It’s not an unusual for campers at Ballibay to seek out other kids (or staff) with a particular interest, such as tennis, improv comedy, juggling, magic, etc… Stuff that is probably there in the community but there’s no obvious path to, since there’s no tennis, improv, juggling, or magic counselor per se.
We have a staff meeting every day, and part of that meeting is the “grapevine,” where we check in on what the kids are asking about, looking for, etc… So all a camper needs to do is mention their interest to any counselor, and, in the next morning’s meeting, there will either be suggestions of both campers and staff who would be interested or a few staff tasked with doing more research over the course of the day.
Once some folks have been identified, staffers will make introductions to get these cooperations started.
In terms of diversity, it’s a complex situation at Ballibay. As far as neuro- and gender diversity go, we’re about as diverse as can be, and have been for decades; but we do remain majority-white, and our small size further problematizes this: we may have one cabin that is extremely diverse, while another is entirely white, or with only one or two kids of color or indigenous descent. This varies from summer to summer and session to session; and so while we can guarantee an increasing degree of diversity at the camp, we can’t know the diversity of any given cabin of kids.
We’re actively working to change this: last summer we began reserving 25% of our scholarship fund specifically for black, indigenous and other kids of color, with the option for scholarship fund donors to put 100% of their donation towards the BIPOC scholarships. We’re reaching out to indigenous communities based on the history of the land the camp occupies to ensure that there is awareness of the scholarships, and we do a great deal of outreach to the public schools in the extremely diverse borough of Brooklyn, where camp director John typically lives and teaches. We support PTA fundraising projects in more than 45 schools in the NYC metro area.
The vast majority of our campers come to us via referral (or as 2nd generation Ballibayers) which in the past has tended to reinforce an overall lack of ethnic diversity, but now fortunately is working in the other direction and serving to increase overall diversity. Our roughly 80% return rate also has traditionally kept change slow, but now is finally contributing to its acceleration.
IS THERE ENOUGH TIME IN THREE WEEKS FOR A CAMPER TO EXPLORE ALL OF THEIR INTERESTS?
It depends on how far reaching a camper’s interests are. There is not time even in a 7-week session to explore all of Ballibay’s programs; but if a camper has 3 or 4 interests, they will certainly be able to explore them all. Campers who have been with us for several years sometimes begin a journey to try everything the camp has to offer, making plans such as, “this session I’m going to do makeup, video, and technical theater because I’ve not done them yet and it’s my 4th summer at camp!” Over 80% of our campers return for more than one summer.
DO THE KIDS TAKE ANY FIELD TRIPS AWAY FROM CAMP?
No, we are a completely self-contained program.
WHAT IF MY ROCK CAMPER PLAYS TWO INSTRUMENTS?
We place all Ballibay Rock campers in at least two bands, and bands rehearse at least two songs, so if a camper wants to play both of their instruments they can either play different instruments in their two bands, or instrument-swap within the bands. Let them know as camp approaches that they should be clear with the rock staffer who interviews them at the beginning of camp that they want to perform on both instruments. They’ll see when they arrive that campers and staff discussing program choices and collaborating on planning is very much the done thing, but sometimes first year campers are a little shy to express their wishes; please reenforce that they should definitely let us know their preferences so we can give them the best experience possible.
Also, campers are free to form as many “side project” bands as they want — these bands are not overseen by a staff person, but there are always rehearsal spaces available, and the rock staff will help them to record or arrange informal performance opportunities (for instance, at 5:00 each day the whole camp gathers to hear/see informal performances from the music, dance, and rock programs).
DO THE ROCK CAMPERS HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO OTHER CAMP ACTIVITIES?
Absolutely — it’s one of the strengths of Ballibay’s program: the formal commitment to the rock program is two band rehearsals each day, plus periodic lessons and time set aside for practice. While many kids fill the rest of their day with other rock activities (songwriting, recording, jamming, side projects, &c…), for most rock campers there is plenty of time each day free to try other activities. We see every combination: rock/art, rock/theater, rock/video, rock/dance… And adding horseback riding to any schedule is easily done.
