What a beautiful day in the state of Maine! Staff Orientation has gone very well. The cabins are set, the fields are lined, the staff is trained. All we need now is our amazing campers. Everyone is now literally counting down the hours until the campers arrive! The weather looks spectacular for Arrival Day, and we can’t wait for the planes to land and for the buses and cars to pull in through the gates. We are all set to welcome our campers coming from 26 states and 16 countries. Soon camp will be filled with the sounds of campers and staff cheering, singing and having the time of their lives!!!
Another magical Laurel South Summer is about to kick off! No camp, of course, can succeed without an amazingly dedicated staff. On Wednesday, 225 enthusiastic young men and women arrived to begin their week long Orientation. Over the course of the next week, they will learn about the culture that makes Laurel South such a special place. They will meet with the Directors and Campus Leaders to learn how we take care of children and work with the Program Director and Area Heads on curriculum and development. Most importantly, each staff member will hear that, whether in the cabin or out on the fields, we want to instill in each camper a sense of independence, community and pride.
We’re very excited to see the awesome returning staff members working with the eager newcomers. The staff seems incredible, and they are counting down the days, hours and minutes until the campers arrive!!!
When you think about summer, most of the images that race through your mind probably include two things: sun and water. Whether it’s laying out by the lake or beach, running through the sprinklers, zipping through the waves on a boat or jet ski, or contemplating life’s mysteries while casting a line out to fish, the summer is meant to be spent in the sun and cooling down in the water. This is why so many campers enjoy sailing at camp. Sailing is an exciting water activity that allows campers to work as a team to reach a common goal. It’s also a great way to spend the afternoon, and creates a bond between sailors that can’t be created anywhere else.
Campers who learn to sail aren’t just learning how to maneuver a large vessel through the water — however, that’s a big accomplishment! Everything about sailing is a learning opportunity. Math and science are weaved into the fun and challenging sport of sailing. Sailors learn about the importance of aerodynamics when it comes to the position of the sail. They learn to “read the water” and become confident navigating their way to and from a destination without the help of the GPS on their smartphone. They learn to solve problems quickly, to be observant of their surroundings and find a new appreciation for mother nature. Campers who try sailing leave with useful skills and practical information that will help them for the rest of their lives.
Even if they never have to deal with air pressure or thinking about the curvature of a sail, campers will learn to work as a team, follow directions and appreciate the serenity of being on the lake. Sometimes children and teens have a hard time dealing with quiet moments, or feel anxious when they don’t have something to entertain them at every second. Sailing is good practice for just sitting back and enjoying nature, and is a great way for campers to learn to be comfortable in their own silence. All camp sailing adventures are guided and supervised by certified instructors, so everyone is kept safe while they’re having fun.
The beauty of Crescent Lake is a reason all on its own to take up sailing. The view from the sailboat can’t be put into words, and campers often write home how much they love spending their afternoons out on the lake.
Campers have hundreds of opportunities to try new things at camp and learning to sail is another great way to expose them to something they may never try at home. Sailing gives campers a sense of accomplishment that they can succeed at anything they put their mind to.
One of the perks about sending your child to Laurel South is that a good chef may return home to you. Your child who only knew how to make a sandwich or had no idea how to boil water may come back as a baking, sautéing foodie who has a newfound appreciation for seasonings, sauces and the magic that can happen in the kitchen. This transformation begins when campers take advantage of the Culinary Studio at Laurel South. Led by our Head Chef and specialists who have a wealth of experience, our incredible, fully-integrated Culinary Studio gives campers the tools, appliances and space to create their favorite dishes and learn a few new ones.
Encouraging your child to explore their culinary side not only ensures you’ll get to try some of their creations once they return home, but also teaches them valuable life skills. Cooking is not just throwing ingredients together and waiting until it’s edible. Cooking is an art, and a way for aspiring chefs to express themselves. The thought, preparation, and emotion that goes into cooking is something many children find challenging but rewarding. They learn valuable skills such as time management, following directions and communication. Cooking also perfects math and science skills in a way that is fun and different.
When your child is able to start and finish a project in the kitchen, their self-confidence grows and they become more self-assured and willing to try new things that seem out of their comfort zone. When they are active in the kitchen and learn about the things that go into their food, they are also learning about making healthy choices when it comes to what they eat.
