February 21, 2012

Finding Camp Counselors in London

Posted by Christopher Colahan, Managing Director at Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp

Whenever I tell someone what I do, they always reply by asking, “So…what do you do the rest of the year?” It’s a running joke among camp directors. I don’t think that people actually believe that camp pops out in June like an emergency life raft. I think that most people have just never given it much thought.

Camp Director Chris interviewing a prospective counselor

One thing that requires a lot of off-season time is recruiting and hiring staff. Peconic Dunes employs seventy-eight people during the summer. Forty-four of those people are cabin counselors. When I took the reigns of P Dunes six years ago we didn’t have many “homegrown” counselors, people who had grown-up with P Dunes as campers and successfully transitioned into new roles as mentors and instructors. This summer we’ll have seventeen cabin counselors who were formerly campers, young adults who successfully completed our Counselor-In-Training program, and are now ready to be the kind of mentors they looked up to as campers. In fact, this summer two CIT graduates, Jon Stegner and Moriah Santiago (class of 2008 and 2009 respectively) will serve as Unit Leaders in boys and girls camp.

Returning counselors helping at the fair.

L-R Ben Brookes, Adrian Mooney, Chelsea Duffy, Izzy Todd, Chris Colahan, and Paul James

Recruiting brand new people into the P Dunes community is just as exciting as seeing people you met when they were twelve mature into responsible, fun young adults. For the past seven years P Dunes has recruited staff from abroad and for the past four years, I’ve had the privilege to travel to the Camp America Camp Director Recruiting Fair in London, England. Each year about a thousand young men and women line up outside Kensington Town Hall hoping to be selected to work at one of fifty camps recruiting that day.

The Royal Palace

This year P Dunes was very fortunate to have some of its returning English team come out to help interview candidates, ensuring that we recruit the best new members for our 2012 team. Paul, Izzy, Adrian, Chelsea, and Ben offered invaluable help. Between the six of us we met with about a hundred people and hired eight new team members. Some of the people who will be at P Dunes this summer are Scout leaders, schoolteachers, people pursuing degrees in elementary education, mechanical engineering, and social work, and one former English Junior National Kayaking Champion. We are really excited about the new folks and know when you meet them you will be too!

Lastly, I'd like to say "thank you" to our partners and friends at Camp America (CA) for coordinating another successful Recruiting Fair. Each year the folks at CA thoroughly screen tens of thousands of applicants to ensure that only the best suited to work with children are eligible for camp employment. Thanks Kristin, Duffy, Dennis, Jenna, Allyson, and Andrew!

February 10, 2012

Peconic Dunes Saves a Polar Bear

Posted by Sarah Marcus, STEM Director/Educator @ Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp
(STEM=Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)

When you register your child for camp this summer you will notice a pleasant surprise. Gone are the days of printing out, filling out and faxing back to our office 11 different pieces of paper per camper. Due to technological advances and the critical thinking of our administrative team, parents now only have to fill out and return 2 pieces of paper, the rest can be filled out and submitted online as you register. Not only is this convenient for you (and us) but it also helps save polar bears.

So how exactly does saving 9 pieces of paper per camper contribute to saving polar bears in the Arctic Circle? Well, hold on to your hats people! We are about to do some very cool math! Due to our new and improved system, 9 sheets of paper per camper is saved, which is equivalent to 11, 232 sheets per summer. Saving 11,232 sheets of paper is equivalent to saving 1.5 trees per summer, or 15 trees per decade.

Now, you may be scratching your head and thinking that is not a lot of trees I’m saving at all! What is the point? Hold on there a second! The question really is this: How much is one tree worth? What does one tree provide for the earth, for humanity? Well to determine this, we are going to have to make a little detour into the realm of SCIENCE (yes, my favorite realm in which to explore). Stay with me here.

As heat radiates upwards from the earth it gets trapped in the atmosphere due to high levels of carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gasses like methane. These gasses act as a barrier preventing the heat from being released into space. This phenomenon is called The Greenhouse Effect and is the most direct contributor to Global Climate Change.