MY SON IS 16 AND HAS BEEN PLAYING DRUMS FOR 7 YEARS. WOULD HE BE PLACED IN BANDS WITH TEENAGERS - NOT YOUNGER KIDS?
We form our bands so that they will be musically and socially successful, and be great learning experiences for everyone. So while we’d never put a much less capable player with very skilled musicians, we do tend to mix age and experience level to some degree in our rock program. We do this for a few reasons: 1) we do have some younger kids who shred! 2) we love for less experienced players to learn from more experienced players, and for more experienced players to improve their listening and sensitivity by not only playing with other “hot” musicians 3) we enjoy seeing friendships and creative relationships form across larger age gaps than one would ordinarily see (this happens a lot at Ballibay, and we love the Linda Lindas).
That said, we do also form a few “ringer bands,” which are typically made up of the older, more experienced players (and we also make a few “beginner bands.”)
So my guess would be that he’d be placed in one “ringer band” with kids his age who can all really play, and a second band that is more mixed in terms of age and skill (all the kids who come specifically for rock are given two staff-coached bands).
Also, campers can form “side project” bands, and can pick their own bandmates for these. These are not staff-coached, but do have access to staff for assistance, the opportunity to perform their work for the whole camp, and access to rehearsal space and recording facilities. Some serious rock campers will have 2 or 3 side project bands going during a session.
HOW DOES SCHEDULING WORK?
We have a multi-part scheduling system at Ballibay that at its heart relies on campers being active in their decision making, and collaborating with the adults on campus to build their ideal daily schedule. There is a lot of conversation that goes on, and since we are a small camp and everyone knows everyone else, it is easy to create opportunities and work out scheduling conflicts.
Here are the major aspects of our scheduling:
- fixed, daily commitments: These include theater and band rehearsals, and dance classes for campers participating in the Dance Intensive. If campers have fixed, daily commitments, the rest of their schedule is structured around these (not all campers do).
- open classes: These classes are announced at meals, and campers who are free at the time the class is offered can attend.
- open studios: In art, the studios are always open. Campers come to start new projects or continue working on projects they have previously started. All work is overseen by the staff person who supervises and teaches in that studio, and campers' work can be as independent or as structured as the child wants. Thus there are rarely "classes" per se, just many campers working on projects.
- teacher's "lists" and meetings: each camper gets a tour of the camp at the beginning of their stay and has an opportunity to sit down and discuss their interest in activities with a staff person in each area. Based on this, teachers have lists of campers who are interested, and arrange meetings with them, usually in small groups. These are what might usually be called "lessons," but we prefer to call them "meetings," emphasizing the collaborative nature of the camp's learning style.
- ad-hoc meetings: once campers are comfortable at camp and know the teachers, they are free to approach the teachers at any time to schedule a meeting; this way they do not wait for their name to come up on the teacher's list, but rather take an active role in scheduling meetings at the times that work best for them, and as needed for projects they are working on.
- spending time in areas of interest: campers who spend their free time in areas in which they are interested get additional opportunities. Campers who love to ride can take advantage of additional riding opportunities by virtue of being in the horse area more often. Rock kids will have more jam sessions if they spend their free time in the rock area. This applies to all activities.
- practice time: campers are responsible to find time in their schedule for the work they need to do independently: practicing instruments between meetings with a teacher, studying lines for a play, writing lyrics and songs, practicing dance movements, making choreography...
Here are sample schedules showing the range of what is possible.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE FIRST TIME CAMPERS
We have a lot of younger first-time campers at Ballibay, and our staff are very attuned to their needs. We also have the benefit of a very enthusiastic, supportive group of retuning campers: rather then being exclusive and "clique-y," the returning kids really welcome the new campers with open arms. It’s amazing how quickly even the most hesitant kids find their place and blossom in their independence. And for those who need a little more time and support, we’re there for them. We’re such a small environment that no one misses out on personal attention when they need it (but we’re big enough that the kids who want independence and autonomy can have quite a bit of it!)
