Tuesday, January 15, 2008

tour the wellness center under construction

Our amazing CEO, Jerry Huncosky, knows every foot of this project. I joined him recently on a tour of the construction site. A family group - the Wood family - has been visiting during the same mid-January weekend for some 35 years, always staying on the second floor of the Castle; they expressed interest in seeing the building, and Jerry happily obliged. Here's a video that will give you a good sense of the building - although it's a just a brief excerpt.

The ribbon-cutting and dedication of the building will take place in September, but there's some reasonable hope that the building will be open in June, in time for summer camp. I'm hoping, but not holding my breath.

in the greenhouse

The photo above was taken at Frost Valley two days ago. Huh? In January? A flowering plant? Yes.

Toward the back of the old Frostmann apple orchard - later used as the archery range - we've built a greenhouse. The staff there, led by Maggie Pichura, bring kids and families and school classes into the greenhouse, even in the middle of winter, to talk about the benefits of growing herbs, vegetables, flowers, of composting and other forms of organic recycling. In the spring the school groups plant veggies. In the summer, the kids weed and harvest and cook 'em up.

This is not to mention what a boon to the buildings the greenhouse is: the Castle, for instance, is filled with pots of flowers year-round.

Maggie gave me a tour of the greenhouse the other day and you can join the tour by watching this video.

During our visit, my kids and I ate some of the oranges - yes, oranges! - that Maggie has been growing. These little guys pack some Vitamin C punch. Wow.

Monday, January 14, 2008

1966 and 2008, same view

Compare the scenes - from more or less the same view. My back is to the dining hall and I'm looking to the northeast at the lower level of cabins. Hussey Lodge is there (on the left of the new photo) where cabins 7 and 8 of Forest used to be. Cabin 6 (straight ahead) is gone now. The cabins in the distance (once: Totem) are still there. For more about this scene, go here.

new cabins in place

All five of the new cabins are in place and finished sufficiently for weekend guests to stay in them. Three of the old cabins (once numbered 16-20--Lenape; more recently, 13-17--Hemlock) are still there, two having been moved away into the possession of alumni who bid highest for them. Here is a photograph taken this past weekend, showing several of the new cabins and one of the old ones (#19 or 16). The new ones have two bathrooms, with great showers, and a small but very nice counselor's room.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

the village schedule

Since the middle of the summer of 1976, each week the village chief of every village has created a weekly program schedule for the village. From '72 or so through the end of July '76 program activities were centralized - the famous "Master Schedule." Yes, all 5 activity periods were organized and managed and rostered by the Program Director(s). What a huge job that was. The advantages of the Master Schedule were obvious: campers had a huge diversity of choice. There were standard activities (crafts, basketball, etc.) as well as unusual ones (unicycles, learning Farsi) and there were at least 40 choices every period! The MS took advantage of the size of FV's staff and the range of talents. The down sides were enormous - two main ones: first, there was little to no accounting for where the campers were at any time; second, all the work had to be done by the Program Director and a few people who helped him or her. In all this, the importance of the village chief waned. By early '76 the VC was reduced to supervising the village staff at meals, rest hour, and evenings; scheduling CQ and days' off; some ongoing training; creating evening programs on nights when they were run by the village; handling overnights; being a super-counselor within the village. But the VCs didn't have authority and the uniqueness of the villages lessened.

I was the Program Director in August '75 and again was to be in August '76. (I was CIT Director in July '76. John Wellington Jr., who has been mentioned in these entries, was one of my CITs.) Just days before session 3 began, I was summoned by Halbe Brown and Bill Hettler to Halbe's office and was told to fix the problem with the program. "Create a system whereby we will know where every camper is at any time, and so that the villages will once again be the focal point of the campers' experiences." And Halbe handed me a model he'd used back at Camp Fitch, where he began in camping. I adapted this model quite a bit. I created a four-by-four grid. running alongside one edge of the grid were four groups of villages ("brother and sister" villages). Running down the other axis were four broad types of activities: 1) waterfront, 2) sports & games, 3) feeling good (wellness), 4) specialties. This would cover 4 periods every day and the 5th was reserved for a one-period version of the Master Schedule at the end of the day.

I called a meeting of all VCs and program staff for the Sunday night of the beginning of session 3. We met in the Castle living room. I brought mimeograph "stencil" sheets. I explained the new system to the VCs, who were dumbstruck. I told them that they would be creating one week's schedule and would have to do so with their brother or sister VC. They would also have to coordinate use of facilities, spaces, equipment through a system of sign-out sheets. We went around the room and each program area director described what was available that week. I asked them to insert all-camp programs. They blocked in their overnights, scheduled by Out-trip. I described the "specialty" options. They blocked in waterfront every day. The rest was up to them.

It took until well after midnight but they did it. I told them they would be mini-program directors and to make my point I asked Chuck White to come to the Castle at the end of the meeting and dramatically hand out BCB keys on nylon cord to each VC. Now each of them would be able to open the areas they were now responsible for - archery range, athletic shack, etc.

Within a few years we switched to photocopying the schedules, but very quickly they became elaborate. The first ones were rough blocked-out guides.

In the summer of '77 we began with the new programming format from the start and it seemed to work very well. The villages were back! The VCs were back in their central role. We continued to meet once a week and those meetings took on a great deal of general importance.

The system is in place today - almost exactly as it was back then. This coming summer it'll have been 32 years since that big change.

This morning I found one of the first schedules created - printed in purple ink by a mimeograph machine - for the first week of session 1 in the summer of '77. The VC was, I think, a guy named Gunnar. He was always the first one done with his schedule. (His one-week schedule took up two pages - he wrote large and fit only three days per side. As I say, we got better at this later.)

Click here for a much larger image and you can read it in detail. Below is a blow-up of one activity block: "NEW GAMES" were big then. "Everyone is a winner at Frost Valley. Gumbo!"

Thursday, January 3, 2008

singing in the rain in the snow

Go to YouTube and watch camp director Bob Eddings lead his version of "Singing in the Rain" at the recent session of winter camp. While you're there, check out the "related videos" on the menu to your right.