Seth Gibson Honored at VCA!

Our very own Seth Gibson ’67 received a lifetime achievement award from the Vermont Camps Association (VCA) at a recent ceremony. Seth has been working at Keewaydin Dunmore since 1967. During that first summer he and Abby Fenn led  one of the first Wilderness trips: Seven-weeks, 500-miles, 15 people, and seven canoes, or just plain heaven as Seth would probably describe it.

Seth received his award from the Vermont Camps Association President (Hint hint… It’s Ellen Flight, Songadeewin Director!)

Seth continued to lead Wilderness trips until 1992 when, at age 56, he had gone on a total of 24 trips, accumulating 7,800 miles, largely in the northern reaches of Quebec and Ontario. That’s the equivalent of driving from NYC to LA, back to NYC and then back to LA! He served as coordinator and head driver of the Wilderness program from 1992 until 2012. Over the last 25 years he put in more than 125,000 miles for us at Keewaydin which would take you around the world five times.

Beyond his work with us at Keewaydin Seth has supported the VCA as a member and cheerleader of all that is good in camping and getting campers out into wild places. He has taken many trips in the offseason to visit friends he has made in Quebec and beyond throughout his many trips up north.

We always knew we were lucky to have Seth on our team here at Keewaydin. Thank you for the years of leadership and friendship! Congratulations!

Spring 2019 KEEC Update!

While the summer camps don’t officially start until June, in early April staff start to arrive on the Songadeewin campus on Lake Dunmore in Salisbury, VT for the Keewaydin Environmental Education Center (KEEC). Many camp alumni may be surprised to learn that more than 600 public school children attend KEEC in the spring and the fall. Since its founding in 1973, an estimated 35,000 students have spent a week at KEEC learning about the local and natural history of the area surrounding Lake Dunmore.

About to start its 47th year, KEEC operates for six weeks during each of the “shoulder” seasons of the summer camp. Tim Tadlock ’97 has been KEEC Director since 2006, and this spring Dara Aber-Ferri ’13 will return as the Assistant Director. Though many summer staff from Dunmore, Temagami, and Songadeewin have also worked at KEEC, the majority of the staff hired for KEEC are entirely new to Keewaydin.

This spring season at KEEC we are expecting 17 schools from Vermont and one from Massachusetts. Many of these schools and the teachers who work there have been attending KEEC annually for more than 15 years! In fact, the elementary schools from Chester and Cavendish VT have been coming to KEEC almost every year since 1973.

Just like the programming at camp, the main programming at KEEC has not changed much since its founding and still remains relevant to our daily lives. The average KEEC camper, aged 10 to 12, arrives at KEEC on Monday morning. Students jump off the bus, grab their gear, and move quickly into cabins located on the West side of the Songa campus. Shortly after, they are taken on a tour of the campus allowing them to become familiar with their surroundings. Then, that afternoon students spend two hours on the Communities Investigation, which takes them around campus and into the woods highlighting the theme of natural interdependence that is a central part of the curriculum. While involved in this introductory investigation, students learn about the Earth’s natural cycles such as the air cycle, the water cycle, the soil cycle, and the five basic needs of life. These topics provide a base of knowledge that is frequently referenced later in the week during other Investigations.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the campers participate in four more investigations, thematically centered around land use, local history, natural history, and human impact. These range from hikes on Burnt Mountain to discover how the glaciers carved out Mt. Moosalamoo, and Lake Dunmore, or an exploration along the Leicester River to discover clues about why dams and mills were built there during the past 300 years. Other investigations explore the lives of birds or plants surrounding camp, or how Keewaydin manages the surrounding forest.

Thursday is “Choice Day” in which the students get to choose what they would like to do for activities. This could be an all-day hike on Mt. Moosalamoo, a half day hike to Silver Lake, learning proper canoeing techniques on Lake Dunmore, learning to rock climb at our climbing wall or creating a mural to take back to school depicting the week spent at KEEC. They pack a lunch and spend the entire day outside. Thursday evening culminates with a campfire during which students perform their own skits about the natural cycles they have learned about during the week.

The benefits of KEEC continue beyond the investigations. Students are engaged in the learning process all day. In the evenings they enjoy the adventure of going on walks in the dark or engaging a mock town meeting. “Night Walks” help students explore their other senses beyond sight, and they learn about nocturnal creatures that do the same. The Town Meeting activity is a simulation of a real Vermont town meeting held annually to discuss town politics, and during this activity students are encouraged to get involved in their own community.

