The Benefits of a Uniform Camp

One of the thing that sets Bryn Mawr apart from a lot of other summer camps is our uniform policy. We’re all-uniform, all the time, with the exception of some optional nights, socials and special events. At first blush, it might seem a little bit old fashioned, but after more than 90 summers, we’re convinced that a camp uniform is as good for campers today as it was in 1920, for many reasons:

A uniform lets kids be kids.

From a very young age, our daughters experience all kinds of pressure to look and dress in certain ways. Girls have always felt pressure to be “pretty,” “girly” or “ladylike,” but now even very young girls are beginning to respond to a sense that they should be “sexy.” National retailers have attracted controversy by marketing thong underwear, string bikinis and other risqué clothing in little girls’ sizes. We love that camp is a place where girls can escape from messages that tell them they need to look and act like miniature versions of Megan Fox or Miley Cyrus. Simple shorts and T-shirts are not only the most comfortable apparel for playing outdoors, they’re the official uniform of childhood, and they let girls relax and just be themselves.

A uniform keeps the focus on camp.

Camp is a great getaway for kids. They get a break from school, from technology, and from the unhealthy competition that can unfortunately be a part of growing up. Our campers don’t have to worry whether they’re coming to camp with the trendiest clothes or the right handbag, because they know they’re coming with the same clothes as every other camper. When they get dressed in the morning, they don’t have to think about whether their outfit will be cool or mature enough, because they’re choosing from the same selection of shorts, T-shirts and sweats that every other camper has in her wardrobe. Instead, they can focus on the activities they’re planning to participate in, the skills they’ll learn, and the special events they have to look forward to.

A uniform creates a sense of community.

At Bryn Mawr, we live every day by the values of Loyalty, Beauty, Merit and Comradeship. Those values are reflected in the uniform we wear. It supports a sense of camp loyalty and pride; reinforces that beauty is something that comes from within, not from a store; reminds us that each person is equally deserving of respect; and helps us create a feeling of community among our campers and staff.

We love that our camp uniform helps create a positive atmosphere at Bryn Mawr… and we love that it’s easy to wear! In fact, campers and counselors tell us every year that it’s hard to adjust to life after camp, when they have to start thinking more about what to wear and how they should look. That’s just one reason they say they look forward to getting back to camp in June!

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

How do I know my daughter is ready for sleepaway camp?

There’s no litmus test for determining when a child is ready for camp. It really boils down to the individual. In our decades in camping, the Bryn Mawr leadership has known girls who were champing at the bit to hop the bus to a Manor House bunk before they could even spell “camp,” girls who weren’t ready until they were Senior Camp age, and even some who ultimately decided sleepaway camp wasn’t really for them at all.

Camp readiness can sometimes be hard for parents to gauge, especially parents who are basing their child’s preparedness on their own experiences. Some kids are just ready younger than others. If you’re starting to think about summer camp for your daughter, we suggest you begin by asking yourself four questions:

  1. Has your daughter expressed interest in camp? If she’s asking about it, that’s a great sign that she’s ready for the experience.
  2. Does your daughter have the social skills necessary to succeed at camp? She will need to know how to interact appropriately with her peers and be part of a group.
  3. Is your daughter able to take care of herself? Of course camp staff members will ensure the health and welfare of every child, but it’s important that she is able to dress herself, brush her teeth, and take care of other basic daily needs.
  4. Are you ready? Camp is an adventure for children, and it can also be an adjustment for parents. Your support is important to your daughter’s success at camp.

If you can answer “yes” to those questions, here are some other important steps you can take to ensure your daughter is ready for a successful first summer at camp:

• Involve her in the camp selection process. Camp will be your daughter’s home for seven weeks and, hopefully, for many summers. It’s so important that she be a part of making the decision about which camp she attends. That’s why family tours and home visits are part of the registration process at Bryn Mawr. We want to make sure parents and daughters have the chance to get their camp questions answered.

• Help your daughter find the camp that’s the best fit for her. At Bryn Mawr, we’re proud to have some campers who are second- and third-generation Angels, and we know mothers and daughters enjoy sharing that bond of having attended the same camp. But we also have many campers whose mothers attended other summer camps as girls, or whose sisters attend different camps, because those families have recognized that while another camp may have been the best fit for a mother or sister, it’s not the best place for every member of the family. And that’s OK! Any camper is infinitely more likely to succeed at a camp that’s a great match for her interests and personality.

