In early January, Camp Akeela hosted two events in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts. One was our second annual Winter Weekend reunion for campers and the other was our first-ever Family Stay & Play, for camp parents and siblings. Both gatherings were absolutely wonderful and got everyone excited for our upcoming camp season!
The Winter Weekend brought together more than 50 Akeela campers for an extended reunion experience at Camp Winadu. Most campers came from the New York area, from metro Boston or from elsewhere in New England. Others travelled from as far as Pennsylvania and Virginia! That is a true testament to the strength of camp friendships and the lasting magic of the Akeela community.
It was amazing to see campers and staff reconnect with each other, happily falling back into “camp mode” within minutes of arriving. The weekend’s program pretty closely matched Akeela’s schedule, including organized camp activities (plus winter fun like sledding, ice skating and bowling!), free time for socializing and game-playing, Evening Meetings, and even a closing campfire on Sunday morning. Amidst the chilly winter weather, being together felt like a warm, sunny camp day on the shores of Miller Pond!
Simultaneous to the Winter Weekend, we also had 17 families join us at the Cranwell Resort and Spa for Akeela Family Stay & Play. Some parents knew each other from Family Camp or from having children in the same camp session; many others were meeting for the first time. Across the board, everybody loved having a chance to relax and play together in such a beautiful place.
The other wonderful aspect of Stay & Play was that it was a chance for parents to share ideas, learn from each other and bond over similar experiences. There was tremendous momentum for a “Camp Akeela Parents’ Association,” committed to creating more opportunities for parent connection (both live and virtual).
We’re proud to be a part of a strong and welcoming community that people feel so passionately about!
The latest edition of our camp newsletter, The Akeela Circular, has arrived! This edition included recaps of Winter Weekend and Family Stay & Play. It also outlines some exciting new initiatives to help keep our camper and parent communities better connected throughout the year. Kevin announces this year’s winner of our staff Fantasy Football league, Blayne’s Bulletin announces a few exciting facilities updates, and of course there are other important news items and reminders for our camp friends.
Happy New Year everyone! We’ve put together our annual slideshows from our 2015 summer sessions to remember the great moments we shared with each other at camp. Campers, remember to reach out to your friends you see in the slideshow to catch up!
The most recent issue of the American Camp Association’s Camping Magazine included a news item titled, “Five Soft Skills Needed for Job Success”. It referred to the following study published by Child Trends:
Key “Soft Skills” That Foster Youth Workforce Success: Toward a Consensus Across Fields (Laura H. Lippman, Renee Ryberg, Rachel Carney, Kristin A. Moore, 2015) *
Other educators are becoming increasingly aware of something that camp directors have known for generations: that “soft skills” are equally – if not MORE – important to a successful academic and professional careers as mastery of the more traditional school subjects. The Child Trends study referenced by Camping Magazine set out to more precisely define which skills are most closely correlated to positive workforce outcomes (including employment, on-the-job performance, wages and entrepreneurial success). Here are the top 5:
Social Skills – getting along with others, demonstrating respect, context-appropriate behavior and conflict resolution.
Communication – including oral, written, nonverbal and listening skills.
Higher-order thinking skills – problem-solving, critical thinking and decision making.
Positive self-concept – self-confidence, self-awareness, sense of well-being & pride
(These, by the way, align closely with what the 21st Century Skills movement has identified as the all-important 4 Cs: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Communication.)
What’s most notable to us is that this are precisely the skills that we teach at Camp Akeela. In fact, we couldn’t come up with a more accurate list of our explicit goals for campers if we tried! We see every moment of each camp day – whether it’s a structured camp activity, a meal, or “hang-out” time in the cabins – as an opportunity for our amazing staff to help campers develop their skillset in each of these areas. Our immediate objective in doing so is to have campers leave camp more connected, happier, more self-aware and self-assured. The fact that we’re also preparing them for greater long-term success in school and in the workforce is a source of great pride for us.
After the amazing time our campers had last year during the first Winter Weekend, we’re excited to announce our second Winter Weekend will be taking place January 8 – 10, 2016. This year we’ll be hosting two events:
The Winter Weekend is for all 2015 Akeela and Family Camp campers, taking place at Camp Winadu in Pittsfield, MA. This is a wonderful opportunity for campers to spend a fun filled weekend with their camp friends!
The Family Stay & Play is open to all 2015 Akeela families, taking place at the Cranwell Resort and Spa in Lenox, MA. This is a great chance for you to (re)connect with other Akeela families at a world class resort! Families can choose to have their campers participate in the Winter Weekend as Day Campers, too!
Please visit the links for more information and registration instructions. Space is limited for both the Winter Weekend and Family Stay & Play.
This is an email we recently sent to parents of a few Akeela campers:
Hi! We hope you are well and enjoying fall.
We wanted to let you know that two concerned parents have informed us that there is a very large group text circulating among approximately 15 Akeela campers that contains some inappropriate comments – some of which are directed at other campers. Your child’s name was mentioned as someone who is a participant. We understand that kids have a great deal of access to electronics and that it is sometimes hard to manage – especially when they are older. However, we would like to offer the following suggestions:
1.) Please remind your camper that he/she signed a behavioral contract before he/she came to camp and that we expect those boundaries to continue to be upheld throughout the year – especially when other Akeela campers are involved.
2.) Talk to your child about the dangers of inappropriate content on the internet or by text and the consequences that are often associated when a child is the disseminator of that content (i.e. suspension or expulsion from school, consequences at home, police involvement if any child feels threatened or bullied.)
3.) You may want to check your child’s phone and text history and monitor the use of electronic devices until you feel confident that your child is responsibly texting.
4.) You may want to remove your child from this “Text chain”.
Please let us know if you have any further questions. We have not read the text thread and were not given a great deal of information but wanted to share what we did know with you so you can talk to your child individually.
Debbie & Eric
There’s no question that we live in challenging times. When we were kids, our distractions were books, television and the phone (attached to a cord in the kitchen!) These days, children not only have TV, they also have screens EVERYWHERE: phones, computers, tablets … and they are all portable. Our campers are typically very “tech savvy” and are drawn to electronics. Video games are an escape of choice and campers often tell us that’s how they choose to unwind. However, just because our campers enjoy screen time and might even benefit from some of the more social games they play, it does not mean that they don’t need to be closely monitored.
Our campers often struggle with social nuances – that’s why they are choosing Akeela for their summer camp. These challenges carry over to online settings, where it can be equally hard to understand appropriate social boundaries. Unfortunately, because their comments and behaviors are online, they have more permanence and can carry more weight. More and more frequently, schools and law enforcement agencies are holding young people accountable for their online conduct. We have had many conversations about such incidents with campers after receiving calls from concerned parents. We believe it is important to discuss specific expectations with your children about the use and content of texting, social media and emails – and to regularly check phones and email accounts to monitor their use. While we know that our campers always have the best intentions in mind, sometimes they need our guidance to communicate appropriately and effectively.
Akeela 2015 is behind us and it was our best summer ever! This addition of the Akeela Circular, our camp newsletter, looks back on some highlights from this past summer and contains news about upcoming events. Read it all here:
We just found this great article about the important role camp plays in developing resilience, grit, and other essential life skills in our campers! The author interviewed, Michael Thompson, wrote a wonderful book called Homesick and Happy that we share with many of our new families. We encourage you to give it a read, it’s very helpful for those parents sending their children away to camp for the first time!
The latest edition of the camp newsletter, The Akeela Circular, is here! It includes photos of the new Lodge, more details on our horseback riding program, a Winter Weekend recap, some exciting announcements about summer 2015 and lots of updates from campers and staff.