Even during mealtimes, the students are engaged in an awareness activity called Waste Watch. After each meal a KEEC staff weighs the food waste that is to be composted and posts the results on a graph. Throughout the week the students are encouraged to think about all of the energy that went in to getting the food on their plate, and what it means if they do not eat it. Table groups are then encouraged to discuss ways to reduce their waste during the meals and think about what other ways they can reduce their impact during their daily lives.

Many of the hallmarks of a typical Keewaydin camp experience exist at KEEC. Students rise with the gong at 7:30AM, have Inspection after breakfast, and we even have traditional Keewaydin style cookouts and campfires. But KEEC is more than just learning about our impact on the environment. Often, it is the first time that these 5th and 6th graders have been away from their parents, or lived communally with others. While at KEEC, each student is also assigned a job such as composting, weather reporting, dishwashing, or wood carrying. These activities help students understand how communities can function, and gives them a sense of individual responsibility.

On Friday morning the students play the Predator vs. Prey Survival Simulation Game. In this exciting capture-the-flag-like game of tag, the students assume the role of a particular member of the food chain and, while trying to meet their basic needs, are always on the lookout for other members higher up on the food chain. The game also serves as a capstone experience for the week as students are encouraged to think about how the lives of all organisms impact one another. Taking the time to think about how you impact the other organisms and environment around you is a primary goal at KEEC and one we are proud to promote.

If you would like to learn more about the KEEC program, or you know a school that would be interested in attending, please contact the KEEC director Tim Tadlock at (802)352-4247, or email Tim at [email protected].

Storytelling at Keewaydin Dunmore

Why The Kicker?

Summer 2015 Kicker Editor, Sam Besser ’15, wrote the following article for the opening Kicker Campfire in the summer of 2015.

By this point in the evening, many of you may have been lulled into a gentle stupor by the sound of Pete’s mellifluous voice coupled with words that, like a gentle rain, soothe the mind… until you realize all of your towels are still on the line.

Yes, we are nearing the end of tonight’s Kicker. Many of your thoughts are likely elsewhere, possibly puzzling over how the dining hall ran out of rice on stir fry night or wondering why Shawandasee looked so darn familiar. But as the fire starts to dim, let’s bring it back to why we’re here – the Kicker.

After some cursory research, I was surprised to discover that the Kicker, in some way shape or form, is about as old as Keewaydin itself. From 1910 there has been a tradition of sharing stories with the entirety of the camp, mostly reports, and tales from trips away from Dunmore. Where the name ‘The Kicker’ came from is unclear, but given that it’s older than the nation of Yugoslavia it probably comes from some old timey phrase like, “That story sure was a kicker!” or “I’m going to kicker you with this outlandish yarn!” In any case, it seems significant that formalized storytelling has always been a part of our Keewaydin culture.And why is that? What makes the Kicker so special, beyond the opportunity to have Pete recite comestible-themed

And why is that? What makes the Kicker so special, beyond the opportunity to have Pete recite comestible-themed haikus? Of course, it’s the stories.

From cave paintings and oral histories, to “Game of Thrones” and “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” (technically), storytelling has always been an integral part of the human phenomenon. I’m not about to get all academic and anthropological here, so to all you professors and teachers in the audience I confess my bibliography consists solely of hasty Wikipedia searches and the recesses of my own mind. From the former comes the following description of ‘storytelling’: Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, and images, often by improvisation or embellishment as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation, and instilling moral values. Now that’s pretty broad and the Kicker surely satisfies those conditions.

But storytelling, in my mind, goes even further than that. Stories are how we connect with each other. Think about it. All of the time you spend with friends you are either sharing thoughts and ideas, telling jokes, or trading stories. From the perfunctory “Bro, I busted this sick gainer the other day” to an in-depth recounting of your entirely wholesome and productive activities between the hours of 1:00-5:00 a.m. the previous night, we are all storytellers. In some ways, making a friend is the process of finding somebody whose stories you enjoy and who you are able to entertain and inspire with your own stories. And what is camp about if not making friends?

Another objective of storytelling is the creative expression. Whatever you may think of the stories, reports, and poems you’ve heard tonight, to write and publish these works took a good deal of courage, even from those who wrote under a pseudonym. All of us have at least a little creative spark in us, and for those who have tapped that spark to create a roaring fire of a finished work, we know there is little more satisfying than having someone come upon our blaze and say “Hot damn, that is one fine piece of combustion.” Indeed we cannot help but share our creative impulses with others whatever the outcome, and storytelling is a means to do just that. So admire the storyteller, if not the story.

