A joke telling session in the cabin during a rainy morning, lying in the cabin during rest hour, or sitting by the waterfront and talking with friends as the sun goes down are what we call downtime at summer camp. Children need downtime to process learning experiences and recharge their creative juices, notes parenting expert Michael Grose. He believes downtime is an important life skill that every child should learn to enjoy and appreciate. Yes, sleepaway camps like to keep campers busy. After all, that’s what they come for. But camps also place emphasis on the value of the summer camp experience as a way to get out of the routine of everyday life, which is what makes summer camp the perfect place for children to learn downtime.
At home, it’s easy to get lost in the constant “go” routine to which so many children are accustomed. Many of them go straight from school to sports rehearsals or music lessons, sometimes both or several in one night. Then there is the inevitable stack of homework waiting when they finally get a few moments in the evening. They also see their parents constantly on the move. In such an environment, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that one should always be operating at full speed. At camp, however, the environment is decidedly one that is about slowing down and appreciating individual moments and accomplishments.
Camp is also contained. Campers have only a few weeks each summer to maximize their camp experience. They can’t look too far ahead without looking beyond camp, which no camper wants to do. That’s why campers like to take advantage of that brief rain shower, an hour of rest in the afternoon, or a few moments after dinner to enjoy the camp environment and bond with friends.
Says Grose, “Free, child-initiated play is the ultimate in relaxation. Fun games, games with few rules and games that kids control help them to unwind.” And learning to unwind is what camp is all about.
The sugary drink made from mysterious powder – a fruit punch with no resemblance to real fruit – may be the only “food” generations of summer campers remember from their years in camp dining halls.
Today, parents from Camp Laurel and Laurel South are glad to hear that bug juice has gone the way of buggy whips.
Today too, campers are glad to drink water, 2% and skim milk, real lemonade and unsweetened iced tea. They also like having choices: fresh fruit, salad bars, homemade soups, grilled chicken. But they’re equally glad to see old standbys like chicken nuggets and make-your-own sundaes.
Kids today eat healthy. But they are still kids.
Menu planning at Camp Laurel and Laurel South is a constant balancing act. As children have grown more conscious of the right things to eat, we’ve evolved too. For example, we replaced canned peas with cut celery and carrot sticks (part of our popular veggie platters).
We offer barbecue chicken and fresh asparagus. Lemon chicken with brown rice. Turkey tacos with guacamole and corn chips. Baked chicken, matzo ball soup and knishes (Friday nights only!).
We’ve got multi-grain pancakes – most of the time. But we haven’t forgotten our “S Day breakfasts,” with chocolate chip and M&M pancakes.
There’s a 20-item salad bar, with 8 types of dressing. And a pasta bar. And a baked potato bar. And even a special smoothie bar for 2013!
Lewis (Camp Laurel) and Teddy (Laurel South) – our beloved chefs, whip up soups from scratch like corn and clam chowder, vegetable barley, chicken noodle, Italian lentil and cream of broccoli. But the sides of Saltines have been replaced with whole-grain crackers.
Canteen snacks are as anticipated as ever. We’ve added granola bars and healthy popcorn to the list.
Camp is still camp. If you sat with us for a meal, you’d be reminded in many ways of your own camp days and be impressed to find healthier options and variety.
But try as you might, you would not find one silver pitcher filled with bug juice.
From the rituals they lead to open camp on the first night until the moment they say teary farewells to their final summers, summer camp plays as significant a role in older campers’ lives as they play in carrying on its traditions. There are a lot of camp articles that sing the praises of summer camp for young children, but few focus on the value of the camp experience for young teens. By the time many campers reach their teens, they already have several camp summers behind them. For them, it’s not really about newness anymore, but reliability and tradition: who is at camp, what is at camp, camp rites to which they’ve looked forward since they were young. In a period of child’s life that can be a roller coaster full of ups and downs that come at full speed, summer camp is oasis of stability. It’s solid ground, a safe place where teenagers go to be themselves and to let loose of the stress and strain that are inextricably part of the teenage years.
At summer camp, teenagers can still be young while getting a taste of what it means to be grown up. They connect with a small group of people with whom they’ve shared experiences since they were very young and with whom they continue to share experiences. They not only share experiences, they share memories that only a select group of others shares. Both give older campers a distinct sense of belonging. Regardless of who or what they are to their school peers the other ten months of the year, camp is a circle of inclusion that often extends far beyond the camp years. Older campers also benefit from privileges that come from being older. They’re tapped to lead camp activities, given leadership roles on teams of younger campers, and charged with being examples in honoring camp traditions. In short, older campers “train” younger campers how to be good campers. For many of them, being a role model and a mentor is one of the best aspects of camp. The pride in having played a role in a younger camper’s life is what brings many former campers back to camp in their adult years to work as counselors.