Most summers, about 80% of Ballibay campers are returners, which does tend to create a few peak ages that get older each year until a group “graduates out” at age 16 or 17.
The benefit of this that the majority of older kids started as younger kids, so they “get Ballibay,” and are excited to help the new campers fit in. There is a tremendous generosity of spirit here.
WHAT IS THE DANCE INTENSIVE? CAN A CAMPER DO A LOT OF DANCE WITHOUT BEING IN THE INTENSIVE?
We offer technique classes in ballet, jazz, tap, modern, and hip-hop during all of our sessions, and campers can dance all day without participating in the intensive. Similarly, intensive campers do not have separate technique classes; they take the technique classes that they choose outside of the Dance Intensive schedule.
Projects specific to the Dance Intensive are:
- The collaborative composition piece for the dance concert
- Staff-choreographed pieces for the dance concert
- Typically one piece performed with a professional dance company
- Classes in a non-dance or cultural dance movement style
- Dance film production
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE EVENINGS?
There is an event almost every night at Ballibay: theater productions, dance and rock concerts, “cabarets,” and more.
Here are descriptions of the various programs:
- Staff Cabaret: the teaching staff perform for the campers, mostly music and dance
- Jam Night: The staff organize improvisational activities in many program areas: theater, dance, art, food, rock music
- Extended Evening Activities: On these nights we extend our evening activity period to allow more time for lessons and classes.
- Script-in-hand: a short theater performance by campers; since they have only a few days to rehearse, they don’t memorize the lines; they have their “script in their hand” while they perform.
- DJ Dance: this is a social dance with camper DJs
- Camper Cabaret: A variety show by the campers; usually mostly music and dance, but sometimes skits, comedy, camper-made films, etc…
- Bonfire: A large fire and social event, with music performances by campers, staff, and camper-staff groups, and stories.
- Musical in Concert: A musical theater production without elaborate staging or blocking: campers sing their parts at music stands, reading the music.
- Evening of One-Acts: One Act Plays performed by the campers. For campers staying 2 weeks, this is their opportunity to perform in theater.
- Band Night: The rock band performances; usually about 20 bands performing two songs each. A major concert!
- Dance Concert: An evening of dance performances from the Dance Intensive and general dance classes.
HOW DO CABIN REQUESTS WORK?
Each camper can request one other camper to be in the same cabin, and that camper must confirm the request. So: it’s best to figure out who is requesting whom among the parents. For instance:
- Annie requests Betty
- Betty requests Carol, and confirms Annie’s request
- Carol requests Dove, and confirms Betty’s request
- Dove confirms Carol’s request
This way, we not only know the group but, in case we can’t honor the whole group request, the staff person who handles the cabin assignment will also see the individual affinities (eg. if the group has to break up due to housing limitations, we’d try to keep the closest pairs together: Annie and Betty in one cabin, Carol and Dove in the other).
Also it’s important to understand about Ballibay (and this is different from a lot of camps), the kids do very little as a cabin group besides sleep (and wake up). Activities are organized by interest, and tables at meals are by request; so there’s not that much “cabin group time” in the day. Not that cabin life is insignificant, just that it's far from being the center of camp life.
WHAT MAKES BALLIBAY DIFFERENT?
We have lots of parents who are professional artists on our staff.
One of the things that makes us different is the level of partnership we have with our camp parents. Up to 25% of our staff are parents whose children also attend camp. This makes a huge difference in the feel of the place: there are a lot of adults around with experience caring for children, not just young counselors (who are also wonderful, and necessary!).
For instance, Jesse Sheppard, a dad of three campers, made all the videos that you see on the website, like this one. Sara Galkin, mom of three campers, runs our art program. Janine Sopp, a camp mom, runs a huge ceramics studio in Brooklyn, brings her incredible expertise to our ceramics studio each summer. And these are just a few of our "barter parents."
