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Staff Orientation in Full Swing!

Staff Orientation 2015Another 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!!!

Sailing on Crescent Lake

DSC_0102 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.

IMG_2989Even 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.

Camp: A Safe Place to be Silly

DSC_0087  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.

IMG_0721During 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!

DSC_0084Counselors 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.

Tennis Anyone…

DSC_0044-2What 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.

DSC_0062Character 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.

Outside Play at Summer Camp

A recent phenomenon child psychologists have been focusing on is environmental recreation. What is environmental recreation? It’s as simple as getting children into the great outdoors! Playing outside improves vision, promotes social skills, increases attention span, produces vitamin D, prevents future bone damage and reduces the chance of heart related diseases, diabetes and stress. Playing outside not only improves a child’s physical abilities, but improves their mind and spirit as well.

DSC_0126It’s no secret that today’s kids don’t spend nearly as much time playing outside as their parents did growing up. There are fewer kickball games with the neighborhood kids and more video games. There are fewer kids racing home when the streetlights come on, sweaty and dirty from hours running and playing outside. As we all know, many kids today are glued to a TV or computer screen until bedtime. The benefits for kids who play outside are endless, and when your child spends their summer at camp, they will develop a love and appreciation for the great outdoors.

When campers are participating in adventure activities, they are stepping out of their comfort zone AND surrounded by the beauty of Mother Nature. When they are waterskiing, wakeboarding, sailing or swimming, they are keeping their minds and bodies active and breathing in fresh air. When they are playing team sports like soccer, basketball, football and tennis, they are working up a sweat, becoming fit, and improving their vision. Studies show that kids who play outdoors have better distance vision than kids who spend a lot of time inside. With such great vision, maybe they should try archery!

IMG_3830When kids are playing outside, they are interacting with other kids, which is a great way to develop social skills. Taking turns, sharing, being part of a team and other important rules learned on a playground (or in this case, on a field, on a boat, or flying through the ropes course) are vital for developing children’s social skills, and will transfer over into how they interact with people in the outside world. Kids who play alone and inside all the time don’t get a chance to learn these important skills.

Spending time outside may also improve the time your child spends inside. By spending time outside and releasing all of that energy, kids are able to focus when it is time to come inside for structured time. Being outside also brings out the curious and investigative side of children, as they are naturally compelled to look, learn, touch and try new things they discover outside.

Kids these days are busy, and can find themselves stressed out and pulled in many different directions before they even hit high school. With the pressure of grades, sports, friends and other responsibilities, a little time outside can really help reduce stress. Time spent swinging, sliding, running, jumping, swimming, competing and discovering outside is fun and even therapeutic for kids who have a lot on their plate.

IMG_2634Research shows many kids these days are vitamin D deficient. You could run to the drugstore and pick up some vitamins, or you could encourage your kids to play outside and get it for free: from the sun! Getting enough vitamin D has been proven to prevent bone problems, diabetes and heart problems.

Because of these (and hundreds of other) reasons, summer camps have countless outdoor activities for kids to try. And, camps cater to all types of kids: a child focused on drama or dance will have just as many opportunities to get outside and enjoy the fresh air as a camper who is focused on athletics or watersports. This is the beauty of summer camp: campers growing appreciation for nature and the health benefits that go along with playing outdoors. Camp is good – actually, great – for all types of kids. The benefits are limitless!

9 Things Which Are Quintessentially Summer Camp

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:

DSC_00881.   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.

DSC_0013-26.    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.

Bringing Away Life Skills

LS Life Skills 4For most campers, when the summer of 2014 draws to a close, there is always next summer to which they can look forward. For the oldest campers, however, farewell this summer means farewell forever to their years as campers. Even though a significant number of former campers choose to return to summer camp as staff members later, the experiences they gained as campers are unique to those years. Although it is difficult to say goodbye at the conclusion of their final summer, it is also a time when older campers reflect upon their camp years and truly take inventory of what camp has meant to them and will continue to mean as they proceed in life.

Older campers come away from camp having attained life skills that give them a distinct advantageLS Skillsas they move through their high school years and college becomes a focus. There is, for instance, respect for tradition. College campuses, like resident camps, are built on traditions that help define them.  Former campers understand the importance of their role in these traditions by creating experiences that are both memorable and worthwhile.

