Julie Taubes-HillelAs I read this recent article in the NY Times I grew even more excited about returning to camp this summer.  How is it possible that just “TWENTY years ago, kids in preschool, kindergarten and even first and second grade spent much of their time playing: building with blocks, drawing or creating imaginary worlds, in their own heads or with classmates. But increasingly, these activities are being abandoned for the teacher-led, didactic instruction typically used in higher grades. In many schools, formal education now starts at age 4 or 5. Without this early start, the thinking goes, kids risk falling behind in crucial subjects such as reading and math, and may never catch up. The idea seems obvious: Starting sooner means learning more; the early bird catches the worm. But a growing group of scientists, education researchers and educators say there is little evidence that this approach improves long-term achievement; in fact, it may have the opposite effect, potentially slowing emotional and cognitive development, causing unnecessary stress and perhaps even souring kids’ desire to learn.”

Play is such an important part of our children’s lives and lucky for them, they will soon be able to play for seven straight weeks! So many opportunities of learning happen daily through play, group experiences, exploration, and on going routines that each child has at Camp Echo Lake. While some of the skills campers develop are more complex than others, each and every child leaves camp having fostered those skills and feeling growth on every level compared to when they arrived.

I’m thrilled to return to my roots where in 1983 I spent my first summer as a Lower Inter Girl alongside many of the girls I still call my very best friends! Both as a camper in Main Village and Senior Village, CIT and Counselor, 4n4 Leader and Head Counselor, playing all day long was our favorite way to spend our summer days together-endless tennis with Claudia Levine and Margie Cader, doubles tennis with Lauren Ostrin, Lake Swims and hiking with Holli Rubin and softball with Allison Klein, Jessica Liberman, Lisa Mittlemark, Lissy Kates and Jen Radowitz made us feel like nothing less than champions! If we weren’t playing a sport, we were making play time out of our morning jobs before inspection, walking to The Grove, whenever/wherever!  Growing up together in a community like the one at camp had a huge impact on our friendships and all we ever wanted was to just be together! We would wake up together and know that we had the entire day ahead of us and the outcome of the magic was completely up to us…and it sure was magical! We sang our hearts out for our annual Group Sing event, played our hardest during weekly Tribal games and laughed our loudest during all the moments in between!  Pure fun. Kid fun. Just fun.

For many of us, our first jobs were as counselors together and it meant the world to us to have another year in our favorite place, our summer home.  However, we were now the ones who had the chance to create the sweet spot for others to carve out their memories, take their risks and boost their self esteem that would allow them to leave feeling 10 feet taller than when they arrived. The perfect life cycle right here at CEL! It was during these eight weeks that everyone could just be themselves and that’s my biggest take away from my camp history. Till this very day, that is what we still laugh about! Those incredibly fun times when we were all just our real, raw, vulnerable, beautiful selves and we had the most fun and laughs. On the courts it wasn’t only about the skills level, but the sportsmanship as well.  In the arts it was not about the lead role in the play but to be that kid who would never think of trying out to suddenly making the chorus just to have fun at the rehearsals and to sing all day, and just be ourselves, be kids. There was literally something for everyone and everyone had something they loved being a part of.  These are the same core beliefs that CEL is still founded on today. Nothing has been compromised and the traditions that friendships are built on, has maintained its integrity since the day I first started.

My experience as a staff member at camp directly influenced the direction my professional life took and immediately after my first year on staff I changed my major at the University of Miami to Elementary Education and continued on at NYU earning my Masters degree. Twenty-three years later, I am still teaching in NYC, where I live with my husband, our two children, and our chocolate lab!

This summer I will be the back at camp as the Summer Communications Director. How lucky am I to now have the opportunity to pass this experience on to my very own two children ? ! ?  While the kids are out playing, I will be playing in the Admin! This is where I will engage in on going communication with Camp Families, Prospective Camp Families, Campers and Staff. My kids will be next to your kids during some of the fun times of day such as Morning Line-Up, General Swim, Evening Activity and Canteen.

I look forward to speaking to and meeting all of you!  Here’s to another magical summer back at The Lake!

Green + Gold forever,