Camp Laurel South Blog

Tag Archives: summer camp

Bringing Tradition To Today: Making Summers Extraordinary

Every day at summer camp is exciting and busy, but every camper looks forward to those special camp events and traditions that are unique to each camp. I still have vivid memories of our camp talent show and the wonderful skit our staff put together using a sheet, a bright flash light and their own shadows. It took place thirty years ago, but it still brings a smile to my face, and that one memory triggers a hundred others.

Laurel South’s activities may have traditional names, but they go above and beyond the same old, same old. Every summer begins with an Opening Ceremony that includes a Keeper of the Flame, who delivers the first spark of fire to each summer. Mid-season, the entire camp breaks into two teams for Laurel South’s annual Spirit Days…an amazing two day event which is filled with relays, sports, songs, cheers and an all-camp Apache relay. After a full summer of fun and instruction, the Keeper of the Flame extinguishes the fire until the following season, when everyone joins together again for another incredible summer. During this very special ceremony, each cabin performs a song or skit highlighting memories of the summer gone by. Laurel South also ends each summer with a Lobster Banquet….

Such special events are the memory-makers of summer camp, where kids, staff, counselors and cabinmates come together in friendships that will last a lifetime! We look forward to sharing them with you!

Olivia

The Heart of Camp/Caring for Kids: Staff and Counselors

In an earlier post, we discussed one of the primary concerns parents have about summer camp – will my child be safe? This week, we wanted to talk about the people who care for our kids at camp and keep them safe; how they are chosen and trained to do their jobs. When you’re putting the care of your children into other people’s hands, it’s important to have confidence in their caretakers. At Laurel South, not only does every person who works at camp have to love working with kids, they all also have to be good at it and have the skills to be a success.

Building a good staff begins with selecting the right personnel. We focus year round on finding, recruiting, and selecting the best qualified counselors to live and work with the children. Most of our head counselors, group leaders, campus leaders and department heads have been with their camps at least five years, and some have returned every summer for 20 years! All are professionally-trained educators and coaches who have proven their ability to instruct a particular activity. The counselors, who have the most direct contact with your camper, have all completed at least their first year of college (with many further on), and go through a rigorous interview and selection process, and reference and background checks. We recruit counselors from over 100 different colleges around the country and many fine universities throughout the world. Just over half of the counselors return from year to year, with many only ending their counseling careers when they graduate college and move on to real-world schedules (no more free summers!)

Of course, selecting the right people is only the beginning of the process of creating a successful staff. The counselors must also be trained and oriented to the camp’s particular processes, schedules and procedures. To do so, all staff must complete a week-long Orientation. We are especially lucky to have large groups of former campers who return to be counselors. They know the camp traditions and songs, and, more importantly, they remember what camp looks like from the point of view of the campers. At Orientation, they can share their experiences with new staff members and serve as ambassadors for our particular mission and traditions.

The seven-day day Orientation is filled with training in individual responsibilities, working with the campers, and of course, health, safety, and emergency procedures. Such intensive training ensures that counselors aren’t just up to speed with the programs but also child development and the best techniques for working with kids in the cabins. We bring in outside speakers to provide info on contemporary issues for schools and homes as well as advanced skills for working with other people’s children and those responsibilities.We also meet with counselors and go over each individual child’s information and specific issues that might arise over the course of the summer. By the time the campers arrive, the counselors have a great understanding of every child in their care, gleaned from information from the director’s meetings with parents, the camper’s profile information forms, and past years’ knowledge of returning campers. Even the group and campus leaders know the children well, since they are mostly veterans who watch the children grow over time. Orientation is fun, and the trainers work hard to create a feeling of unity and team amongst the staff.

Beyond the formal week long Orientation, over half of the individual activity instructors (waterfront, rock climbing, mountain biking, etc.) come to camp early, with key staff and counselors often training three weeks prior to Orientation. Counselors who are responsible for specific program areas are also trained to write lesson plans and taught how to execute a fun and instructional activity period. Each attends an entire training day devoted to teaching kids their particular activities and making it fun. Finally, every camp staff member is well-trained in general safety procedures and first aid, with additional courses and certifications dependent on counselor responsibilities.

All this training and teamwork that begins in Orientation quickly spills over into a great summer for the kids. But the seven days of Orientation before camp starts is just the beginning. Camp staff attend weekly meetings and trainings, and everyone receives ongoing support from their supervisors on a daily basis. Without a well-trained staff, no camp can have a successful season. The right people – people who love children and are good at working with them – create the foundation for a terrific summer of experiences and memories for the most important people on campus, your children.

