the door of self-doubt so many children let get in their way of trying new things, or mastering new skills. Attitude is a young learner’s most precious resource.

It’s true that much has felt out of our control in this strange year; we can’t control the uncontrollable…but we can control our attitude, We share with our campers that YOU choose your attitude every day. You can control that.

Try waterskiing, paddle boarding, toss the ball high to serve, unfurl a sail, catch the fly ball, ride the horse, shoot an arrow, hang from a harness and fly through the trees… Everything is here waiting for our campers to try. Tonight we will have our 4th of July festivities with races, make your own sundaes, tug of war, and next week we look forward to our full day of spirited camp wide competition for Blue and White Day, our tented overnights and cookout breakfast for the Explorers, Rail Trail hikes and more. Make no mistake, although we are organized, and we have to be to ensure smooth sailing for many people, we will prioritize joy over efficiency, because especially this summer, we all need to maximize joy, and connectedness.

Charles Eliot, the past President of Harvard had put it another way; he said back in 1869,  “The organized summer camp is the most important step in education that America has given the world.”

We couldn’t agree more, and we’re so happy to be learning and loving our summer amidst the mountains, lake, fields and forests that are Camp Birchmont in New Hampshire.

Kids Can Be ‘Homesick and Happy’ at Camp

Camp Birchmont

Dear Parents,

Please find below a timely and relevant article from the NY Times, (May 19 2021) written by clinical psychologist, and author, Michael Thompson. We know Dr. Thompson and have attended his seminars, his book Homesick and Happy is as much about the joys and development that happen within an overnight camp setting, as it is about the role parents can play in a their child’s adjustment to feeling a sense of “home away from home” before they get to camp.

Included in this article are a few helpful tips you can try at home to make first time separation easier for everybody. Understandably, there may be heightened anxiety about attending camp this summer due to Covid. Please know that we are in compliance with the State of New Hampshire’s protocols and guidance governing camps. Our Covid protocol goes above and beyond both our State and CDC recommendations with regard to 3x testing plan for all our campers and staff. Our plan is robust, and we look forward to starting our season with confidence…and so should you.

Warm regards,
Greg & Laura Pierce

Homesick and Happy at Camp

NYT Parenting

Kids Can Be ‘Homesick and Happy’ at Camp

By Jessica Grose, NY Times Parenting

Some families have agonized over whether to send their kids to camp this summer, but for mine the decision was not very fraught; I knew that for their mental health and overall well-being, I wanted my kids in day camp. Since they will be spending most of the day outside at the camp we picked, I had very little concern about Covid transmission, and the recently updated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for mask wearing and social distancing at camps are quite strict.

But as camp approaches, I do wonder about my daughters’ emotional adjustment — they have spent so much time at home, and they are going to a new camp where they won’t know anyone besides each other. And what about kids who are returning to sleepaway camp, or going for the first time — will their experience be the same spectrum of roses and thorns as in a typical year, or will Covid color everything?

The experts I spoke to about the mental and emotional side effects of returning to camp after hunkering down for the pandemic are somewhat less concerned about the kids feeling additional separation anxiety this summer than they are about the parents projecting their worries onto their children.

“I make my living helping parents and I really appreciate their love and their conscientiousness, but I have never seen so many parents convey anxiety when they are trying to fix it,” said Michael G. Thompson, a clinical psychologist based in Arlington, Mass., and the author of “Homesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help a Child Grow.”

That’s the first bit of advice for parents whose kids are going to camp this summer: Make sure that you’re projecting confidence, rather than fear.

“Kids are going to pick up on that fear, and have some resistance, because they’re sensing you’re worried. I’d be really cognizant of what you’re putting out there,” said Dr. Nia Heard-Garris, a pediatrician and a researcher at Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

What else can you do to emotionally prep your family this summer for all kinds of camps? We have tips.

Normalize homesickness and pandemic changes. Research suggests that some amount of homesickness is normal for all people — kids and adults — when they’re away from what’s familiar. About 20 percent of kids have moderate to severe homesickness, and between 6 and 9 percent of children have severe homesickness, which tends to be associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety. No matter what the degree of homesickness your child experiences, you want to send them the message that they can manage it.

“Kids can be both a little bit homesick and happy — you can have fun all day and then cry yourself to sleep,” Dr. Thompson said, echoing his book title. But for parents, it’s pivotal that we don’t send the message that we’re going to swoop in and take them home at any sign of sadness or fear; that makes them think they can’t hack it at camp, and diminishes their sense of autonomy, Dr. Thompson said.

Camps are also doing more this year to address kids’ post-pandemic emotional needs, said Jennifer Wolff, a New York City-based writer who has a newsletter all about camp called Campenings. Ms. Wolff said that the camps she keeps track of are all asking more questions than before the pandemic about children’s emotional state on their intake forms. “More camps are arranging for virtual therapy appointments for their campers than has ever been the case,” she said, so that children who see therapists already do not have to lose that structure when they leave home.

