What an amazing First Session we had at Laurel South!!! We had such a great time making friends and creating memories that will last a lifetime. The session officially ended on Monday with an incredible Departure Day. We so loved meeting the families of our wonderful campers. We want to thank our awesome campers for sharing their summer with us, and we want to thank all the parents who put their faith in us to look after their children. We fully recognize the leap of faith you take and the great responsibility we have every summer.
The staff is on a well deserved day-off today to recharge their batteries and prepare for our Second Session Arrival Day on Thursday! We’re so excited to greet our new and returning campers at their summer home in Maine!
Camp is quiet today, but the anticipation is building for another awesome summer in Maine. We can hardly wait for Thursday… See you soon!!
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.
Summer camp is a fun and exciting experience where time simply flies by. There are – quite literally – hundreds of things to do at camp, which makes it impossible not to miss them when you are not at your summer home. Here are just a few things that will always remind you of camp on those cold winter evenings:
1. Sports From intercamps to leagues and under-the-light football games, there is no better place to maximize your athletic prowess than at camp. The list of sports at the Laurel Camps is endless: Soccer, Basketball, Lacrosse, Tennis, Hockey, Fitness, Football, Golf, Gymnastics – the list goes on and on. Not to mention the outstanding fields and courts. A summer spent at camp is sure to be action-packed in any sport you desire.
2. Beautiful Waterfronts Seeing a Mastercraft ski boat or a Hobie Cat is sure to remind you of your unforgettable summers at camp. From waterskiing to sailing to bumper tubing and wake-surfing, camp has plenty of water-sports to fill your day. Echo Lake at Camp Laurel and Crescent Lake at Laurel South are two of the most magnificent lakes in the northeast. Crystal-clear, sparkling and waiting for you!
3. Arts & Crafts According to the American Camp Association (ACA), arts and crafts is among the five most popular activities at summer camp, and why wouldn’t it be? Kids simply love spending a part of their day in a place filled with glitter, paint, scissors, beads, and other craft items. With arts and crafts, the possibilities are endless.
4. Campfires A campfire is a mainstay at every camp. The activities, songs and traditions differ from camp to camp. However, one thing that remains consistent is the sacred relevance the campfire holds. The fire symbolizes camp life, and the burning wood serves as a reminder of picturesque settings in the Maine woods.
5. Camp Songs What better place to sing, cheer and shout than camp. We love singing at camp! Whether in the cabin, on the stage or around a campfire, camp songs are a big part of summer life. The slightest reminder of a camp lyric or tune will surely have you reminiscing about your summers spent in Maine.
6. S’mores A summer isn’t complete without s’mores. And besides, it’s hard to resist the pleasure of melted marshmallows and chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers. Just one bite is enough to bring instant memories of camp.
7. Cabins You might think: ”What’s so special about a cabin?’” Well, they are much more than places where counselors and campers sleep. It’s where everyone becomes a family, memories are made and friendships are nurtured.
8. Bells Bells guide campers through their day at camp. Wake up, activity change, meals and evening programs – we’d know that sound anywhere! No annoying PA system announcements here. It’s back to nature and the call of the wild… Just listen to the loons on the lake, there’s nothing better!
9. Crazy Wardrobe Preferences Camp is perhaps the only place where you will get complemented for wearing bright colors, body paint, hats, wigs and other funny clothing. Funny isn’t it? But, it’s an experience that will always bring back good memories.
The big day is near. Soon, your child leaves home for a summer of fun, excitement and growth.
Scary, isn’t it?
Sure. New experiences usually are. But we’ve got some ideas to help.
Talk with your child. And we mean “talk honestly.” It’s great to chirp about the wonderful days ahead. But be sure to acknowledge that fears and worries are okay. They’re normal.. Let your son or daughter know that everyone – even you! – gets nervous before doing something different. Remind your child that directors, campus leaders, counselors and staff members know about nerves – and they’ll be there to talk, day or night.
Don’t say, “And if you get homesick, you can come home!” Though reassuring, it sends the wrong message. It focuses on the negative – and undermines the idea that you’ve selected that camp because you trust the directors and counselors so much. Emphasize instead that while homesickness is normal, it goes away – and everyone at camp will help make it disappear. (It’s also a good idea to not say too much how much you’ll miss your child – or how badly everyone will feel that they’re not at the annual 4th of July fireworks or family reunion.)
Prepare together. Read the packing list with your child. Go shopping with him or her. Your child will pick out items he or she really likes – while at the same time sharing a quiet, unhurried conversation about camp.