Beyond rituals and traditions, there is also the encouragement that many older campers get from staff members in pursuing college and career goals, be it allowing them to sample career life through Apprentice type tasks, giving them the opportunity to write an essay for the camp blog, giving them a camera and letting them take photos for the camp website, helping them write a college essay or work through a summer reading assignment, or just talking to them about what life as a teacher or a coach is like. By the time campers reach their teenage years, they’ve learned to appreciate what staff members bring to the table and are eager to learn and listen. Ask any former camper to name a camp staff member who had a special impact on their lives, and within seconds they’ll share the story of a beloved counselor or staff member who taught them something about life that they still practice today.
Although many bonds form when campers are young, some of the most special form when they’re older. Sometimes something as simple as a team building exercise helps teenage campers realize that they have more in common with a fellow camper than they thought they did. At an age when it’s all too easy to feel isolated, being able everyday to realize life as a valuable part of a whole translates into some of the most special memories of a camp career.
Camp is more than just a summer away from home hanging with friends. It’s a learning experience, and some of the most valuable lessons are learned in the midst of teenage fun at summer camp.
I’m the camp’s Program Director. I have a very unique job at camp as the person responsible for overseeing the daily scheduling of the camp’s daily activities. Even though it’s not one of the traditional camp jobs that comes to mind when people imagine working at a summer camp, it’s a crucial one. I like that it’s a perfect combination of behind the scenes with hands on.
One of the things I love most about my job is that I get the opportunity to get to know most of the campers and staff through daily interaction. I’m the person they come to with requests for their programs. I enjoy speaking with them about the things that are working in their activity areas and hear feedback about things that I might improve.
On those rare occurrences when the sun refuses to cooperate with the camp schedule, I get to demonstrate my creative talents by figuring how we can keep the fun going in all of our indoor facilities. I also enjoy getting out on campus every now to see for myself how the schedule plays out in real time. It’s a great time for me to take notes for the next schedule.
In the evenings, before I begin working on the next day’s schedule, I often participate in special events. Sometimes I judge activities. Sometimes I lead them. Other times, I host them or just keep score. The real reward of my job is when I overhear campers telling their counselors that they just had the best day ever as they’re heading off to bed in the evenings. It’s a great way to begin another day because just as everyone winds down their day at camp, I head back to my office to begin working on the next day’s schedule, ready to create another “funnest day ever!” for our campers. If you think working in camp programming sounds like a fun job, apply at one of America’s Finest Summer Camps today!
What a coincidence! Our counselors may be the most valuable part of the experience at Camp Laurel and Laurel South.
We’re very proud of our facilities and programs. We invest a lot of time, energy and resources into making them the best they can be.
But all that “stuff” means little without great people.
Counselors help create our camp community. They set the loving, caring tone that turns worries into wonder and strangers into life-long friends.
Counselors are parent figures, older siblings and role models, all rolled into one. They are problem-solvers, goal-setters and dream-makers – sometimes all at once.
Their creativity, empathy and passion provide the seeds for each child’s summer of growth.
With our counselors, we can do anything. We could drop them and our campers in a desert, or on a deserted island.
Everyone would have a great time.
Without our counselors, we’d be lost.
Some are with us for a couple of years. They might move on to grad school, an internship or “real” job. When they do, they carry the very important “people skills” that attracted them to us originally, and that they’ve honed during their time at Laurel and Laurel South.
Other counselors make camping their career. They are “lifers.” They are coaches on the collegiate and high school level. They become educators – in elementary, middle or high school (even universities) – and return every summer. They mentor other counselors, as well as campers. That too is one of our staff’s strengths.
We say with pride that we provide children with a lifetime of skills, confidence, friendships and memories. As Michael Eisner knows, it does all that for counselors too.
We look forward to introducing you to our superb 2013 staff in the coming months.
They may fight like cats and dogs at home, but attending camp together is special for siblings. Parents may be surprised to learn that at camp, they don’t accuse each of being the one to lose the television remote. Instead, they wave and smile when they pass each other on campus. They don’t fight about taking up each other’s space in the car either. Instead, they make special meeting places to talk about camp—everything they’ve done, new things they’ve tried, new friends they’ve made, and how their sports teams are doing how they got a bullsyeye in archery or are going to be singing a song in the show. Siblings don’t taunt each other when they do something silly at camp. They cheer for them. And, parents, you may be surprised to learn that siblings don’t pretend that each other has an infectious disease that prevents them from ever touching at camp. They readily hug.
