Summer 2014 has Officially Begun!

The day has finally arrived — the duffels are unpacked, the buses are deployed, and Summer 2014 has officially begun!

Our counselors have spent the past week getting to know camp and, in a way, getting to know your daughters as they prepare bunks and program areas, learning names and important information about each camper. As excited as the counselors have been for camp to get started, we know campers are even more excited to disembark those buses, find their friends (old and new) and get the summer started.

The first few days of camp are always a settling-in period for everyone, from the newest Manor House camper to the oldest Bunk One girl. Camp has its own unique schedules, policies and routines, and it takes a day or two for everyone to click back into the rhythms of life on Bryn Mawr Mountain. Dan, Jane, the division heads and the group leaders are all actively involved in helping campers and staff settle in to the summer, especially when it comes to facilitating positive communication.

We spend so much time looking at devices these days — computers, mobile phones, tablets — that we get used to communicating with one another through screens. Not that long ago, we would have laughed at the idea of calling our children to the dinner table by phone, but now — how many of us have texted a child from another room in the house? We send emails or texts instead of calling our loved ones on the phone or meeting a friend for coffee and conversation. It’s fast and convenient, but we can’t help wondering how it affects our children, who are growing up in a world in which written electronic communication is the norm and face-to-face conversation seems to be more and more rare.

There’s one place, though, where face-to-face is the only way to communicate: Camp. All day, every day, we are helping campers become confident communicators and constructive problem solvers as they talk to one another in person — no sub-Tweets, re-Grams or Likes!

More than a decade ago, when the question of cell phones and other personal electronics at camp first started coming up, we talked it over and made a conscious decision that we wanted camp to remain a place where kids could truly unplug, engage their imaginations and just be kids. And we are glad to see so many parents who share our belief that the summer is an important respite for young people — a break from the schedules, pressures and commitments of the rest of the year. We even find that our staff members enjoy the time away from their phones and the realization that the world does not stop turning just because they aren’t checking Twitter and Instagram! We love summer because campers get a chance to replace SnapChats with fireside chats and have real conversations instead of watching real-time video. (And who needs Vines when you’ve got a ropes course to swing from?)

Of course, we know our camp parents, who don’t have the luxury of taking the summer off from cell phones and computers, are counting on us to keep you up-to-date on camp news. Look for weekly blog posts as well as photos, videos and more at the secure “My Angel” area of our website. And as always, please feel free to contact us anytime if you have questions about your camper.

Thank you for trusting us with your daughters. We are thrilled to welcome them to camp, and we can’t wait to see what the summer will bring.

Staff Week: Learning to be a Counselor by Being a Good Camper!

The first day of camp for campers is more than a week away… but here in Honesdale, camp is already alive with spirit as we welcome our staff back to Bryn Mawr Mountain for the summer!

To give campers a great experience, we rely on a great staff. Our employees come to camp with all kinds of experience coaching, teaching and working with children and teenagers. To complement that experience, get staff members acclimated to camp and set the tone for the summer, we spend the beginning of the summer staging weeklong training camps – one for leadership staff like group leaders and program directors, one specifically for riding staff, and one for our entire staff. Our full staff orientation, which we call Staff Week, started today, and it’s exciting to see all our counselors together for the first meals and activities of the year – we know it means camper arrival is just around the corner!

Staff Week is modeled after a real week at camp. We follow the daily camp schedule as much as possible and strive to create a true camp experience for counselors so they’re prepared to do the same for campers when they arrive.

One of the most important things we do during our staff training sessions is work to integrate our new and returning staff members into one cohesive group. Each year we welcome back many staff members who have been at camp before, and we also have many counselors, program directors and group leaders who are new to Bryn Mawr. Our top priority is making everyone feel at home, from the vets who have been returning to LBMC for decades to the new staff members from around the world, some of whom have never even been to this part of the country before. A counselor who is happy and confident is a counselor who is best able to focus on creating a safe and positive experience for her campers.

There are some times during Staff Week when meeting new people is clearly the objective of an activity – when we draw numbers for mixed tables at mealtimes, for example, or when we do group games and icebreakers. But we also take many opportunities to encourage staff to get to know one another in more subtle ways, through group discussions and activities, role playing and social events.

What’s so important about making sure new and returning staff get to know one another? Well, it’s exactly what we’re going to ask them to help campers do in just about a week. Other than keeping campers safe and healthy, the most important part of a counselor’s job in the first days of camp is making new campers feel welcome, helping returning campers readjust to camp life, and fostering a comfortable, friendly and homelike environment in the cabin. The best way we can prepare counselors to do that for campers is to make sure we do it for counselors! We lead by example in welcoming our counselors, and they learn through firsthand experience how a positive and nurturing atmosphere can help foster friendships among first-time campers and seasoned vets alike.

No matter how many times we watch the process unfold, it’s incredible to witness: In the course of a week, perfect strangers become close friends. Staff members know they’ve had a full week packed with unique experiences and new friendships; what they don’t always realize is that they’ve also been preparing to help recreate that welcoming experience for the campers who will be stepping off the buses in just a few short days.