Reinforce camp policies on things like cell phones. You may want to give your child a phone to call home “just in case” — but that’s the wrong “call.” For one thing, it contradicts what you’re saying about the counselors’ and directors’ ability to help. For another, it encourages “bending the rules.” For a third, it shifts your child’s focus from having fun and making new friends, to sneaking off and being alone.
Don’t let your own anxieties affect your child. As a parent, you may feel trepidation too. You’ll miss your child – and fear you’ll miss out on his or her growth. That’s natural. But don’t burden your kid with those thoughts. Tell your spouse and friends instead!
Camp is a time of independence. Of spreading wings. Of making new friends, forming strong bonds and creating vivid memories in a non-family, out-of-school environment. The days leading up to camp may be anxious – for campers and their parents. But the rewards will be well worth a week or two of very normal nerves.
We can’t wait to see your son or daughter at camp!!!
We could talk about the benefits of camp from now ’till the end of the summer.
But this month we’ll let the American Camp Association (ACA) do it for us.
Recently the ACA – an organization that educates leaders, ensures camp safety and accredits over 2,400 camps – created a short video. It ran in movie theaters across the country. Watch the video below:
In it, a number of celebrities highlighted their own camp experiences. Movie-goers learned that, because of camp…
Emma Roberts made lasting friendships with people she still keeps in touch with.
Hill Harper learned about self-esteem.
Lisa Loeb plays guitar.
Ashlan Gorse developed a personality. (Hey, that’s what she said.)
Lisa Raye turned out just fine.
And because of camp, actor Justin Chambers is sending his own kids to camp this summer.
For over a century, millions of other people have also been positively impacted by camp. For some, camp helped unearth a skill they never knew they had. Or fired a passion that is now their life’s work.
For others, camp built a lifetime of memories. Or introduced them to one lifelong friend.
Camp is many things to many people. It is what you make it – and what young peers and caring adults help you to be.
Because of camp, I am who I am today. And because of camp, I welcome you to join me in a summer experience that lasts forever.
In today’s hyper-fast, multi-tasking world, one of the great attractions of camp is tradition. Each camp passes down its own stories and lore. Campers appreciate that they’re enjoying some of the same activities, in the same way, as campers before them have done for generations.
But few people realize just how much history the camp industry embodies.
The first camp – called the Gunnery – was founded in 1861 in Washington, Connecticut. That’s right — camping is as old as the Civil War, and this year celebrates its 150th anniversary. Early campers enjoyed boating, fishing and trapping. It’s pretty impressive that two of those activities survive at camps, a century and a half later.
An 1876 camp was created to take “weakly boys” into the woods. We wouldn’t use those terms today – but camps still serve all kinds of children, in all kinds of ways. And we’re still in the woods.
The first YMCA camp was Dudley, in 1885. It’s still around – the longest continually operating camp in the United States. Scores of other camps date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
With over 100 camps – some dating back 100 years, welcoming scores of camping “generations” – Maine has long been one of camping’s most popular states.
Boasting crystal-clear lakes, pine forests, mountains and (don’t worry) moose, Maine is (like camping itself), “easy to get to, but very difficult to leave.”
Camping boomed nationally in the 1950s and 60s – along with much of post-war America. In 1948 the American Camping Association adopted Standards – the basis for ACA camp accreditation. There are currently 300 Standards for health, safety and programs. They’re recognized by courts and government regulators – a seal of approval for any camp to which parents entrust their most precious possessions.
The ACA was a pioneer in anti-discrimination resolutions. The first was adopted in 1950. Since then, the industry has continued to emphasize youth development. Camp directors constantly study research in areas like child and adolescent development, and risk prevention. They understand that positive experiences, strong relationships, challenging opportunities and solid personal values are vital to helping young people grow into healthy, caring and responsible adults.
Frederick W. Gunn and his wife Abigail might not have used terms like those 150 years ago, when they founded The Gunnery Camp. But they intuitively understood the many benefits that camping provided. All of us in this important industry proudly honor the traditions of the past.
My colleagues and I will not be here 150 years from now to carry them on.
But we’re confident our successors – and our camps – will.
Sincerely, Jeffrey Guest Blogger and former Maine camper and counselor
For camp directors, July and August are hectic, exciting, fun-filled and challenging months.
So what do we do the rest of the year? The question should be: What don’t we do? Camp directors work as hard in the “off-season” as they do during actual camp sessions. Some of it is visible to campers, parents and staff members – but much of it no one ever sees.
The old days – when camp directing was a summer job for teachers – are long gone. Camps today run 24/7/365. I know I speak for my fellow camp directors when I say: We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here are just a few tasks that demand our attention, beginning the moment the last bus pulls out of the parking lot.
Closing down camp. Equipment must be put away, docks pulled in, cabins and kitchens cleaned. Winterization begins in August.
