Chelsea Badger is our newest Summer Camp USA coordinator and expert. Chels’ is about as passionate as humanly possible about camp and is always keen to share her experiences with others. In fact, she’s put pen to paper and explained what life at Camp Echo Lake is like. Read all about Chelsea’s camp experience below:
A Day In My Life at Camp!
I worked as a Fine Arts Activity Specialist at Camp Echo Lake in Warrensburg, New York in 2019 and I’ll be returning in 2020 for my second summer! My group of campers were 13 years old and their group name was Lower Village Girls (LVG). I lived in a cabin called ‘Yale’, that had six sets of bunk beds and I shared this cabin with 2 of my co-counsellors and 9 of my campers. The rest of my co-counsellors and campers lived in the cabin next to us and their cabin was called ‘Penn’. My co-counsellors were Jess (Group Leader), Taylor (Yoga Specialist), India (Ropes Specialist), Nicole (Cooking Specialist) and Haley (Cabin Specialist). This is a little run down of what a day in my life at camp was like!
Wake-Up / Clean Up
GOODMORNING! It’s time to start the day! I live in the Senior Village at the camp so we get a little sleep in which is awesome!
Breakfast in the Lodge
Once we have freshened up a bit, we walk down the hill to the Lodge which is the building we had breakfast in. For breakfast we always have a hot option (scrambled eggs, pancakes, breakfast potatoes or eggies etc) as well as porridge, fresh fruit, cereal, juice and most importantly COFFEE! My keep cup is probably my most used item at camp! We sit together for breakfast and my group leader will go through the activities for the day and tell the campers what they are signed up for, where they are meant to be throughout the day and if they have any special activities such as private tennis lessons, water skiing etc. After breakfast, the campers go back to the cabin and they do a clean up which means they neaten up the cabin, sweep, wipe down the bathroom, make their beds etc.
I usually leave breakfast a little early to walk over to the Fine Arts Centre to meet my activity team and get organised for the day. We set up the first art lesson and then wait for the campers to arrive so we can get into it! At 10:00am, the senior village has morning line-up. I didn’t get to go to morning line up very often because I always had to head straight to art to start lessons (unless of course we didn’t have a lesson in the first period!) however, morning line up is when all of senior village gets together and they go through announcements, sing songs, talk about the day etc.
We clean up and pack away from the first lesson and then we set up the second art activity for the day. Then we wait for the campers to arrive and we get straight into it!
We get to take one period off a day, so this is my allocated period off for today. I head over to The Rox, which is our staff room. The Rox is awesome, we have vending machines, air-con (the best), couches, table tennis, tv’s, computers, WIFI and it’s just a nice place to relax and hang out with other counsellors during your down time. We would often go on Dunkin’ runs into town to get ice coffee on our periods off!
My time off is over now so I head back across campus to the Fine Arts Centre and help my team get ready for the next art lesson.
Senior Village Lunch
Finally time for lunch! Lunch is served buffet style and we also have an amazing salad bar with loads of different fresh salads and other cold options. I really enjoy being able to have lunch with my campers and find out how their mornings were and what they have been up too. My favourite lunch at camp is grilled cheese. I keep vegemite in my daypack, so I like to open the grilled cheese and spread on some vegemite on it… YUM! My campers are always super curious about Vegemite so showing them ‘practical’ ways to eat it is a nice way for me to share my ‘culture’ with them.
After lunch, my campers head back to the cabin for rest hour. However, since I’m an activity specialist I head back to the Fine Arts Centre to set up and teach another art lesson. If we don’t have a lesson scheduled in this period (or any period during the day) we usually can go re-join our group of campers and do an activity with them. After lunch, one of my co counsellors (Either the Group Leader or the Cabin Specialist) will take one of the campers to go collect the mail for both cabins (Yale & Penn). Letter writing is a super popular thing at camp and the campers get mail basically every day or second day.
We have another art lesson in this period, so I stay at the Fine Arts Centre and help with that.
