10 questions every camp parent should ask a camp director
Choosing the right sleepaway camp for your child is a decision you’ll hopefully need to make only once. Rushing through the process could mean a summer at a camp that isn’t the perfect fit for your child, and then starting all over the next year. Every parent begins their camp search the same way, watching a camp’s videos and perhaps touring its campus or getting a home visit from a camp director or staff member. Once you reach this stage, make sure you also pose the following questions to gain confidence in your decision. Our answers could be just the reasons you decide to choose Camp Walt Whitman for your family.
1. Why do you believe children thrive at your camp?
We have a lot of fun here, that helps! But what we really emphasize, whether your camper is learning to water ski or dressing up for a themed dance party, is the importance of friendship and community at Camp Walt Whitman. Campers experience the majority of their activities with their cabinmates, and at our weekly meetings and campfires, we foster the appreciation of the community we share together. We create a fun, warm, supportive environment, so campers not only feel at ease, they feel comfortable being more adventurous than they might be at home.
2. How do you help first-time campers integrate into the camp community?
We take our matchmaker role very seriously, making sure that we find the perfect cabin for your child, where he or she is most likely to meet other campers who share his or her interests and personality type. We also make first-timers feel at home by pairing campers with a big brother or sister and being extra attentive to any pangs of homesickness.
3. Do campers travel to activities with their bunk or are they mixed with other campers? Are their counselors from their cabin with them at activities?
At Walt Whitman, campers travel to 4 of their 6 activity periods with their bunkmates and their counselors. This ensures that counselors know what is happening in real-time with each child. There are two periods each day when campers get to pick their favorite activities.
4. How are the counselors selected? How old are they? What kind of experience do they have?
All of our counselors at Walt Whitman are college-age or older, have extensive previous experience working with children, and have received outstanding references. Because our counselors don’t become our instructors, we can hire counselors simply because they are wonderful with children.
5. Tell me about your leadership staff? How much continuity is there with this team from year to year? Who specifically on the leadership team will be looking out for my child?
We are very fortunate to have a large leadership team at Walt Whitman who are teachers and professors and return to camp summer after summer.
While we have outstanding cabin counselors spending all day with our campers, we also have very experienced Head Counselors who oversee each age group. In addition to spending all day around camp interacting with our campers, we meet with our Head Counselors every day to discuss every child in camp. If there are any concerns, we make sure they are addressed immediately. Therefore, an entire team looks out for every child.
6. Who do I contact during the summer if I have any concerns?
At Walt Whitman, your child’s Unit Leader will be with him or her throughout the day and will respond to any phone message you leave with our office very quickly. And, of course, as camp directors, we are available to you as well.
7. If my child is struggling at camp, when will I be notified and by whom?
We view our parents as partners and get in touch early if we feel that a camper is experiencing more homesickness than normal or is having any other difficulty adjusting to camp life. Parents will hear from your child’s Unit Leader and/or us camp directors as soon as the issue presents itself, so we can keep you informed and strategize the best solution.
8. How is your Infirmary/Health Center staffed? Who will I hear from when my child doesn’t feel well?
At Camp Walt Whitman we have 6 RNs, a camp doctor, and an Athletic Trainer to handle all of our campers’ needs. Our health staff treats the campers at camp like they would their own children. If a child were to come to the Health Center to have a splinter removed, we would take care of it and send them on their way to be with their group. However, if a child needed to spend the day in the health center, needed to be put on medication, or seen by a specialist, you will always get a phone call from one of our nurses first. Together we’ll discuss the best plan of action in the rare case that your child becomes sick or injured.
9. How do you determine what cabin my child will be in? Is there more than one cabin per age group?
At Walt Whitman, we have 3 or four cabins in each age group. We put a great deal of effort into finding the right cabin for each child. Based upon what campers and parents share with us before camp and on their biography forms, we not only put children in cabins where we think they will thrive but go as far as choosing each child’s bed placement to ensure they are near children with some similar interests.
10. When campers don’t return to your camp, what is the primary reason, aside from simply aging out, that you are provided?
When families find the right fit for their child, that child can thrive for years at the same camp. But we have learned that not every camp is right for every child, including ours. While 90% of our campers return every summer, the number one reason that we hear for children not returning to camp is because a coach from home is pressuring them to participate on a team all summer.
11. (Bonus question!) Is there a certain type of child or a certain family who you believe your camp is a great match for?
The commonality for us is that we attract really nice kids from families who are looking for a down-to-earth camp. Campers who thrive at Walt Whitman are kids who are excited to try lots of different things no matter their ability level, are kind and respectful to others and like to have lots of fun.