Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

The Benefits of Free Choice

July 17th, 2017

By Andy Masten

Last summer we introduced a new tradition to the Camp Riverlea experience by introducing “Free Choice” activities a couple times a week. During Juice Break children are given the option to sign up for up to four activities to take part in during free swim. Some activities are traditional camp activities such as kayaking and river walking, and some are new ideas such as an Insect Scavenger Hunt and Yoga on the lawn. Campers get the opportunity to try new things or explore old favorites, but more importantly children get the opportunity to choose.

Camper’s days are usually laid out before them. Five activities, lunch, rest hour, and free swim. For some campers these days are followed by swim practice and baseball and scouts troops. In the midst of all that structure its very easy for us as counselors to get sucked into a routine and assume that kids are happy with the status quo. With Free Choice we can also provide children with a much-needed change of pace. Activities such as Story Time in the Grove can create a calm and relaxing atmosphere and create a quite refuge in the midst of a day of running around and exploring the natural world around us.Through Free Choice, we are trying to give the children some agency back into their own schedules and forcing ourselves to constantly evaluate what works and what we can do better.

Last session I had the opportunity to lead a game of Sharks and Minnows in kayaks on the pond. Since I am usually a General Counselor with the Hobbits and Baggins I don’t normally get the opportunity to work with the older kids, so leading this activity gave me the opportunity to work with new people and try new activities that I have not gotten the chance to do before. This summer marks my 6th year as a counselor at Riverlea and my 14th year in total. After spending almost a decade and a half at camp it is really refreshing to be able to still experience new things and build on old camp traditions.

At its core, Camp Riverlea is a safe place for children to continue to develop and grow in a structured space and environment. Free Choice helps us continue that development and keep camp fresh, both for campers and for staff.

First week of camp

June 14th, 2013

By Kelsey Van Vleck

It has been a wonderful four days of camp so far, and I cannot believe the week is almost over.  We got off to a rainy start, but the rest of the week has been sunny and beautiful.  I hope that we can continue to have sunny weather so campers can get the full experience of our outdoor activities.

While I was a little disappointed that it rained the first day, it ended up being a fun afternoon.  We started off with the counselors doing skits for the campers, which is always a blast to watch!  There is nothing better than a counselor being able to laugh at themselves!  Once the rain kept going, we proceeded to do stations in the Shire.  We had music, arts and crafts, story telling, game playing, and even story writing.  The campers seemed to really enjoy themselves despite the gloomy weather, and I did as well since this gave me the chance to be closer to all of the campers on the first day.

The rest of the week has been been sunny, but pretty hot.  That is why we keep water at every department and in the Shire.  We make sure the campers drink before and after each activity.  Each group has swim lessons and free swim everyday, so that is also a chance for them to keep cool.  At the end of the day, the campers have water available in the Shire if they are not swimming and get thirsty playing outside. Campers drink many cups of water throughout the day, and are supplied with gatorade, milk, or water during lunch.  Happy and hydrated campers make a fun and productive camp!

Orc Orientation Day

May 21st, 2013

This is the first post by Kelsey Van Vleck, this year’s assistant program director. She’s a former athletics and canoeing counselor and is really excited to be back at Riverlea this year. Look for more posts from Kelsey throughout the summer!

All year, I have been anticipating the start of camp, and when Julia called me to say we needed to start preparing, I was super excited!  One of the first things we worked on together was preparing for the Orc orientation day (or “Orcientation” as we like to call it).  At Riverlea, the counselors-in-training are called Orcs, and they are assigned to a group of campers for a whole session to safely bring campers to activities and to assist counselors.  After student teaching high school, I felt I had some necessary qualifications to help lead this day.  Julia and I were a bit nervous about doing things right, but also eager to get to know all of the Orcs.  On the day of Orcientation, I stood at the door anxiously but happily awaiting the arrival of our Orcs.  I remember seeing the first one pull up, and being shocked at how much she had grown.  The same reaction seemed to happen repeatedly, and it was so exciting to see how these previous campers had grown and matured.

