As a teacher, I’m used to beginnings and endings, necessary breaks and returns, first days and lasts, graduations…you know, all the stuff that goes into a year of school. And as a camp director at WCDS, you get all that stuff crammed into a single week, over and over again. You’d think I’d be used to it! But every year, twelve years and counting now, I get an odd sense of loss when camps come to an end. It’s a different feeling from the school year, these summer camps. It’s obviously a little more relaxed, and a little muddier, and a lot sweatier. But there’s also a feeling on campus that’s hard to describe. A little oasis, a kid paradise, where the campers and counselors laugh together a whole lot more than not, and where the line between kid and adult can blend until suddenly you’ll see grown bodies taking to a bumpy (even bumpier the older I get) slip ‘n slide, or joining in a kickball game, or a rock skipping competition, or a painting session, a movie screening, a book club, heck you might just see them helping to dig a random hole out there (I honestly can’t describe how many holes are dug during camps. It’s wild. Just a hole. Nothing goes in it. Nothing is buried. Just. A. Hole.), whatever! Really what you’ll see is us becoming campers again ourselves, and boy if that isn’t something to behold.
So, a few years ago, our school staff met to begin the year and couldn’t stop raving over the feeling we got in the summer. We couldn’t stay away, kids and teachers alike! It was, as they say, a real vibe. (ugh, I’m older every second, aren’t I?) So we asked the question, ‘why isn’t school like that?’ We loved our school and all that came with it, but why weren’t we bringing the wonder and joy and laughs of camp every day, regardless of the season? There wasn’t a good answer, and we’re not a place that relies on doing things because that’s ‘how it’s always been done,’ so from that day forward, every day became summer camp.
– What Would Summer Camp Do? –
From that moment on, we’ve been in the creek, and on the slide, and right there next to the kids reading and painting and laughing and sure, even digging us some holes! It’s a sight, every day, here at Wheeling Country Day School. I’ve been here many more days than I’ve missed since the second I walked on this campus and that vibe is the main reason why. My family is here as it grows. My friends are here in each age group. This place has become home, and I’m proud to devote my time here.
So sure, it’s hard to say goodbye, every week (ok, most weeks), and at the end of the year, it’s like we’re flipping an hourglass and counting the days until the schedule is released yet again, daunting as that may feel this first week in August. And then, just like that, we start Comeback Kids, and our students begin a school year with activities like Kayaking in the Creek and a Cardboard Challenge and a Big Head Parade and Yoga on the Field. It’s camp at school and it sets the tone for the months ahead when we paint the ice on the frozen field and make movies instead of take tests and find a desk on the stump of a tree because we are outside constantly and we sure aren’t sitting in rows.
I’d regret not offering you a chance to see our school in action at full capacity. I know circumstances may make that difficult at times for a while, but if you’re reading this, you’ve experienced quite a bit during camps. Come meet the rest of the staff, hear our magnetic head of school, Liz Hofreuter, and see how your family can be a part of this summer camp that never ends.
While I’ve certainly made you read enough, I want to end by thanking the staff, particularly the directors your child got to see each and every week as they jumped (or were…umm…assisted) out of the car, Bridget Rutherford and Alex Hill. I know Summer Camp Director sounds like an easy gig, what with the shorts and sunscreen and all, but I don’t know that I can explain the hours it takes to make a camp like this exist. Months ahead of time and all summer, they’re just about always on call, even when they’re not supposed to be, and they bring the love from minute one. I hope you join me in my appreciation because they are something else.
Have a wonderful school year. Stay healthy. Stay safe. And we’ll see you back here before you know it.
Director, WCDS Summer Camps