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The Perfect Place to Unplug

One thing parents love so much about camp is that it has a unique way of shifting the mindset of campers. A summer at camp is a summer away from social media and texting and a time focused on nature, real relationships, character building and fun!

Camp Laurel immerses campers in a world unlike anything they’re used to. It takes away a few modern comforts and conveniences and replaces them with things that are more low maintenance. Campers learn the value of a one-on-one conversation with a trusted friend. They learn to appreciate the breezes, the vastness of the lakes, the sunsets and all the natural beauty that surrounds them. They begin to see things differently, and this perspective stays with them even after they leave camp. Campers look internally to find happiness, and this is a skill that will change their character and build their confidence.

Camp is a place full of big adventures and big fun. But amidst all that, there are a million little things to be discovered, admired and appreciated. From the quiet beauty of a bonfire or the thrill of climbing the rock wall, campers learn to look for the little things that add up to make a big difference in their camp experience.

With social media playing such a huge role in the lives of kids and teens, many parents wonder if their child could survive without checking Instagram or taking 20+ snaps on the way to school. Without technology and social media to worry about, kids can focus on what they do best: being kids. They have the entire summer to focus on making friends and having fun and they learn that being in the moment is far more important than finding the perfect filter to capture the moment. Social media has its advantages of course, but at camp, campers learn a valuable lesson: their worth is not defined by how many followers they have or how many likes their pictures get.

Camp changes the way campers see the world. By spending their summers at Camp Laurel, campers learn a little bit more about the world around them and how to appreciate the little things that make every day beautiful.

Intercamps, Trips, Special Events and More!

detail 71What a week gone by with so much more to look forward to.

We started our Second Rotation of the summer Saturday and we’re off and running. All program areas are in high gear and the skill progression in every facet of camp is evident and noticeable.  From the Tennis Courts to the Lacrosse Fields, the Aerial park to Mountain Biking, and the Fitness Center and Dance Studio to the Soccer Pitch, it’s amazing what we’ve accomplished in just under four weeks.

This week we have more instructional days and some great special events at night. Eric the Amazing Illusionist delighted and dazzled us last night and tonight Laurel Theatre presents High School Musical 2 as performed by our four older campuses. Our older campers have been rehearsing for three weeks in anticipation of tonight’s extravaganza. Thursday is the annual Group Sing and we’re psyched to see who will wear this summer’s crown! Group Sing is always a summer highlight. detail 61

Intercamps and Tournaments are in full swing…campers are loving their overnight excursions all over Maine…and, of course, we’re getting excited for Visiting Weekend coming up this Saturday.

Week 4 on the Horizon

detail 55Camp Laurel is a virtual city in itself. And the cabins are the campers’ summer homes. While Camp  Laurel has great facilities – on the water and on land – it’s the cabins that really make camp a homey, warm and comfortable environment for each camper.

While the Camp Laurel day starts with wake-up at 7:45 AM (or 8:15 AM for older campers) we are “on the move” all day long. The cabin is a special place where each child’s summer family (campers and counselors) comes together to share the day, spend quality time and, of course, sleep. In addition to each child’s cabin, campers are also a member of a “campus.” That’s the area of camp where children live, hang out, play ping pong and pop-a-shot, spend their free time and bond with not just their cabin – but 35-45 campers in their own age group.
detail 17
While the camp day is frenetic, the campus is a great place to relax, unwind, play some cards, tell stories, share a joke and chill.

We’re so pumped for Week 4 coming up. The summer is literally flying by but there’s lots more to come, including the beginning of Second Rotation Activities which start tomorrow. We’re psyched!

Play

We recently listened to a man who has spent many, many years studying the effects of play on humans. While it sounds a lot like our job as camp directors, he’s got the Ph.D. so we thought to give him our attention. We are glad we did.

Dr. Stuart Brown said several fascinating things about Play:

  • It overrides what is sometimes fixed in our natures – it brings individuals together in ways which allow them to expand their knowledge of others and the world around them.
  • If the purpose is more important than the act of doing it, it’s probably not play.
  • People who have not played with their hands (fixing and building) do not solve problems as well.
  • The basis of human trust is established through play signals. We begin to lose those signals as we age.

When you look at camp through the prism of these statements on play, you encounter a big ‘duh!’ moment. Watching our campers play together shows you how the common act of laughing together, or playing gaga, or chase, or different table games allows the kids to spread their wings and learn.

While we have a good bit of unstructured play at camp but, there is also a great deal of play within teams such as soccer, basketball, baseball, dance teams, and more.  Campers build trust with their teammates, learn from mistakes, and are taught to keep a great attitude throughout their time at camp.

In woodworking, robotics, and ceramics, we give kids a great opportunity to explore with their hands and make, fix, and tear apart things they don’t normally at home. These experiences lead to wonderful outcomes both over the short and the long term.

Thankfully, Dr. Brown reminds us that we, as humans, are designed to play throughout our lifetimes. We couldn’t agree more. And, since play signals help build trust, we hire camp counselors who show the right mix of maturity and experience while keeping playfulness close to the surface.

We are excited to remain a place where play leads to several much needed outcomes: relationship formation, the development of confidence and independence, and a community in which campers know they are accepted. Whether through our traditions, choice based program, evening activities or during free time, our campers laugh and learn while playing!

It’s Almost Here…

TennisLook at the horizon. What do you see? Camp!

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.

ArcheryDon’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.)

Campus TimePrepare 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.

SailingDon’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!!!

The Pine Tree State

Maine Camp Experience - CL GirlsSummer 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.

Maine Camp Experience - CL BoysSummers 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.

Jem and Debbie
Camp Laurel

BECAUSE OF 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.

Because of Camp

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.

Because of Camp - Debbie

Can’t wait to see you this summer.

Debbie Sollinger
Camp Laurel

The History of Camp

Bus to CampIn 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 Gunnery CampThe 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.

Dinning Hall - Camp AgawamThe 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.

Waterfront

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.

Sailing

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

*Historical photos courtesy of the American Camp Association – www.acacamps.org

A Summer Full of Adventure

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?

What Do We Really Do All Year…

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 campClosing 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. Tri-State Camp Conference

Leadership meetings. Like many camps, our full leadership staff gets together twice a 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 750 folks suddenly need three meals a day, snacks, nite-bites, canteen, OD dinners, 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.  Coordinating yearbooks. 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.

Jem Sollinger
Director, Camp Laurel

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