The "Whys" of Summer Camp

Posted by: Matt Moran on Tuesday, January 30, 2018

At Camp JCC, we get a lot of questions that fall under one of two umbrellas: WHAT and HOW. For example: “What should my child bring for lunch?” and “How does the pick-up line work?” These are the standard questions that parents need answered when planning for summer. However, when things change, we get questions in a third category: WHY?

To share with the community the new and amazing programs we have coming in 2018, we want to address some of these “WHY” questions.

Why are you two in charge?

My name is Matt Moran. I have been involved with camp since I was 13, making this upcoming summer my 17th year… which seems kinda crazy. I’ve worked at every level of Camp, and now I’m in charge of programming. Everything I know about fun comes from “Silly Joe” Consiglio, underwear on the head and all. I’m not nearly as good on the guitar, but my Mother Duck impression isn’t half bad.

Adam Cook is the one who makes camp work. Some say he was a grizzly bear wandering the Adirondacks before taking human form and working at summer camp. Basically, I come up with crazy ideas that would never work, and he helps me make them happen. Sometimes he needs to reel in my madness, but the middle ground is where Camp is both safe and fun (I still think fireworks on the roof would be fun, though…)

Why is X changing?

Most commonly: because a bunch of people asked for it. When we first implemented “Choice” programming in 2015, it was in response to an overwhelming number of older campers requesting to participate in activities they were most interested. Now, it can be extended with the guidance of the counselors for the 1st-3rd graders. 4th and 5th graders get to choose the bulk of their activities during registration. By extension, our 6th-8th graders will choose their entire schedules this summer. We continue to be open and responsive to input from parents, campers, and staff.

Sometimes, it is in reaction to the market. We try to think of ways that Camp JCC can distinguish itself from other camps, like introducing weekly field trips to our Chaverim group.

Other times, it’s because Adam and I remember fun stuff we did as campers that we’d want to bring to the next group of campers. I remember some of the best times at camp were getting to see first responder vehicles up close and in action, so I’ve worked to bring a similar experience to our campers this summer.

It’s all about fun, any way you look at it. We want to give the maximum fun to the most number of kids.

Why do you now do Y when you used to do Z?

Some of this is the result of regulatory changes at the state or federal level, while other times it is to make the program to work better. For example, we have been continuously improving the program for our rising Kindergartners. We’ve focused having their day feel like camp, while operating at a level that works for children that may have never been in a classroom before. Now, we have the opportunity to have our trained ECC staff help formulate the activities much farther in advance, as well as having them join us outside in groups. Overall, it will be a great improvement to the program, and I am very excited.

Why did you change the name of this/move this day around/stop doing that thing?

The answer to all of these questions is the same: we want camp to be better. While the perfect camp might only ever live in our heads, we can certainly strive to get closer to that goal every year.

Name changes let our staff and participants know that there is something different and new to look for. We spun out our 6th-8th graders into a new unit: Na’arim. Part of it was because we wanted to recognize that an 8th grader is at a different point developmentally than a 4th grader. It also was to build up in the campers’ minds that, as our oldest, they are going to get more freedom to match their maturity.

As for days changing or stopping activities, we want to prevent burnout as much as possible. I have done the long days, both as a camper and as a staff member, and I can tell you that they wear everyone down. By really looking at what these programs achieve, we hope to make the experience better.

Why do you work at Camp?

There are few things as rewarding as working at summer camp. Like teachers, we get to instruct children on how to interact with one another and grow into their individuality; but it’s like when the teacher brought class outside, only all day, every day. It feels like we are cheating sometimes, like we are getting away with something, because at the end of each day, we see hundreds of smiles packed into cars and buses as campers divulge every aspect of their day. It’s something magical.

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