The food is fantastic; 2012 New York Times article.
Food is a top priority for us every summer. We have a big garden that grows a significant portion of our veggies, and we partner with local farms to provide the freshest ingredients. Our food was written up in the New York Times in 2012.
Over 80% of campers come to us for more than one summer.
Kids come from all over the world.
In addition to lots of kids from NYC, NJ, DC, NC, TX, and CA, we get campers from everywhere: China, Thailand, Spain, Italy, France, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Japan. Most summers we're a very international community.
We are small, and there is a lot of personal attention.
With never more than 170 kids and always at least 50 staff, everyone knows everyone. This helps in every area, from teaching and scheduling to discipline and supervision. There are no "sign-up sheets," there is no "schedule grid." Campers are free to go up to any staff person and say, "hey, do you have some time today to work on something with me?" And staff approach campers in the same way: "what's your schedule like this afternoon? Do you have time for a lesson?" It's very unlike the way in which kids are usually treated: At Ballibay, children are real decision makers, working cooperatively with their teachers. Most camps and schools don't think kids can do this sort of active decision-making, but its only because they are rarely given the chance. Young people, even very young people, are great at organizing their own time!
WHO SUPERVISES THE KIDS ON THEIR OFF TIMES DURING THE DAY AND WHO OVERSEES THE SCHEDULES THEY DEVISE?
The campers are supervised by the staff in the areas in which they spend their time - so the art staff in the art studios, the gardener in the garden, &c… If they are “between areas” (for instance: sitting reading at a picnic table or sending an email home), the are observed by the many adults coming and going at all times around the campus. As we are a small community with a 3:1 child to adult ratio, there is always more than ample supervision; the way the campus is set up facilitates this.
There is no centralized scheduling system, so each “meeting” a camper has is kept track of by the campers themselves and the staff they have set the meeting with - a music teacher, horseback riding instructor, &c... Campers cannot miss appointments - if they do, the staff person they are meeting is responsible to find them. The campers understand the system quickly, and rarely miss a meeting (and, if they do, almost never more than once).
Rehearsals (band and theater) happen at the same time every day. Attendance is mandatory, and the rehearsal will not start until all have arrived, and any absent camper will be located immediately. Most summers there is not a single case of a camper missing or being late for a rehearsal.
IN A NUTSHELL, WHAT IS BALLIBAY LIKE?
We are old-school, inclusive, and truly non-competitive. No phones or social media are allowed. Even a hint of bullying or "mean kid" behavior is not tolerated. We attract a lot of children who have a difficult time finding their niche at home, and also a lot who are popular and outgoing. We make sure that everyone mixes and respects each other. When we say non-competitive, we mean it. Divas are not tolerated, and there are no competitions or awards of any type (except a banner for the cleanest cabin after Sunday inspection...). As an arts camp, we've been working with gender-nonconforming youths for much longer than it has been a "big issue." We have transgender, transitioning, and questioning kids every summer, and have for many years. We don't allow intimate romances among the campers.
ARE CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS (INCLUDING THE SEX OFFENDERS REGISTRY) PERFORMED ON ALL PERSONNEL?
As required by the state of Pennsylvania, all USA resident staff working with campers are cleared through three background checks: A Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Background Check; a Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Child Abuse Clearance; and a Federal Criminal Background Check processed through the United States FBI. International staff are vetted through a very thorough process by the American Institute for Foreign Study, and if internationals return for a 2nd summer they are also subject to the PA regulations.
We have many factors in our favor to prevent any type of issues:
- We are a small community, less than 250 people total. This keeps us small enough that everyone can have meaningful social relationships with every other member of the community. Everyone knowing everyone else, from the youngest to the oldest, from the administration to the cabin counselors, helps tremendously to keep us a safe and self-regulating community.
- We have a staff-to-camper ratio of about 1:3. Many of our staff (up to 25%) are parents whose children also attend camp. Having a strong community of parents at the core of the staff means there are a lot of people looking at the community with a parent’s eye.
