Camp Laurel South Blog

Tag Archives: camp activities

Come Rain or Come Shine…

Do you ever wonder what happens at camp when it rains?  We assure you, it’s nothing like those scenes in movies that depict bummed out campers forced to spend entire days in their cabins or bunks .  Typically, it doesn’t rain all that often in the northeast during the summer and, whenever possible, activities proceed as planned.  We never let a few sprinkles get in the way of our regular activities.  But on those rare days when there is just no way around it, we’re ready!

When we wake up to a morning that makes outdoor activities unrealistic, we swing into action by implementing alternative programs.  Camp is just as fun and active when it’s a little bit wet outside as it is when the sun is shining.  By utilizing our indoor facilities, we’re able to keep the action going by combining our regular programs that are already completely or partially indoors, like gymnastics and arts and crafts, with special activities, like games, trivia contests, or sing-a-longs.  Sometimes, we simply move some of the things we normally do outside to an indoor location.  Ga-ga, basketball, and soccer, for instance, all adapt well to indoor locations.  By making just a few minor adjustments, we’re able to make sure that everyday at camp is full of good times and memories for our campers, not just those days when the sun shines.

A Look Behind the Scenes

Every day, we rely on a several teams of individuals to make camp happen.  Everyone knows about camp counselors, the people on the front lines, but not everyone is aware of the people who work behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly.  Running a summer camp really is more than showing up in June ready to welcome campers and have fun.  There are a myriad of staff members who perform the often thankless job of working “behind the scenes” at camp.  They are a very diverse group of individuals.  Some of them answer the phone when you call the camp.   Others schedule daily activities, arrange transportation, or cook the food.   Still, others take care of your children when they’re not feeling well, or look into your concerns about their daily lives at camp.

The fact of the matter is that summer camps require individuals of many interests and talents to operate successfully, and the measure of a good summer relies on the abilities and passions of these individuals.  They often work long hours, from sunrise until the wee hours of the morning simply because they love camp.  If you ask any one of them, they’ll tell you that they do what they do because, in the end, it contributes to a successful summer for campers and their parents.  They also might be a little coy in admitting that it’s just plain fun for them.

Furthermore, these people are so good at their jobs that we don’t even adequately know how to thank them.  They work with passion and without regard to anything but making sure our campers and their parents have the best possible experience at our camps.  It truly is a thankless job , in many ways, to work behind the scenes at an American summer camp.  But we are thankful!

Sing, Sing a Song

There is something about singing that brings people together.  Perhaps that’s why singing (and music in general) is such an important part of camp.  The silly or sometimes sentimental words of a “camp song” can set a mood, evoke a feeling, and create atmosphere.  Music is a universal language that everyone understands.  Perhaps this is why so many American summer camps open and close their summers with sing-alongs.  Sing-alongs are fantastic ways to say both “we’re together again” and “until next time.”

Ask campers to name some of their most favorite moments of summer camp and, most assuredly, they’ll name more than one that involves singing in some way…that first exciting night of camp, campfires, zany and often spontaneous dining room rituals, fun times with fellow campers and counselors inside the bunk, and saying goodbye at the end of the summer.  More importantly, ask any current or former camper to sing his camp alma mater and he’ll do it as if it’s second nature.  The words of a camp’s alma mater are magical—a way to instantly transport one back to camp and those summers filled with fun and friends.

Many parents say that their children even sing camp songs constantly throughout the winter as a way of remembering their time at camp.  Some of them even admit that they can’t resist the temptation to join in.

Crazy Days and Whacky Nights

Parents, do you ever log onto your computer to check out the camp photos for the day, see your child painted in blue from head to toe or maybe wearing a crazy wig and big nerdy glasses and wonder, ‘What in the world?’  The answer probably has something to do with your summer camp’s special events and evening activities.  For fifty plus nights (and some days) summer camps entertain your children with some of the zaniest games and wackiest contests that they can come up with.  Why?  Because it’s fun to be painted in blue from head to toe…seriously.  Or at least it is when your cabin is performing a dance to the Smurfs theme in front of the entire camp and you’re Papa Smurf—or Smurfette.  And seeing images of your children and their counselors slipping, sliding, and splashing around in what appears to be multi-colored goo…it’s a camp thing…a really fun camp thing.  Eye patches are always fun.  So is spending a day pretending to be pirates and searching for buried treasure.   Becoming a secret agent and collecting clues to decode a message or pretending to be wild animals is also a great way to spend that occasional non-program day.  From trivia contests to talent contests and everything in between, some of the greatest moments of summer camp happen during the crazy days and wacky nights!

