Summer 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.
Summers 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.
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.
Whether your Holiday Season has ended or is about to begin, summer camp season isn’t far away! In fact, on December 8th 2010, next year’s campers wore their camp shirts in numerous cities to mark the 200 Day Countdown To Summer. If you’ve never gone to camp, it may be difficult to understand what drives this passion for camp all year—but campers know that camp is contagious, FUN, and essential! The camp experience helps children develop into well-rounded adults in enormous and complex ways, and that’s really important—but having FUN and intense youthful experiences is how it all happens. That’s the brilliant combination of camp. The experience includes serious AND hilarious moments—often simultaneously! The whole experience is much like the two sides of a single coin, or the double-faced image of Janus, the Roman god who can see into the past and future at the same time—and the origin of the name for the first month—January.
The serious side of camp includes feeling part of a unique community, identity development and participating through the years to make irreplaceable memories. If you don’t understand why camp is such an important American institution, in 1998 Ira Glass and the This American Life radio program attempted to investigate the topic—#109 Notes on Camp. The program addresses why people who love camp say that non-camp people simply don’t understand what’s so amazing about camp and attempts to bridge the gap of misunderstanding between camp people and non-camp people!
It also highlights how fun, tradition, stories, community and being human are all part of identity development at camp. With his signature quirky style, Ira assembled more “truth is stranger than fiction tales,” where real campers tell stories of camp in days gone by and explain why the camp experience is so special. Hundreds of campers responded to his call for stories and the program shares a selection, so if you’re interested in history and interpreting American culture, you’ll find the reminiscences fascinating. Just remember that all camp experiences are not like the stories told—the point of the program is to illustrate the intensity of the experience! It ends with campers talking about becoming camp alumni and how their camp experiences won’t ever be forgotten.
As we all know, time passes and our camp years are limited by the fact that we’re only children once. It’s easy to feel briefly melancholy at year’s end as time waits for no one, but of course, December also means that the promise of a new year is around the corner! In January, we’d like to continue looking backwards and forwards while thinking about camp and we’d especially love to hear from camp alumni. What’s the funniest thing that happened to you at camp? How did camp contribute to your adult life? We’d like to hear about the memories you hold dear and close to your heart, or what you wish for campers next year? If you’re counting the days until camp starts, what are YOU planning?
For now, “Happy New Year” to everyone and let the countdown to Camp 2011 begin!
I don’t know about you, but my kids are constantly plugged into something, whether they are texting their friends (does anyone talk anymore?), bopping along to Lady Gaga’s latest, updating their Facebook status, researching a school project online and creating a multi-media presentation, or playing games on my iPhone while I desperately try to finish a conversation at the vet’s office.
Some days I can win a battle or two (no texting at dinner!) but the war is ongoing. And honestly, I’m not the best example. That iPhone I mentioned is never far from reach, and right now I’m surfing online, listening to my own brand of pop music, answering text messages as they come in and writing this blog.
Don’t you wish there was a place where we could all live life unplugged? We adults may not be so lucky; but for our kids, that place is summer camp.
Knowing that someone out there is cultivating a culture of back-to-basics, low-tech life is an irresistible draw for me as a parent. My husband and I love the outdoors and frequently take our kids on short camping trips, but these offer only a short break from the world of “screen time”. Monday morning comes and before the sleeping bags air out, we’re all rushing to see what awaits us in our email inboxes.
As a mom, I worry about the long-term effects of all of these tech ways of communicating. I’m not alone. Several studies have suggested that kids who spend too much time plugged in lose some skills for interpersonal interaction. Let’s fight back.
At camp, social interaction is done the old fashioned way – face-to-face. Campers and counselors alike leave their cell phones at home and get back to a simpler life, when there is an art to conversation. If you were a camper, think back to your best memories. All of mine involve revolve around interpersonal interactions you just can’t get through an email: telling stories around a camp fire; sharing hushed secrets late into the night; telling the worst jokes you ever heard; huddling together to decide the best capture-the-flag strategy.
Friendship doesn’t need a high-tech interface. Don’t think your kids will get with the program? In a recent Seventeen article, teen girls shared their favorite summer camp memories. Guess what? Not one involves a cell phone!
Choosing a camp involves much more than just choosing a location or even the camp with the perfect activities and feel for your child. Camps also come in different sizes, so to speak; depending on how long their sessions are. Sleepaway camps range from two-week to two-month sessions, and choosing which one is best for your child depends on several factors.
In this post, I’ll take a closer look at four-week camps . First, some reassurance. Campers don’t “get less” because their camp is shorter. The schedules for the day and the special activities are very similar or exactly the same as longer camps. The programs are just as well rounded and varied, and you’ll be amazed at how much swimming, sport, adventure and creative arts can fit into four weeks – and the kids still get a one-hour rest period after lunch! We should all be so lucky!
Most importantly, the camp counselors and staff are as involved, caring and competent as they are for the longer camps. I know that for my children, their camp experiences are flooded with activities, but it’s the people they keep talking about (and talking to!) months later. Lifelong friendships can be forged and nurtured in the shortest of camp experiences.
So which camp for my child?
Take a look back at my earlier blog post, “Is Your Child Ready for Camp?” If you feel that your child is ready for camp, but you’re still feeling a little trepidation, why not try a shorter camp — for many new campers (and their moms), four weeks is the perfect amount of time.
A four-week camp may also be perfect for your family if:
You need to fit in camp among other family plans and vacations
Your child is nervous about a longer camp but a shorter one gets him or her excited
Your child may be ready for more weeks of separation, but you’re not
Your child lives out west, where school schedules can make a late-summer 7-week camp out East difficult (my children get out of school at the end of May and start back in the middle of August!)
Camp Laurel South offers two 4-week sessions in a complete traditional co-ed camping experience. What does this mean? Think of every wonderful image you have of summer camp – great times playing sports, spending time in the lake, learning new arts and crafts (friendship bracelets anyone?), going on new and exciting adventures, and, if your child is up for it, they can take guitar lessons and be the next campfire sensation. And it all happens with your new best friends right beside you. With its beautiful location on Crescent Lake in Casco, Maine, Laurel South is able to offer the same kind of dynamic programming that you can find at longer camp sessions. They even have the added bonus of an equestrian program.
Whatever you want your child to get out of camp: tradition, family, spirit, adventure, time in nature, and lots of fun, all can be found inside this four-week camp. Because shorter doesn’t mean skimpier!