The Beauty of Autumn at Windsor Mountain

The Beauty of Autumn at Windsor Mountain

This is a guest blog written by a long-time Windsor Mountain parent, Kelly, who joined us as an enrichment staff member during our fall program. As a teacher, Kelly was pivotal in helping campers navigate their schoolwork while at camp. This was her experience:

Dear Windsor Mountain Family,

My name is Kelly. I am the resident ‘camp mother’ here at WMI for this unprecedented month. I am also, during normal years, a teacher. As we commune together in our safe bubble here in New Hampshire, I float around the class pods during school hours and amongst the kids during their off hours. I am an extra adult, here to keep an eye on everyone and make sure that they have what they need. In other words, I have the best job in the world.

I readily admit to you that pre-Covid I was already a camp believer. Windsor Mountain is a stunningly beautiful place, but that is not what makes it special. It is camp’s dedication to finding, training and supporting its’ staff of gifted and loving counselors that makes camp work. During normal summers, these young people devote themselves to making sure that the campers have what they need to take risks, make good decisions and be part of a community. They are role models- smart, creative and kind. Luckily for all of us these skills translate well into supporting the campers during their remote learning. The kids trust them and respect them. The transition from camp to school has been smooth and is remarkable to see.

As this unprecedented school year began, I watched as the WMI staff went into high gear. Each child has their own dedicated workspace, counselors sit in the ‘school rooms’ with the campers as they work. I hear them checking in with the students to make sure they know what each day holds and have what they need. The counselors check in with me if they have any concerns. They may not have teaching degrees, but these young adults know about mentoring and they choose to spend their summers here as educators. Many of these counselors are also in remote classes this Fall for their various college programs. They are literally modeling online learning for the kids.  For all of these reasons, this program works.

The campers take their classes very seriously. There has been no pushback about going to class. There is some rumbling about how long some of their days are though. It is no wonder. What I am seeing almost across the board is that schools are trying to mimic a typical ‘in the building’ school day. Because the students do not need to move between classes physically while online, many of these classes are back to back so that homeroom runs directly into math which goes until English which runs until science… It is a long time to be in front of a screen- too long. My guess is that many school programs will revise this schedule as the school year progresses. We are part of a learning process. For now though, the kids are working very hard to meet their schools’ expectations. It helps that they are with peers who are struggling with the same issues. They are the lucky ones, surrounded by a tightly knit community of people also working to learn in this new format.

I am currently sitting on a rocking chair on the HMO porch. To my left is a camper on a zoom math class, to my right is another camper studying Spanish in a hammock. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and there is learning going on all around. A third camper has emerged from one of the classrooms (the children are arranged generally by age/grade in rooms around camp, a counselor stationed with them to assist). This camper tells me that he has a 30 minute break between classes. We encourage getting up and away from the computer during such times. This same camper wanders over to the basketball court and starts to dribble.  Moments later, a counselor emerges from the HMO, sees the camper on the court and runs, not walks but RUNS over the court and starts playing. A few minutes later, Curtis wanders by with snacks for everyone. Two more campers stroll by arm in arm on the way to the deck. Their laughter carries. Soon the bell will ring for lunch.

The real beauty and magic happen in these spaces in between the formal learning. This is the part that most people in this country and the world are sadly lacking right now. Those of us fortunate enough to be here this month are part of a community. We get to eat together, play together, sing together. People here are laughing together and hugging each other. The kids spend evenings happily crowing like roosters, sorting objects with their feet and being generally silly. They play ball, create art and snuggle against each other.  They spend one evening communing quietly by a campfire, admiring the beauty of the night and the next in a fierce game of Gator Ball. There is safety here. That is the real gift of this month together. Safety and a sense of normalcy. I watch as the kids stand in line for lunch together now, joking and goofing around and I want to bottle it. I hope that they can take some of this home with them. The chipmunks at camp are very busy right now caching food for winter and I like to imagine the children are too.