Camp Mason

Camp Mason

Why Come and Work at Camp?

By Salva Cossu, Assistant Camp Director (summers 2016-17)

Over the past three years, I’ve heard that question so many times: from my friends, my school, my fellow camp staff member’s parents, people considering joining a camp staff, and many more. Why work at camp when you’re going to college, when you have high career prospects? I asked myself that question at some point, I’m not going to lie. Here’s my answer.

Just to put a little bit of context, I’m French, and study business in a French school. Getting into one of these schools in France is a long, hard and studious process of two years after high school. Therefore, when you finally get into college, you’re expected to do internships in big companies, increasing your marketing or finance skills. I chose to work at Camp Mason, against all odds and many people questioning it.

The reason why is simply because what you can learn at camp is something that you can’t learn in any company in 3 months, or even a year, or two. You learn how to be a leader, among your kids and your peers. You learn how to adapt to any situation, to manage any crisis that may come your way, and how to be confident doing it. That’ll change your way of working with people, of explaining things so that everyone (adults as much as kids) can understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, including yourself. Finally, you learn how to be yourself, to be confident in your skills, as diverse as they may be, in a diverse and international environment. Give me one other place in the world you can learn all of that, potentially be a leader at 21 or 22 years old, I promise you it’s really hard to find. I got jobs in the musical industry talking for 30 minutes about camp, because of and I quote “the qualities you show, no one has them at your age”.

If you are a friend, or a parent, trust the guts of that person who wants to come and work at summer camp. Don’t refrain them, they’re learning a different way, and that’s what makes them strong and valuable. And if you are the one thinking about it, listen to yourself, go learn how to be the leader you would like to have and be who you want to be.

Stewardship, Sustainability & Service

By Nikki Reiff, Outdoor Center Program Director

Sometimes you need to stop and smell the flowers, and sometimes you need to stop and save the flowers. Here at Camp Mason, we do both. What I mean by this, is that when visitors come here-they are immersed in a culture where stewardship and sustainability take the forefront. Sometimes it’s in the form of litter picking as you head to an activity, often times in the form of an environmental education class that creates an understanding of why protection of the environment is so important, and sometimes it’s palpable.

This past week, the French American School of New York brought their 6th grade class to Camp Mason for a unique outdoor experience. Aside from zip-lining through the trees, orienteering themselves through the woods, and forging group bonds in our Low Ropes course—they built bat boxes from scratch as a service project to our camp, and to the entire north east. Bats in the north east are important animals that help maintain an ecosystem and are of great service to humans. One colony can consume more than 250,000 mosquitos a night, and they also predate on pesky invasive species, such as tent caterpillars, that threaten a forests’ health or farmland. These bats are threatened for a few reasons- fungal infections that gets spread in some hibernacula (or habitats), the installation of wind turbines, and destruction of habitat in forests. All of these reasons can be summarized as unsuitable habitat. So in a matter of 3 days, a team of naturalists and a couple dozen students addressed this problem and created new habitat for 5 colonies of local bats.

Facilitation of activities like this are not uncommon here at Mason. The Outdoor Center team incorporate sustainability and stewardship into nearly every program here. Giving back to the earth or to one another is a recurrent theme across team building, recreation, and environmental classes all the same. In the fall, NJ District Circle K help Camp Mason with litter picks along nearby roads and streams. In the spring, United Nations International School visited and created water-awareness murals with the same idea in mind–to make a difference. St. Lukes School helped us remove invasive species along our trails. We are always looking to unite with schools and groups to complete more projects like this!

So whether it’s composting our brown napkins, maintaining trails, or physically creating animal shelters When you take a moment to look around at our guests and staff alike, its’ easy to see that stewardship and sustainability are key values we hold dear to us at YMCA Camp Mason. And if you don’t see that, you’d have to be blind as a bat.*

*Bats actually are not blind, they however, use echolocation to hunt rather than their vision. But you get the point!

Meet the Team: Kelly

By Kelly Koster, Summer Camp Program Director

Hi, I’m Kelly, the new Summer Camp Program Director! I have been in and out of the Camp Mason world for about 6 years now. I’ve worked as a Naturalist and Senior Naturalist in the Outdoor Center for 6 seasons, and have loved every minute of time spent exploring, teaching and sharing my love of nature and the outdoors here!

Although this will be my first summer here, I have been working in the summer camp world for 14 summers. I previously worked at the Girl Scout camp I grew up going to, for 13 years working my way up to the Trips Director and Waterfront Director. Most recently, I worked in North Carolina for 3 summers as a sea kayak expedition leader. In between my summers at camp, I went to Randolph-Macon College, where I earned a degree in History and worked in Alabama at an outdoor center before coming to Camp Mason.

For as long as I can remember, summer camp has impacted my life in nothing but positive ways, from independence and leadership to lifelong friends! I am excited to be at Camp Mason to share my love for summer camp, giving children a unique experience, being silly and to change lives! One of my favorite parts of camp is disconnecting from the world and experiencing the moments in a world that constantly has us looking down instead of around us.  I hope to be able to bring new ideas and activities, and to learn about the traditions and culture that everyone loves about Camp Mason!