- Our staff is older than most camps, with a minim hiring age of 19, and an average age of 24-25. This helps us maintain a more mature community in which concerns are openly discussed, and staff have some life experience which helps them identify problem situations.
- We have a very high return rate: 50-80% of staff depending on the summer, and typically 80% of campers who are still of camp age. So, both among the adults and kids there is a close-knit community of people who know each other well (about 25% of the camp has been coming for 5 or more years). This network of trust helps keep open lines of communication between staff, campers, and camp leadership: if there are concerns of any type, staff and kids know they can walk into the office and speak with John, Kristin, or Sarah directly.
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS IN FILM/VIDEO AND TECHNICAL THEATER?
We offer film, video, and technical theater during all of our sessions. Our Film/Video program has two aspects:
- Multi-camera, where kids learn live TV production, like “Grease Live” and all the live musical theater remakes that have followed. Our program is most closely based on The Met Live in HD: https://www.metopera.org/Season/In-Cinemas/
- Campers work the shows as Camera Operators, Technical Directors, Assistant Directors, Shaders, and Floor Managers
- Single-camera productions: kids produce short films, music videos, videosongs, dance films, animations, etc.
In our Technical Theater program, kids operate all aspects of the shows, and participate in the design process. On every show we have campers working in Lights, Sound, Stage Management, Stage Crew, Makeup, Costume, Properties, and Scenic or Projection Design.
WHAT IS THE ART PROGRAM LIKE?
The visual art program is an individual-choice program, and can take any form a camper wants it to: they can spend as much time as they like in the studio, either working closely with the staff and visiting artists, working independently, or a mixture.
It is an “open studio” format, meaning that campers can come to the studios any time their schedule allows. If campers want help with specific techniques, they can make arrangements to meet with visiting artists or instructors throughout the day. This is how all of our programs are structured: each camper has a unique daily schedule based on their interests and motivations.
Campers will also know about special projects and workshops, and can join them if they are interested. Some campers prefer to join these more structured options, while others prefer working one-on-one with a mentor, while still others like to work on their own in the studio, only asking for help intermittently. We respect whatever mode the camper prefers, while always making sure they know that other options are available to them.
HOW ARE THE ART STUDIOS STAFFED?
There are two categories of staff in the studios:
We have studio instructors (painting and drawing, ceramics, b/w photography, fabrics and surface design, and printmaking). These staff are there all summer, typically also live in the cabins with the kids, and are in the studios every day, for all of the campers to work with.
We also have a visiting artist program, where professional artists come for 2-4 weeks to work with the campers.
The whole program is directed by painter Sara Galkin.
WHY DO THE KIDS IN THE VIDEOS LOOK OLDER?
Because we have a 75%+ return rate, we have a lot of older kids - the thing that’s important to recognize is that most of our older kids (14-16) started as younger kids (8-11) and have been with us for many years!
WHAT KIND OF FOOD DO YOU SERVE AT CAMP BALLIBAY?
We are a “foodie” camp, serving healthy, diverse, locally-sourced meals made from scratch. Our goal is to have the best camp foodservice anywhere. We grow a meaningful amount of our produce on campus in our garden, and interested campers help in the garden and in our food education program preparing snacks for the whole camp. In 2012 our foodservice was featured in the New York Times.
WHAT ACCOMMODATIONS ARE MADE AT CAMP WHEN A CHILD HAS DIETARY RESTRICTIONS?
We are a small camp with a well-staffed professional foodservice, so we are able to accommodate a wide range of dietary restrictions. We are a nut-aware campus with a nut-free foodservice. Our standard menu always includes vegetarian, vegan, and cross-contamination free gluten-free food; so no special accommodations need to be made for even the strictest vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets. We mark all food trays with colored clips to indicate foods that contain dairy, are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. We also mark food trays that contain any allergen that a member of our community is sensitive to, such as coconut or blueberry. We have a separate “seed table” for seeds and any foods containing seeds, as there is sometimes cross-reactivity to seeds in people with nut allergies.
