Camp Laurel South Blog

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Camp Changed My Kid

IMG_9280I was nervous and excited to send my son Connor to camp this year. Connor’s best friend attended camp the summer before and could not stop raving about it. So after plenty of research and discussions, we decided to let Connor spend the summer away. I won’t lie, my “mommy heart” broke a little when he practically jumped out of the car to get on the plane and didn’t look back, but I was pretty sure we were making the right decision. In August, when he got home, I was 100% sure we made the right decision. The happy, smiley kid who jumped into our backseat was…different.

I couldn’t pin point many differences right away, except for the excitement in his eyes and voice when he talked about all of his new friends and cracked himself up remembering inside jokes and hilarious conversations with his new buddies. One of the main things I noticed when we got home was how helpful he had become. Without me asking, he would make his bed, take his plates to the sink, offer to bring in the groceries or even simply ask if he could get us anything from the kitchen since he was going that way. I noticed a new sense of thoughtfulness when he came back. Not that he was heartless before by any means, but I definitely noticed a change in his willingness to help others and think of others before himself. As the days passed, my heart exploded with joy to see him excited to text, chat and FaceTime with his new friends. He went to camp a little reserved, and came back social and confident. I loved seeing him interact with his peers, I loved seeing how he was truly listening to what others had to say, and how he felt confident contributing to the conversation.IMG_9987

Just today, he told me he was going to try out for soccer at school, a sport he had never played before camp. He said he was encouraged to try it at camp and played it almost every day while he was there. As a mom, I am blown away at what positive changes have come from sending my son to camp. I knew he would make friends, try a new activity or two and learn to live both independently and with a group, but I had no idea about the social skills, character development, relational growth and boost in confidence that spending a few weeks away could create.

Camp changed my son for the better, and we are both looking forward to the growth and changes that will happen next summer at camp!

Teachers Love Having Campers as Students

IMG_2455 When we asked a teacher in Florida what his ideal student looks like, he said: “Someone who is respectful, creative and focused.” When we asked a teacher in New Jersey, she said  “Someone who isn’t afraid to ask questions, who wants to learn and who tries their hardest,” And when we asked a teacher from Pennsylvania, she said: “Someone who has great time management skills, is a leader and is responsible.” What we learned from talking to these teachers is that all across the country, teachers enjoy having responsible, respectful and creative students in their classrooms. And what do you know… Camps help students develop all of these skills and so much more. It’s our theory that when teachers ask students what they did over the summer, they’re not just asking because it’s the standard “welcome back to school question,” but because they are secretly trying to decipher which students spent their summer growing, learning and improving. The bottom line: Teachers love students who spend their summers at camp.

Spending the summer at camp turns followers into leaders, shyness into confidence and laziness into responsibility. Camp teaches children how to work well with others, how to think critically and how to solve problems. It allows students to try new things, ask questions and be vulnerable in order to improve themselves. It teaches time management, organization and respect for peers and authority. The list goes on and on. Every day, campers are learning valuable life skills that easily transfer over to their daily lives. They think they’re just playing football with friends, but at the same time they are learning how to communicate with others, how to be a good sport and the importance of maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. When they make real connections with people they’d usually never talk to, they are learning to ignore stereotypes and appreciate diversity. Spending the summer at camp is day-after-day of life lessons, disguised as swimming, playing, singing, dancing, biking, hiking and exploring.

IMG_2851Teachers look for leaders in the classroom, someone who can follow instructions and encourage their peers to do the same. It is with these students that teacher form trusting relationships, which can work in the students benefit all year long. These leaders are built at camp, and their skills aren’t just confined to camp or the school campus, they become leaders in every aspect of their life.

Parents can be confident that their child will leave camp a better version of themselves. These students, who enter the new school year with a strong sense of identity, work ethic and high self-esteem, will be an important contributor to their classrooms.

If you were to ask a teacher what they REALLY wanted in an ideal student, most of them would say “Anyone who spent their summer at camp!”

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.

Food… Glorious Food

IMG_6043 One of the perks about sending your child to Laurel South is that a good chef may return home to you. Your child who only knew how to make a sandwich or had no idea how to boil water may come back as a baking, sautéing foodie who has a newfound appreciation for seasonings, sauces and the magic that can happen in the kitchen. This transformation begins when campers take advantage of the Culinary Studio at Laurel South. Led by our Head Chef and specialists who have a wealth of experience, our incredible, fully-integrated Culinary Studio gives campers the tools, appliances and space to create their favorite dishes and learn a few new ones.

