We love talking about summer camp all year long! The first signs of spring are starting to show at Merrowvista and Miniwanca, so although it’s probably not quite time to pack yet, our assistant camp directors, Hannah and Bailey, offer their advice and answer a few of our families’ most frequently asked questions as we prepare for another summer of best self and balanced living.
I think overnight summer camp will be a great experience for my child but they are hesitant and nervous when I talk about it. What should I do?
We have a few different approaches to pre-camp nerves:
1. Normalize their feelings
It is normal for campers to feel nervous about going to sleep away camp for the first time, so affirming the validity of their feelings may help ease their worries. Many other campers feel the same way before going to camp for the first time, and even returning campers feel nervous too! It is perfectly fine to be nervous about going to camp, but it does not mean they shouldn’t try it out.
2. Affirm their decision
It is also important to tell them how confident you are that they will make their camp experience a good one. It may be challenging at times, and your camper may miss home, but that is okay. Once here, your child will get to make new friends and do all kinds of activities they do not get to do at school or at home. We have found that talking about the things campers can look forward to can help them see that there are plenty of good things, even if they are nervous.
3. Check in and prepare
Your camper may go back and forth between being excited and scared for the months leading up to camp, so encourage them to talk about how they are feeling regularly. Prepare them for the reality that they may even feel sad when they first get to camp, and that is also normal and okay! They can always talk to their leader, coordinator, or even the assistant directors if they feel sad. Our staff will support them every step of the way.
Who are our staff members and what training do they have?
Many of our staff members are former campers who have a diverse range of experience in our programs. All staff members receive extensive and position-specific training at Miniwanca and Merrowvista, learning skills to help them safely lead activities, help campers who are feeling homesick, lead overnight camping trips, and build relationships with campers.
Our youngest staff members, called Leaders in Training (Miniwanca) or Itokans (Merrowvista), are recent high school graduates. All other staff members have participated in a year of college or equivalent program away from home. In-camp leaders are Wilderness First Aid and CPR certified. Our waterfront staff is lifeguard certified, as are most of our leaders.
Four Trails Leaders are at least 21 years of age and receive an additional week of training to practice more in-depth skills for leading backpacking, canoeing, and cycling trips. Four Trails Leaders are also Wilderness First Responder certified (requiring completion of an intensive 10-day course covering trail emergencies and basic health care).
On opening day, you may notice that our staff shirts say Youth Development Professional on them– we all take pride in helping young people grow into the very best they can be.
My child is coming to camp alone and worried that everyone else will know each other, is that true?
While some campers come to Merrowvista and Miniwanca with friends, most of our new campers come alone, and that’s great! We are intentional about cabin assignments and train our staff to foster connections between campers as soon as they arrive. Each year, leaders treat cabins (called “villages” at Merrowvista) as a new group, and work to build fresh relationships between them, establishing a positive group culture. This helps campers feel comfortable within their group so they feel safe being themselves. Staff members show campers that it is okay to be goofy and honest right off the bat, so by the second day of camp, everyone is on the same page.
My child is coming to camp with a friend, can I request that they be in the same cabin group?
Yes, we will do what we can to make sure that happens, and we will also ask your child to make new friends as well.
It is great when friends from home want to share a camp experience together, and we also believe it is important to be inclusive and make new friends at camp. Campers may be placed in the same cabin or village, but in separate sides of their duplex cabin, so they will be sleeping in the same building at night, but in separate rooms. This means campers will still be able to enjoy meals, Village Insight discussions, and daily Village Time together.
We cannot guarantee it, but we will do our best to honor your request, and most of the time we are able to put campers in the same cabin or village when asked. If we come up against any obstacles in placing them in the same group, such as age difference or cabin capacity, we will get in touch with you before camp begins to figure out the best solution together.