What Makes Bryn Mawr so Special?

It is only normal for us to reflect on the summer all months, especially this month as our Winter Reunion will be in a few weeks. Below are excerpts from a letter that was send to us by a 4 year staff member. We hope you enjoy it.

—–

Working at Camp Bryn Mawr has been an experience that reached beyond all expectations. Here, I have been able to forge relationships that have lasted years and create new friendships every summer. It’s amazing to think that I can travel the United States or even the world and have people I love everywhere I go. That is something I owe to working at this remarkable summer camp. Bryn Mawr has turned into nothing short of my summer home, and the people there, my summer family.

At Bryn Mawr you are given the unique privilege to work in an all-girls setting. This is what makes this place so special. At camp you can see a literal transformation in the girls you work with. They step off the bus in June and immediately feel more like themselves. The atmosphere gives them a place to feel comfortable, a place where you don’t have to look in a mirror or constantly work to impress anybody but yourself.king at Camp Bryn Mawr has been an experience that reached beyond all expectations. Here, I have been able to forge relationships that have lasted years andcreate new friendships every summer. It’s amazing to think that I can travel the United States or even the world and have people I love everywhere I go. That is something I owe to working at this remarkable summer camp. Bryn Mawr has turned into nothing short of my summer home, and the people there, my summer family.

Working here has allowed me to help these young women become comfortable in their own skin, make new friends and excel at the things they love. They are given the chance to branch off from their school year expectations, and you are given the opportunity to help them find their path. To be a part of that gives me such a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

I have fallen in love with Bryn Mawr and everything that makes it so special. It has transformed me as much as it has transformed every girl who attends.

Learning from Each Other

As a camp director, people often ask me what I do “during the year”. One of my favorite things to do when I am not directing our summer sleepaway camp is to attend educational seminars. I learn ways to give girls the best possible camp experience, and often take away pearls of wisdom to share with parents.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend two interesting programs. Rachel Simmons spoke on “Empowering Girls to Make Real Friends, Communicate Honestly and Directly and be True to Themselves”. Girls need to talk about their feelings. Adults need to ask about their feelings, and then validate them. A traditional all girls camp is a safe place for girls to practice sharing with each other how they feel. When we practice kicking a soccer ball, we get better. When we practice talking about our feelings, we can get better too. I liked this acronym that Rachel Simmons uses to help girls express how they are feeling or how to solve a problem:

G = Gather your choices- What are some things that I can say or do?

I =   I choose- What will you do?

R =  Reasons are- Why did you decide that?

L =  List the outcomes- What might happen if I choose this option?

Next, I heard Jessica Weiner speak about “Today’s Tweens, Teens, and Everythingin Between.” Jess is considered to be a “go to authority” on girls and self confidence. She serves as Dove’s Global Ambassador for Self Esteem, creating content and curriculum for countries around the world. She reiterated that our tweens and teens are living in a digital world, and this makes real relationships more important than ever. As adults, we have a responsibility to remind our children that every user, friend, or follower is a human being. I liked some of her other thoughts:

  • Pause before you post. Make sure your child understands that once they post, it is permanent.
  • Tech Parking Lot- Everyone parks their device in a “parking lot” for a designated amount of time. Talk to your children about what you did during that time and what it actually feels like to disconnect.

Camp is a 7-week Tech Parking Lot! It gives girls the chance to learn to communicate with each other in a deeper way.

From the Outside Looking In – A Parent Perspective

Dear Jane and Dan,

I just wanted to personally thank you for all that you do to give these girls the summer of their lives. My daughter Erica, and my niece Ayla, came home with rave reviews. As impressed as I am with your program, the girls experienced it first hand. And, they are still talking about everything from the first day of camp, to the final night banquet. Even more, they have discussed their desire to come back as Bunk One Angels.

I never dreamed that my daughter, in particular, would find it such a positive experience. I feel that you definitely kept each of the girl’s personality profiles in mind, when choosing their mini groups. Erica was with a wonderful group of girls, in her “mini” group. Basically, she liked everyone in the manor house, and beyond. The Bryn Mawr Camp program allows for individuality, acceptance, and definitely helps the girls to build their self-confidence/self-esteem, just as stated in your video and during the home visit! Erica was encouraged to participate in activities, in which she otherwise expressed little to no interest. And, she loved everything. Even if she “wasn’t the best at it…”. I could not have asked for anything more!!!

