Camp Laurel South Blog

What a Council Fire Means to a Camper

Camp may be continually changing, but the traditional council fire has remained a constant for as long as anyone can remember. The mere mention of a council fire brings back a flood of memories for many campers; memories of friends gained, challenges overcome and a carefree time. Nothing captures the spirit of the camp experience quite like the “snap-crackle-pop” of a hot fire and the magical smell of freshly split logs waiting to get thrown on the flames. Camp simply wouldn’t be the same without council fires. After all, the traditional council fire represents more than just a nice way to stay warm on a brisk night, it represents tradition, togetherness and so much more.

LS 3Tradition

For as long as anyone can remember, friends and family have gathered around fires to tell stories, play games and enjoy good food. It’s a way to connect you to the past, and to enjoy the present. Not only is sitting and enjoying a fire a great tradition, but building the fire is a chance to pit your wits against nature and enjoy a connection to “the old days” — before light bulbs, flashlights or smartphones. In an ever-changing world, this connection to the past is invaluable.

And of course, no mention of council fires is complete without talking about traditional camp songs, especially the kinds that involve audience participation. Even if everybody sings out of tune, the harmony comes from the camp community’s commitment to keeping the traditional melodies alive — even the completely goofy ones.

TogethernessLS 2

Another concept council fires represent is togetherness. Council fires are a time for winding down through songs, skits and stories. Many campers feel tired after a long day of activities, but you can count on this to be true: laughter flows freely by firelight.

…And of Course – S’mores!

Almost everyone’s favorite part of a campfire: S’mores! Crafting the perfect golden-brown marshmallow is an art as old as marshmallows and fires. Like any fine art, roasting a marshmallow to perfection is a tricky task that takes a bit of work and commitment. Whether you prefer a classic graham cracker and Hershey’s milk chocolate s’more or have your own special recipe, roasting marshmallows on a rip-roaring fire is something nobody forgets.

Five Reasons Campers Would Win “The Hunger Games”

Surely, many of you have seen “The Hunger Games” films or read the books. For those who haven’t – imagine a post-apocalyptic world where 16 citizens are pitted against each other in a battle to the end. Everyone who has heard of “The Hunger Games” has surely thought about their own strategy and technique they would use when participating…but how would campers fare? From archery to camping skills, here are 5 reasons campers would definitely win:

1. They Use Teamwork

Campers know better than anybody that teamwork increases the odds of success no matter what you’re doing. Being comfortable working on a team and trusting in others to do their part takes guts; whether you’re fighting for your family in the Hunger Games or coming up with an act for the next campfire.

2. They Know How to Hit a Bullseye 

What do medieval knights, Hawkeye and summer campers all have in common? That’s right — unbeatable archery skills! Katniss might get a run for her money if she participated in a camp archery competition — some campers are seriously sharp shooters. Knowing how to use a bow and arrow is a rare skill in this day and age, but it’s no mystery to anyone who has gone to camp.

3. They’re Resourceful

One of the biggest challenges of “The Hunger Games” is making do with what you have, and using creativity to solve problems. Campers use their imaginations all the time; whether in theatre, crafts or in the cabin — creativity is abundant. Needless to say, being resourceful would be no problem for campers.

4. They Know How to Camp Out

As if being on the run and fighting defying odds weren’t enough, the contestants of the Hunger Games also have to survive for days on end in the wilderness — sleeping under the stars, making shelters out of branches, and always planning ahead so they have access to their basic necessities. Luckily there’s no real risk at summer camp, but campers still get to practice the fun side of wilderness survival skills. From learning to start campfires to exploring nature and wildlife, exposure to the skills needed to have a blast in the great outdoors is a huge part of camp life.

5. They’re Loyal to Their Friends

Last but not least, the biggest and best part of camp life: friendship. It’s friendship that saves Katniss at the end of the film (spoiler alert!), and it’s friendship that brings campers back to summer camp year after year. Katniss shows that she’s willing to give up everything for her friends and family. Campers learn that friendship isn’t just about taking — it’s also about giving back, volunteering, and always being ready to help others.

Camp Crafts: Keeping the Arts Alive

Summer camp isn’t just about campfires, sports and jumping in the lake. From ceramics to theater; jewelry making to painting and drawing, camp has activities available for anyone and everyone!

Art Offers Variety

Camp is a hands-on place, so it makes sense that the hands-on approach applies to all camp activities. Painting, ceramics and other studio arts give campers a chance to slow down, zone in and get their hands dirty in a creative environment. Camp is full of creative outlets and everybody gets a chance to try out different mediums until they find the one that speaks to them.