And finally, getting a little heavier here, stories are a path to immortality. Even if we know the stories we tell may never be heard again, a part of us believes there is a chance that the adventures, experiences, ideas, and fantasies we are sharing will live on, possibly beyond even our own lifetimes. Sure, it’s doubtful that “This Week on Saranac Lake” will go down in the annals of human history, but that’s beside the point. By sharing our stories, our experiences, we allow our lives to grow and touch others. And maybe our stories will entertain, or educate, or enlighten, or maybe even help someone else through a difficult time. Whatever the case may be, in touching others with our stories we are enriching their lives, and that certainly satisfies the Keewaydin creed of “Help The Other Fellow”.

So, as the summer wears on and we revisit this campfire week after week if ever you find yourself thinking “Why the Kicker?”,  just remember the stories that we all need to tell. The stories we share, the stories we hold on to, and the stories that change our lives. That’s the Kicker.

By Big Chief Editor-In-Chief

Advice For A “Homesick” Parent

A recent article in The Atlantic gives some wonderful advice for parents who
are feeling “homesick” for their child.  

A Summer Camp Lesson: Good-bye, and Go Away,
Thank You Very Much

Dropping a kid off for camp can test a parent’s resolve. But standing back to let a child develop autonomy is one of the most important things a parent can do.
By Jessica Lahey

Three years ago, when he was eleven, my son Ben set down a very specific parental code of conduct we’d be expected to follow at summer camp drop-off. We could say our goodbyes at home, but once we arrived at camp, any displays of affection, attempts to make his bed, arrange his things, or force premature familiarity with his cabin mates would be strictly prohibited. We could hang around during registration, watch while they check him for lice, help him lug his bags to his cabin, and shake hands with his counselor, but after that, our parental duties were complete. We were expected to say goodbye, and go away, thank you very much.

My husband was taken aback by Ben’s request, but I was not. I totally understood his yearning for independence. I went to camp as a child, and as much as I adored my parents, I, too, looked forward to the autonomy I found during those glorious summer months away from home. I missed my parents, of course, but in their absence, I passed my swim test, dove off the high dive, ran my first 5k, spent three nights alone in a dark forest, and shared my first kiss.

The fact that Ben is eager to watch me walk away from him is a sign of strength — both of our bond, and of his sense of self. According to psychologist Michael Thompson, childhood requires an endpoint, and it’s a parent’s job to raise children who can leave, children secure enough to turn away from the safety of a parents’ embrace and look toward the adventures and challenges to be found beyond.

In his book Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child GrowThompson writes,

…in the final analysis, there are things we cannot do for our children, no matter how much we might want to. In order to successfully accomplish these tasks, to grow in the ways they need to grow, children have to do it on their own, and usually away from their parents, sometimes overnight, sometimes for days or weeks or even months.

He goes on to list the eight things parents cannot do for their children, no matter how desperate we are to do so:

1. We cannot make our children happy.

2. We cannot give our children high self-esteem.

3. We cannot make friendships for our children or micro-manage their friendships.

4. We cannot successfully double as our child’s agent, manager, and coach.

5. We cannot create the “second family” for which our child yearns in order to facilitate his or her own growth.

6. It is increasingly apparent that we parents cannot compete with or limit our children’s total immersion in the online, digital, and social media realms.

7. We cannot keep our children perfectly safe, but we can drive them crazy trying.

8. We cannot make our children independent.

Thompson’s list of developmental milestones — critical, essential milestones every child is going to have to navigate — is terrain our children must traverse on their own, and parents who believe they can span those uncomfortable gaps with lovingly made bridges woven of organic hemp and allergen-free twine are kidding themselves. Despite all our parental worries, these gaps are not deep, dark, places of danger where there be dragons and creepy Stephen King clowns; they are places of wonder, filled with adventure, and excitement, and the promise of untold successes. If we allow our children to head out into these uncharted territories on their own, they will get there and back again, and when they return to us, ready to tell their tales of adventure, they will be much more competent and capable human beings.

So when I drove my son to camp today, we did not have to review his rules. He knew I would remember and honor them. We parked, he was checked for lice, I met his counselor, and while the other parents moved about the cabin, making their children’s beds and suggesting where to store their flashlights and extra sunscreen, I quickly took my leave with a wave and a good-bye.

On the way back to the car, my younger son slipped his hand into mine, something he hardly ever does anymore.

“I think I’d like to come to camp next year,” he said.

“Really?” I said, picturing him running around among these hulking adolescents.

“Yep,” he nodded. “I think I’ll be big enough next year.”