Encouraging your child to explore their culinary side not only ensures you’ll get to try some of their creations once they return home, but also teaches them valuable life skills. Cooking is not just throwing ingredients together and waiting until it’s edible. Cooking is an art, and a way for aspiring chefs to express themselves. The thought, preparation, and emotion that goes into cooking is something many children find challenging but rewarding. They learn valuable skills such as time management, following directions and communication. Cooking also perfects math and science skills in a way that is fun and different.

IMG_7345When your child is able to start and finish a project in the kitchen, their self-confidence grows and they become more self-assured and willing to try new things that seem out of their comfort zone. When they are active in the kitchen and learn about the things that go into their food, they are also learning about making healthy choices when it comes to what they eat.

Cooking gives children a sense of purpose and something they feel they can contribute to the family. Once a camper’s family takes a bite of their famous mac and cheese or savory French Onion soup and can’t get enough, they’ll feel that they have a valuable quality to contribute to family functions. Even if they just learn basic cooking skills, the importance of cleaning up after yourself, and how to measure properly, they will be ahead of most of their peers.

Whether your child is a chef-in-the-making, or is just starting to show interest in the kitchen, cooking at camp is a great way for kids to explore culinary arts.

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.

Healthy Habits at Camp

DSC_0172When you combine the ease and affordability of fast food and the ability to record TV to be watched at anytime – the result is kids who are spending a lot of time eating junk and watching junk. Children are spending more time in front of a screen than they are playing outside. Sometimes the only body part getting a workout is their thumbs from playing video games or their index finger from pointing and clicking for hours at a time. Lack of exercise and accessibility to unhealthy foods is what has caused childhood obesity to skyrocket in the last 30 years.

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of kids and teenagers were overweight in 2012. The physical risks of childhood obesity are endless: joint problems, pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure. All of this leaves children vulnerable to various types of cancers as they get older. Not only can early obesity lead to a lifetime of bad habits that are very hard to break, but the effects on a child’s already very fragile self-esteem and body image can be devastating. Children who are overweight and self-conscious are less likely to participate in team events or sports, try out for a new sport or activity, or be proactive in making new friends. Being overweight can be a lonely and scary time for kids and teens, and it is absolutely preventable.

DSC_0155 2At Laurel South, we take the health of each camper very seriously. We have been known to sneak exercise into the daily lives of campers by giving it a new name: FUN. We’ve also found a top secret, patented way to keep campers from eating unhealthy foods all the time: We don’t give them access to calorie filled foods throughout the day. It’s novel concept, we’re very aware.

The menu at Laurel South varies every day. There is always fruit available, and the salad bar is always an option at lunch and dinner. Homemade soups and plenty of healthy options are always available. Whether your child needs a menu that is gluten, dairy, soy, nut or shellfish free, or they have other specific food allergies, a menu of delicious options can be created for them so they can enjoy everything camp has to offer.

IMG_9886Even if campers do splurge on mac and cheese, chicken sandwiches or get creative at the pasta bar, they will easily work off all of those calories in the endless physical activities that camp has to offer. A game of flag football, an afternoon of kayaking (talk about an arm work out!), an early morning climb up the climbing wall, an impromptu basketball game vs. the neighboring cabin or an hour dancing away in Dance are just a few ways campers can keep their heart rates up while having fun with new friends. Exercise disguised as fun means campers stay active all the time! When campers are so busy running from activity to activity, they don’t have time to mindlessly munch on snacks. Plenty of water keeps campers hydrated as they tackle another day of go, go, go!

Laurel South wants the best for every camper on every level, including their physical health, which is why we are focused on instilling a positive attitude toward healthy decisions. A mindset focused on healthy food choices and staying active is an excellent value to instill in children. By encouraging children to eat right and exercise daily, they are creating habits that will benefit them as they grow, and allow them to live long and healthy lives.

Camp Jobs: Better Than an Internship

IMG_1281There are an estimated 1.2 million summer camp staff in the United States, and the numbers continue to grow steadily. Now, you might think, “Why should I pursue a camp job over an internship?” Well, working at a camp gives you the opportunity to earn more than just cash. Internships are all about gaining skills and that’s exactly what working at a camp provides. The question is, how is working at a camp better than an internship?