In addition, I can see that all of the staff, yourselves included, truly enjoy camp. You get involved in all aspects of camp life. I appreciate that you cannot be everywhere at one time, but your presence is definitely felt by the girls! Which is, to me, exceptional. Ownership brings with it many challenges, however, you seem to have made the girls feel as though they are the top priority. I was thrilled to learn of the same!

Finally, I appreciate you for getting back to me when I had concerns. As the parents of three girls, I am sure you both understand the tricks ones mind can play, when looking at camp pictures. You helped to put my mind at ease, when I was missing my daughter, and my niece. I tried not to be “that parent”, but when I was close, you responded promptly. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

As you know, I was a camper there, and it seems that it is even better than I experienced!!! That is a true testament to your efforts throughout the summer, and the year. Hope you get to rest for a couple of weeks before it is back to work! The girls are starting the countdown to SUMMER 2013…

Best Regards,
An Appreciative Parent of a Manor House Camper and Aunt to a Lodge Camper

Angel Philosophy

Loyalty means being true, faith and honor in all we do.  Beauty is in more than skin, beauty comes from deep within.  Merit is working hard all day, developing virtue along the way.  Comradeship is being a friend, loving others ‘til the end.  As Bryn Mawr Angels we’ll uphold these four values: the Angel Code.

When I first started working at Bryn Mawr I had no idea just how much that paragraph up there would change my life.  I thought I was in for a one-time deal, a summer job that would let me experience the East Coast and maybe an introduction to sleep-away camp that I had never had before.  Imagine my surprise to find myself sitting here, in my 7th summer, writing this blog!

You know that Bryn Mawr is a unique place, a place that fosters lifelong friendships—‘summer sisters’.  A place where your Angel can be free to express herself and to try new things.  A place where she can roll out of bed, throw on a uniform, and greet the day where the emphasis is on her experience rather than her appearance.  It is a place where the Angel Code is so deeply entrenched that it is a part of every activity and every program lesson.

I am here to tell you that Bryn Mawr is a unique place for a completely different reason, and one you might not have even considered.  The staff, a team of professionals who are here doing what they do best—inspiring, leading, teaching.  The staff, who come back summer after summer for the very same reason your daughters do!  The Angel Philosophy and what it means in our lives also.  The staff at Bryn Mawr genuinely understand the magnitude of the responsibility they have been given for the summer—your children!  Understanding that responsibility makes the four virtues in the Angel Philosophy that much more important because in order to teach it and pass it along we need to feel it, embrace it, and allow it to change our lives just as surely as it changes the lives of the campers.  And I am here to testify that it does!

I will be writing more about the Angel Code as the summer goes on.  I will be looking for those situations that exemplify the Angel Philosophy so that I can share it with all of you and give you not only a glimpse into the summer home that your Angels love so much but also just why the staff here are so inspired and passionate and even awestruck to be working at LBMC.

What Questions Should I Ask My Child’s Camp Director?

When you’re sending your child to sleepaway camp for the first time, even if you’re a seasoned camper yourself, the process of choosing a camp can be a little bit overwhelming – and you might not remember to ask all the right questions. Any good camp director will tell you about their camp philosophy, programs and traditions, but there are some questions you can ask to ensure you and your daughter are making the right choice for her. Here’s a handy clip-and-carry guide to bring along to those camp tours so you can be sure to get the information you need about the prospective summer homes you’re considering for your daughter.

What steps do you take to help welcome my daughter to camp?

Camp life is wonderful, and it’s also a big adjustment — new friends, new bed, new food, new schedule. It’s a lot to take in! How does this camp help your daughter make the transition? Are there pre-camp programs, like pen pals or meetups, to help her make connections before she gets off the bus? Will she have a “buddy” or “big sister” at camp to answer her questions and serve as a role model?

Who will supervise my daughter at night?