Construction begins on new projects we, and many camps, do each year. There are buildings to be built, courts to be resurfaced, roofs to be re-shingled…the list is endless. This is exciting stuff: planning, building and getting new facilities, cabins and program areas ready for the following summer! Returning campers and staff love “being in the know,” and hearing what’s new and improved for the coming season.
Camper recruiting and retention. Working with families is a fun process. We arrange meetings, talk by phone and email, get together – and we do it more than once. Camp/family relationships are very important, and ongoing. You may be surprised to learn that this winter, we’re already talking with families about their 2012 plans.
Camping conferences. These are where we learn about everything from insurance regulations and ADHD research to cool new foods and safe new beds. We meet our colleagues, share ideas, and get re-energized about the upcoming summer.
Leadership meetings. Like many camps, our full leadership staff gets together during the year. We review the past season, prepare for the next, and constantly take stock of who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going.
Program planning. We spend 10 months getting ready for a 2-month special event. From scheduling trips to making sure the daily routine does not become a rut, we plan every detail. Longer-term planning includes major building projects.
Meals. The food service calendar is incredibly complex. From the first dinner in late May for 25 people through late June when 550 campers and counselors suddenly need three meals a day, snacks, canteen, OD snacks, cookouts and more… the food service staff is crucial. Training the staff, planning menus and getting meal counts right takes a ton of off-season “prep work.”
Everything else. Here are a few of the thousands of items: making a laundry plan. Writing and sending out newsletters. Reserving buses. Distributing DVDs. Revising our staff handbooks and training sessions. Renewing all necessary certifications. Updating technology. Tracking medical mailings. Writing blogs.
Our goal as camp directors is to control as much as we can when campers and staff are home – so that when they’re at camp we can devote as much time, energy and care to them as we can.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a phone call to answer. An email to respond to. And a potentially great new counselor waiting to be interviewed.
Few people think of finding a summer job while bundled in scarves, coats, and gloves as they attempt to maneuver roadways and college campuses after the latest snowfall. However, whether 2011 is the first time you’re considering a summer camp position or you’re a seasoned veteran, February is exactly the time to start the process of securing summer employment, if you haven’t already done so. Many camps attend campus recruiting fairs in order to assemble the perfect staff. So why should you attend one of these fairs or complete an online application now? To begin with, a camp job is definitely fun, but also a lot of work…so be prepared! Where else can you get paid to play all day while building valuable job skills? Whether you work in a specific area and focus on a sport, activity or hobby you love or you work as a counselor who travels from activity to activity with campers, your day is full of exciting challenges and a probably even a few surprises, both of which will develop your problem-solving, critical thinking, and negotiation skills.
If you like working with children and aspire to a career in a field such as education, sports training, psychology or sociology, then you already have another reason to work at a camp. Camp is an excellent place to gain valuable experience and is impressive on a resume. Although camp seems lighthearted–and it is in many ways–working at camp requires a lot of responsibility, flexibility, and adaptability, all of which are very valuable characteristics sought by employers. Each day guarantees new challenges, many of them unexpected. Summer camp is often organized chaos. Yes, there is always a plan in place, but the unexpected is also inevitable. While this may seem scary the first couple days, it also brings an excitement and satisfaction that delivering pizzas or serving food (or even working at an investment bank) never could. Working at camp also requires a lot of communication and interpersonal interaction, two more transferrable skills that are highly valued by employers. At camp, you must effectively co-exist with your campers, co-counselors, and other staff members to be successful. You will also be able to tell future employers that you worked with people from all over the world and from many different socio-economic backgrounds. That you’ve overcome cultural, language, and social obstacles with others tells recruiters that diversity is not something you fear, but rather embrace.
Working at summer camp can also be very healthy for your bank account. You won’t become Donald Trump spending your summers at camp. However; camps provide housing and food in addition to a salary. It’s possible to live virtually expense-free for a couple of months. Many summer camp counselors take home all or most of their salaries at the end of the summer.
Finally, you will form lifelong friendships at camp. You may arrive alone and nervous in June, but you will leave in August with literally hundreds of friends from all over the world. Two months may not seem like a long time, but when one lives and works in close proximity with co-workers, it’s more than sufficient to form bonds that ordinarily would take years. There are always tears on the last day of camp, not only when saying goodbye to your campers, who will have secured a special place in your heart forever, but to co-workers—the ones you know you will see again as well as the ones you know you will not. Regardless, the world will seem like a much smaller place to you.
