Angel Spotlight

And Now, A Word From Najah

Is chilly winter weather getting you down? Najah to the rescue! Enjoy this burst of her trademark energy and enthusiasm anytime you need a little dose of camp sunshine. We bet you a dozen pizza bagels that this video will get you fired up for Summer 2021 at Bryn Mawr!

What other staff members would you like to see in Poplar Post videos? Send us an email and let us know!

Tradition Time With Eliza!

Angel Ceremony

“Tears that Angels Cry” is a song you might go your whole life without hearing if not for Bryn Mawr. To the Bryn Mawr family, it only takes three notes of the song to know what is happening: The Angel Ceremony.

Eliza Kagan as a Bunk One Camper at Lake Bryn Mawr Camp, showing off her angel necklace with a bunkmate
That’s me on the left, minutes after getting my angel!

One of the most special traditions at Bryn Mawr is our Angel Ceremony. In Bunk One, each camper receives a silver angel. Dan always starts this ceremony by saying that the value of the angel is not in the silver, it is an intrinsic value — the symbolism that connects you to Bryn Mawr, your camp memories and all former and future angels. Each year, this sentence brings more and more meaning to me. 

The angel that I received when I was in Bunk One connects me to my camp friends and my memories as a camper, but also to all other alumni that I have come across in different paths of life since finishing camp. Bryn Mawr is the most special connection, and each and every time I see a former Angel, I feel special to be a part of this giant family! 

Over the years, the symbolism of my own angel has come full circle. Since returning to LBMC as a member of the staff, having the opportunity to give a new group of Bunk One girls their angels has been extremely special for me. My angel not only connects me to my friends and my experience, but to the girls that experience that same Bunk One magic each and every year. I am counting the days until I am on that stage, Dan and Jane cue the music, and we can give the ’20-’21 Super Seniors their angels.

Love,
Eliza

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

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.

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.”

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.

Teaching Children Responsibility

Traditionally, the beginning of the year is a time when we try to adopt new, better habits. On average, about one third of Americans resolve to lose weight each new year. (No wonder the gym is always so much more crowded in January!) Statistically, though, about 80 percent of those well-meaning resolutions will have been abandoned by February. Why? Well, it’s hard to make major changes to the way we are used to behaving, and even harder to make them overnight. Learning to be healthy takes practice and discipline, and it isn’t always easy, even when we know that eating right and exercising regularly are good for us.

The same goes for raising children to be responsible and accountable for their actions. A sense of responsibility isn’t something we’re born with, and it isn’t something that can be taught in one moment. Parents Magazine compares responsibility to manners – it’s a “learned behavior.” That means that as parents, we’re responsible ourselves for making sure we help our children develop an understanding of how important it is to take accountability for their actions. We can do that by giving them age-appropriate responsibilities and providing incentives and consequences for different kinds of behavior.

Chores & tasks

Giving children responsibilities around the house is a great way to teach accountability and show them how their actions can positively impact others. Even small children can start to learn responsibility by helping to pick up their own toys or clear the table. This article provides some good suggestions for ways to realistically and constructively involve kids in deciding what chores they do and how they ought to be done.

Follow through

If we tell a child to expect a consequence for a certain action and then don’t apply that consequence, we lose an opportunity to teach accountability. For example, if the rule is you can’t have dessert unless you eat all your vegetables, but we give our children ice cream even though they left all their broccoli and cauliflower on the plate, what we’re really teaching them is that the vegetable rule doesn’t really matter.  The best consequences in the world are completely ineffective if they’re never applied. The same goes double for incentives: If you promise a child a reward for a certain good behavior, make sure you come through when the reward has been earned. We have to follow through if we really want our children to learn that their actions have consequences that they can control by being responsible for their own behavior.

Responsibility and camp

Accountability and responsibility are a big part of the summer camp experience. Campers have daily age-appropriate responsibilities that teach them accountability and help them develop healthy independence, and counselors and other staff members are trained to help campers understand how their own actions affect themselves and others.

When your daughter is coming to camp for the first time, it’s a good idea to prepare her for the fact that she will have certain responsibilities at camp, such as making her bed and helping clear the table at meals. Her camp responsibilities may be different from her home responsibilities, but they are just as important; they help camp run smoothly for everyone. As she gets older, she will have more responsibilities at camp, such as having a Peanut Daughter, leading a Junior Camp activity day, and someday captaining a Color War team — a big responsibility, but one that she’ll be ready for after years of practice!

Tips for healthy kids this winter

Attention winter campers!  Fall has come and gone and cold and flu season is here!  It seems like once school starts and the thermometer drops, everyone starts to get sick — and the same cold gets passed around from house to house all winter long. We checked in with our camp nurses to get some tips for getting through the winter in great shape. They’re our resident experts on kids’ immune systems — and on what we can do as parents to make sure our children stay healthy and happy all year long. Here’s what they recommend:

Stay active

In addition to being important for general good health, exercise boosts immunity. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean kids can’t get out and play. Exposure to cold weather isn’t what makes kids sick; colds and viruses are more common in the winter mostly because we spend more time indoors in close proximity with other people. Encourage your kids to get outside and play all year round.

Don’t skip breakfast

Getting kids to eat a healthy breakfast can be tough. (Believe us, we understand. Try getting 350 of them to eat a balanced meal every morning!) But while breakfast isn’t necessarily the most important meal of the day, it’s a crucial part of your children’s morning. Kids need breakfast to help keep them energized and focused during the school day. Studies show that children who don’t eat breakfast are more prone to obesity and are more likely to rack up tardies and absences at school. Check out these fun breakfast recipes and more at Ready, Set, Breakfast!

Clean hands = healthy hands

Hand washing is the absolute number-one best way to reduce the spread of germs and sickness. At camp, we encourage girls to wash their hands regularly, and we also keep the Dining Hall stocked with hand sanitizer so campers can quickly and easily clean up at mealtimes. Get kids in the habit of washing their hands with warm water and soap before and after eating and after using the restroom, blowing their noses, coughing, sneezing and playing outside. Make sure they know to lather and scrub for about 20 seconds — about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” two times.

Sleep tight

A good night’s sleep is absolutely crucial for children and teenagers. Tired kids have a hard time focusing in school, and a tired body will have a harder time fighting off a virus than a rested one. More importantly, sleep is essential to growth and organ development. While children sleep, their bodies produce growth hormone, and energy that’s used for other activities during the day can be diverted to promoting growth. If getting to sleep is a problem at your house, doctors recommend not keeping electronics (TVs, iPods, phones, video games) in the bedroom. Try to get kids unplugged before bedtime to help them settle down for the night.

Walk your talk

At the end of the day, kids will follow the lead of the adults they respect. (That’s why we spend so much time teaching our counselors how to be good role models.) So if you model the behaviors you want them to learn — staying active, eating healthy meals, hand washing, getting good sleep — they’ll be more likely to adopt them.