Some camps have a counselor on duty in each and every cabin every night, while other camps have one “OD” (on duty) counselor supervising several cabins while other staff members have time off. Make sure your daughter’s camp has an OD policy that provides for a level of coverage that you’re comfortable with.

When will I talk to my daughter?

Part of the camp experience is becoming more independent, and that usually means daughters don’t get to talk to their parents every single day. Find out what your camp’s communication policy is, and make sure if you have any questions about it you ask them before camp starts. Will your daughter call home during the summer? Can you send her e-mails? Will she be required to write letters? And are you willing to abide by the camp’s communication policy?

What do you do to look out for campers emotional wellbeing?

Activities and skill building are important parts of any camp program, but your daughter isn’t just an athlete, artist and adventurer — she’s also a sensitive, growing girl. What does this camp do to make sure your daughter’s emotional needs are being met and to prevent and address bullying and other destructive behaviors? What is the camp’s discipline philosophy?

How can you accommodate my daughters special needs?

Whether it’s a special diet, a special friend or a special interest, if there is some additional attention your daughter will need during the summer, make sure to ask the camp director about it before you commit to the session. If a camp is not able to work with you to accommodate your daughter’s kosher diet or need for extra tennis lessons, that’s something you need to know before you put down your deposit.

What makes your camp special?

There are lots of good camps out there, but not every camp is the right fit for every camper. Make sure you pick a camp for your daughter that reflects her values, needs and interests. That’s the best way to ensure you’re sending her to a camp that will be more than an experience — it will feel like a second home.

Story time at camp: ‘The Giving Tree’ and ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’

At Bryn Mawr, we love tradition, and Friday nights are a favorite weekly tradition summer after summer. Every Friday of every summer, all campers and staff dress in white for Shabbat dinner. After enjoying brisket and matzo ball soup, we gather in the Apple O Theater for talent night and a story read by Jane.

Some of the stories Jane reads change from year to year as she discovers new books she knows campers will enjoy, but there are two best-beloved books without which no Bryn Mawr summer would be complete: “The Giving Tree,” by Shel Silverstein, and “The Velveteen Rabbit,” by Margery Williams.

“The Velveteen Rabbit” is traditionally read on the first Friday night of the summer. For those who may be unfamiliar with the story, it’s about a stuffed toy rabbit who learns that a toy becomes Real when it is truly loved by its owner – and “once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” It isn’t until the Rabbit is separated from his beloved owner that he learns what it really means to be loved and to be Real.

“The Giving Tree” is another story about a relationship between a child and a well-loved object – in this case, an apple tree who gives selflessly to the little boy she loves as he grows up and changes.

These two stories are treasured chapters of camp lore. Older girls know them practically by heart, and you’ll often hear them mentioned in the alma maters our Bunk One campers write for Color War Sing. And since many counselors grew up with these classic tales, they also love to hear them read and share them with their campers.

But it isn’t just the stories themselves that are important – it’s their messages. “The Giving Tree” and “The Velveteen Rabbit” have become traditional stories at camp because they illustrate the most important value we want our campers to hold dear: what it means to love and care for someone else. In “The Giving Tree,” the tree shows her love for the little boy time and time again by giving up parts of herself – her apples, her branches, her trunk. In the end, she has nothing left of herself but a stump, but she is content because she is with the person she loves, and that is enough. And in “The Velveteen Rabbit,” the Rabbit is granted his greatest wish – to become a Real rabbit – because he became Real in the heart of the child who loved him so much.

We’re proud that Bryn Mawr is so spirited, has such a wonderful facility and offers such a wide variety of activities and programs. But nothing makes us more proud than hearing campers talking to one another about “The Giving Tree” or “The Velveteen Rabbit” and knowing that they have learned the importance of caring for one another. We love that campers treasure these stories and look forward to hearing them each year – and we especially appreciate seeing our campers carry these messages of love and giving into their daily lives, at camp, at school and at home.

Transitioning From Camp to Home

It’s hard for us to believe, but the summer is just about to come to a close! It seems as though the end of camp sneaks up on us every year. Color War, the last big event of the summer, is underway, and before you know it the girls will be packing up their duffels and boarding the buses home.

