A day at Summit Camp is structured around the various program activities, meals, and planned special events on the calendar for each session. A typical camp day includes 6 activity periods- Breakfast, Clean Up, Periods 1-3, Lunch, Rest Hour, Periods 4-6, Shower Hour, Dinner, Horseshoe (free time), and then an Evening Activity for the unit.
There are also six core areas of activity at Summit; which are represented 1 – 2 x daily:
- The Arts Programs: Ceramics, Visual Arts, Woodworking, Performing Arts, Glee/Dance, Music
- The Nature/Science Programs: Computers, Video Arts, Discovery, Nature
- The Waterfront Programs: Swimming, Boating, Banana boat, Swim lessons, Canoe, Kayak, ‘Magic carpet’ area
- The Adventure Programs: Low Ropes, High Ropes, Climbing Wall, Trust Games, Mountain Biking, Campcraft, Cookout
- The Athletics Programs: Soccer, Basketball, Baseball/Softball, Kickball, Archery, Martial Arts, Go-Karting, Health & Fitness, GAGA, Tennis, Trampolining, General Athletics, Track & Field
- The Personal Development Programs: Tribes (social skills program), Activities of Daily Living, Transitions to Adult Living Skills (15+ only), Rest & Relaxation, Canteen
Campers also have one-two “Trip Days” during a session. A trip day includes an afternoon off-camp at a nearby location, such as a bowling alley, movies, shopping (for the older groups), or fun-zone/activity park (younger groups). Upper Camp (15+) groups each have one overnight trip during a 3 week session which includes a theme park- we have previously visited Hershey’s, Dorney’s, and Knoebel’s- followed by a stay at a nearby college/university or hotel, then a mall/movies outing on the second day before returning back to camp. Since Upper Campers hold a camp job as part of their vocational component, they will have the money they’ve earned for the trip- a huge incentive. It is important to note, however, that there are no additional charges outside the tuition for any age group for the camp trips, and certainly no requirement to send money for the camper to have a good time! Meals, snacks, and all activities/participation are included already.
Each session includes at least one special activity day. This is a full-day schedule that is organized around a special theme or purpose that offers excitement for the campers, but that still retains a structure of activities and rotation schedule to visit different places on camp. These include our Community Spirit Day (first session) and Track and Field Day (last session)- Summit’s versions of ‘Color Wars’- , and Summitstock during second session (including a music festival put on by campers in the evening time).
During the second session only, families help their camper choose an area of ‘expertise’ in which they will spend more time during the session. The routine of the schedule stays the same, however, campers travel with others in a group that shares their interest – either Sports, Adventure, Arts, Nature, or Transitions to Adult Living Skills. This allows for variety in the programming for our youth that are with us for 5 weeks (usually the first and second sessions) as well as to offer campers who have limited camp time – staying two weeks only- to get as much time as possible in the areas where they have the greatest motivation on camp. Campers will also participate in a special trip day that follows the theme of their activity. We have visited Nature preserves, gone to sporting events, and done challenge course programs as part of our specialty A2 trips that specifically relate to the campers’ chosen activities.
It should be noted that while we offer a great range of programming, it is not in our philosophy/framework to “force” campers to participate in any area of programming. This comes from our understanding that the basis a camper’s refusal usually stems from one of a couple of different motivations that will only be made worse by attempting to force or cajole a camper into doing something they are refusing- specifically:
- Anxiety- either from separation (homesickness) or from prior negative experience in the area- some of our campers have been teased or excluded from activities in prior settings, or feel they will ‘fail’ in front of peers, so counselors must let them know they can be supported/understood and will not be forced or humiliated.
- A need for the ability to self-assert-often our 13-14 year old campers experience this need, as they particularly struggle to define their autonomy, so counselors must work to help increase feelings of power by offering the camper minor choices and more control in other areas until the issue is resolved.
- Frustration that stems from overexertion/overstimulation physically or emotionally that is unique to our campers’ neurological challenges- the counselor notes that they just really need a break!
- Fear of the unknown- they have a true challenge to overcome in trying this new skill or activity and thus counselors must help guide them through it with much smaller steps; they are not ready for this challenge.
- Lack of engagement/stimulation- on a few occasions, the camper really is not interested or cannot engage in the activity because it is not stimulating for them! In this case, the counselor and the specialist can usually work together to create two groups such that there are two possibilities available.
Generally, the model of Summit’s daily activities and programming is to create an environment where our campers have a positive, fun experience – even if this means we have to work through challenges, mold/model areas of programming to fit a specific campers’ needs, and/or “throw out the book” and start an entirely new effort to integrate the camper into his/her unit group. The reasoning for such an approach is the knowledge that our camper both wants and needs an experience that avoids unnecessary conflict, alleviates power struggles, and allows them to take control of their participation and behavior, within reason, without adults dictating their every decision and move. Only when such an outcome is achieved can a camper start to feel personally empowered as well as responsible for their choices and can move on to focus on more important things- like having a good time!