Established in 1935, Camp Nor’wester is a co-ed residential summer camp for girls and boys ages 9-16. Our goal is to provide a safe and beautiful setting where campers can learn more about themselves, their strengths and talents.
Any great camp will provide campers and staff alike with a positive and memorable experience, but how we accomplish this is a bit different than many camps today.
Our activities are designed to teach traditional camping and outdoor skills, waterfront skills including sailing, canoeing, and kayaking, as well as biking, archery, arts and crafts, singing and drama.
All aspects of the program are supported by a strong ethic of stewardship with an emphasis on community living.
We strive to minimize the distractions often found in the “real-world” and maximize everyone’s exposure to a more basic way of living.
While not primitive, we are rustic—we use outhouses vs. flush toilets, build wood fires to heat water for our showers, live in tipis and tents, learn how to build tarp shelters, dig pit latrines, start one-match fires, give up electronic gadgets, email and the internet.
Basically, we ‘unplug’ for the summer and learn to live without some modern day conveniences and without many distractions of our often times hectic modern life.
The Unit System
Another unique element to our program is our Unit System – campers are grouped by grade level into living groups called “Units”. The Unit provides a support system for individuals throughout the four-week session. Campers participate in most daily activities as a unit, so the opportunity to learn, experience challenge and succeed together becomes the foundation for individual growth.
The unit is supervised by two Unit Leaders, who participate with the campers in their activities. The responsibilities of these staff are to support each individual camper and the building of the unit group. In addition to our program activities, Unit Leaders will also facilitate group discussions and team-building opportunities with the intent to build a strong, cohesive, fun unit, which can then be the foundation of support for each individual camper.
This structure promotes an intensive group living experience. While campers try new activities or improve their skills in familiar areas they are also learning to live together. A good portion of our work is focused on giving support and guidance to our campers through the conflicts and issues that naturally arise out of such an environment. This requires compassionate and competent leadership.
Please see our Unit Structure page for more information on how the unit system benefits a camper’s experience.
The Four-Week Philosophy: Cornerstone of our Program
The four-week experience is a cornerstone of what Nor’wester has been offering for decades. While not unusual on the east coast, our session length is considered a large commitment by many families. For us it supports our focus on group living and community.
While it may not be a fit for all campers and their families, we have found that the growth and development that can occur within the 28-day arc can quite simply be eye-opening and life-changing.
It supports our intentional focus on group living and community and both gives time and provides space for personal growth to occur.
We believe that group development follows a natural progression which can only be fully realized with an extended residential program and are proud to have been offering this vehicle of experience for over 80 years.
The Directors work diligently to hire seasonal staff members with the experience and skills necessary to implement the Nor’wester philosophy.
This means looking for individuals who are not only talented in specific department areas but who also understand the impact they will have on the campers with whom they spend the summer.
Through our interview process, we target staff who demonstrate that they know what it means to engage campers, whose instincts are to plan activities WITH them rather than FOR them.
We seek staff members who are committed to our mission and to the camper experience, above their own experience or benefit.
Nor’wester’s summer staff of approximately 85 men and women, most of them college students and recent graduates, provide leadership to a maximum of 170 campers, with a supervision ratio of 1:3.
Unit Staff, as “parents” for the unit, are responsible for planning and scheduling the daily activities of their campers, while Department Staff provide specialized instruction in their area of expertise.
Medical personnel reside on property and are available on a 24-hour basis. Background checks are conducted on all staff. At least three reference checks are conducted on new hires, in addition to an extensive application and interview process.
Generally, over 50% of our staff each year return to work for multiple summers, and between 60-70% are past campers, providing for the continual passing on of camp culture and philosophy, while also allowing for sharing of new ideas and improvements.