Theater Brings People Together

Theater is a great way for campers to practice team organization outside of a sports environment. The end product is usually a little on the goofy side (this is camp after all, not Shakespeare), but what’s really valuable about the activity is applying those team-building skills to everyday camp life.

The Arts Foster Creativity

No two campers are the same and thus it makes sense that no two pieces of art are the same. Whether drawing a picture, creating a necklace or molding a bowl, creativity is at work. There is something special about following the same instructions as the person next to you, but ending up with something completely different. This self-expression allows for campers to think “outside the box”.

Self-Expression Builds Confidence

Ultimately, the goal of creative activities at camp is to build confidence through self-expression. The arts have always been a safe place for campers to express what they have on their minds. No matter the discipline, every camper gets a chance to show their own unique creative spark.

Camp isn’t just a fun place — it’s a creative place too! So get creative in the arts. There’s no better time than summer to make something spectacular!

Baseball Fever at Camp

Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the crowd!

Baseball…generations of American tradition, all wrapped up in one game. Much like camp, baseball is something that many take for granted as a part of our childhood. It should come as no surprise that baseball is one of camp’s most anticipated activities, but what is it that makes baseball so special?LS 5

The Thinking Person’s Sport

Everyone has their theories, but here’s one that seems particularly insightful: baseball, like camp, requires a good amount of thought. The strategy is different from games like football or basketball — where the game is a series of split second decisions. Baseball requires more planning for the future and half the game is spent between plays. Like many things in life, the game is all about anticipation. Baseball teaches campers to think ahead. As it turns out, the anticipation is often just as fun as the event itself.

Taking the Time to Learn

The leisurely pace of baseball makes it well-suited for players of all abilities. While the sport requires concentration and focus, it’s also a slower game, allowing for a better learning curve. Beginners can take their time and learn all the game’s nuances, while experts can continue to perfect their craft. Everyone has the ability to enjoy.

IMG_1259Room to Breath

Everyone needs a little room to breathe playing sports or in everyday life. While at camp you don’t have to be doing something every single second of the day in order to have a great time. Baseball is very similar. Sometimes the game is action-packed, but sometimes it’s someone else’s turn — and that’s a good thing. Not only are you going to be able to cheer on your teammate, but you’ll be able to use that time to get ready for your turn.

 …and when your turn comes, we know that you’ll shine!

Tips for Your First Summer as a Camp Counselor

Thinking about what you’ll be doing this summer? If you loved camp as a kid and are too old to be a camper, think about applying to be a counselor! Afterall, a successful camp depends greatly on its staff.

  1. Being a counselor is the toughest job you’ll ever love! You’re there to work, most likely harder than you ever have in your life. You’re also there to connect with campers and fellow counselors…form friendships and make memories!
  1. Get ready to be excited about everything!Campers will feed off of your energy! You’re their role model for the summer, so remember that your campers are always watching you to see your reactions. If you’re excited, chances are they’ll be excited too (even about laundry). Make it fun!
  1. At camp, time moves quickly! When you arrive for Staff Orientation in June, you’ll find yourself thinking “August is so far away…I have plenty of time!” The next thing you know it’s the end of July! It’s important to be present and live in the moment. It’s the best way to make the most out of your experience over the summer!
  1. LS 2Prepare to be enthusiastic about everything! From making the best friendship bracelets to playing others in Ping Pong, everything you do will be weirdly competitive. Enjoy it as this is one of the ways your group shows pride!
  1. Expect to leave camp a changed person in some way! The summer will have a profound impact on you; the way you live your life, what you care about, and the way you see others. You may not even realize it, but a summer at camp will change you for the better!

How to Survive Digital Detox at Camp

Ah camp, with all its beautiful sounds — shining stars on a clear night, the whistle of the wind in the trees, the splashing of campers jumping in the lake — one thing you won’t hear: the gentle “ping” of Instagram notifications. A summer at camp means digital detox!

Depending on how technology-dependent a camper or counselor is, that’s either great news or serious cause for concern. Don’t worry — even if you miss checking Instagram every five seconds, you’re bound to benefit from a little analog “me-time”. After all, countless studies have shown that constant social media and internet exposure can have negative effects on things like concentration, memory and even basic happiness.

So here are a few tips for keeping sane without your phone in your pocket.

Keep a Journal

Journaling is your number-one weapon in the fight against digital withdrawal. People have been using journaling as a way of daily reflection long before Facebook’s “what’s on your mind” prompt or Twitter’s “What’s happening?” Think of it as a Facebook update for your future self.