The biggest reason: Working at a camp helps you develop skills that will not only build your resume, but will last you a long time to come. You have an opportunity to lead from the front and solve problems, in addition to fulfilling your responsibilities with utmost sincerity. Working at camp offers real-life experiences that cannot be learned behind an office desk.

DSC_0070-2There are many benefits you can gain by working at camp:

  • You develop a better self-understanding
  • You enhance personal growth
  • You master problem-solving skills
  • You have a positive and significant influence on the lives of children
  • You expand/develop a network of peer relations.

How is Working at Camp Better than an Internship?

It Builds Character along with Your Resume

If you do not have character, your resume is pretty much useless. If you make a comparison, you will notice that most interns count the minutes until they are finally done with work. On the other hand, camp counselors and camp staff dedicate their summers. Why do they do it? They enjoy what they do! When you work at a camp, you learn to dedicate your time for things besides yourself, as you have the opportunity to deal with adults, kids and other counselors.

It’s Not Only about the Money

When you work at a camp, you not only show up every morning because you are earning and saving good money, you show up because your job involves spreading smiles and happiness. You are not confined to an undersized desk, relentlessly waiting for payday. Instead, the beautiful scenery of Maine is your office and putting smiles on campers’ faces outweighs the thought of the next paycheck.

You Make Kids Smile Instead of Customers

It’s not uncommon to come across interns pretending to be extra nice so they can make a sale. A camp job, however, revolves around campers and making them happy. Getting an authentic laugh or smile out of a camper is much more enjoyable than selling a particular product to a random customer.

IMG_1803You Learn to Be Selfless Not Selfish

While interns spend most of their time pretending to be busy or surfing the web, every minute you spend at camp is devoted to the campers. Each minute of your time is spent for others, not just for yourself. After all, have you ever seen an intern worrying about the progress of their company they work for, as much as they do for themselves?

So, if you have been considering a job at camp, why not go for it? You will have the experience of a lifetime, meet staff and campers from around the world, and gain experience that will be beneficial for years to come.

 

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!

Unique Experiences at Camp Laurel South

_U2C2290When your child heads back to school after a summer at Camp Laurel South, they will hear a lot of their classmates talking about what they did over the summer:

“I went swimming in my pool. Every day.”

“I played baseball with my friends.”

“I visited my Grandma in Oklahoma.”

But when your child stands up to share his or her experience, it might sound something like:

“I don’t even know where to start! I tried archery and gymnastics, I learned to bake INCREDIBLE French pastries, I swam a lot, but I also went water skiing and sailing! I went camping and learned important outdoor skills. I was in a musical. I rode my first horse. I even went down a zipline!”

IMG_5395The great thing about Camp Laurel South is that it’s not a place to send your kids where they’ll do the same ol’ thing they’ve always done. Once they step foot onto camp, they’ll be surrounded by new activities. A camper may discover their love for archery or sailing, but would have never had the opportunity to try it back home.

At camp, your child has a hands-on opportunity to learn outdoor skills such as navigating a hiking trail, learning to make a fire, cruising through an outdoor fitness trail and getting pro-level instruction in tennis, lacrosse or basketball. These are things they would rarely have the chance to learn outside of a summer spent at camp. These skills prepare campers with a sense of confidence and self–sufficiency that can be carried over into many other aspects of their lives.

The lessons campers learn while trying out new activities at camp are invaluable. Learning to work together as a team, whether in flag football or during a mountaineering adventure, is an essential character trait built upon at summer camp. Campers learn to trust themselves and step out of their comfort zone, while also learning to trust their peers and building lifelong friendships in the process.

DSC_0154Campers can explore their creative side, and try new artistic outlets not found in their typical English class or art elective. Cartooning, technical lighting, ceramics, music production, jazz dance and cooking are just a few activities geared toward right-brained campers. When was the last time your child had the opportunity to really get their hands dirty and create a piece of ceramic art? Or learn first-hand what beautiful art can be created out of a piece of scrap metal? At summer camp, giving each camper a once in a lifetime experience is our goal, and we strive to make sure there are unique opportunities for everyone to take part in.

Your child could go back to school with thrilling adventures of playing Bingo with grandma in Oklahoma or delight the class with play-by-plays of their neighborhood baseball games. Or they could teach their class a thing or two about archery, French pastries, sailing, outdoor skills, jazz dance, flag football, ceramics and what is involved in training for a triathlon, just to summarize their first couple weeks at camp.

Give your child the gift of brand new experiences by sending them to a camp where they can do it all. It’ll be a life changing experience for the both of you.

 

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