Long, long, long ago…
…before teenagers averaged 53 hours a week looking at an electronic screen, before there were GPS systems, before there were even maps, do you know how folks got around? They looked to the stars to guide them. Here at Everwood, we’re pretty fond of that idea, so we’ve instituted the Five Star Points to help guide our campers on their own journey. These stars–Integrity, Inspiration, Teamwork, Friendship and Independence–are the central values of our camp community.
We make time to emphasize the Five Star Points every day at camp, and in doing so, they become something even more valuable for our campers: the skills they’ll use to navigate a changing world.
Here are a few of the many places the stars shine at Everwood:
For the summer to be a success, we need our campers to contribute–something they’re ALL capable of doing. We tell our kids this, knowing that the modest act of saying “We need your help,” puts them on the path to making a meaningful impact within our community. It’s also how integrity starts at Everwood: by letting our campers know that each and every one of them are integral to the success of the summer, and accountable to one another.
Are our expectations for our campers high? They are. Are they unreasonable? No way! That’s because, while we may raise the bar at first, it’s our campers that keep it there. And together we spend the summer building a foundation (through sports and activities, the support of our counselors, and the skill development that comes from all this) to help them hurdle it.
Speaking of sports, we play A LOT of them at Everwood, and although they’re bound to be fun, whenever two teams square off–in soccer or Capture the Flag or any of our other competitive games–there’s also bound to be winners and losers. Learning to be a good sport, and to conduct oneself with grace in either victory or defeat, is one of the most important forms of integrity we instill at Everwood.
But it’s not just on the playing fields that our campers are asked to hold themselves to high standards. Little things like moving over to let a new camper sit at the lunch table, or cleaning up someone else’s forgotten trash when lunchtime is over, these are also examples of the sort of behavior we like to encourage. We train our counselors to acknowledge when our campers do the right thing, knowing that if they can catch their kids performing these simple acts of kindness, they’re helping to reinforce a pattern of integrity that’ll manifest itself over and over again.
You’ll find inspiration everywhere you look at Everwood, and that’s because our campers are always trying–and thriving–at activities they haven’t before. Kayaking, pottery, yoga, the infamous Jello Tug-of-War, and our Zipline that sends kids cruising between hundred foot pine trees–these are but a few of the unforgettable firsts that campers will have while they’re here with us.
One of our personal favorites though? That’s when campers catch their first fish out on Lake Massapoag! The excitement of getting that tug on the line (and the brief, ensuing panic upon reeling a squirming trout to shore) is an experience campers will remember forever. And, as with all activities, there’s always a counselor right there–ready to show them how to harmlessly handle, unhook, and release their catch back into the water.
One of our more unique features at camp is that we provide busing from many of the suburbs surrounding both Providence and Boston. Logistically, this is a great aid to many of our busy parents, but those bus rides are also a great opportunity for our kids to practice their “getting to know you” skills. Whether or not our kids know someone else before stepping on the bus for the first time they’ll be well on their way to making friends by the time they set foot on campus (we even have counselors who ride the bus to help ensure this).
Our counselors are experts at acclimating our kids to life at camp, and we devote time every Monday morning of our orientation weeks to ice-breakers and activities that help make transitions more fluid. But for everything that our counselors and staff do to help our kids learn to get along, it’s the experience of being at camp that truly binds our campers together. Everwood is a place that’s unlike any our campers will encounter elsewhere, and the adventures they share–on the ropes course, in our performing arts center, out on Lake Massapoag–and the memories they make are the very fabric of tight-knit friendships.
And when disagreements do arise? Our counselors, who we put through a rigorous training in the spring, are well versed in conflict resolution. They understand how to intervene, but also when not to: after all, sometimes it’s best to let friends sort out a problem between themselves.
To be honest though, quarrels at camp are few and far between. That’s because Everwood is full of GREAT people, who are just as willing to offer their voice to a song as they are a shoulder to lean on. Camp is a place that often leads to lifetime friendships. If you think we’re exaggerating, just ask our Co-Directors, Jamie and Dane Pickles, how they met!
From our canoe races (that’s our 17-seat “War Canoe” pictured above) to our playing fields to our Ropes Course–there are endless occasions for teamwork here at Everwood. Our kids also come together to paint murals, run relay races, produce plays, and create original camp songs. Songs that’ll become the anthems that echo through campus, escorting our campers as they finish an activity and march towards the next–one that, no doubt, will also require teamwork.
All this practice pays off: with experience comes insight, and over the course of a summer spent practicing teamwork, our campers’ understanding of its value becomes deeper, too. They appreciate just how much more they can do (and how much more fun they’ll have) by collaborating as a team, and what’s more, they learn to compromise to make it happen. The perspective that comes from seeing the bigger picture, even in our little camp community, prepares them to do the same in the world beyond. This give-and-take is a trade-off we all make to negotiate the world, and by encouraging it at Everwood, our kids begin to learn that they may not always get what they want, but if they’re willing to compromise and work as a team, they will get what they need!
Independence at Everwood comes in a variety of forms. For younger campers it starts with learning to take care of their belongings, and by being away from Mom and Dad during the camp day. It also happens through physical skill development, like down at the lake, where our instructors and lifeguards support them as they learn to swim.
As our kids get a bit older, independence becomes more nuanced, because we loosen the reins and allow them to participate in our elective program. Beginning with campers entering the second grade, they’ll have the opportunity to choose one elective, while our oldest campers will pick three electives a day. This is a unique feature of Everwood’s curriculum. It gives our kids the freedom to select some of the activities that they feel like participating in–preferences they’ll make online and at home, before the beginning of each camp week. We do this to encourage our campers’ individual passions and interests, which is a level of freedom that they quickly come to embrace. And why do we ask them to make their selections at home? Because we want our kids to do what THEY want to do (and not base their decisions on what their friends like). Independence means being true to yourself, after all.
We don’t just cut our older kids slack, though, we also ask more of them. They’re charged with helping our younger campers–onto and off of the bus, reading to them during story time; we give them a taste of what it means to be a role model. And you know what? They love it! Which makes sense to us: ironic as it may seem, responsibility can be truly liberating.
Independence is also about what our campers leave behind when they come to camp. Because we’re a tech-free campus (did we mention teens spend 53 HOURS PER WEEK in front of phones, tablets and TVs?), and the digital devices stay out of sight, we provide our campers a break from the technological tools that keep them from being fully present with one another. By unplugging our kids from the tech for awhile, we’re able to remind them how extraordinary they are–and how much fun they can have–without it!
Summer at Everwood Day Camp sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it? It certainly is, but given our attention to these opportunities for growth–the Five Star Points–it’s also a summer well spent. Our kids leave campus in August, but the spirit of Everwood’s community does not leave them; they use the skills they practice with us to propel them into the ensuing seasons and stages of their lives. And if they ever need a reminder to help guide them forward? They don’t have to go far to find it. All they have to do is LOOK TO THE STARS!