Trees, the beautiful perennial woody plant mostly falling into the angiosperm or conifer groups, naturally combat The Greenhouse Effect. They do this by sequestering (sucking in) carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Trees (and other plants like moss) convert carbon dioxide to sugars via carbon fixation. Trees use these sugars to perform functions and for building plant structures and then returns oxygen to the atmosphere as a byproduct. Hence, trees act as a carbon sink, removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in their trunks, leaves and roots until death.

Ok. So lets get back to our question of what one tree can do for the earth. One mature tree can store 13 lbs. of carbon annually. Which means that Peconic Dunes’ 1.5 trees is storing 19.5 lbs. of carbon annually and 195 lbs. of carbon in a decade. This may still seem small but if every American family saved the same number of sheets of paper as we did (11,232) or simply planted a tree, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be reduced by 1 billion lbs!

When fighting climate change, every act, no matter how small can have a big impact - especially when you convince others to join you. Peconic Dunes invites you to join us in the fight against climate change. Planting trees and saving paper isn’t the only way you can help.

Instead of driving a mile to the post office or bank, leash your dog up and go for a walk. You’ll feel great afterwards and it won’t take as long as you would expect!

· Start composting. It helps return depleted nutrients to the soil.

· Ditch disposable! Instead of using plastic baggies use reusable containers.

· Recycle everything you can; plastics, aluminum, cans, glass and paper.

· Reduce the amount of meat you eat per week. Meat production, from rearing to transportation contributes even more to The Greenhouse Gas Effect than driving does. Consider being a vegetarian just one day a week.

Every little act can make a difference. Together we can help save Bjorn and the home we share with him.

February 3, 2012

Community Service

Posted by Mike Connell, Assistant Director at Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp

What does dish-duty, the buddy system, the Lakota Friendship Circle, and Vespers all have in common? All of these activities promote an understanding of the importance of community. At Peconic Dunes, we foster an environment that helps our community to be aware and ready to serve their home community. A core value we embrace in all parts of camp life is community service. We want to create an understanding that you are a part of a larger community. Understanding an opportunity exists and choosing to become involved in a service project long after you leave us is one of our ultimate goals.

Peconic Dunes Community Service Project, Earth Day 2011

Community Service is donated service or activity that is performed for the benefit of the public or its institutions. Examples of community service can include many types of activities. One example could be volunteering at a community center to help out an elderly neighbor with yard work or shopping. Another could include becoming involved in a community project, like an Earth Day clean up. Or, it could include organizing a blanket drive for homeless shelters through your team, class or club. All of these forms of service have a tremendous value and impact on our home communities in a positive way.

Our younger campers may not feel ready to jump into community service roles. But, you can get involved, too! You could volunteer to help your parents or other family members with smaller projects around the house. Through practice, you will develop the ability to help serve others. And, your parents will really appreciate the extra hand!

Peconic Dunes Community Service Project, Earth Day 2011

Volunteering for community service offers its own reward. The satisfaction of helping others in need and giving back will help each person understand the connections we all share in our world. Service is a positive way to show the adults in your life, such as parents, grandparents, teachers, that you are maturing and ready for more responsibility. The more you reach out to help others, the more opportunity you will have for personal growth.

The best way to get involved with the community is to choose something you are passionate about. Do you really love animals? Then contact your local shelter and volunteer to become a dog walker. Do you like to read? Maybe the library needs volunteers to read to younger children. Are you worried about our environment? Then help organize a park or beach clean up with your class, school, or club. Do you need more suggestions? Take a look at this link that provides you with ideas specifically geared to youth. 366 Ways to Serve the Community 4-H Style.

At Peconic Dunes, we already know our campers are actively involved with their communities. But, now we would like to hear about your individual stories of personal service to the community. Join the discussion on
Peconic Dunes Facebook Page. Let us know what you are doing so we can show the world just how great you are!