• Give camp a trial run. One of our favorite times of year is Explorers Weekend, when prospective LBMC Angels come to try camp on for size over the course of three fun-filled days and two nights. Explorers gives your daughter a taste of camp so she can really start to understand what it’s all about and how she might feel about a whole summer of special events, scheduled activities and nightly slumber parties.

• Be patient and understanding. The first few nights of camp can be a tough adjustment for the most seasoned camper. In fact, it’s not at all unusual for even some of our oldest girls to come down with a case of “pre-camp jitters” right before the summer starts. Be prepared for the possibility that your daughter may need time to adjust to camp. Make sure she knows you believe in her and you’re confident that she will have a happy, successful summer.

• Most importantly, talk to your daughter about camp, and listen to what she has to say. If you’re not sure where to start, there are a lot of great books about camp and some of the feelings that come along with sleeping away from home. (An oldie but a goodie is “Ira Sleeps Over,” a picture book about how a little boy conquers his fear of spending the night at a friend’s house.) Let your daughter be honest about her feelings, and if she’s nervous, confront that nervousness together. When you help your daughter prepare for camp by talking through some of the scenarios and emotions she may encounter, she’ll be well prepared to jump into camp with confidence.

When it comes to extracurricular activities, how much is too much?

It’s a question lots of parents struggle with: How much is too much when it comes to extracurricular activities? Of course, there are days when the drive from soccer practice to karate to Hebrew school is enough to make any parent ready to cancel all the after-school appointments, especially when you’re eating dinner in the car yet again. But the structure, enrichment, socialization and skill development your daughter gets from those activities can help encourage healthy growth and make her more well-rounded. So where do you draw the line?

Child psychologist Dr. Janet Taylor recommends looking at your family’s schedule and then reducing commitments and activities by 10 percent.

“Overscheduled children bear the burden of stressed-out families,” Dr. Taylor writes. “After five hours of extracurricular activities, the benefit for children is lessened. Add in downtime.”

Overscheduled kids can end up stretched too thin to perform well in school and other pursuits, but living on the go doesn’t just take its toll on children. There can be negative consequences for parents, too. From the Huffington Post:

“We have a generation of mothers and fathers who want to be all things to all people,” said Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, who specializes in adolescent medicine and behavioral issues at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “They are willing to do so much self-sacrificing for their child.”

Sound like you? Then it might be time to reevaluate what you’re booking this season. Now, no one is suggesting you become a selfish parent and refuse to shuttle your kids back and forth to their favorite activities. But, Ginsburg said, “There’s nothing more important for your child than for you to be doing well yourself.”

According to a 2011 New York Times article, having a warm, loving family life is as important to children’s development as all those enriching activities. If parents are stressed out over the time, money and energy that go into the extracurriculars, that takes a toll on that valuable family time.

From the New York Times article:

On a recent National Public Radio programSteven D. Levitt, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, said he and another economist could find no evidence that that sort of parental choices could be correlated at all with academic success.

“And my guess is,” he went on, “that when it comes to the happiness of kids, that kind of cramming has got to be negatively correlated. Being rushed from one event to the other is just not the way most kids want to live their lives, at least not my kid.”

So how do you strike a good balance between keeping your children active and stressing them out? The answer is sitting right across from you at the dinner table (or eating dinner in the backseat, depending on what’s on the schedule this evening). Keep an eye on your daughter’s moods. Read her body language when it’s time for ballet, lacrosse or Girl Scouts. And most importantly, ask her what she wants to do. Not only may her answers surprise you; she may learn something about herself as she decides. According to Dr. Taylor, “The process can help them think about what they like and provide an opportunity to discuss commitments, demands and expectations.”

Celebrations at Camp During the Non Summer Months!

One of the things we love about camp is having the chance to watch our campers grow up. Every year at our end-of-summer Banquet, we are amazed as we look at the group of Bunk One girls leaving camp as mature, self-possessed young women — and think back to when they were Manor House campers who couldn’t tie their own shoes or pour their own milk!

