The Washington Metropolitan Association of Chinese Schools (WMACS) is a network of schools that promotes Chinese language and cultural education to children of the DC Metro area, including Maryland and Virginia. WMACS sponsors numerous activities throughout the year including field day, calligraphy and speech competitions, and a summer camp.
Since 1989, WMACS has offered a week-long (now 8-day), overnight summer camp for children ages 8-18. The purpose of the camp is for campers to learn more about Chinese heritage and culture, as well as develop relationships that will hopefully continue after the week is over. Now located at Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore, Maryland, the camp has previously been held at Frostburg State University (1997-2019), American University (1989), Towson State University (1990), Salisbury State University (1991-1995), and Camp Hemlock in Virginia (1996).
What goes on during the week?
Upon arrival at Notre Dame, campers check-in to receive their room assignments and keys. Campers are assigned age-based groups, each under the responsibility of one or two counselors. Counselors typically have had at least one year of college experience and often were previous campers themselves. Roommate pairs are done such that campers in the same group stay together. We try our best to accommodate roommate requests made on the application form.
After unpacking, campers take a tour of the campus and are introduced to the camp rules. Every camper is also assigned a team consisting of boys and girls of all ages. These teams compete in various activities throughout the week.
Over the next five days, campers have a structured routine of classes in the morning and activities in the afternoon and at night. Wake-up is at 6:30am, with breakfast at 7:00am in the campus dining hall. All meals are included in the camp fees. From 8:00am to 3:00pm, campers take five classes, with a break for lunch in between. Classes vary from year to year, but include a combination of the following: folk sports (Chinese yo-yo, top, jump rope, shuttlecock), chorus (both in English and Chinese), folk dance (ribbon, silk fan, iron fan, flag, wushu), modern dance, Chinese brush painting, arts and crafts (paper cutting, origami, dough figures, knot tying), chorus, and discussion seminars.
Afternoon activities typically center on team-based competitions. These include water games, the amazing race and sports tournaments. Water games involves relay races and other competitions involving…well, water. It culminates in a big water balloon fight on the lawn. The amazing race (we hope the show doesn’t sue us for using the name) is a campus-wide obstacle course requiring teams to work together to solve riddles and accomplish tasks. Since its inception in 2004, this activity has been a camper and counselor favorite. The activity gives our older campers the opportunity to develop their leadership and management skills, often sacrificing their own bodies for piggy-back rides to help the younger campers keep up with the pack.
Night-time activities are more varied. One staple is our night market. For one night, we try to bring the night markets of the streets of Taiwan to our campers here in the United States. Campers play carnival-style activities such as Pictionary, 24, chopstick relays, blackjack and game-o-rama, in which campers challenge counselors to one-on-one competitions. Each win earns campers tickets, which they can use to buy snacks, bubble tea, prizes, or the opportunity to buy a counselor to pie in the face or act as a servant for a task. Other night-time activities include game show night, game night, volleyball tournament, and the Friday-evening dance.
Staff provides evening snacks (sticky rice, spring rolls, watermelon, ramen noodles, etc.) for campers before lights out at 10:00pm.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. After breakfast Saturday morning, we clear out of the dormitories and begin preparing for our end-of-camp performance for our friends and family. Artwork from the week is also displayed. Phone numbers, social media accounts, and hugs are exchanged so that the relationships formed at camp may continue over the next 51 weeks before we do it all over again.