Cooking gives children a sense of purpose and something they feel they can contribute to the family. Once a camper’s family takes a bite of their famous mac and cheese or savory French Onion soup and can’t get enough, they’ll feel that they have a valuable quality to contribute to family functions. Even if they just learn basic cooking skills, the importance of cleaning up after yourself, and how to measure properly, they will be ahead of most of their peers.
Whether your child is a chef-in-the-making, or is just starting to show interest in the kitchen, cooking at camp is a great way for kids to explore culinary arts.
Campers donning big, silly hats and oversized costumes can be found dancing and singing their hearts out on stage at Laurel South. You can see campers giggling in groups, and others transforming into super heroes and villains as their imaginations run wild. Of course, staff members get in on the action too, letting their inner-child emerge by singing, dancing and playing along with the campers. Campers and counselors feel safe at camp; safe to be silly, safe to use their imaginations and safe to just “let go.” They learn right away that camp is a judgment-free space, where they can be themselves and act like a kid. In a world where kids are exposed to adult themes in their TV shows, music and social media, it can be easy for them to lose the silly, magical, goofy part of themselves, in fear of looking “uncool” to their peers. Not at camp, though.
Laurel South encourages campers to be silly in a variety of ways. Programmed “free time” allows campers to explore and socialize with their friends in a way that is supervised, but not highly structured. This gives campers time to use their imaginations. Some campers like to put on skits or host a cabin comedy club. They are encouraged to do and say the silly, kid-like things that come so naturally to them.
During structured activities, kids are supported when they speak their minds, share their opinions and engage in discussions. They are taught to listen to and respect each other, which gives children the green light to do and say silly things without fear of embarrassment or ridicule. By exploring this side, kids develop a sense of humor. A good sense of humor helps children be spontaneous, to see different sides of a situation, enjoy the playful parts of life and not take themselves too seriously. These character traits are extremely helpful for kids who have a lot of stress and responsibility in school, sports and life back in the real world. A good sense of humor also increases their self-esteem, which is always a bonus!
Counselors are counselors because they like kids, and they enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of children. They are fun, relatable and great at being silly. They know they are role models for the campers, so they make it a point to set a good example. When counselors can sing, dance and act silly, campers catch on quickly and begin to feel safe to do the same. They are also a good example of knowing a “time and place” to be silly. They model how to calm themselves down when it is time to be serious, and teach campers how to differentiate between a place where it’s okay to be silly (free time) and a time when being calm and focused is more productive (quiet time in the cabins).
Children are expected to be focused and serious for a large portion of their day in the “real world,” so it is important to foster their childlike wonder and silliness whenever possible. At Laurel South, kids can feel safe to show off their silly side.
Confident leaders aren’t born; they’re made. And great leaders are often made from spending time at camp. Campers and counselors alike leave camp with a better understanding of how to help others and act as positive role models for those around them.
From the first day they arrive, campers are placed in a group setting that, for most of them, is very different from what they’re used to. They eat with their peers, spend the day doing activities with their peers, and share their mornings and nights side by side with them as well. This is the perfect situation for campers to build leadership skills. Campers have countless opportunities on a daily basis to make good decisions to positively affect their camp experience and learn lessons for their lives ahead.
Campers’ involvement in sports helps foster strong leadership traits, such as being a team player, being fair, and winning and losing with grace. Team sports like soccer, lacrosse and baseball encourage campers to step up and be leaders of their team and to be a positive example for their teammates. Campers who participate in individual activities like waterskiing, climbing, archery, gymnastics and dance are leaders when they choose to make responsible choices regarding their involvement and commitment to the activity that they chose. Arriving on time, respecting their competition and their counselors, and doing their best every day are all great ways campers can act as leaders at camp.
A good leader is someone who can assist others well. Campers have plenty of opportunities each and every day to be helpful and kind to their peers. They are encouraged to support each other, communicate with each other, and be an honest and loyal friend. Even if they aren’t aware of it, the building of these characteristics is also building a leader in every camper.
Campers aren’t the only ones who leave camp as stronger and more confident leaders. Counselors who spend their summer at camp also learn valuable leadership skills in a much more obvious and intentional way. They are trained thoroughly on what it means to be a leader and positive role model for children. They are very aware that there are always young and impressionable eyes watching everything they say and do. Counselors learn very quickly that being a counselor doesn’t just mean making sure all of the kids follow the rules. They become teachers, big brothers/sisters, role models and friends. Camp counselors also get an opportunity to improve their time management, problem solving and multitasking skills. The training and education required to be a camp counselor prepares them for managing groups of children in a confident, patient and trusted way.
