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The Leaves They Are A-Changin’

By Alex Loop, Outdoor Education Naturalist for the Mason Outdoor Center

And so is camp! The new pavilion is going up, leaves are going down, and cars and buses continue to roll in for the last few days of the fall season. With the constant countdown to summer camp posted on Facebook and Instagram, one would think that there is substantially less happening here at Mason over the fall and into the winter. This is not the case. We have had crazy weeks here at camp over the past few months. A different kind of crazy from the summer, but hectic nonetheless.

Long days with ropes setup starting at 6:30 in the morning, ending with night hikes lasting til 9. Days filled with back-to-back ecology classes, and hours of belaying. Sometimes we facilitate every activity for a group, from a structured course on sustainability to leading songs around a campfire. Other times, we are merely here in the background, as the group has (almost) free reign over camp. I have been lucky enough to experience Mason both in the summer and the fall. I could not tell you which season I prefer – these are two different camps that happen to be in the same spot, with their own kind of magic.

Just as summer staff were challenged to “Make Magic,” we make magic here at the Outdoor Center with every new or returning group that visits us. Whether we are explaining the science behind the changing foliage that lights up camp with its dazzling splendor, or guiding a nervous 8th grader through the full high ropes course, Camp Mason continues to impact the kids that come here. The Outdoor Center is much more than a plug for summer camp – it is its own entity. In a span of a few hours to several days, students learn about themselves and the natural world around them. I have never visited Mason with my school. I am a naturalist who lives and works on camp seasonally, however, like my coworkers and the participants I teach, I too, am a student who constantly learns and grows in this unique, magical place that has so much to offer, no matter the season.

Art in the Heart

By Dan Dickerson, Naturalist at the Mason Outdoor Center

When I was ten, I spent a lot of time inside of the house, avoiding the facets of the worlds around me; lost in the land of video games.

When I turned 19 after my first year of college I took a leap and applied for my first job working as a summer camp counselor at Camp Mason. I didn’t really know what it was going to be like, but I did know that I would make friends and do my best to go above and beyond. What I didn’t expect to find, was my passion. Sometimes you have to be lost to truly find yourself, and being lost in the woods of Hardwick, New Jersey has allowed me to find the true educator within.

Education is my passion and art is my medium. YMCA Camp Mason provides a place to foster your individual skills through active community support systems utilizing outdoor education. Being challenged to step out of my comfort zone allowed me to discover the power of expression and how to teach it to children.

Being able to bring the ‘Improvisational Contemporary Flow Art’ form know as gloving to camp mason has allowed me to share my belief in the power of expression through art, and has fortified my love for the therapeutic attributes that art can provide. Gloving is micro dance form where you use LED lights on your finger tips to express music like poetry. The improvisational skills acquired through flow arts can help anyone understand their strengths – change can start with art in the palm of your hand.

A camper once shared with me that they were glad that they joined my gloving class because it helped show them how to refocus their attention; as they were easily distracted. The following summer they had told me their grades we exponentially better ever since they started using gloving as the outlet for their frustrations in school. Hearing that, I realized my true passion is education using the skills of art therapy. The power to express your self is already in your hands, and with art you can teach others how to make a difference.

Whether I’m speaking to a parent, teacher, co-worker, or student I am always inspired by the strength they exhibit to push past their comfort, to step into their growth zone. Camp has granted me a sense of Identity, discovery, and ability.

There is a light in every person and the people you meet at camp are a lot like the stars, no matter the time or place we are surrounded by stars. The memories you create at camp are crystal gems crafted within to assure you you’re not alone, and to remind you to return to your greatness.

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.

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