As camp directors, we have enjoyed sharing in campers’ rites of passage outside of camp, too. We’ve celebrated with many of our campers as they have made their Bat Mitzvahs — and in fact, we’ve worked with more than a few campers to host their Bat Mitzvah celebrations at camp.

For many years, the Bryn Mawr facilities have enjoyed year-round use as the Bryn Mawr Mountain Retreat and Conference Center. Once the summer season is over, we begin welcoming school groups, corporate functions and weddings to campus. Our event spaces can accommodate large groups all through the year. But our very favorite Conference Center events are the Bat Mitzvahs our LBMC families have held on camp!

Since we started hosting Bat Mitzvahs at camp over a decade ago, we’ve been privileged to share this important rite of passage with quite a few camp families, and we’ve seen and done it all. A summer camp-style Bat Mitzvah can be a low-key, casual affair for a few friends, but we’ve also played host to beautiful formal events (you should see the dining hall transformed for a magical evening) and weekend family camp celebrations, complete with a day of Color War competition personalized with the Bat Mitzvah’s favorite themes and colors. We do our own catering on camp and work with local vendors for lots of events, so we can help set you up with a DJ, florist, hairstylist… you name it. (We can even find some Bunk One alumni to help you write Color War songs and cheers about the girl of honor!) Depending on the season, we can accommodate groups of many sizes, and we’ve had a lot of fun creating mini-sleepaway-camp experiences for our Bat Mitzvahs and their friends and families. Guests at spring and fall events can take advantage of our outdoor facilities, from the tennis courts and playing fields to the ropes course and zipline – and, if the weather’s warm, the lake and pool. How about a Bat Mitzvah bucket brigade, tennis tournament or canoe race?

Campers who have celebrated their Bat Mitzvahs at camp have shared with us how special it was to be able to mark this important event in their lives at a place where they feel they’ve grown up… and it feels especially satisfying to enjoy their big night in the same dining hall where they spent so many summer afternoons working hard at their Hebrew tutoring. Our Conference Center staff are also popular members of our summer leadership team, so the counselors and leaders for our Bat Mitzvahs’ special weekends are adults who know and love them. Sometimes we’ve even been able to arrange for favorite counselors, group leaders or program heads to attend as chaperones for the weekend!

(Brothers and others don’t need to feel left out… we also host Bar Mitzvahs, weddings and celebrations of all kinds, even if you don’t have a daughter who attends Bryn Mawr.)

If you’re looking for a unique venue for your celebration, you can learn more about Bryn Mawr Bat Mitzvahs by visiting our conference center website at www.BrynMawrMountain.com, or just give Dan a call at (888) 526-2267. They’ll be happy to talk to you about what a camp Bat Mitzvah is like and to put you in touch with our Conference Center team.

Developing our Leadership Staff

Not Pictured: Audrey Fendell, Alicia Fidelman & Peter Lai

Recently on the blog, we’ve talked about how we help campers develop leadership skills. Being a leader isn’t a task that’s ever complete — leadership is an ongoing process of growth and development. Early spring is the time of year at camp when our senior staff — the leaders of the leaders at camp — focus on continuing to develop their own leadership skills. Here are a few of the things we do to keep growing:

Tri-State Camp Conference

One weekend each March, we gather with other camp directors and staff members for the American Camp Association’s Tri-State Camp Conference in Atlantic City. “Tri-State” is the nation’s largest conference for camping professionals, and we are amazed that no matter how many times we go, we always learn something new! This year’s Tri-State keynote speakers were Seth Godin (a bestselling author, marketing pioneer, blogger, Business Week’s “ultimate entrepreneur for the information age” and former Camp Arowhon camper) and Jean Kilbourne, recognized for her groundbreaking work in the exploration of the connection between messages in popular culture and their effects on girls and women. We also got to hear from some camp favorites (speakers like Bob Ditter, Jay Frankel and Michael Brandwein), and share some knowledge of our own. Drew volunteers on the program committee as the liaison between the professional speakers and the American Camp Association and Britton ran two roundtable discussions — one on being a head counselor, and one on the challenges of being a woman in camping. At past conferences, Bryn Mawr leadership team members have helped lead sessions on programming, facility management/safety and working with campers and staff.