Whether they come to camp as a camper or a counselor, everyone leaves camp as a more confident leader. This confidence transfers over to their attitudes toward their siblings, friends, coworkers and teammates in the real world. The world is a better place with leaders like the ones developed at camp.
What do seeds, chips and double bagels have in common? No, they aren’t things you’ll find at the summer camp buffet. They are terms commonly used in one of the world’s most popular sport, that is enjoyed by hundreds of campers every summer: Tennis.
Tennis is fast paced, competitive and fun. It’s a great workout, as it keeps players constantly moving, running and swinging. For campers who prefer individual sports, tennis is a great option. It improves speed, agility and hand-eye coordination, skills that are beneficial for all kinds of sports. It improves leg strength, gross and fine motor skills, agility and flexibility, all while incorporating cardiovascular exercise.
Character and physiological development is another added benefit of playing the game. Tennis requires practice and commitment, and helps campers develop a strong work ethic and discipline. When new tennis players stick with the sport, even when it’s tough, they gain valuable life lessons about never quitting and persistence. Tennis is a great way to strengthen social skills, and helps campers learn to be good sports.
The ten tennis courts at Laurel South are surrounded by natural beauty, and serve as a safe, clean and professional space for tennis lovers and rookies alike. Tennis is taught by certified and experience coaches, who encourage campers to do their best and make them feel confident and excited about picking up a racquet. Most importantly, they make sure tennis stays fun for campers and that everyone feels included.
Tennis is a large part of camp culture. The benefits of tennis are endless, and campers who participate in the various tennis activities will walk off of the court with a sense of confidence and appreciation for the game.
She wasn’t sure what was going to happen first: either her heart was going to beat out of her chest, or the butterflies that were soaring around in her stomach were going to somehow find their way out.
Nervous didn’t even begin to explain how she was feeling as she looked up the gigantic wall. She knew all she had to do was put her feet, which were now firmly planted on the ground, on one of those colorful rocks, reach up with one hand and grab another one, and she would be officially off the ground. As her sweaty palms met the first rock, her counselor spoke quietly right behind her, whispering words of encouragement and support. As she took the next step and inched her way up the rock wall, she had to remind herself to breathe. Then she heard her friends encouraging her and cheering her on. “Left foot, right hand, right foot, left hand,” she said to herself. The further she got from the ground, the louder the cheers became. She was actually doing it! She was climbing the wall that she said she would never do from the moment she stepped foot onto camp. She wanted to look down to see the crowd of people cheering her on, but she decided she’d just focus on getting to the top.
As she stopped to take a breath, she looked around and marveled at the sheer beauty of the camp. The tall trees, the blue water, the sprawling green lawns – she had never seen camp from this viewpoint before. She knew she was halfway there because her friends’ chants told her so, and she suddenly got a boost of energy and continued her trek up the wall. Just a few more rocks to climb and she’d be at the top. She wasn’t sure when her nerves turned to excitement, but as she reached for the top of the wall, she felt a power and a confidence like never before. Her friends and counselors erupted in applause and she screamed, “I DID IT!” at the top. As she propelled down to the crowd of supporters, she walked away with a new sense of self-confidence and accomplishment.
The wall symbolized everything she was afraid of, and she conquered it. She grew closer to her friends and counselors because of their unwavering support, and she went home with a fresh perspective on obstacles and challenges. “Now, when something is hard or scary, I say to myself: I climbed the rock wall at camp. I got this.”
The Rock Wall, Ropes Course and Zip Line are all vital parts of the Adventure Program at Laurel South. These activities push campers out of their comfort zone. Whether they are climbing the wall on their own, or working as a team to maneuver through the high or low ropes courses, these adventures help campers excel with teamwork, leadership, goal setting, cooperation, positive-risk-taking and trust. These vital characteristics are taken from camp and built upon in the outside world, creating well-rounded individuals who work well in group settings, can trust others as well as themselves, and set goals and meet them. Who would have thought soaring down a zip line or flying through the air on a giant swing could be so important for a child’s emotional well-being?
Inner-strength, confidence and accomplishment aren’t only gained through climbing great heights. Overnight camping trips are another activity at Laurel South that offer a wide range of benefits. The skills campers learn teach resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, trusting their instincts and being in touch with their surroundings. The overnight camping experience helps campers develop a strong sense of teamwork, as they work together to set up tents, build fires, cook their meals and explore the woods.