Former campers know how to show spirit and to live in the moment as well. At camp, campers are sensitive to the fact that their time at camp each summer is limited and they embrace each minute. Having already learned to comprehend that their camp years are limited to a specific timeline in their lives, former campers arrive on college campuses already understanding that their college years are much the same.

LS Life Skills 2There is also an emphasis on total involvement at camp. Summer camp is about creating an environment in which campers feel encouraged to try new things and to push their level of comfort each summer. In the safety of a setting that emphasizes inclusion, campers learn to understand that diversity is key to success. It takes many types of people and talents coming together to make camp the beloved place that it is in the hearts of the campers. With such an understanding, campers tend to get to know and befriend individuals who they might not otherwise have taken the time to get to know in a setting that does not facilitate similar ideals.  Having been submerged in such a culture for several summers, campers are well equipped for the transition from home to college life after several summers at camp. They also tend to be somewhat open- minded when it comes to new things and experiences.

Older campers also come away from camp as leaders. Whether they have led fellow campers in an activity or helped mentor and lead younger campers in their later camp years, leadership is another quality that is rigorously promoted and embraced at sleepaway camp.

Campers also learn everyday life skills at sleepaway camp as they spend several weeks away fromLS Life Skills 3home each summer and make decisions for themselves. Making healthy eating decisions, for instance, is an important skill that children learn at camp. Campers also learn how to juggle multiple commitments at once, such as having a role in a camp show while simultaneously playing on a sports team. They co-habitate daily with several other campers and learn how to maximize their living space.

Clearly, those campers who will say goodbye to camp at the conclusion of the summer are bringing away far more than fun memories of a place where they spent their childhood summers. They’re bringing away experiences that translate into life far beyond camp.

 

5 Minutes at Camp

StopwatchWe focus a lot on how much happens at camp over the course of the summer, but the amount of activity that takes place in just 5 minutes on any given day is mind blowing to anyone who is not familiar with camp. Five minutes at summer camp is like a symphony: many individual components come together at the same time to create a single, enjoyable experience. In addition, each component is unique, yet critical, to the overall piece. In just five minutes at camp…

A soccer team may score a goal to win a championship game while play rehearsal takes place on the stage and, at the waterfront, swim instruction is happening. In arts & crafts, campers are busy putting the finishing touches on projects as a batter on the softball team steps onto first base and a volleyball is spiked over the net. A group of campers is learning how to sail on the lake as a group of paddle boarders make their way across the water. A camper does her first giant swing on the parallel bars in gymnastics just as another reaches the top of the climbing wall while yet another makes his way across the high ropes course. It’s a 3 on 3 tournament on the basketball courts and a group of campers are learning how to improve their tennis serve just as a camper finds the back of the net at lacrosse. A team captain just called a time out at roller hockey and the finishing touches are being put onto some hip hop choreography in dance. A group of mountain bikers pass a group of runners and two teams are facing off in flag football. It’s the bottom of the 9th on the baseball field and the game is tied while the final two players in an intense game of gaga face off as their fellow campers cheer them on. The aroma of chocolate chip cookies wafts from the cooking studios and campers in photography take nature shots as a small group of campers fishes nearby.

And it’s not just the action that takes place in any given five minutes at camp that creates the Conductorrhythm of summer, it’s the interaction. As all of these activities are happening, campers and staff members are talking, laughing, learning and cheering. In the same five minutes at camp, friendships are formed and new skills learned. Traditions begin and are repeated. Campers try something new for the first time as well as accomplish them for the first time after a summer of trying. In five minutes at camp, campers gain life skills by becoming more confident and more self-reliant.   In just five minutes at camp, memories are made. Like a conductor, memories bring all of those activities together to create the image of summer camp that campers replay for a lifetime.

 

The Close of Another Best Summer Ever

dsc_0001-2It seems that just yesterday the blog subject at hand was the anticipation of the campers’ arrival at camp. As usual, though, we blinked and now it’s August. Another summer is coming to a close over the next couple of weeks. This is the time of year when campers and staff alike begin reflecting over their summer. They mentally check off their bucket lists for this summer and already begin composing new ones for next summer. They begin making those final efforts to do those camp things they love most at least one more time. They take stock of those special moments—the ones that will forever define the summer of 2014. At the end of the day, there are always a million reasons why this summer was better than any other. Something was always bigger or better or even brand new. Your circle of friends has always grown just a little bit larger. You finally had the chance to go on that camp trip or participate in that camp activity to which you’ve been looking forward to for years. Even though the summer never seems long enough, it’s always mind-blowing to realize just how much was accomplished in such a short span of time. Perhaps it’s the sheer volume of activities that take place at sleepaway camp that makes every summer seem like the best summer ever.

