We’re about one week into the first rotation of activities for this session, and everything is in full swing. We’ve had campers reaching the top of the climbing wall, getting up on one water ski, learning dances, and creating LOTS of cool tie-dyed shirts in the crafts shop. By now your daughter has settled into her alternating two-day routine, making new friends in her projects and learning tons of new skills.

Selection for projects is based on interest, age, and skill level and began way back when you and your daughter filled out all of that pre-camp paperwork. Though the cabin groups spend a lot of time together, we think that project time should allow for the campers to branch out and practice making new friends; we believe it is neither beneficial nor appropriate to make activity selection by cabin groups. Activity selections by cabin groups would be a far simpler scheduling process for us, but we are committed to the individual needs, abilities, and interests of our campers.

A typical day of activities includes three 75-minute periods of instruction in three different areas, with a fourth 75 minute period of organized free time, or “Prime Time.” We designed our schedule so that the instructional activities alternate on an every-other-day basis in order to add variety to the program. In this fashion, six instructional activities will be taught to your daughter over a two week cycle. After the first cycle is completed, a second series of activities will begin. So with all that variety, it’s pretty hard to get bored at camp!

Within this broad array of activities is something to let every girl sparkle, to have success and to gain recognition. Campers get lots of time to improve their skills, with tons of attention and guidance from our staff. And while the number-one priority is very often about having fun, we do want the campers to achieve a sense of accomplishment and success. With this in mind we have constructed our programs to allow for this kind of progression and growth; there are several different levels for many of our activities.

For example, campers can begin by taking a regular sailing class, learning the parts of a sail boat and eventually how to sail (always with supervision, of course) and have a really fun time. And for the campers who find that they really like sailing and want to learn more, we offer an advanced sailing program called “Skippers,” which is a more comprehensive, challenging class, where in order to pass and officially become a skipper (complete with certificate of achievement and little ceremony),campers must learn complex knots, nautical terms, wind directions, and other important sailing knowledge. We offer classes for girls who are specially skilled or interested in such areas as gymnastics, tennis, water-skiing, crafts, and canoeing/outdoor education skills, which I’ll discuss in the next blog installment.

Our camper’s individualized schedules allow each camper to do what they want and challenge them selves in their own way. All children need successes, and at Birch Trail we reward each individual’s achievement. Recognition is based on objective standards of effort and performance, not on winning. A camper’s competition is to improve herself. She is encouraged to work hard and to finish what she starts.

Above all else, what I hope, and very often find, our projects teach is the confidence to try new things. We place a great deal of importance on each girl feeling comfortable making her own choices about what challenges to take on. By design, every activity allows for our staff members to be ready and willing to help each camper meet those challenges. Because these are individually-designated challenges, every camper can grow and achieve at camp, without having to conform to one standard. These goals are personal, and therefore Birch Trail has the flexibility and customizable abilities to be the right camp for so many different types of children.

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