Coping with an unpredictable illness, Joei has learned to appreciate the lessons life has to offer.
It was only week two of Big Blue Summer day camp, but the fun was already well underway.
In the Hyde & Watson Gymnasium on the Basking Ridge Campus, a spirited session of "Gaga & Games" was in progress. Rising second grader Blake Miller '28 was shooting hoops with her two friends, both fellow classmates. In the back corner, a group of animated kids played a game of gaga ball (a kinder, gentler version of dodgeball, played in an octagonal pit). Asked what she liked most about Big Blue Summer, as a repeat camper, Blake's unequivocal response was, "Swimming!" Why? "The counselors set up hoops under water that we have to swim through. It's so much fun," she beams. And what does she think of her counselors? "They're really nice!"
While Blake was playing basketball, a group of third- and fourth-grade campers were gathered around two picnic tables outside, immersed in a Nature Studies "rotation" on water pollution. Learning how to be "champions of their own environment," according to staffer Rachel Walsh (an undergraduate environmental studies major), they were given buckets of dirty water, plastic cups, and coffee filters, and, with no further instructions, asked to clean the water. Much discussion, questioning, and collaborative experimenting followed. "When you litter into water, fish can't breathe," proclaims Libby Maxwell, daughter of Science Department Chair David Maxwell, who has attended Big Blue Summer since she was a "mini."
In Beinecke Pool, seven floaty-clad "minis" (Big Blue Summer's youngest campers, ages 3-5) skimmed through the shallow end, led by Ryan Travers '23, Adom Binns '23, and Annika Bhattia, all "leaders-in-training" (one step before "counselors-in-training"). Soon, it would be choice time, when older campers could decide their next adventure: free swim, archery, soccer, ninja warriors, or drama rehearsal (it was Animals Week, and kids were practicing a song from the musical, The Jungle Book).
During a ceramics elective in the Middle School arts studio, campers were building coil pots from air-dry clay. "Camp has changed a lot since last year," observes Sanika Hosalkar, who was spending her third summer at Pingry. "There are a lot of newer activities, like karate, gymnastics, and archery, and now we can use the BAC [Bugliari Athletics Center]. It's great! There's more variety of things to do."
Variety indeed. A mind-bending, color-coded matrix detailing all these activities and more, organized in 30-minute increments, serves as the daily itinerary for Big Blue Summer campers, from the "minis" all the way up to seventh and eighth graders, who can decide to become leaders-in-training (LITs). Camp staff, led by Director of Summer and Auxiliary Programs, Cindy McArthur, refer to the schedule often. But it's precisely this variety of activity that Big Blue Summer seeks to promote.
"For a lot of kids, day camp is where they can discover what they enjoy, and we want to make sure they are exposed to lots of different experiences," says Alicia Harabin '02, former Lower School drama teacher and Big Blue Summer Staff Supervisor, who has helped to create this summer's diverse camp offerings. "We're thinking not about just the activities at camp, but also the social learning that happens—how to manage yourself, be a part of a group, make choices, and collaborate."
If these objectives sound familiar, it's because they derive in large part from Pingry's mission statement and Honor Code. Big Blue Summer deliberately aligns its programming with the school's philosophy of individual growth, academic excellence, and top-notch athletics. "All the aspects of the Pingry curriculum that we talk about during the school year we are now carrying over into the summer," explains Mrs. Harabin.
Big Blue Summer even adopted its own version of the "HonorC.O.D.E.," asking all campers and staff—whether affiliated with Pingry or not—to be curious, open, dedicated, and enthusiastic. To this end, camp staff developed a summer schedule that, in addition to standard fare camp activities, includes more inquiry-based and collaborative work. Experiments in the new STEAM Lab, "team building" time, and even drama games are examples. Anytime a counselor sees a camper employing an HonorC.O.D.E. skill, a skill "patch" is awarded. Patches are distributed each Friday based on observations the counselors collect throughout the week. Every week provides a new opportunity for new—and more—patches.
In addition this summer's expanded offerings, Sanika Hosalkar appreciates the addition of the HonorC.O.D.E. principle at camp. "It makes you want to be a good person," she says. "I got the leadership badge for being a role model last week. I went home and told my parents!"
Photos: Swimming, archery, "book buddies," and ceramics are just a sampling of the many Big Blue Summer activities campers enjoy.
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, email@example.com