Paddle Boarding Takes Laurel South by Storm!!

Damon PaddleboardingWhat do celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Aniston, Brody Jenner, Matt Damon, and Kate Hudson have in common?  They’ve all fallen victim to the latest craze in water sports and fitness: Paddle Boarding.  Paddle Boarding combines the tranquility of being on open water with the benefits of an incredible full-body work out that especially targets the core.  The origins of Paddle Boarding, or Stand up Paddle Surfing (SUP), are ancient.  Hawaiian kings have been practicing Ku Hoe He’e Nalu (to stand, to paddle, to surf, a wave) for hundreds of years.  In the 1960s, Hawaiian surf instructors began using Paddle Boards in order to watch over large groups of students at one time.  Not long after, surfing legends such as Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama started to take up SUP as a way to train when the waves were not high enough for surfing.  Today, Paddle Boarding has been gaining popularity at breakneck speeds as celebrities, fitness gurus, surfers and countless others have touted its tremendous benefits.

Paddleboarding

One of the great things about SUP is that, unlike surfing, it is extremely easy to learn.  Most Paddle Boarders become very comfortable standing on their board within an hour of getting on the water.  SUP also has incredible versatility.  You can think of it as either a competitive racing sport, a great workout, or a peaceful way to experience nature.  Lately, Yoga on Paddle Boards has even been gaining in popularity.  No matter what you’re interested in, Paddle Boarding is a fun and exciting activity that people of all ages should experience.  This summer, Laurel South is adding Paddle Boarding on Crescent Lake as a new activity that we’re very excited about.  Try it out, you’ll fall in love!

The Pine Tree State

Maine Camp Experience - GirlsSummer camps got their start in Maine. A century later, they’re still going strong. The Pine Tree State now boasts 100 premier institutions – including The Laurel Camps (Laurel and Laurel South.)

We’re proud to call Maine home. We’re just as proud to utilize the resources of the entire state and to give hundreds of campers an experience unequaled anywhere else.

At The Laurel Camps there’s more than enough room for an exciting depth and breadth of activities. Sports ranging from baseball, soccer, softball and lacrosse to volleyball, tennis and archery.  Equestrian.  Swimming, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, wakeboarding, windsurfing and waterskiing on crystal-clear lakes.

Maine Camp Experience - BoysSummers in Maine are never too hot. And the nights are cool (and starry) enough for age-old traditions like campfires and s’mores.

But for campers and staff at Laurel and Laurel South, all of Maine is our playground. We hike tall mountains like Katahdin. We head into the pine forests for ropes courses, rappelling and mountain biking. We explore the coast and ocean-side sites like Acadia National Park, Ogunquit and Bar Harbor.

Campers come to Maine from across the country. Whether they’ve been here in the winter to ski, or have never experienced the wonders of the state, they quickly realize it’s an amazing, magnificent place – vast yet intimate, wild yet welcoming.

Parents love it too – particularly if they plan a day or three in the trendy city of Portland, with a side trip to Kennebunkport, Camden or (of course) Freeport to visit L.L. Bean!

It’s all part of the Maine camp experience – discovering new things, no matter what your age. And you never know…you may be lucky enough to spot a Moose.

Roger and Dagni
Camp Laurel South

Camp Adventure Programs Help Campers Soar High

Anyone would feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment after scaling a forty foot wall and then whizzing down a zip line or perhaps, while attached to a harness of course, taking a giant leap of faith off a perch with a great view.   But when the person is under the age of sixteen,  the feeling is unmatched.  This is the sense of elation that camp adventure programs bring to campers every summer.  Adventure is one of the most popular  programs at camp.   But what’s the point of all that climbing, jumping, and zipping around you ask?

For starters, high and low ropes courses have been used for some time now as team building event, probably the most commonly known reason for their usage.  In the case of a high ropes course, which is often at least thirty feet above ground and is sometimes as high as fifty, courage is one of the first words that comes to mind.  Quite simply put, it takes a lot of courage to shimmy up a ladder or patiently work your way trial and error up a climbing wall and then attempt to maneuver across  beams or rope of miniscule width with the ground looming below, even if one is safely secured to a harness and cables and spotted by trained professionals.  Trust is really what high ropes courses are all about.  A high ropes course challenges campers’ comfort levels and forces them to put trust in their fellow campers and camp staff, who also share in the inevitable sense of pride after successfully finishing a challenge.