One of my favorite activities was getting the Orcs to perform skits on “right” and “wrong” ways to handle situations with campers.  Their reenactments were clever, funny, and very energetic.  I loved how the Orcs were so in tune with typical camper behaviors and responses, and it has given me a lot of comfort seeing how they seemed to be really excited about camp starting.  It was also a great opportunity when the Orcs were split into four groups and were each assigned a specific camper age group.  As I walked by, I could hear them really brainstorming and doing a wonderful job pinpointing characteristics of campers at different ages.  They seemed to remember a lot about being campers themselves, and were able to correlate that with how other campers may act, feel, or think.

The Orcs were also alert and patient during the parts that were less fun, but necessary.  Reading over the packets with basic rules is really important, and they did a great job of actively listening and responding to questions we asked them.  The bullying part of the packet probably was the most interesting and successful part of the reading.  I was surprised at how much the Orcs had to say about their views on bullying and ways to prevent it from happening.  Knowing how aware they were of these issues put my mind at ease that our camp will be a fun and friendly place for all of the campers this summer!

All in all, I feel that Orcientation went very well.  I am super excited for camp to start, and I have confidence that our Orcs will be open to learning even more throughout their session.   I would like to thank all of the Orcs for being so great at their orientation, and I can’t wait to work with all of them this summer!

What families say about Camp Riverlea

March 8th, 2013

We gave out surveys last summer and got some great feedback from campers and parents. We’re taking their suggestions into account as we plan for this summer, and we strive to make each summer better than the one before. Thanks to everyone who turned in a survey! If you’d still like to offer feedback, it’s never too late, just email Julia the program director.

And of course, we also like to hear what people love about Camp Riverlea, so here are some of the nice things camp families said about last summer:

“It is fantastic that kids have good balance between fun games and instruction.”

“Thanks for creating a well-rounded camp experience. My children had the opportunity to do things they do not normally get to do.”

“Counselors were great! My kids loved them.”

“Love the traditions–the sense of history, belonging to something bigger. The kids most love the idea that they are part of something ongoing.”

“It’s been another incredible summer for my son. This camp is A+!”

“Our children were very happy, well entertained and want to return next year.”

“I’m so impressed with the focus on safety for the 5-6 year-old group and maintaining their interest. My son really enjoyed the camp and wants to return next summer. Riverlea was a great experience!”

“This was my daughter’s first time at Riverlea. She really seemed to enjoy it. She was enthusiastic about the counselors and camp activities. I was worried about the hot weather, but it was a non-issue. She stayed cool and hydrated and never complained about the heat.”

“Great love for Riverlea, very good counselors.”

“Riverlea is simply wonderful.”

“So, what do you do the rest of the year?”

November 28th, 2012

When I tell people that I work at a summer camp, the next question they usually ask is, “so, what do you do the rest of the year?” While it’s certainly lonelier and less busy than summertime, we spend the fall, winter, and spring preparing for the next summer. Because my Riverlea work is only part-time during the school year, I also do some work on a farm (last year a goat dairy, this year a vegetable farm) while counting down the weeks until camp starts again. As you can see, one thing we’ve been up to this school year is creating a new website! To make a unique and useful website, we worked with a small company to create this colorful customized design, while I contributed photographs and text. We’ll write more blog entries, post plenty of photos in the summer, and probably add to the site over the next few months. We’re happy to have an informative website that reflects the spirit of Camp Riverlea!

This fall, Fran (Riverlea’s Business Director) and I have been customizing and learning to use our new online management system, called CampInTouch. CampMinder, the company behind it all, has been in the business of online camp management for over 11 years, and they spent hours patiently training us and setting up our system. Now, all of Camp Riverlea’s camper, Orc, and staff applications, as well as health forms, will be online in one secure system. We’ll also be using CampInTouch for email communication, which means it will be easier for us to reach camp families and easier for everyone to get in touch with us. We’re excited to start using the new system, and we hope that you are, too! Feel free to contact me or Fran with questions.

-Julia Fiore, Program Director

A camp tradition for Durham area children

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