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A Whole New World

At one of America’s Finest Summer Camps, a first year camper, upon stepping off the bus on arrival day for the first time, immediately exclaimed, “I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life!” The awe of that young camper at that moment was very reminiscent of the scene in The Little Mermaid in which the young mermaid Ariel finds herself on land for the first time and, with her new legs, begins experiencing a whole new world.  She is mesmerized by the smallest human things—flatware, trinkets, and mirrors.  For young campers who finally get to come to camp for the first time after sometimes waiting their “whole lives,” there is a sense of wonder in being in a new place with different people and things.  They are surrounded by literally dozens of activities that perhaps they’ve never tried and, sometimes, of which they’ve never even heard.  Like Ariel the mermaid, they sometimes hear about the world of camp from older siblings for years before finally getting to experience themselves.  With that newness and the adventure of being in a place one has dreamed for a very long time comes a sense of openness and a willingness to try new things.  New campers often want to try EVERYTHING!

And why not?  What better way to discover which things one loves than at summer camp, an environment in which many new campers are away from their parents for the first time?  There is no sideline pressure from over-zealous parents and coaches at camp sports.  There are no teachers to mark right from wrong.  Instead, new campers are surrounded by supportive counselors, staff, and friends, many of whom are also first time campers and that natural empathy creates an atmosphere conducive to bonding and the formation of lasting friendships.

As campers maneuver the new world of camp, they share like experiences.  Whether big, like taking on a high ropes course for the first time as a cabin or small, like learning how to bait a fishing hook, learning what camp is all about becomes the foundation for the transformation of the new world of first time campers into the special world of camp. Because the menu of camp activities constantly expands and evolves, there is a perpetual newness to the summer camp experience.  Even though, for older campers, camp becomes a special place to which campers get to journey once a year, that essence of being a whole new world lives on summer after summer and is what drives campers to spend their winters counting down for that annual journey to experience it.

The Action Never Stops…

The action never stops at Laurel South! After an amazing “S” Day breakfast, Carnival and incredible Camper Variety Show, our 8th Graders left Monday for their two day trip to Attitash and North Conway. They had a blast. Programs are running full steam and our evening activities are way cool. Our Saco and Kineo campers just returned from their berry-picking excursion. We continue to participate in intercamps and tournaments all over southern Maine.

Tonight is our 3rd Annual Moosebowl!!! Once again the Rattlesnakes and Black Bears will meet on the gridiron. The entire camp will gather for a tailgate cookout for dinner before making their way to the field to watch the men of Rangeley battle it out in a game of flag football. There will be a halftime dance exhibition, tee shirt launchers, announcers and Roger and Dagni at the coin flip. This event has become a favorite for the entire Laurel South family!

Summer Flying By

How quickly the summer is flying by! Another Spirit Day has come and gone and it was a great one. In the end, all we remember is the fun of the competition. We have gotten right back into programming. Intercamp games and tournaments have been awesome. Camping trips are going strong all over the state of Maine. From tennis to rocketry to waterskiing, horseback riding, climbing and lacrosse, our campers are doing it all.

Everyone is excited for tomorrow’s 2nd in-camp “S” Day. From the elective morning to the Camper Variety Show to the famous Laurel South Carnival, the day couldn’t be more exciting.

Our campers have never looked happier. They’re participating, making friends, acquiring new skills, developing existing talents and trying new things. Everything’s fantastic in 04015!

Spirit Day 2013

Tuesday started like any other day at camp. Morning activities were going great. All over camp, the sounds of Laurel South spirit filled the air. Just before lunch, Roger called for a camp meeting. As he made his way through announcement, a roar erupted from the lake. The CIT’s, dressed in Blue and Green, announced the arrival of another amazing Spirit Day!!!

For the next day and a half, the Blue Knights and Green Vikings will battle it out in the friendliest of competitions. We’ll play hard, but never lose hold of the fact that even during Spirit Days, we are one big Laurel South family.
Once Spirit Days conclude, we have so much to look forward to: the 4th of July, the action on beautiful Crescent Lake, intercamp games and tournaments, The Lion King & Hairspray. We can’t wait to keep the action going in Casco!

Anatomy of a Summer Camp

Summer camp is often thought of as a whole, a single place where campers convene for several weeks each summer.  Few think of summer camp in the context of its smaller parts.  Yet, for campers, the special memories that make up “summer camp” in their minds are not merely the product of a whole, but a collection of memories related to its various parts.  The overall experience of summer camp not only comprises a special place in the heart of campers, but the memories connected to favorite spots on campus.  What are these parts, and why would do campers find them so dear?  They’re places that, without, summer camp just wouldn’t be summer camp.

Cabins/Bunks: Some camps call them cabins.  Other camps call them bunks.  What they have in common is that they are private spaces that a handful of campers at each camp have in common.  They live in their bunks, sleep in their bunks, and attend activities with their bunks.  Every bunk has its own playlist, inside jokes, special nicknames for each other, and unique games that it enjoys.

Dining Hall/Dining Room: At home, the dining room is just a place for campers to eat. But at camp, it’s such an important place that it’s spelled with capital letters.  The camp dining facility is not only a place where the camp convenes for meals, but a place full of song and cheer.

Lake: The lake is the hub of a summer camp waterfront.  It’s the place where campers go to swim, boat,waterski, tube, and socialize.  It’s so special that, at most camps, every camper goes there at least once a day. Lots of friendships are formed and memories are made on the docks and beaches of the camp lake.

Flagpole/Campfire: Every camp has a special place where the entire camp convenes in the morning and/or evening to officially kick off or end the day.  This is where sports and competition wins are celebrated and special occasions are marked, and each camp does something just a little bit different to inflict personality into its assembly location to make it a memorable place for campers.

Fieldhouse/Rec Hall/Playhouse: This is another facility that goes by a different name from camp tocamp, but is home to memories of camp shows, sing-alongs, athletic events, evening activities, and just about a million other activities.  For all intents and purposes, it’s a campus all-purpose building, the place where the entire camp gathers to celebrate activities that are as indispensable to the camp experience as to the camp itself.

Of course, as merely buildings, these locations make up just a fraction of summer camp campuses.  But they’re so full of literally decades of memories that the spirit of the camp emanates from them, and every camper has a nearly endless list of memories that involve them.  Not just summer camp, but the anatomy of it is essential to the summer camp in the making of camp memories.

First Week Finishes with a Bang

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!

An Amazing First Week of Camp!

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!

Exploration at Summer Camp

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.

Camp: Great Preparation for What Lies Ahead…

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 follow the directions of others. They also learn to lead.

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.

The “Special” Experience of Summer Camp

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.


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