You probably aren’t surprised to hear that campers sometimes have a hard time settling in to the camp routine at the beginning of the summer. What you might not realize is that your daughter may find it challenging to adjust to life after camp! Bryn Mawr has become a second home over the course of the summer, and she’s gotten used to the routine of camp life. After seven weeks of sharing a cabin with a dozen other girls, eating meals in the loud, spirited dining hall and moving from activity to activity every hour, even girls who can’t wait to get home frequently need a few days to reacclimate to the peace and quite of home. (Even the senior staff and directors go through the same process of readjusting to the “real world” come August!)

In addition to the change of environment, your daughter may be emotional about leaving camp. It’s not at all unusual for campers to feel sad about leaving their “summer sisters” at the end of the season. Don’t worry — it doesn’t mean your daughter isn’t happy to see you! She might just need a little bit of time to get used to being away from camp… just like she needed time to get used to being away from home in June.

The post-camp blues generally fade within a day or two. In the meantime, you can help your daughter make a smooth transition back to home life by asking her to share her summer with you. Look at photos and video on the camp website together and listen to her stories about those moments. Break out the tennis racquets and get her to show you the new skills she picked up on the courts at camp. Admire her arts and crafts projects, listen to her Color War play-by-play, and let her teach you her favorite camp song or cheer. Sharing her memories and lessons from the summer is a great way for your daughter to ease back into life at home while continuing to cherish her camp experience!

Seven-Week All Girls Camping

A while back, we posted about “summer sisters” and the friendships that are formed at camp. Friendship is the number one reason campers love Bryn Mawr and come back summer after summer, but it’s only part of the picture. Seven-week camping — particularly in a girls-only atmosphere — offers a huge range of opportunities, advantages, and experiences campers just couldn’t have in any other setting.

We always like to say that “a day at camp is like a week in the real world.” That’s because we pack more into a single day than could ever fit into one 24-hour period back home. In one single day, a camper can literally go from the pool to the climbing wall to the riding ring to a tennis lesson to a soccer game to a play rehearsal, all before dinner, and then fit in a game of tennis at campus time before performing in an all-camp talent show. Multiply that by seven days a week, and then by seven weeks, and you can start to see just how much instruction and activity we pack into every summer at camp.

A seven-week session gives campers the opportunity to make incredible strides in skill development. Camp alone can’t make your child a great dancer, soccer player, rider, actor, artist or gymnast, but we do provide high-level instruction on a daily basis to help her learn, grow and build lifelong skills in all the activities she enjoys. Younger campers experience a taste of everything camp has to offer, and as girls get older they can choose to spend more time focusing on and improving in the activities they enjoy the most.

Seven-week sessions also let campers see long-term projects through from beginning to end. In our glass fusing program, for example, campers start out at the beginning of the summer with a blank piece of paper and a pencil; over the course of seven weeks, those projects go all the way from an idea and a sketch to a fully-realized, completed work of art. And at the same time, they’re also improving their jump shots, perfecting their serves, and taking first steps toward learning completely new activities, like weight training, field hockey or stagecraft.

We think there’s something particularly special about single-sex camps that helps amplify all the benefits of full-season camping. One of the best things about Bryn Mawr is that, in the all-girls environment, campers feel completely comfortable and free to try new things. The camp uniform policy means campers aren’t wrapped up in appearances, and with no boys around, the focus is really on camp activities. When girls aren’t worried about impressing anyone else, they’re much less reluctant to try something new, and consequently they’re far more willing to take on new experiences. That willingness to try new things translates quickly to building new skills, learning new activities — and taking advantage of all the opportunities they’re offered, all summer long.

Most of all (and we just can’t say this enough), a seven-week, all-girls environment is an incubator for lifelong friendships. Campers are encouraged to compete in healthy ways — not over clothes or boys, but on the playing field, with good sportsmanship (or should we say sportswomanship?) — and, after the game is over, they walk back to their cabins with their arms around each other, confident in themselves and in friendships that have formed over many games, many meals, many shared achievements, and many, many days at camp. Our campers talk about “living ten months for two” — spending the year waiting to get back to their summer home at Bryn Mawr, where they can grow and try new things, surrounded by staff and fellow campers they know want them to succeed and feel good about themselves.