Low ropes courses, on the other hand, encourage team building.  They feature such elements as webbed rope nets, trust falls and activities that challenge participants to get their entire team between platforms by building a bridge, or to move from wide cables to narrow ones.  More specifically, at camp, low ropes provide a great way for campers to bond with one another and encourage cabins to work together as a unit.

Nature programs  also often compliment outdoor programs by helping campers reconnect with nature and understand the importance of preserving the environment.  Fishing is another part of many outdoor adventure programs.  While fishing is a perfect relaxing social opportunity, it’s also a great way of increasing children’s patience level.

So it’s no wonder that these outdoor adventure programs are not popular merely for the lofty challenges that they provide, but  for the thrill and sense of pride campers feel for having had the courage to accept and achieve them.

Put on Swimsuits, Goggles, and Sunblock–It’s Time for a Swim!

Almost every camper will name the Camp Laurel South Waterfront as one of the best parts of camp.  Camp Laurel South is situated on a crystal-clear, spring-fed lake…measuring 9 miles around.  Yes – 9 miles!!

The Camp Laurel South Waterfront plays a crucial role during the summer, not only as a place for swimming, sailing, kayaking, waterskiing, crew, fishing, bumper-tubing, and snorkeling,  but as a gathering place and perfect backdrop for special event and outdoor evening activities.  Learning to swim at camp is a rite of passage.   Perfecting swim skills provides a great foundation for building camp memories of sunny days spent at the waterfront.

Of course, there are the much acclaimed physical and mental benefits of learning to swim that we all know.  It’s a great low impact exercise suitable for almost everyone, which makes it an ideal part of a regular fitness regime.  It’s also not age-restrictive.  Rather, it’s an activity that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.  The fact that muscle strength is also greatly improved as a result of pushing oneself through the water goes without saying.

Swimming also improves coordination and emotional well being.   The relaxing atmosphere of a hard-bottom lake provides the perfect setting for children to let down their guard and enjoy the type of casual conversation that builds and strengthens friendships.  When combined with the sheer fun of the activity, it’s the perfect setting for building memories.

Camp waterfront locations are extremely active and full of almost endless possibilities for camper experiences.  Camp Laurel South has more than 60 boats:  Mastercrafts Pro Start 197 Championship Ski Boats, Hobie Cats, Sunfish, Lasers, Fishing Pontoon Boats, Canoes, Kayaks, and more! The waterfront staff is well-trained with certified lifeguards  who complete an extensive and rigorous training program prior to the start of camp.

Camps also incorporate their waterfront areas into their special event planning.  Water games and pirate-themed treasure hunts are just a couple of ways that water play is used creatively in camp programs.

Swimming at camp takes on a new level of excitement when included in camp activities, such as Spirit Days, that give campers the opportunity to use their swimming skills to rise to a challenge.  Camp Laurel South swimmers also compete in swim meets through inter-camp leagues.   Whether racing against other campers or a time clock, being able to apply their swimming instruction in an engaging way and seeing firsthand how they’ve improved has been a moment of pride for many a camper.

And don’t forget about the famous Maine Lakes Cup – a 14 camp sailing regatta hosted by the winning camp each summer.

So the next time your child regales you with tales of the waterfront at his or her summer camp, remember that it’s not just summer memories that they’re gaining from their swimming experiences, but lifelong skills.

Sparking Creativity Through Campfire

One of the most endearing and sacred parts of summer camp is the campfire.  More than just wood lit with a match, it’s an intimate part of the camping experience that goes far beyond simply sitting around a fire.  Each camp has a set of traditions uniquely connected to the campfire experience and, to campers, each tradition is significant, demanding reverence.  The campfire is the very place where many children recall the moment when their camp transformed from “a camp” to “their camp”, where fellow campers and counselors become family while singing songs, roasting s’mores, and engaging in campfire activities.  So intricate is the campfire to the summer camp experience that even former Disney CEO Michael Eisner has reflected on its importance in making him who he is:

“Simply consider the lessons I was taught by the campfire…every time the rich reward was the same as we simply sat and enjoyed our consuming creation. And, there was one aspect in particular that never failed to intrigue me, and that was the process of seeing the single small flame of the match spread to the kindling and then the twigs and then the smaller branches and finally the larger logs. It didn’t dawn on me until years later, but this was the perfect metaphor for the creative process…Years later, I found myself running a network television division and then a movie studio and now an entire entertainment company. But, much of the success I’ve achieved can be traced to the direct and metaphorical lessons I learned in building those campfires.”

