through Our Program Activities

Program activities establish the rhythm for each camper’s day. The most potent outcome of the Pemi program, however, far exceeds learning how to pitch a strike or how to identify the species of moth or how to reach the summit of a 4000 ft’er. Rather, these are the vehicles by which our campers gain essential life skills, such as…


I want to take lax, nature photography, waterskiing, soccer, and woodshop but can only choose four; what should I do?…How do I choose between a hike and a soccer game?…My friends want to play Frisbee before dinner but I want to finish my book.

With the help of his counselor, every camper:

  • creates a personalized schedule each week by choosing which activities to take, resulting in both structured and unstructured time.
  • looks at the big picture of his day, week, and  session in order to make choices that balance immediate desire with long-term goals.
  • learns how to approach and use unstructured, free time by looking for available options.

We believe that learning how to occupy one’s self productively and how to use free time wisely leads to making healthy personal decisions in general, a crucial skill for boys of all ages.

Healthy Risk-Taking

I wish I could play lacrosse, but I’m 13 and should have started a long time ago…I like to sing but have never performed…I’m from the city and have never hiked a mountain…I’m probably not good at it. 

Trying something new can be daunting. Many school and club programs are so specialized that boys are hesitant to try activities out of fear of failure or fear of being teased, preventing them from experiencing what could become lifelong passions and interests.

Pemi’s program allows each boy to:

  • engage with excellent teachers, coaches, and role models.
  • stretch wings in a safe and supportive environment.
  • try new and challenging things via a breadth of activities and with instruction at beginner level.
  • hone and advance skills through advanced, focused instruction.
  • develop a sense of joyful exploration.

Each time a boy tries something new or achieves another level of competency in a given area, his sense of “risk-taking” is further defined. Better learned on the field or stage than in areas in which the personal stakes are high.

Time Management

What should I do before lunch if my hike leaves right after lunch? When do I stop playing tennis in order to have time to sweep the courts before going to archery? I want to earn the “junior brave” award, so how do I fit in all of the requirements?

Counselors guide boys to approach their program schedule such that each boy learns to:

  • Listen carefully to morning announcements and to instructions from staff.
  • Anticipate next steps.
  • Plan a “roadmap” for goals that have multiple requirements.
  • Take responsibility for his individual schedule versus being led to/from activities as a group.

Strong time management and organizational skills are invaluable as boys grow older and face increasing demands from school and other activities, and are more easily acquired alongside friends while doing fun and interesting things.

Being Prepared

What do I do if 1st hour waterskiing is followed by 2nd hour soccer and 3rd hour drama, and there is little time to get back to the cabin in between? Why do I need a waterproof jacket for my 2-day hike if it is hot and sunny?

A camper learns to look at his schedule in order to:

  • anticipate needs for an extended time.
  • gather equipment for the day (ex., put bathing suit & towel, cleats & shin guards, Pirates of Penzance score in a drawstring bag or duffle).
  • consider possible outcomes and prepare for the unexpected.

Imagine this outcome: no more frantic texts asking Mom or Dad to deliver that forgotten flute or permission slip.


I tried waterskiing for the first time and couldn’t get up, even after four tries!…It would take forever to learn piano…Why climb a steep mountain?…I can only shoot with my right foot in soccer.

Through the Pemi program, a camper learns that continued effort leads to reward. Each boy:

  • sticks with his chosen activities for the week (unlike some camps with daily choices), ensuring that if he is frustrated with a first attempt, rather than quit, he returns subsequent days, ultimately learning that hard work, practice, and persistence really do pay off.
  • learns that challenge and, yes, even failure aren’t to be avoided or ashamed of, but rather serve as steps towards reaching a desired goal
  • benefit from instructors and coaches who use weekly lesson plans to teach fundamentals to mastery.

In an age of immediate gratification, it is crucial for boys to learn that resilience in the face of challenge and keeping one’s eye on the goal are a winning formula. A boy who develops tenacity will experience that glorious feeling of jumping the wake, mastering Moonlight Sonata, or scoring the winning goal, and will confidently handle life’s demands, bumps, twists, and turns.


Pemi campers offered their favorite “Pemi moment/experience” on post-season camper questionnaire. Some examples:

  • Making a table in woodshop
  • Getting a double to win the game
  • Summiting 3 mountains
  • Dropping a ski
  • Performing at campfire
  • Serving as a waiter
  • Getting my first bull’s eye
  • Catching a small-mouth bass
  • Breaking the long jump record
  • Finally going off the high dive

We believe that self-esteem grows when:

  • Counselors, instructors, and coaches support, encourage, and believe in boys.
  • Counselors, instructors, and coaches set high standards and hold boys accountable for their actions.
  • Boys develop their own skills to accomplish something vs having someone do it for them.

Read more about Pemi’s program or about life skills learned through community living.