When one weighs the summer as a whole, the good memories are prevalent and the word dsc_0002-3“amazing” comes to mind far more than the words “didn’t love it.” Upon considering everything that you accomplished, it’s impossible to be disappointed, even if you can’t check all your pre-summer goals off your list. At camp, especially at the end of the summer, it’s much easier to focus on everything you’ve done more than everything you’ve not.. The feeling of accomplishment is inevitably satisfying in a way that reminds you just why you come to camp anyway. There’s no other place in the world where you have the opportunity to accomplish so much in such a short period of time. Sure, you also come to relax, enjoy the rural setting, and spend time with your camp friends. But you also come with an agenda—specifically, a camp agenda of things that cannot be accomplished anywhere – or with anyone – else. These lists are often lengthy and filled with many more aspirations than can reasonably be achieved during a single summer. But the comforting thought that almost everyone brings home from camp is that there’s always next summer…and the promise of another best summer ever.

8 Things that Are Quintessentially Summer Camp

It’s hard to believe that another summer is almost half over. It seems like just yesterday that campers were arriving, excited for another summer. Time passes so quickly at summer camp that it’s sometimes impossible to not miss some things. But there are certain things that, no matter how busy, chaotic, or crazy things get at camp, remind us of camp and are a big part of what it’s all about.

  1. LS Quint 2      Campfires—Every camp’s campfire has a unique significance to it. Campfire traditions, songs, and activities vary from camp to camp but one theme is consistent from camp to camp: the campfire has a sacred relevance and, as such, is a very special event at camp. So special, in fact, that the campfire is symbolic of summer camp itself. The fire embodies camp life, and the smell of burning embers raises an immediate reminder of sylvanian settings in which camps are located.
  2.       S’mores—What’s a campfire without s’mores? Anyone and everyone who has ever been to camp craves the gooey delight of melted chocolate and marshmallows between two graham crackers. S’mores are so distinct to camp that biting into one instantly harkens memories of camp.
  3.       Sing Alongs—Sure, karaoke is a popular activity for get togethers. But there is nothing LS quint 5more harmonious than an entire camp—counselors too!—singing their camp’s favorite tunes together. Camp sing alongs are more than just time spent together singing songs, however. They’re a way of bringing everyone together to celebrate the place that has brought them all together.
  4.       Cabins—As the saying goes, ‘If only walls could talk…’ And, oh, the stories so many summer camp cabins could tell. Cabins are more than just places where campers and their counselors sleep at night. Cabins are facilities in which campers become families. They are also places in which the vast size of sleepaway camps shrink to an intimate setting in which friendships are nurtured and memories are made. Each cabin family is unique, with its own jokes, songs, traditions, etc.
  5.       Arts & Crafts—According to the American Camp Association, Arts & Crafts is one of the five most popular activities at camp, and for good reason. Who wouldn’t want to spend a portion of each day in an area stocked with beads, lanyard, glitter, paint, glue, markers, scissors, and just about any other craft supply one can dream up? The possibilities are endless in Arts & Crafts. The relaxing atmosphere gives campers opportunity to decompress and reflect while still being social. Arts & Crafts is an activity that allows campers to spend time with their friends.
  6. LS quint 4      Bugle Calls/Bells—There has to be some way to move campers through their program day at camp. Whether it’s bugles or bells, campers know instantly what each unique sound is telling them to do from waking up in the morning to turning out the lights at night, and everything in between.
  7.       Camp Shows—Those who are not familiar with camp may wonder what makes camp shows different from other types of shows. Anyone who has ever been involved in a production that goes from auditions to performance complete with full sets and makeup in a week or less knows that this is precisely what makes camp shows a camp entity all unto their own.
  8.       Crazy Wardrobe Choices—We mean C-R-A-Z-Y—as in more is definitely more when it comes to showing spirit or “dressing up” for a special camp occasions. In fact, camp is probably the only place at which one is complimented for arriving at a function wearing body paint and/or temporary tattoos, bright colors, a tutu, crazy sunglasses or hats, a wig (or two) and mismatched socks.








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