As campers climb, camp and fly their way through camp, they are creating lasting memories, gaining valuable life skills, and experiencing adventure in a safe and supervised environment.
Campers will come home from camp different than from when they arrived. They will come home more confident and courageous – thanks to all of the amazing activities, like the Adventure Program, that Laurel South has to offer.
Everyone has that one teacher, babysitter, neighbor, family friend or other adult influence who has made a lasting impression on their lives; a person they credit with shaping and molding the person they’ve become. When you become a camp counselor, you become this and so much more to hundreds of children. A camp counselor does so much in the life of a child, but not many people realize how it shapes the camp counselor as well.
Camp counselors become experts at time management. They learn how long it takes to get from one place to another, how long clean-up, setup and break down takes, and how to effectively manage their time so activities run smoothly. They learn the importance of appreciating the time and schedules of others, and campers pick up on this valuable social skill.
Camp counselors become expert communicators. They have no choice but to constantly strive to be good listeners, as kids will remember people who they feel truly listen and hear them. Counselors learn to speak confidently, while always keeping in mind the effects their words can have on those around them. They learn how to express their concerns and articulate their opinions and expectations without hurting the feelings of others. The ability to successfully communicate with individuals and large groups is a vital and life changing skill that comes naturally from being a counselor.
Problem solving, conflict management and the ability to maintain a positive attitude in occasionally stressful circumstances are all things counselors learn while spending their summers at camp. All of these skills are exactly what employers are looking for in the people they hire, and a summer (or two!) as a counselor really sets you up to be the “dream employee” who so many employers are looking for.
Being a camp counselor changes who you are, in a good way. Watching hundreds of campers learn more about themselves, create lasting memories and try new and exciting things because they know YOU believe in them will change your life. You will experience a sense of purpose as you build relationships with campers that you can’t get anywhere else. Being a camp counselor makes you a better friend, family member, student, employee and most importantly, it makes you a better YOU!
If your child is like most children, he or she tweets their way through breakfast, texts at lunch, likes, comments and Snapchats through dinner, post selfies to Instagram before bedtime and wakes up to do it all again the next day. No wonder they stay up late and want to sleep until noon… They’re busy.
Research shows kids spend up to 7.5 hours A DAY with their eyes glued to a screen and their fingers frantically pecking away at keyboards. Kids growing up in an age of widely accessible and socially acceptable technology can get lost in the sea of text messages and status updates. Social media can be a welcoming environment for bullies, as it’s easy to become detached from empathy and consequences when you’re behind a screen. Kids do and say things they wouldn’t normally do or say when they’re plugged in. When kids only speak their mind anonymously or try to be someone they aren’t to impress others, they’re lacking opportunities to develop self-confidence and character. They may have 1,000 friends or followers on social media, but are slowly losing the ability to walk up to someone and shake their hand or settle conflict in a responsible and socially acceptable way. Social media isn’t bad in itself, it’s a great tool to keep connected and learn about the world. But, when we let it take the place of our child’s social development, we’re doing them a huge disservice.
Which is why, at Laurel South, we’re unplugged. Campers leave their cellphones at home and enjoy a summer without texting, emailing or using social media. At first, campers may consider this unfathomable, but as they dive deep into the activities that Laurel South offers, they will reevaluate their dependence on technology. They will interact with others in a meaningful way. They will improve their written communication skills by writing letters home to loved ones and feel the excitement of receiving a handwritten note from friends and family – a feeling you just don’t get when you check your inbox. Without a phone in their pocket to tempt them, they will be able to really focus and listen to what other campers are saying. In turn, when they’re sharing a story or experience, they won’t be talking to a group of friends preoccupied with their screens.
Campers who arrive shy and a little reserved will leave with new found confidence based on their accomplishments over the summer. They’ll be able to look back on the summer when they learned to swim, conquered stage fright, made new friends and discovered their love for a new activity. Campers will be able to apply that self-confidence into their lives back home. They’ll no longer need to hide behind a screen in order to communicate with their peers.
As a parent, you can find comfort in the fact that while your child is away, they’ll be learning valuable life skills that don’t involve how many words they can text a minute, or how many likes they can get on their Instagram picture. The skills they learned while they are unplugged will stay with them for a lifetime, and that’s better than being retweeted by a celebrity.