Olivia

Thanks for the image JacobEnos.

Keeping Kids Safe at Camp: What Every Parent Needs to Ask/Know

Even when you are right there next to your child to offer comfort, care and treatment, accidents and injuries can be difficult to deal with. So as we prepare our kids to go to summer camp, it is important to ask some questions of the camp and prepare our children well. That way, everyone can rest assured they are having a summer of fun and making memories to last a lifetime in a safe environment.

We’ve discussed many issues parents need to consider when choosing a camp, enrolling their child and sending them on their way on this blog. As families are signing their children up for camp next summer, here is a list of things to ensure are in place as you get your family ready for a summer away:

Camp is accredited by the American Camp Association. This requires camps to follow certain guidelines, including counselor to child ratios and other safety procedures.

Camp requires staff safety training.

Camp has emergency contact information for your child.

Camp has been notified of any medical conditions and/or allergies your child has. Be sure to be specific when you communicate with the staff. Let the camp know the specific name of the condition as well as warning signs and steps to take to help your child. Click here for an ACA article on administering medications at camp.

Camp has provided written health protocols and policies.

Beyond physical safety concerns, ask how the camp deals with homesickness. We’ve talked about that topic on this blog as well and will also be discussing staying connected in another post.

Just as the camp can have multiple safety policies and procedures for kids, it is also important for our young ones to learn how to stay safe independently. So take the time (repeatedly) to ensure that you and your child

Know what’s safe and what isn’t. Review the camp’s handbooks for rules of conduct for campers. Review these with your child before he or she leaves for camp.

Understand which kinds of behavior are acceptable and which aren’t. Breaking the rules can put others in dangerous situations.

Have good hygiene practices. Cover sneezes and coughs with their elbows (not their hands) and wash hands frequently.

Know when to notify a staff member and ask for help. Not every bump and bruise requires medical attention – make sure you and your child knows which is which. We have a health center with several present and a doctor that is on campus or visits daily.

These are all fairly simple ideas to keep families safe and camp is no different. If, as parents, we do our research, read the parent handbooks and camper manuals, ask all the right questions and talk with our children, everyone spends the summer relaxing, being cared for and as safe as possible. For more information, visit the ACA website and read more about this and other camp topics on their parent pages.

Olivia

Thanks for the images cyc4454 and timlewisnm.

The Best of the Best

Many returning campers will tell you that the best thing about camp was the people, and they don’t just mean their cabin mates and fellow campers. Campers also develop strong bonds and relationships with their counselors and camp coaches. At Camp Laurel South, the camp director works year-round to find the highest-caliber professional staff, and these dedicated adults devote their summers to your kids and their development.

In addition to many of the staff being former campers themselves, they are also graduate students, teachers, coaches, and even some professional athletes, all of whom want to mentor and teach kids in the amazing environment of summer camp. Being a teacher isn’t enough, nor is being an experienced coach. The camp staff have to connect with camp-age kids and form the bonds that make the weeks at camp so special and productive.

We all know that kids learn better from coaches and teachers they like and respect and will retain the skills and lessons much longer. How many of us can still remember our favorite mentor and something specific they told us all those (many!) years ago?

While camp isn’t school, as we all know, your child’s camp program is specially designed to make the most out of the experiential/informal education nature of a summer in the woods. Many of the coaches at camp have spent five-to-ten years working for the same camp, perfecting their programs and curricula. They know what works in a camp setting (and what doesn’t) and have shaped their programs so your kids get the maximum benefit.

Camp coaches also go above and beyond the normal expectations of parents. Many of the coaches, for example, will communicate with the kids’ coaches back home so the transition and skill-building is seamless. The kids don’t miss a beat.

At Camp Laurel South the coaches are dedicated to developing skills in many areas, including soccer, lacrosse, tennis, basketball, swimming and even equestrian. Shorter season programs allow kids to always try out something new and develop more broadly. Please visit the Camp Laurel South website (www.camplaurelsouth.com) to find out more about our summer leadership team.

Olivia

Life, Unplugged

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!

Thanks to Pink_Sherbert_Photography and eron_gpsfs for the photos!

Olivia, Guest Blogger

Fireworks…Baseball….Canobie Lake Park….Non Stop Fun!