Tri-State gives us a chance not only to hear from experts in child and staff development, but to reconnect with our colleagues in the camping industry to share ideas and best practices to keep making camp safer, more fun and more rewarding for campers and counselors alike.

Training with Bob Ditter

We have been fortunate enough, over the past eight years, to have developed a fantastic working relationship with the incredibly insightful Bob Ditter. Bob is a clinical social worker who dedicates part of his Boston-based practice to helping summer camps ensure positive experiences for their campers, staff and parents. Over the years Bob has visited camp many times to help train our counselors and talk with campers, and last week he sat down with Jane, Britton and our division heads to begin preparing for the summer. Bob works with our leadership team to help them work well together and provide an emotionally and physically safe environment for campers and staff. If you read this week’s blog post from Jocelyn Glantz, a Bryn Mawr parent and our new Junior Camp assistant division head, you’ve gotten an honest firsthand reaction to one of Bob’s leadership training sessions!

Annual spring leadership retreat

Each spring, we gather together our entire leadership team — directors and assistant directors, division heads and key staff members — to begin preparing for camp in earnest. It’s important to us that our leadership staff are on the same page as Jane and Dan when it comes to camp philosophy, policies and practices, and the leadership retreat held at camp is one of the steps we take to ensure that’s the case.

At this year’s leadership retreat, held the first weekend in April, we introduced new key staff members and gave the team an update on how things are shaping up for the summer — enrollment and staffing, operations and calendar overviews, and any business we need to take care of as we head into the camp season.

The rest of the weekend is spent talking about ways we can continue to improve the camp experience for our campers and staff, and making plans for the summer. We share the new knowledge we picked up at Tri-State, talk about what worked well last summer and what needs to be updated, and brainstorm new ideas for activities, special events and other fun additions to camp. Some of this is done in small groups (the division heads might talk about some camper-specific topics while operations staff discuss the physical running of camp), but major decisions are made by the whole group. For example, one of the questions our full leadership team discussed this year: How do we continue to make the camp experience valuable to parents while creating lasting memories with their children? How do we keep things fresh and exciting? This led to a variety of suggestions: Junior Camp division head Marjori Schecter will work with campers to create end-of-summer photo collages. Ty Widman, our director of adventure, will lead small groups of campers who want to learn outdoors skills, like how to build a campfire. And don’t be surprised if your daughter tells you about taking a moonlit barefoot walk on Wembley Field (supervised, of course) or a trip to the Court of America with Senior Camp division head Max Matovic to look at the stars, or sends you a photo of herself with her Peanut Mom, explaining camp traditions.

These are just a few of the ideas we came up with for keeping parents connected to their campers and camp life. And that was just one of many fruitful conversations we had over the weekend. Our leadership staff members have hundreds of summers at camp between them, and we value the knowledge and experience they bring to the table.

If you have any questions about the ways we continue to promote leadership development year-round, we’d love to talk about it with you!

National Bullying Prevention Week

Bullying occurs when someone gets hurt or scared by another person.  Bullying can be calling someone hurtful names, spreading rumors, being mean, physically hurting someone, excluding others, sending mean texts or photos electronically, or being threatened.  Bullying and cyber-bullying are at an all time high and affects millions of students across the country.  Bullying has no boundaries, but no one deserves, nor should tolerate being bullied.  We must all stand together and speak out against bullying.

Today ends National Bullying Prevention Week.  Across our country everyone has been coming together to heighten awareness, in order to help others.  Dateline aired a segment called “My Kid Would Never Bully” on March 6th (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032600/).   President Obama hosted the first White House conference on bullying and reflected on his own personal experience with bullying.  Celebrities are joining forces to speak out – Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Jay Z, just to name a few.