To some, to assign such significance to fire may seem a bit of a stretch.  But to anyone who has attended camp, it’s not only believable but apt.  Beyond Eisner’s metaphor, the campfire is symbolic of camp, and represents the bonding between campers and nature.  Campfires instantly evoke feelings of togetherness and promote an atmosphere of being together in an intimate setting that is unique to the people who are present.  Many camps hold opening and closing campfires to welcome campers and immerse them in the camping experience and to help them say goodbye at the end of the summer.  At the beginning of the summer, the flames represent the birth of a new summer.  Opening campfires often include some sort of ritual that introduces an idea or process that can be re-visited throughout the summer, such as setting goals for the summer or some sort of introduction and bonding activity with camp “siblings”.  The meaning of the flames, however, transforms at the end of the summer. The burning of a closing campfire represents the end of the season.  It’s a way to give the summer a proper and respectful send off.  Campfires held throughout the summer supplement overnight camping trips and special events.

To say that the campfire breeds creativity is not only accurate, but understated.  The various representations and meanings that the actual fire itself takes on helps campers learn to look at the same thing from different angles, a crucial aspect of honing creative thought and learning to think “outside the box”, which is essential to developing good problem solving skills.  When considered from this perspective, it’s not at all difficult to imagine a CEO of one of the world’s largest companies crediting much of his success to his camp experiences, specifically to the campfire.  In fact, it provides insight about the significance of camp and how the lessons learned there can be carried throughout life.

Childhood Obesity Part II: Balancing Nutrition and a Healthy Lifestyle

In the first part of this blog series, we discussed the benefits of physical activity at camp.  There are underlying advantages to this that directly relate to nutritional habits.  Research shows that that the more time children spend doing passive activities such as watching television, sitting at a computer, or playing video games, the more likely they are to overeat.  The reason for this is simple.  A sedentary lifestyle leads to boredom.  Nutritionists assert that lack of activity mars a child’s ability to determine the difference between boredom and hunger.  Unfortunately, according to dietician Jennifer Thomas, the increased amount of free time and lack of structure that often comes with summer break makes children particularly vulnerable to tedium and excessive food consumption.  Says Thomas, “A child can pick up 5 to 10 pounds over the course of a summer, so it’s important to recognize the difference between boredom and hunger.”

Concern about the obesity crisis has sprung to the forefront of the camping industry.  Cedric Bryant, Ph.D. and Chief Scientist for The American Council on Excercise, was a keynote speaker at the 2011 American Camp Association’s (ACA) National Conference, attended by thousands of camp professionals.  In his address, Dr. Bryant discussed the growing issue of obesity and praised the ability of summer camp  to transform poor habits through exercise.  Most traditional summer camps offer children a healthy mix of hobbies and athletics.   Camp staff members encourage campers to participate in everything that’s offered to them, even that which they might not necessarily do or try at home.

There is also something to be said for the fact that many summer camp activities, including dining, are scheduled into a child’s day and carried out in a group setting.  Access to food is limited throughout campus, and eating is typically not permitted in bunks.  Quite simply, obtaining food at camp is not as easy as walking into the pantry or opening the refrigerator on a whim for lack of something better to do.  New research has established many benefits to family meals.  One potentially underrated advantage is that dining as a unit may keep consumption in check by limiting what nutritionists call the “eating area”, the combination of time and space in which eating occurs.  “This strategy can help determine if they [children] are really hungry or just bored,” says Thomas.  Meals at summer camp are held at specific times in a designated place—usually a dining or mess hall—and campers dine together, often with their bunkmates.  Counselors supervise, insuring that everyone receives food and reporting any changes in a camper’s eating patterns.

The four day 2011 ACA conference also featured  seminars that addressed issues such as how to  work together to improve the overall health and nutrition of campers, understanding the relationship between nutrition and wellness and using that knowledge to help campers be high achievers through healthy bodies and minds, and adding healthy options to dining room menus, particularly for those campers who require special diets.

Indeed, though many camps are constantly striving to improve in these areas, the notions  introduced in these seminars are not new.  Meals served by most summer camps are carefully planned and balanced in accordance with USDA recommendations.  Many camps also encourage their campers to make healthy choices at mealtimes by providing several fruit options in the morning and salad bars at lunch and dinner.  Vegetarian alternatives are typically available and, increasingly, more attention is being given to rising nutritional challenges such as diabetic or gluten free diets.
All of this is enough to make summer camp worth considering as a combatant to the type of lackadaisical lifestyle that leads to poor eating habits and, possibly, obesity.

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