First Session at Laurel South is flying by. The weather has been terrific and everywhere you look around camp, there are smilin’ kids and happy counselors. From the ballfields to the riding rings to the waterfront, climbing towers and theatre…the action never stops. Instruction is in full swing in every activity area. The new Tennis Center is buzzing. Intercamps and tournaments are raging. Fishing is out-of-sight and 4th of July Fireworks were unbelievable! Everyone donned their red, white and blue for an exciting day which culminated with the most amazing fireworks show in the county. It has truly been a magical first couple weeks of camp. Today we are off to Canobie Lake for our first amazing out-of-camp “S” Day. As always, it’s another great day in the state of Maine!

Off and Running…

Summer 2010 is finally here and it’s hard to believe we’ve been in Casco for nearly a week!!! We had an amazing opening day as the staff enthusiastically welcomed our First Session campers. Old friendships were rekindled and new ones began as the Laurel South family finally gathered as one. Friday was our annual Moose Stomp Day…schedules were created…s’mores were devoured…we bumper tubed on Crescent Lake…and we concluded our day with our Council Fire celebrating fun and friendship. On Saturday, full activity and program began. The ballfields, courts, waterfront, theater and Challenge Course were alive with activity. Our 7th grade girls just returned from an amazing camping trip and our 8th graders and CIT’s head out tomorrow on their Acadia and White Water Rafting trips. Intercamps and Tournaments began today and tomorrow is our first “S” day of the summer. The action never ends at Laurel South!

Staff Orientation is in Full Swing!

What a great Orientation were having!  The fields, waterfront, facilities and especially our brand new Tennis Center look amazing.  As all the camper luggage is unpacked and the program areas are prepared, the anticipation grows for another incredible Laurel South summer.  We can’t wait to meet all meet the campers on Thursday for First Session! Safe travels to Casco.  What a beautiful day in the state of Maine!

Is Your Child Ready for Summer Camp?

You’ve collected the brochures, visited the web sites, maybe you’ve visited a camp or two. You may have even have marked off a few weeks in July on your calendar. But you did it in pencil, because you just can’t get rid of that nagging question – is my child, my baby (sniff) ready for overnight camp?
There is no magic formula or age for camp, and every child is unique; but there are some tried and true signs of readiness. So before you pack the tennis racquets and the swimsuits, start by answering these five questions:

1. Is your child interested in and asking about camp?

Spring has just sprung – if your child is already asking about going away to camp, take that as a good sign. Children who are self-motivated and interested in attending camp have a greater chance of being successful once they arrive. Point your child to this: It’s My Life, a PBS web site for tweens, which has advice specifically for kids headed to camp. The site even encourages kids to talk to their families first. What mom doesn’t love that tidbit?

2. Can your child manage personal care needs and the tasks of daily living without mom around? On their own?

Overnight camp involves independent living. Does your child get dressed for school without your help? Can he/she fix themselves a snack? Take a shower? Remember to brush their teeth? If they still need help or daily reminders, you don’t have to keep them home (remember, your child will have great camp counselors to care for them), but you may want to encourage more self-reliance, a good quality to have at home, too.

3. How long has your child been away overnight without you? Was it a positive experience?

If your child loves sleepovers and slumber parties (at other people’s houses) transitioning to sleep-away camp may be a breeze. A week at grandma’s isn’t the same as three or four weeks at summer-camp; but if an overnight without you has never worked, do some trial runs before registering your child for camp. My own personal role model, Supernanny, has some great tips for making sleepovers a breeze.

4. Does your child have a healthy respect for adults and listen to instructions?

Life will be much easier for everyone if your child is good at following instructions and is willing to go along with camp rules. Just keep in mind that our kids often reserve their worst behavior for us, their parents, bless them. If your child is well-behaved in school, with coaches and other adults in positions of authority, they should do fine at camp.

5. Is your child willing to try new things?

Life comes at you fast, Ferris Bueller said, and the same is true for summer camp. Each day is filled with new people to meet, new surroundings, and new activities to try. For kids willing to give it a go, there’s no better place to spread their wings than summer camp.

The Bottom Line

No one knows your child like you do – even after you’ve completed all the quizzes and checklists and asked all your friends about their kids’ experiences, the best thing to do is trust your instincts. If you feel it in your gut that your child can handle overnight camp, you’re probably right. Get ready… summer is on its way!

Thanks to stevedepolo and peterblanchard for their pictures!

Olivia

When 4 Weeks is Just Right

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!

Olivia, Guest Blogger

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