DOES YOUR STAFF HAVE PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE IN WHAT THEY ARE TEACHING CAMPERS?
Our staff is a mixture of university students, graduate students, young professionals, and professional artists. Or minimum hiring age is 19. We look primarily for kind people who make interesting work and have both a desire to work with and a respect for children. We certainly have some very experienced teachers: up to 25% of our staff are professional artists whose children also attend camp. But we also appreciate the energy and playfulness of our college-aged staff members who are in a period of artistic discovery themselves.
HOW DO YOU TRAIN YOUR CAMP STAFF?
For first-year staff we offer a one-week training before the campers arrive, and ongoing training throughout their first summer. More than 50% of our staff members are returning, so there is also lot of peer mentoring within our community. Our environment is unique and complex enough that it takes a full first summer to completely grasp our educational philosophy and process, so have daily full-staff meetings all summer so that an ongoing dialogue is maintained among all the staff and camp administration.
WHAT MAKES YOUR CAMP UNIQUE?
We are a community designed completely for independent-minded young artists and different-thinking kids. We truly value kids’ individuality and artistic voices, and we avoid competition in any form. We are a small community where everyone knows everyone, and there is a deep sense of mutual respect for and tolerance of diversity in its many forms.
WHAT IS THE STAFF TO CAMPER RATIO?
With never more than 175 campers, and always at least 50 staff people, even at our fullest we have an exceptional 7:2 camper to staff ratio.
HOW DO YOU MAKE CAMP ACCESSIBLE AND INCLUSIVE?
As a small, well-staffed community, there are always people available to support the accessibility needs of our campers. Campers who need additional support of any kind can always be sure that there will be time, resources, and adults available to make sure campers’ needs are met.
Inclusivity is our hallmark - we are a neuro-diverse, gender diverse, and culturally diverse environment, and have been since our founding in 1964. Ballibay is a warm, accepting, and friendly place. With our high return rate (typically over 50% for staff, and as much as 80% for campers) we have a large retuning community who embody a commitment to inclusivity and keep that culture vibrant at the camp.
WHAT ABOUT RETURN RATES FOR BOTH CAMPERS AND COUNSELORS?
Over 50% of staff, and 80% of campers, come to us for more than one summer. Over 25% of our community has been with us for over 5 years.
WHAT IF MY KID DOESN'T SEEK OUT A COUNSELOR AND CHOOSES NOT TO SIGN UP FOR ANYTHING?
There are always at least 3 ways to be involved:
- staff will seek out campers based on the interests they expressed during “orientation,” the tour and interviews held during the first 2 days of camp
- campers are free to seek out staff at any time (usually at or before meals) and schedule a “meeting”
- all activity areas are “open” for campers to visit, observe, and when possible, participate with no previous appointment (for instance, dance classes and the art studios).
So, even if a camper is not proactive in filling their schedule, they will be approached by staff with offers of lessons (we call them “meetings”), and can also structure their day simply by heading to an area of interest and seeing what opportunities are there. The culture of the place is one of engagement and involvement - a camper who is not engaged for whatever reason will draw the attention of staff, who will gently intervene and help guide them to activities, however this is unusual. Take a look at this page for an idea of how kids with different interests structure their days.
WHAT SESSION LENGTH: 2 WEEKS/3 WEEKS AND WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
The 2-week sessions are designed for returning kids who do not need an “adjustment period” and can “hit the ground running” and take advantage of a short stay. First-year campers do come for 2 weeks, but we do encourage a longer stay in the first year, as there are always a few days of acclimating, making new friends, and sometimes dealing with a little homesickness, and many campers report that, while they had a good experience, they would have enjoyed an extra week. Also, for kids with an interest in theater, all of our big plays and musicals rehearse for more than two weeks, so these are only open to 3- and 4-week campers. We do have one-act and script-in-hand theater for kids staying 2 weeks.