And with that, he let go of my hand and ran ahead to gather up a pile of pine needles he’d spotted just off the path. As I watched him attempt to stuff two handfuls of the needles into his pockets, I realized that next year, he’d be almost as old as his brother was the first year he went to camp. So just maybe, if I do my job right, he will be big enough next year. Big enough to want me to say goodbye, and go away, thank you very much.

This article available online at:

12 Tips For Parents Sending Their Child To Camp

Inspired by a recent article in Parent Magazine, these are 12 tips designed to help parents and their child prepare for the summer at one of Keewaydin’s camps.

1. Follow the Packing List

This is pretty easy. The camp Directors have prepared a comprehensive packing list  for your review. Study the list carefully to make sure your child has everything he or she needs.

2. Book Your Doctor Visit ASAP

Medical forms are an important tool for keeping your child healthy at camp. Keewaydin requires a physical within the past 12 months. So if your child needs a physical before camp this summer,  make sure to get them  in before your local doctor’s office gets booked up.

3. Label, Label, Label

Label EVERYTHING with your child’s name. This is the best and only way to assure your child doesn’t lose their belongings. Keewaydin families often use the clothing label company Stuck on You for iron and stick on labels.

4. Provide a Sneak Peek

 Help your child to maximize their camp experience by explaining to them what sort of  accommodations they can expect at camp. Keewaydin’s website has photos and maps of each camp that can help your child feel ready and excited for the summer.

5. Do a Test Run

Planning a sleepover at a friend’s can help your child remember they can have fun, thrive and survive without you. If possible, arrange a night when they can camp in the backyard or a day when the family can go for a paddle.  This could help them to see the outdoors as fun and exciting rather than scary.

6. Make it Easier to Make Friends

One of the things kids are often worried about  is if they’ll make friends at camp. Of course, camp is the perfect place to make new friends, but sending them with tools to break the ice can help too. While staff will facilitate icebreakers and team building games it never hurts for kids to  have their own cache of tricks. Cards, travel games, crosswords and magazines are all great ways for friendships to develop organically.

7. Prepare for Homesickness

Most kids feel at least a little bit of homesickness at some point during the summer, and that is normal. Keewaydin staff  at each of the camps are trained by the renowned child psychologist Michael Thompson, who teaches them all sorts of tools to help kids overcome their homesickness. Preparing your son or daughter by reminding them that homesickness is a totally normal emotion everyone experiences can be helpful. If you are worried about your child at camp or have a case of “kidsickness” pick up the book Homesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help a Child Grow  by Michael Thompson. Thompson’s book is a vital guide to helping parents with this brief loosening of ties.

8. Stay in Touch the Right Way

Kids LOVE getting letters at camp! But remember letters from home can also bring up small bouts of homesickness. Keep letters light and happy, avoiding descriptions of events they may have missed out on or anything overly emotional.

9. Don’t Panic

Keewaydin will periodically post pictures to the website. If you don’t see your child’s photo posted everyday or in every posting try not to panic. Keewaydin’s camps are busy places in the summer and our staff couldn’t possibly get the perfect shot of every kid each time photos are taken and  posted. To see photo’s of your child’s personal camp experience send them with a digital or disposable camera, that way you can relive your child’s fondest memories with them at the end of camp!

10. Don’t Redecorate

 While your child is away for the summer they will have a blast, but when it’s time to go home they want to go home. Transitioning from camp to “real life” can be challenging and big surprises can make this transition more challenging.

11. Be Prepared to Be Surprised

 A summer at Keewaydin is a life-changing experience.  Be prepared for your child to have 100 stories to share and new skills to show you. Many parents also notice their children develop a greater sense of confidence and independence while away at camp.

12. Warning: There May Be “Campsickness”

Leaving the camp community behind can make children feel sad or bored. To help your child with this transition encourage them to connect with camp friends, look through camp photos, and enjoy the things they could not while at camp. Once your child is rested keeping them busy will help fend-off “campsickness”. Ice cream and the summer blockbuster are known to send post-camp blues running.

2012 NYC Alumni Reception a Huge Success

Monday, October 22 was a truly  magnificent evening for Keewaydin at the Yale Club in New York City. Thank you to all who could attend and those who contributed.  Highlights included recognition of the Expedition 2012 crew, a presentation of a Memorial Service Award to Anthony M. Schulte’s family, and the presentation of the 2012 Keewaydin Service Award to Michael D. Eisner.

To understand the impact of  Michael and the Eisner Foundation’s generosity check out the video shown during the reception (produced by Oliver Parini):

  2012 Keewaydin Service Award Film Honoring Michael D. Eisner