LBMC works diligently not only during the summer, but throughout the year to enforce our no bullying policy.  Here are just a few of the ways in which we work to keep Bryn Mawr a safe haven for all of our campers and staff:

  • Staff Training: This is a crucial piece of successful bullying prevention.  Not only do we address bullying during several sessions at Orientation, but there is on- going training and discussion throughout the summer.  We give staff the tools they need to recognize bullying behaviors and train them to set clear expectations with their campers. Conflict Resolution is taught in order to be pro-active.  We help girls to be able to communicate with one another in a safe, comfortable, and non-judgmental environment.   Most importantly, our directors and leadership staff model appropriate behavior by being present on cabin row, at programs, and in the dining room everyday.
  • Girls Circle: This is a nationally recognized model for support groups for girls.  It provides a forum for girls to express themselves and their ideas in a safe environment.  Several members of our leadership team are certified trainers, and this program is offered to girls ages 8-14.  (http://www.girlscircle.com/)
  • Conferences: Directors attend conferences to keep up on the latest research and theories on girl’s development, relationships, and aggression.  (Girl Meets World Training with Rachel Simmons, Ophelia Project conferences, American Camping Association conferences, etc.)
  • Hands on Directors: We are hands on in cabins working with individual campers and are developing relationships so that girls feel comfortable to speak up and to ask for help if they need it.  Daily meetings are held with Division Heads and Group Leaders to check on each camper and how they are doing at camp.
  • Random Acts of Kindness: Every Friday night, girls come up on stage to acknowledge someone who has done something nice for them.
  • Outside Resources: Bob Ditter is a senior level clinical social worker who has worked with over 400 camps.  Bob is a year round consultant for Bryn Mawr and works with our leadership team year round.  He is also an integral part of staff orientation as well as staff training during the summer. (www.bobditter.com)

We go to great lengths to protect our campers while at camp.  The following links might be helpful in recognizing the signs of bullying and in learning about what parents can do to help:

  • Joel Haber is a Clinical Psychologist.  For 20 years he has worked on the prevention of bullying behaviors in children and adults. For more information please visit http://www.respectu.com/.
  • The government has recently launched a website that can be a useful tool for kids, teens, young adults, parents, educators and the community.  http://www.stopbullying.gov/.
  • The mission of The Ophelia Project is to serve “youth and adults who are affected by relational and other non-physical forms of aggression by providing them with a unique combination of tools, strategies and solutions.” Please visit them at http://www.opheliaproject.org.

Staffing & The Hiring Process

When we meet people and tell them we’re camp directors, the number one question we hear is: “But what do you do all winter?” If they only knew! It really does take a whole year to plan for camp, and work is already beginning on the next summer as soon as the buses roll off Main Campus in August.

One of the biggest projects we have to handle is hiring staff members. During the summer, we employ more than 200 staff members. Even with a 40% staff return rate (over 90% for leadership staff), we still need to hire, a handful of leadership staff, counselors and support staff.  An average of three to four staff members are hired each week to make sure all our positions are filled by the time we’re ready to open summer camp. Continue reading “Staffing & The Hiring Process”

Summer Sisters: Friendships, Experience and Returning to Summer Camp for Girls

Summer Sisters

Have you ever heard the phrase “summer sisters”? If you didn’t go to sleepaway camp as a child, you might not know what we’re talking about. For girls who grow up going to camp, “summer sisters” are the friends they make at the lunch table, in the bunk, on the tennis courts, or around the campfire — the friends with whom they share a special bond for life. Summer sisters grow up to be college roommates, bridesmaids, godmothers, and friends for life — the kind of friend you can call up when you’re feeling down and know she’ll be able to say just the thing to make you forget all your troubles. Continue reading “Summer Sisters: Friendships, Experience and Returning to Summer Camp for Girls”

Welcome to the Bryn Mawr Girls Summer Camp Blog

Blog, Facebook, Twitter

Welcome to the first-ever Lake Bryn Mawr Camp blog post! Although it’s January and summer couldn’t seem more distant, here in the winter office we’re deep into planning for the 2011 camp season, and we’re already looking forward to that day in June when the buses will roll onto Main Campus and our campers will be with us once again!

One of our New Year’s resolutions was to come up with ways to stay more connected with our parents — seasoned veterans, first-timers and even those who are still in the process of picking a camp. Many of you have joined our Facebook pages (“Lake Bryn Mawr Camp” for current campers and families, and “Lake Bryn Mawr Camp Alumni” for alums), and some of you are even following us on Twitter — @LBMCAngels. But we wanted to do more. Continue reading “Welcome to the Bryn Mawr Girls Summer Camp Blog”