Write Letters or Postcards

We often seem to forget that email isn’t the only way to keep in touch. Receiving a piece of snail mail in the mailbox brings a smile to anyone’s day. Just doodle a picture and throw in a “miss you!” on a postcard and drop it in the camp mail. Done!

Stay in the Moment

Staying in the moment is easier said than done. Being able to “quickly check Instagram” can turn your phone into a social crutch. Camp offers you a chance to let that bad habit go — and when you can’t look at your phone during down time, you’ll find yourself making real connections with the people around you. Next time you want to share “what’s on your mind,” try sharing your thoughts with a person instead of your Facebook.

Social media can be great and there’s a time and place for it; but you’ll be surprised at how great you feel when you take a little digital detox.

How Camp Teaches You to Always Plan Ahead

Going to camp is more than just an unforgettable time away from home with your friends — it’s also an investment in your skills, character and future. Camp teaches campers critical life skills including organization, leadership and time management.

 

Here are just a few ways that campers learn to plan ahead while enjoying the fun and games at Camp Laurel South!

LS6Navigating Camp Activities

Practicing how to plan time to get around camp between activities, and how to organize and bring the things you need to complete each activity doesn’t just prepare campers for their lacrosse, crafts and sailing periods — it prepares them for the hectic pace of life outside camp; from elementary school all the way through college!

Days at camp tend to be packed with activities and being on time for each activity ensures that you can maximize your fun. Learning to balance so many activities in a busy day is certainly one of camp’s biggest challenges, but with a little bit of practice everyone gets the hang of it.  Of course – your counselors are always there to help!

Planning Campfire and Talent Show Acts

Most campers choose to participate in either a campfire or a talent show at some point during their summer. Usually, the acts are created and practiced during free time and rest periods. Campers have to find a time in their daily schedule to plan their act and practice with other campers.

The incremental process of preparing performances helps campers build experience planning group projects and breaking down large, complex homework assignments into more manageable pieces, so they can complete a little each day. The secret to camp performances is taking it one small step at a time.

Looking to the Future

Camp is filled with experiences that campers look forward to. From Spirit Days break to the MooseBowl, there are plenty of events that campers are excited about. It is this looking to the future that allows campers to develop the ability to anticipate.

While not everything may work out the first time — it’s not a big deal to be late to an activity or to misjudge when the Spirit Days break will be  — you will eventually hone your skills, and be able to apply your experiences to the rest of your life. Campers love to live in the moment, but they always have one eye on the future. With a little bit of planning, every second of camp is a blast!

5 At-Home Activities for When You Miss Camp

It happens to the best of us. Every year.

Summer ends, school begins, and nothing feels quite as fun or exciting as those precious weeks of fun and freedom at Camp Laurel South…you’re campsick!

Luckily, summer is not too far away. Here are a few of our favorite year-round activities to bring that camp feeling home!

1. Make S’mores

Nothing says “camp” quite like campfires, and nothing says “campfires” quite like s’mores. Luckily, making s’mores at home is easy — you can even do it over a stovetop. (Although a backyard campfire is better if you have the chance!)

If you’re making s’mores using a stove, here’s a good recipe:

Ingredients:

Graham Crackers, Milk Chocolate, Marshmallows

Place marshmallows on graham crackers in a baking pan and toast under broiler for a few seconds until golden brown. Remove and finish the s’mores with chocolate pieces and graham cracker; the heat from the marshmallows will melt the chocolate…yum!

2. Go Backyard Camping

Camping is super fun, but sometimes you’re too busy to go hiking into the wilderness to do it. Backyard camping to the rescue! The best part about backyard camping is that the house is close by if anybody needs anything; enjoy your night under the stars…in the comfort of your own backyard.

3. Send Letters to Camp Friends

The best parts about camp are the friends you make. Even if they don’t happen to live near you, keeping in touch by “snail mail” can be a fun way to stay up to date on your friend’s school years. Who doesn’t love to get a letter these days?

So bust out those craft supplies and get creative with letters and postcards…and of course there’s always email and chat for those of us who just can’t wait for the old-fashioned post office.

4. Enjoy a Nature HikeLS3

Another part of camp that many of us miss during the year is the rejuvenating feeling of being in the great outdoors. The wind in the trees, the quiet of the woods — it’s all a part of what makes camp so special.

So if you find yourself missing nature, you don’t have to wait until next summer to enjoy it; just get your family together for a trip out to the nearest park or natural area. All you need is a Sunday afternoon, sturdy hiking shoes and a sense of adventure.

Plus, it’s a great chance to put some of those outdoor skills you learned at camp to good use!