As you can see, summer camp may as well be Hogwarts for its ability to transform sibling rivalry into a special relationship. Camp is a distinct set of memories they share apart from their parents. Those camp experiences will always be just theirs, which creates a bond that helps them grow as brothers and sisters as well as individuals. It’s an opportunity that many children who do not attend sleepaway camp don’t get to experience until adulthood. By being able to share a special set of traditions and values, siblings are able to appreciate their relationships at a much earlier age. The thrill of seeing each other experience camp firsts and pass camp milestones also helps them learn to appreciate each other as individuals.
And, let’s face it, we know that seeing your children smiling together in a camp photo after hitting the refresh button a thousand times each day makes it all worthwhile for you. Those smiles are why you put them on the bus or plane each year. They’re why you post the photos to your on Facebook pages and pass them around, accumulating likes. You love hearing them asking each if they remember a certain time at camp or singing the same songs and doing the same cheers. In that respect, being able to send your children to summer camp together is special for you too.
The popularity of summer camp has spread in recent years, now regularly attracting children from all regions of the United States and abroad. For many of these campers, it’s their first trip to the Northeastern United States. So, naturally, one of the most common questions we get at Camp Laurel is about the weather. We’re not just saying this because we’re camp people: There couldn’t be a more perfect place to spend a summer than in the Northeast!
The coastal breezes keep the air pure at our Maine camps. Many of our campers and staff members frequently comment on how nice it is to be free of the smog of the big cities in which many of them live. During the day, the temperatures are typical of summer weather. Because Camp Laurel gets a coastal breeze, the temperatures tend to be a few degrees cooler than inland. However, the summer sun still shines very brightly on the vast majority of the days, and it can get a bit warm. We encourage campers to stay well hydrated, though, and wearing sunscreen is a must! Shorts and tank tops or t-shirts are usually the most appropriate daytime attire.
We think that perhaps the best part of getting to spend our summers at camp, however, are the evenings. Temperatures cool down just enough to make most nights perfect for campfires and outdoor activities. Most campers take a sweatshirt to their evening activities. They may not always need one, but it’s a nice thing to have around just in case. Our favorite thing about nights at camp, though, is the sky. Because our camps are in rural areas, there is very little light pollution, so you can actually see the stars!
While most of the country struggles with being not too hot or not too cold during the summer months, the weather at summer camp in the Northeast is just right!
Robert Fulghum wrote a great poem entitled “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.” Since so many campers and staff members often speak of all of the valuable things they learn at camp, we thought we’d do a tribute to Fulghum’s original poem, as well as to all present and former campers and staff members, with our own camp take on the classic…
Everything I Need to Know in Life…I didn’t learn in a classroom or in a book. I learned it at summer camp. I learned….
The world would be an awesome place if everyone went to summer camp!
Whether it’s a school spelling bee or a soccer game, as parents we want to see our children win not just to experience the joy of seeing them excel but because we know that they want to win. Being raised in a competitive culture naturally makes us all want to be number one. Children equate being number one with being the best. However, as grownups we know that it’s impossible to win all of the time and that winning doesn’t necessarily mean being the best so much as being the best on that particular day. The idea that losing, in reality, is closer to not winning in that it’s possible to “lose” yet gain something valuable from a contest or competition is one of the most difficult concepts for children to embrace. Camp is a place where not only is this point driven home daily, but it’s a lesson learned at camp in a fun, constructive environment.
The pressure of anxious parents and coaches on the sidelines of sports competitions combined with the knowledge that school performance affects everything from what kind of classes they can take, extracurricular activities in which they can participate, and what colleges they will be attend place a great deal of emphasis on children’s performance. The ability for children to be able to process that good can come from not winning is clouded because the end goal is the emphasis. The underlying message that children sometimes inadvertently receive as a result is that they will be valued or loved less if they lose. Camp, on the other hand, emphasizes process and embraces novice. One of the primary messages conveyed to campers is that winning is a great thing at camp, but it’s not everything. Improving skills, finding activities one really loves, having fun and making friends are valuable attributes at camp. In such an environment, winning
takes on less prominence. Children are less likely to feel less valuable as campers for losing.
Camp leaders and staff work very hard throughout the summer to make sure this atmosphere is maintained. Children are encouraged for performance, accomplishment, and attitude regardless of being winners or losers in a contest. Many special camp games or competitions are also structured in a way that encourages children to work together in order to win and provide excellent opportunities for those children who may not be excellent athletes or extreme intellectuals to have their moments to shine.
Learning how to “not win” at camp makes it much easier for children to put “not winning” at home into proper perspective!
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