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At Camp, We Focus on the Whole Person

Posted by Katie Warren Whitlatch on May 1, 2019

In a world fueled by test scores and state mandated curricula, camp is in the fortunate position of being a place where the focus can be on the camper as a whole, individual person.

In a discussion on, Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker said that the academic rigor and pressure faced by children for nine months of the year often leaves them little time to stretch their creative and imaginative muscles.

A 2018 study by the Foundation for Jewish Camp on the Outcomes and Impacts of Jewish Day Camp outlines that every camper comes to camp with different abilities, fears, strengths and areas for growth.

Our focus on camper care at JCC Day Camps allows for each camper to receive individualized attention that fosters each camper’s holistic development.

Camper care takes many forms at JCC Day Camps: Happiness reports for campers and families, daily communication to families, celebration of camper achievements, and staff inspiration and appreciation.  Twice weekly we ask the campers to evaluate various aspects of camp such as specialty areas (like nature, outdoor adventure, arts and crafts, garden, etc.), aquatics, food and unit time.  We want to know how the campers are reacting to all of these different areas of camp regularly so that we can make changes quickly when necessary to improve the experience for our campers. NEW THIS YEAR, we will be sending weekly happiness reports to families to get a sense of what is being recounted at home and to make sure we are meeting the expectations of our families.

In addition to photos being posted on Campminder daily, we send a newsletter home every evening recapping some of the highlights of the day. You can also expect to receive communication at least once a week from your camper’s unit leader with some more direct insight into the adventures of your particular camper.

We take great pride in celebrating camper achievements. Whether it is conquering a fear and completing a new outdoor adventure element, demonstrating our Jewish value (middah) of the week, passing a swim level, or harvesting their first egg from one of our chickens, campers are recognized by praise from their Camper Care Associates, unit leader, and peers, receiving a middah bracelet, or acquiring a special aquatics trinket.

Our staff is an integral part of making our camper care program successful.  We have changed the title of the role previously known as “counselor” to “Camper Care Associate” as a means of indicating to the staff and to the outside world the importance of their role in the experience of the camper. We work diligently to make sure that the staff are inspired with new ideas and appreciated for their hard work at a minimum weekly at our evening staff meetings. Having a motivated and inspired staff will lead to making the experience of the campers the best it can be.

Our detailed attention to camper care is what sets us apart as a camp. Our JCC of Greater Pittsburgh CEO, Brian Schreiber, has charged everyone this year to work every day to get closer to better. We are always looking for the next thing we need to do to make the experience for your camper and for your family even better than the hour, day, week, or year before. To that end, if you believe that there is anything we can be doing to move towards achieving that goal, please reach out and let us know.

Katie Warren Whitlatch
Assistant Director of the Children, Youth & Family Division and J&R Day Camp

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