It’s hard to believe we’ve been at camp for over a week. “Time flies when you’re having fun,” and that couldn’t be more true in Casco, Maine. Our program days are filled with action. Basketball, Tennis, Climbing, Sailing, Lacrosse, Soccer, Crafts, Ceramics, Fitness, Gymnastics and more. Nights are filled with amazing evening activities and special events. Our 7th, 8th and 9th graders all returned form incredible overnight camping trips. We’ve had our first two S Days (in and out of camp) and they were phenomenal. The fun never stops, and it is always a beautiful day in the state of Maine!
It’s been an amazing start to another magical summer at Laurel South! Arrival Day couldn’t have been nicer as campers arrived from all over the country and world to rekindle existing friendship and plant the seeds for new ones. Friday was Moose Stomp Day. We chose our schedules for the summer, made s’mores at the Outpost, had individual and cabin pictures taken and enjoyed everyone’s company.
Our Opening Council Fire was incredible. Our “A” and “B” program days have been outstanding — you can feel the Laurel South Spirit from the Ballfields to the Waterfront to the Equestrian Center and our brand new Arts Center! Our 7th grade boys and girls had a blast in Camden. Our 9th graders are white water rafting on the Kennebec River and our 8th graders are camping at Acadia National Park. Our remaining campers are anticipating our first “S” day tomorrow. The action never stops in Casco, Maine!
Adventure, tradition, fun, and nature are all words that come to mind when one mentions “summer camp.” One word that doesn’t instantly come to mind, however, is “exploration.” Summer camp is an exercise in exploration.
There is, of course, literal exploration. Traditional summer camps are primarily located in rural areas, away from the city and suburban settings in which most campers live the remaining ten months of the year. The natural surroundings are the perfect environment for exploring nature and the outdoors.
There is the exploration of new things. Summer camp, by design, is conducive in trying the untried. Campers inevitably try something new at camp: new food, new activities, new ways of doing things. Some of the newness breeds ongoing new interest while some highlights the joys of routine and tradition.
The exploration of self, while slightly more esoteric is also an important aspect of summer camp. Campers learn how to be independent at summer camp. Sure, they’re surrounded by their friends, and camp is a largely social environment. Being away from parents for several weeks, however, helps children learn how to make decisions and gain confidence in themselves. From their newly gained independence, they begin to see and understand the value of individuality.
Exploration of culture and tradition is also a prevalent theme of summer camp. Summer camp is an amalgam of cultures. Many campers and staff come from all over the United States as well as the world. Exposure to people from geographic regions outside their own provides an open forum for exploring the subtle nuances that distinguish various cultures and their traditions.
Freedom of exploration is an important aspect of child development, and no place provides more of an open forum for exploration than summer camp.
Camps in Maine offer many sports team opportunities. From in-camp competitions to games against other camps, youngsters learn important lessons about working together, overcoming obstacles and achieving goals. That’s pretty obvious.
Less obvious is that throughout each camp season – every day, in many ways – those lessons are being reinforced far from the athletic fields.
A cabin represents the ultimate “team.” From the first day of camp to the last, groups of boys and girls form bonds, create friendships and share experiences that make each individual stronger – and, ultimately, help the “team” succeed.
Cabin-mates learn to share many things. They share space in their cabins. They share games, books, “stuff” from home.
They share stories and experiences. They share their hopes and dreams (and disappointments). They share their time.
They learn to put the best interests of the group above themselves. They learn to compromise. When it’s time for the group to do something they have advocated for, they learn to make the most of that opportunity.
They learn to move outside their comfort zone, trying things they’ve never done before. They learn to assess new situations, make quick decisions, and realize that actions have consequences. When things don’t go as expected, they take comfort in being surrounded by people who can help. Other times, they’re the ones providing assistance.
Campers learn to look ahead. There’s always something to plan for and be excited about. But there’s also the joy of looking back, reliving common experiences (many of which grow astonishingly, with each re-telling).
Over the course of a summer, boys and girls at camp learn what it means to live together. They learn the importance of trust, the power of common laughter, the exhilarating feeling of being part of a “team.”
And – though they don’t know it at the time – those lessons prepare them to be better siblings, roommates, co-workers and spouses, long after their summer camp “team” moves on.
Actress Jami Gertz, a summer camp alumni, once said, “There is something very special about being away from your parents for the first time, sleeping under the stars, hiking and canoeing.” Although on the outset this seems like just another quote about summer camp, the use of the word “special” makes it standout. “Special” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “distinguishable,” “superior,” or “of particular esteem.” Every camp, when planning the summer, strives to create an experience that sets it apart from other camps. To those whose exposure to summer camp is limited to Hollywood’s interpretation of it, there may seem to be little that distinguishes one from another. However, to those who attend or have attended summer camp, each one is unique from others. For campers and staff alike, to think of the more than 12,000 summer camps throughout the United States as a collective summer experience is to think of all pizza as having the same flavor. Sure the basic ingredients are the same. Most pizza pies even look similar. But, depending on which toppings you add, one pie might taste very different from another. It’s that special flavor of each camp that gives it that “esteemed” place in the hearts of those who have called it their summer home. Choosing a camp is more than simply deciding to send your child. The values, traditions, activities, facilities, staff, and even the duration all play a role in deciding at which summer camp your child will find the most success.
In a couple of weeks, another summer will start, and thousands of young campers will taste summer camp for the first time. They’ll spend their first night sleeping in a bunk/cabin with fellow new campers. They’ll bond with favorite counselors. They’ll try at least one activity for the first time. They’ll make new friends, learn new songs, and, for the first time, experience life away from their parents. As Jami Gertz said, it will be “special” as they begin gaining the independence, self-reliance, and self-confidence that are all-important ingredients in creating a life that is “distinguishable.” Ultimately, however, the role that summer camp plays in the successes of the lives of campers as children and, as they mature, in helping former campers meet the challenges of adulthood does not simply come down to experience but also in the choice of summer camp. So whether you’re just starting to consider summer camp, have begun searching for a camp, or will be one of the thousands of prospective families touring summer camps this year, be on the lookout for the right mix of ingredients that will create that “special” experience for your child.