Prep your kid, and yourself. Many camps have elaborate websites, often with videos, that can give your children an idea of what a typical day might look like. Having your child look through the website with you, or taking a virtual or in-person tour, may help prepare them, said Dr. Heard-Garris — you can get them hyped up on the types of activities they love, whether it’s swimming, science or soccer. Dr. Heard-Garris also suggested that reading books about camp can help children prepare for what’s to come. (Brightly has a list of novels about camp for teens and tweens.)

If you are concerned about Covid protocols, familiarize yourself with the C.D.C. recommendations and ask the camp directors lots of questions about whether they have the ability and space to implement those recommendations, Dr. Heard-Garris said.

Creating rituals around the camp experience can also be soothing, Dr. Thompson has found. He told me an anecdote about a girl who loved camp, but would get very anxious on the long drive to Vermont. Her family had a tradition of stopping for ice cream three times on the way — it was “totemic ice cream,” he said. The ice cream symbolized that “they were going to lay on the special love as she was taking this courageous step away from them. Even when she was driving herself to camp as a counselor in her 20s she made the three stops.”

I did something similar when my older daughter had separation anxiety in kindergarten. I got her a fuzzy key chain and told her that whenever she rubbed the key chain, I would be thinking about her.

Attempt a trial run. Research has shown that children who have more experience with time away from home may feel less homesick. So if it’s your child’s first year at sleepaway camp, try to experiment with a few days away from home before camp starts. Since sleepovers at friends’ houses have been curtailed during the pandemic, you might try a weekend at a vaccinated grandparent’s house, Dr. Thompson said. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics clinical report on preventing and treating homesickness, “Ideally, these two or three days do not include telephone calls but do include opportunities for writing a letter or postcard home.” After your child gets home, talk with them about whether they were homesick, and if they were, what strategies helped them feel better.

The trial run is also for you, if you’re anxious about your child going away. This mini-exposure therapy will “remind you what it feels like being alone in your house,” said Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at George Washington University School of Medicine. She recommends acknowledging your fears, because “no amount of rumination is going to bring you a sense of peace, or a sense of certainty. Because that’s just not the ballgame we’re living in right now, so you can’t expect that,” she said. Try to find ways to distract yourself while your child is gone, by doing whatever activities are pleasurable to you; as our cities open up, that may be a night out with friends or a partner.

Jennifer Wolff predicts that for most parents, it’s going to be a summer of high highs and low lows, or as she puts it, “champagne and tissues.” Champagne when the kids finally get out of the house, and tissues when you realize how much you miss them. Personally, I’m ready to pop that bubbly.

This summer, camps are expecting to bring back the fun. And parents are ready for it.

By Beth Whitehouse, Newsday

Pierce summer day camp in New York

While families are signing on for the summer, it’s not without wanting to know the specifics of how camps will protect their children, camp directors say.

Camps that opened last summer have shared their best practices with other Long Island camps, says Will Pierce, owner/director of Pierce Country Day Camp in Roslyn and president of the 30-member Long Island Camps and Private Schools Association. Pierce had 700 people on its campgrounds every day during the summer of 2020 without a single case of COVID-19, he says.

“In the worst-case scenario, day camps will be open under the guidelines from last summer, which worked incredibly well,” Pierce says. Those included pre-camp temperature checks, mask wearing by staff, small cohorts who spent the day together, and other restrictions.

But camp directors say they are waiting for the state to hand down 2021 protocols in the coming weeks, which may amend requirements. “That’s still an eternity in terms of the world we live in; things are changing quickly,” Coleman says.

Transportation to camp will also return; last summer parents for the most part had to drop their children off and pick them up. But how that will be handled hasn’t yet been prescribed by the state, Pierce says. His camp has its own buses and has been operating them for local school districts with all students wearing masks at a 50% to 66% capacity so that each child can sit next to a window and windows can be open when it’s warm enough, Pierce says.

TAKING THE LEAP

Diana Shapiro, 38, of Great Neck, who works in finance, says her three children are the third generation to attend Pierce. Last summer, however, she and her husband decided not to send them because of uncertainty. This year, they feel comfortable sending them back; their older son and daughter, ages 10 and 7, will go to Pierce’s sister sleepaway Camp Birchmont in New Hampshire and her younger daughter, 5, will attend Pierce on Long Island.

The fact that their friends sent their children to Pierce last summer and had only good things to say, coupled with Shapiro’s expectation that vaccination rates will climb by summer, made the family feel good about resuming camp. “Things are just getting better,” Shapiro says.

Coleman agrees. “I’m all about 2021,” he says. “I think this summer will be one for the ages.”

Read the full article at Newsday.com

By Beth Whitehouse Beth Whitehouse, Newsdaybeth.whitehouse@newsday.com  @BethWhitehouse1

Beth Whitehouse writes about families, parenting and great things to do with the kids on Long Island. She’s been a Newsday editor and shared a 1997 Newsday staff Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the crash of TWA Flight 800.