This is the one time of the day the entire camp comes together all in the same place. One counsellor of each group will head into the dining hall and get the ‘snack’ of the day which I usually icy poles or cookies and we then hand them out to our campers. The campers love to see their younger siblings and other friends during snack and as counsellors it’s nice to see other counsellors we don’t see much off during the day. Even though we have between 250-270 counsellors at camp, we are an incredibly tight knit family and we all just love each other so much!
We have another art class scheduled for this period, so I head back to the Fine Arts Centre to help with that.
Once Period 8 is over, I head straight from the Fine Arts Centre back to my cabin. I quickly get changed into my swimsuit and head down to either the lake or the pool depending on where my group is allocated for the day. General swim is hands down my favourite part of the day! This for me, is the best part of the day because It’s such a good way to cool down after a long day plus I love to be able to re-join my group of campers and co-counsellors and talk to them about what they got up to during the day!
We grab our towels, slip our crocs on and then we all head back up to our cabin all together. Every group has a different allocated time to shower so because my group is the youngest group in the Senior Village our shower time is the last one. While we wait, we hang out in the cabin, play cards, chat or sit outside in our crazy creeks. Usually we have a little co-counsellor meeting during this waiting period which is good to find out if anything happened during the day that we need to be aware of. Shower time is madness, but we managed to get it done every day somehow!
We usually rush straight from showers to evening line up. Line Up is when everyone in Senior Village sits together and we talk about the day, go through announcements, sing happy birthday, sing the tooth song if someone loses a tooth and we hand out fuzzies! It’s a fun way to all come together before we walk over to the dining hall for dinner.
DINNER TIME! We have dinner in the main dining hall every evening. Sometimes we have ‘cook out’ which is bbq styled food and we usually sit outside for these dinners. For normal inside dinners, we have 2 people go up to the kitchen window and they get food for the entire table. We then all sit together and eat, sometimes there are chants that randomly happen in the dining hall so it’s always loud and there is always lots of laughs. Once we have had our dessert, cleaned up our table and taken up our dishes etc it’s time to head outside.
Evening activity is different every evening. Sometimes it could be a group game, a movie night, a challenge, a campfire, a show, a silent disco or anything really. But whatever it is, it’s always fun!
We have canteen in the Lodge with the whole of Senior Village. The kids get to pick two snacks, we play music and the campers hang out. Sometimes we have karaoke set up too. This is mainly just a time for the Senior Village campers to all come together and be social with each other at the end of the day.
Back to Cabins & Circle Up
After canteen, we go back to our cabins and we do a circle up. A circle up is when we all sit in a circle and we discuss the day or a topic. A popular thing we do is play ‘valleys and peak’s where we go around the circle and talk about something we loved about the day (peak) and something we maybe didn’t like so much or something we struggled with (valley). The group leaders usually leads circle up and it’s a really nice way to conclude the day before we go back to our respective cabins and start getting ready for bedtime.
Official Time Off
Every day we get 10pm-1am as our time off, unless you are on OD (On Duty) for the evening. If you are assigned to do On Duty for the evening, you are responsible for staying with the cabin of campers, making sure they get ready for bed, and once lights are out (for my group lights out was 10:45pm) you sit on the porch of your cabin and make sure the campers are settled, being quiet and preferably sleeping. This is a great time for us as counsellors to read, write letters, make bracelets or anything else to pass the time until your co-counsellors come back from their time off. There is head OD staff that come around during OD and give you snacks (usually yogurt, fruit cups or chips). We also have so many coffee machines scattered around on campus, so we are always welcome to make a coffee or a tea to have while we are on OD.
Usually around the time I get to bed and go to sleep 12:00pm Once your co-counsellors are back from their time off, and the Head OD has given you permission to finish your OD shift it’s time for bed. I always fall asleep in like a second at camp so I climb into my bunk bed and by the time my head hits the pillow I’m already asleep and ready to snooze until the next morning!