Fall is here at Camp Mason!

By Sara Davis, Senior Naturalist at the Mason Outdoor Center

As the sounds of children playing and the bugle blaring dance through my ears and the scents of sunscreen and insect repellent waft through the air, memories of crisp spring mornings linger.  Only a few weeks have passed since the end of the spring season for the Outdoor Center, though it feels like just yesterday I was working with school groups, girl scouts, and family camp. I successfully ended my first season as a Senior Naturalist at YMCA Camp Mason and celebrated ten years of experience in the field of Outdoor Education. I’m rather fortunate to have the forest, fields, lake, streams, garden, and ropes courses as my “office.” I have the opportunity to study the natural world around me and instill inquisitiveness in children and adults alike.

The passion for outdoor education and a love of nature is something that is shared amongst all the Outdoor Center staff. And although many of the Outdoor Ed. staff are fully engaged in this crazy, magical thing called Summer Camp, there are a few of us who keep the Outdoor Center in the forefront of our minds during the summer. Summertime affords the opportunity to reflect on the past season, and to scout out the trail that lies ahead. Taking feedback from our schools and groups, we are working very hard to make improvements to our programs and supplies, update curriculums, and prepare for staff training.  Many may wish that summer will never end, but when it does and the children resume their role as students and parents once again become homework helpers and school chauffeurs, the Outdoor Center staff will be ready to guide all towards new discoveries through experiential education. 

It’s Time for a Macation!

For Session 4 of Summer Camp 2017 we are off on a Mason Vacation! The day will take us on a wild adventure to a secret location somewhere on the planet. It’s hard to pack for a vacation when you don’t know the destination but we assure you’ll have everything you need to have an amazing time.

Last year we landed on Fiji and the year before that we stopped off in Hawaii but it wasn’t all straight forward. We had challenges to overcome, packing to do and journeys to take before we arrived. Once we made it to our destinations we had a great time surfing at the pool, eating ice cream and making our own nice, cold mocktails! Get ready to come on an adventure with us to another exciting destination with all kinds of games and activities to try along the way!

At Camp Mason we build strong family values in our community and summer programs so taking a vacation during our last session wraps up the season nicely. It’s a day filled with lively and relaxing activities to have fun and strengthen our family-like bonds with all our staff and campers.

Join us Session 4 for our Mason Vacation theme day from August 6 – August 19 by clicking here to register. 

Time Machine 2017!

Start up your DeLorean, hop in your TARDIS or jump into that portal because during Summer Camp Session 3 we leave 2017 behind. Our Session 3 Theme Day is Time Machine and this year Camp Mason is going medieval fantasy. This day will have a variety of activities and games fit for all campers.

In the past we have battled in the arena of Ancient Rome, captured wanted bandits in the Wild West and connected our mind, body and spirit in 1969. What lies in store for us when we time travel this year? Valiant knights? Monstrous trolls? Jousting and duels? You’ll just have to wait and see!

Come join us for our annual Time Machine theme day. Session 3 runs from July 23-August 5. There is still time to register for Summer Camp at Camp Mason. Just click here.

 

Annual Mason Olympics 2017!

The Mason Olympics is our Session 2 theme day. It is a two-day event filled with culture sharing, team work, and activities challenging the mind, body, and spirit. The entirety of camp is divided into ten teams, or countries, led by two coaches and an ambassador.

Day one of the Mason Olympics focuses on the togetherness and creativity of your country. At this time your country will create cheers, design banners, learn about their country and prepare an act for opening ceremony held that night. Also, each participant receives a Mason Olympic t-shirt designed with their country’s custom marking.

Day two kicks off with games and events and carries on into the afternoon. Countries battle it out in events such as the tug of war, the triathlon, culture trivia plus a whole lot of original games. In the evening we have closing ceremony which consists of a final act from each country followed by the awards.

The goal of this theme day is to win one of the coveted awards, the Hercules Award or the Spirit award. To obtain the Hercules Award a country must win as many events as possible with keeping in mind good sportsmanship and teamwork. To obtain the Spirit Award a country should demonstrate positive, enthusiastic energy, inclusiveness, and originality.

Join us for The Mason Olympics for an incredibly energetic and fun-filled two-day event! Session 2 runs from July 9th – July 22nd. You can register for this Session 2 at Camp Mason here.

Summer Camp off to Hollywood!

Our first session Theme Day pays homage to American life by exploring a unique culture, tradition, history or major event of America every year. In the past we have celebrated our nation’s independence on the Fourth of July, gone to the State Fair, and held our own camp election.

This year we are experiencing Hollywood in all of its glamour and glory. We’ll start off our day visiting the popular attractions local attractions. We’ll visit the Walk of Fame, the Chinese Theater, the Wax Museum and more, all led by your own celebrity tour guide. The afternoon may consist of catching a Lakers game, auditioning for a part in a movie, or taking part in a game show. But watch out! There could be obstacles to slow down your tours. Be on the lookout for those infamous L.A. traffic jams or the pesky paparazzi.