5. Join a New Activity

Last but not least, always remember to challenge yourself. People tend to think of camp as the place for trying new things, and school as being a little boring by comparison…but it doesn’t have to be that way!

One thing camp teaches you is that variety is the spice of life, so when you have the chance to try something new, just go for it. Chances are you can make time for a new sport, dance lessons, band, writing a book, becoming a rock star and whatever else it is that you’re interested in. All you have to do is step up to the challenge and believe in yourself — just like at camp.

So, even though next summer is not too far away…you might as well have a blast while you wait!

8 Ways Everyone Can Tell You Went to Camp

1. You Want to Play Outside No Matter the Weather
The rain-or-shine attitude is something that sets campers apart. Whether you are going rock climbing or waterskiing, you sure aren’t going to miss out on the time of your life because of a little liquid sunshine!!

2. You Always Want to Work as a Team
Summer camp is a crash-course in teamwork and quickly turns even those with “quieter” personalities into leaders and team players. From meals to playtime to campfires, campers do everything together and quickly discover that the more you collaborate, the more fun you can have.

3. You’re Always Singing and Clowning Around
You can take the camper out of camp, but you can never take the camp songs out of the camper. Repeat-after-me melodies are a tradition as old as camp itself that turn goofy rhymes into songs that get stuck in your head forever…for counselors and campers alike.

4. You Don’t Mind Getting a Little Dirty
Summer camp is all about having fun in the great outdoors, and that means running around in the woods, jumping in the lake and getting grass stains on your jeans.  Especially for campers coming from the big city, getting comfortable with mud, bugs and insects means getting out of your comfort zone… and having a blast while doing so.

5. You Get Along with People Who are Different than You
Diversity is strength, and camp is one of the most diverse places around. You never know who’s going to be in your age group, and no matter where everyone comes from, you all have to work together both in and out of activities.

6. You Love to Send “Snail-Mail”IMG_6285
Just like the owl post over breakfast in Harry Potter, mail time at camp is exciting for everyone! Parents love getting updates from camp, and campers love getting a little piece of home. In a world where paper is being used less and less, there’s nothing like getting a post card in the winter from your best camp friend.

7. You Know How to Start a Fire (and Roast a Perfect Marshmallow!)
Not everyone knows how to start a fire in the digital era, but as a camper you know a thing or two about getting that tinder to snap, crackle and pop. Chances are you even have a great campfire story and know a thing or two about crafting the perfect s’more!

8. You Want to Be a Counselor When You “Grow Up”
The number one sign of a lifelong camper is when you’ve been going to camp for so many seasons that you become too old to be a camper — so you become a counselor! Being a camp counselor is one of the best jobs in the world and a chance to share all your years of camp wisdom with the next generation. You’re more than just a camper…you’re a role model!

What I Learned about Friendship from Camp

You know that “first day of school” feeling? I’m sure you do. Some people love it while others find it quite scary. The chance to explore a new place, try new things, and make new friends can be simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying.

How about that “first day of camp” feeling? I’m going to be honest with you, I was a shy kid, and the first day of camp I was worried. So many new faces! So many new activities! You mean we’re staying here for three-and-a-half weeks?!

Making Friends at Camp is EasyLS (2)

Well, it turned out my fears were completely unfounded; I quickly learned that it’s practically
impossible not to make new friends at camp. From the team games to the intimate campfire circles, sticking to yourself isn’t really an option. There are no TV shows or computer games to distract or isolate you!

But camp doesn’t just teach you how to make friends; it teaches you how to keep them.

Learning to Be a Good Friend

Summer camp is a crash course in socializing. Spending weeks together with the same group teaches campers how to interact with each other in ways that you can’t really learn at school. You aren’t just playing games at camp; you’re learning how to live communally. That means sharing, communicating, and understanding different perspectives. In a sense, camp helps teach kids to be a good friend to their peers.

Learning to be a good friend means learning to give as much as you take. Everyone has rough days, and camp is no exception. Cheering up a friend who doesn’t feel like playing games or joining in the campfire can be tough, but every camper does it. Why? Because they know that their camp friends would gladly lend them the same support.

Friends that Last Forever

The camp experience is as intense as it is fleeting. Similar experiences don’t come around often, so it’s no surprise that campers often become life-long friends. When you find yourself missing summer, your camp friends are always there to remind you that you aren’t alone. Only someone who was there with you can truly understand what the nostalgia is all about — it’s an experience that links you forever.

The one sad part about camp friendships is that when camp is over, you have to say goodbye. While goodbyes may be tough, next summer is always right around the corner!

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