WHAT IS THERE A LIST OF SPECIFIC PERMITTED DEVICES (IPOD, SWITCH, DS)?
There is not a definitive list. We prohibit phones of any type (even with the SIM card removed), and also prohibit any device that has cellular data capability (e.g. an iPad with a SIM card, etc…). Otherwise, we are open to any device, but always appreciate the opportunity to discuss it with the family. iPods are very common (the iPod touch is pretty much the ideal camp tech: music, camera, contacts, notes, etc…). Kids do bring DS and Switch, but report that they do not use them very much.
WHAT IS THE SKILL LEVEL IN ROCK BANDS?
We intentionally mix age and experience level within each band. There’s a lot less learning in a band of all shredders (or all intermediate players) than there is in a mixed group.
Just as an experienced drummer can bring a whole group of less experienced musicians to a new place simply by providing that rock-solid, nuanced groove, a more versatile bass player can help a less experienced drummer find the pocket. There are always very good technical players who need to develop their listening and sensitivity. We find that playing with less experienced musicians really helps develop this.
We do audition the kids once they are here (in an informal and friendly way), and we assemble the bands very intentionally, trying to build in a lot of learning opportunities while also setting up each band for success.
She’s not very good with time management and once in the studio immersed in her art, time will get away from her and she will totally miss lunch/dinner if not reminded. 🙂 Just wanted to see if there was some kind of supervision or counselors there to kind of prod her along if she needs it. I know there is a lot of freedom at the camp, which we are in support of, and it’s necessary for artistic creation and the soul, however she is only 12 and just wanted to know if adult supervision was around if needed.
Absolutely. The daily schedule alternates between structure and freedom:
- Everyone needs to get up, get ready, and attend breakfast at 8:15
- From 9:15-12 her time is her own to get immersed in whatever she is doing (studios are open 9:30-12)
- At noon, everyone returns to the cabins to get ready for lunch
- Everyone attends lunch at 12:30, and then the rest period
- The whole camp gathers a 2:35 for a one-minute performance and a recap of announcements
- And from 2:45-5 her time is her own again (studios are open 3-5)
- At 5 the whole camp gathers for an informal performance.
- And everyone attends dinner at 5:30
- And her time is hers again from 6:30-8:00 PM (studios are open 7-8)
So the freedom is interspersed in a structure that has clear expectations, and the staff make sure the campers know when it’s time to wrap up what they are doing, tidy their area, and get ready for the next part of the day.
There are 11 times each day that staff specifically check to make sure that the kids they are responsible for are where they need to be.
HOW DO CAMPERS CHOOSE ACTIVITIES?
Each session begins with a several-day “orientation.” This is the only time the kids will travel around camp as a cabin group. During the orientation they get a full tour of the camp, meet all the staff, learn about all the activities, and have an initial opportunity to express their interest in camp programs. The staff take notes on the campers’ interests, and will seek these campers out once activities start. Some activities have a fixed daily schedule, like theater or rock band rehearsals - in the case of these activities the campers will be placed in a show or band (based on an informal audition) that rehearses at the same time every day. In the case of all other activities, there are three ways to participate after the initial orientation:
- Staff will seek out campers based on the interests they expressed during orientation to schedule “meetings”
- Campers are free to seek out staff at any time (usually at or before meals) and schedule a “meeting”
- All activity areas are “open” for campers to visit, observe, and when possible, participate with no previous appointment (for instance, dance classes and the art studios). Information about what’s available announced after every meal (for instance, the dance department will announce: there is beginning tap dance at 9:30, intermediate ballet at 10:15, all-levels modern dance at 11:00, and a stretch/cool down at 11:45, etc…). Campers have a binder/notebook to jot down things they are interested in (most kids can actually remember the times of things they are interested in after a few days…)
(There are also fun activities interspersed with the orientation sessions so that the first days of camp are not all “boring tour…”)
You can get a sense of how this works from the sample camper schedules, here.