Though it may seem early to begin planning such a special adventure with so many possibilities, building a successful camp staff not only requires individuals who possess all of the qualities previously mentioned, it requires finding the right mix of personalities and talents. Such an endeavor, of course, takes time. Camp recruiters review literally thousands of applications each year and speak with hundreds of candidates to find those who are the best fit for their camp’s atmosphere, philosophy, and program. Starting your job search while the ground is still white and the tree branches still bare provides you with the advantage of a larger pool of positions from which to choose. By April, most camps have nearly completed their hiring and only difficult to fill or highly specialized roles remain.
So, after a winter of wading through piles of snow, are you ready for a summer full of adventure?
You’ve probably heard of “Road to Nowhere.” The new documentary film’s theme is that today’s emphasis on tutoring, lessons and packed-to-the-gills days and nights may not produce perfect, healthy, high-achieving kids. The result could be unhealthy, disengaged, stressed-out youth.
Fortunately, the road to nowhere branches off to summer camp.
Camp is the antidote to – even the “anti” – modern kid’s world. For most of the year, today’s youngsters live regimented lives. They’re told what to study, and when. They take “lessons” – music, sports, art, dance – and then rush off to the next activity. There’s so much on their plates, it’s no wonder they multi-task like CEOs.
Then they go to camp.
Suddenly – the moment they say goodbye to their parents, meet their counselors and cabin mates, unpack and head somewhere cool and green – their world changes.
They slow down. They breathe deeply. They get in touch with their inner kid.
Camp is a different environment entirely. The communal living, extended “slumber party” and emphasis on living and working as a group allows kids to really get to know each other. It’s 24/7 of the great (and not-always-so-great) moments with a group of peers.
This immersion enables youngsters to really get to know each other. It allows boys and girls to develop compassion and understanding for their friends’ strengths and weaknesses.
And it lets kids live in an environment where taking safe risks is okay. There is truly nothing like a friendship that develops – and blossoms —at camp.
The adults are, for the most part, younger than the teachers (and parents!) children are so familiar with in school.
Camp is a place where kids are allowed – even encouraged – to take safe risks. They encounter new situations – games, activities, relationships – without old patterns or preconceptions to fall back on. They’re not always protected – but they are well cared for, and strongly loved.
In that challenging, supportive – and de-stressed – environment, they grow.
At camp, kids march boldly down the road to somewhere.
I don’t know about you, but a good number of my current communities are one step away from reality — they only exist online. I have a Facebook community, which includes a good number of friends-of-friends that I’ve never met in person. I visit a set list of blogs every day and have a great time interacting with the authors and the other readers. While our definition of community might be expanding, I don’t think any of us have lost sight of the importance of a good, old-fashioned in-person community though.
According to the American Camp Association, parents have identified the development of social skills/living in community (such as making new friends, getting along with others, becoming more responsible, and learning group-living skills) as one of the main reasons they send their children to camp. The owners, directors and staff at summer camp all understand the power of community and structure these skills into their programs in several areas.
1. Communal Living
I am an only child, and as such, I always had my own room when I was a child, so living in a camp cabin for the first time was a huge learning experience. For the first time, I had to be part of a community of people who were sharing space, delegating work and working, communally, to make things work. It didn’t take long for me to get into the routine of doing my part and see how even the most menial job — mine was taking out the trash – contributed to the health of the community.
Cabinmates must also learn how to navigate the waters of communal decisionmaking. They must work through the inevitable issues and conflicts that come up in cabin living — and they must learn to adapt and get along when things don’t go their way. They learn to live by the will of the majority, while at the same time respecting the needs of others who represent the minority. Again, according to the ACA, “small group living also provides the necessary intimacy for individuals to achieve a sense of belonging, explore a variety of group roles, cooperate and form relationships with others, and have input into the group’s activities.”
2. Eating and Singing Together
In the past few years there has been a large ad campaign promoting family dinners. Sitting around the dinner table sharing stories, concerns and the high and low points of your day with family members — or fellow campers — creates intimate bonds between all of the participants. Most camps have family-style meals and singing traditional camp songs together is often a ritual. Songs are always a founding piece of any culture and at camp, at the end of session when everyone knows the camp songs, they too become community bonds that live through the years.
3. Connections that Last
Although sometimes I am annoyed with how much of my life occurs online, there’s no arguing that modern social networking has helped nurture the lifelong friendships developed at camp. Now, instead of waiting days or week from a letter from a camp pen pal, you can send a text message, IM, or just nudge them on Facebook. Many camps have Facebook groups, some devoted exclusively to alumni from certain years, so the 50-somethings reminiscing about camp in the 70s can be a subgroup of a larger online camp community.
No matter how much time passes, the camp community lives on and on and on, especially through our Facebook page.
How did you experience community at camp? How have you sustained it since? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.