Our last stop is the Academy Awards! We’ll catch some live performances right right here at camp. Wearing our designer outfits we’ll stroll the red carpet for photos and interviews followed by a “fancy” dinner and then head right into the awards ceremony. We’ll even stop by the after party after the ceremony complete with music, dancing and food!

Join us for ‘This American Life: Hollywood edition’ for a full day of silly fun, lots of laughter and creative activities for all ages at YMCA Camp Mason this summer during Session 1. Session 1 runs from June 25 – July 8, 2017. You can find out more about saving your spot here.

Spring Training: It’s a Knockout!

By Nikki Reiff, Outdoor Center Program Director

Though this is my second spring working at Camp Mason, it will be my first spring training, and my first spring as a Program Director. After a week and a half of leading and participating in it, I can tell you that—much along the lines of spring training as it pertains to baseball—it allows new and returning team members to enhance their skills and serves as practice before the season begins.

This season, our naturalist and per diem team is made up completely by returning staff with the exception of two new faces. However, this didn’t stop us from re-training in all the different activities that we offer here at Camp Mason year round. Thus far, we have covered a majority of our science education, high rope elements, and team building initiatives. So what does training look like for our outdoor center staff?

We have hiked a few miles through a foot of snow to study native wildlife and their adaptations.

We have climbed the firecracker, vertical playpen, climbing wall, and zipline. And we have belayed… and belayed… and belayed.

We played laser tag because a group that belays together, plays together! And a team that plays together, stays together! (Or rather we did this to help unite us as a team outside of a work setting)

We have been through team building ourselves to share new ways to challenge groups and debrief participant interactions.

We have refreshed our CPR and First Aid certifications, as well as run through emergency procedures.

We hit targets through riflery and archery, and then set targets for what we as a group aim to achieve together.

…All this, and we are just getting started!

Looking at our full time seasonal line up—We have three new senior naturalists; Sara, Rebecca, and Michael all looking to expand their skills from seasons prior. We have got Mark and Chris, who are taking on new coordinator roles of high ropes and the ranges, respectively. We’ve got Christian a seasoned day-camp counselor who is working his second OE season, Carly who was previously a per diem but has chosen to take on more responsibility full time, Leighann who is working on developing new ecology curriculum for our school groups, and Erik who is tackling our garden and sustainability here at Mason. Combine this team with Co-Program Director Sally, Senior Camp Director Anna, and myself, and I can confidently say this spring we’ve hit a homerun.

Weekends at Camp Mason!

By Sally Wright, Outdoor Center Program Director – Retreats

Have you ever wondered what goes on at Camp Mason on the weekends? Saturdays and Sundays can be two of the busiest days of the week here at Camp. We often have Girl Scout troops and school groups here on the weekends, but Camp Mason also runs some specialty programs that anyone can come to. We offer programs such as Family Camp Weekend, Women’s Wellness Weekend and Volunteer Work Weekend. You can find more information or sign up for any of these weekends on our website.

Bring your family and prepare for a weekend packed with fun family oriented activities, during our family camp weekends. Depending on the season, you can race down the zip line, learn how to cross country ski, enjoy one of our off- site hikes, or just relax on the porch of your cabin. We have also made some improvements to our high ropes course that you may get to try out. Family Camp weekends run four times a year, and are one of our most popular weekend programs. In fact, our Memorial Day Weekend Family Camp (May 26th – 29th 2017) is already sold out. You can register for our Fall Foliage Family Camp (October 6th – 9th 2017) on our website at any time. Registration for our Labor Day Family Camp (September 1st – 4th 2017) will open on May 3rd 2017.

Yoga for Women’s Wellness Weekend

Another great weekend program is our Women’s Wellness Weekend for all of the ladies. This is a relaxing weekend with the opportunity to get in some exercise if you wish. Activities for the weekend may include mountain biking, yoga, aerial silks, and meditation just to name a few. You can bring a friend or come alone and make new friends while you’re here. We run two Women’s Wellness Weekends each year. You can register for a two night stay May 5th – 7th 2017 or a three night stay October 6th – 9th 2017.

We also hold an event here at Camp called Volunteer Work Weekend, where you can come to camp for free, and help us prepare camp for either the winter or summer depending on the season. This is a great opportunity for students who are looking for community service hours or people who just want to volunteer some time. There are projects for all ability levels from raking leaves and painting to construction of docks and benches. Registration is open for both the spring weekend May 12th – 14th 2017 and the fall weekend November 3rd – 5th 2017.

Please feel free to contact Sally with any questions by email at sally@campmason.org or by phone at 908-362-8217.

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YMCA Camp Ralph S. Mason
23 Birch Ridge Road
Hardwick, NJ 07825
Phone: 908-362-8217
Fax: 908-362-5767
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