At the end of every summer, I can’t stop talking about camp. The stories are endless, and it’s impossible not to share them. The anecdotes are often specific enough to qualify for ‘you had to be there’ moments. From grand events like the break of College Days to tales of campers realizing their goals to the crackle of a mid-summer campfire. There’s something special happening every hour of every day.
We often remind our counselors “Little moments have a big impact.” And that’s true. Like how a camper created a song and it became a year-after-year tradition. Or how a staff member turned brushing teeth into a game that campers would look forward to each morning and night. Stringing the anecdotes together paints a bigger picture of Laurel: a camp becoming a community. Campers who two weeks prior were strangers begin to function like a family. Campers who have been together summer after summer (after summer!) start appreciating their amazing time at Laurel in a new way.
In between the stories I tell, I realize how gratifying the larger dynamics of camp are. And it makes me even more eager for the upcoming inside jokes, anecdotes and another summer in Maine!
Shining stars on a clear summer night. A gentle breeze whistling through the trees. The call of the loon in the evening or a robin chirping in the morning. A summer in Maine reminds us to slow down and cherish every minute. Of course, those aren’t the only sensory sensations of the summer. Camp is alive with energy every day with “echoes” at Cove to cheering in the Lodge and the Laurel birthday song ringing out almost every day. The Laurel Spirit can be seen and heard from one end of camp to the other!
One thing you won’t hear throughout the summer: the ping of an Instagram notification or the buzz of a phone. A summer at camp is the perfect place for a digital detox. There are numerous studies about the benefits of staying unplugged: increased concentration, better short- and long-term memory, improved conversation skills and higher self-esteem are among the many perks of getting away from digital devices.
It’s easy to quickly double tap a friend’s post, update your own status or clear the notification bar. But, just as easily, it can take us out of the moment. Camp is the perfect opportunity to hit the reset button. Campers find themselves making genuine connections with their peers and counselors. They also have the opportunity to exercise their minds in a more ‘analog’ way by writing letters home and reading books.
Digital advances have made our world easier and more accessible in many ways, but campers (and counselors!) will be surprised by how great they feel after time away from their devices.
We’ve heard Jem say it many times. It’s such a simple request, but one that has taken root at Camp Laurel over the years. It’s a staple of the Camp Laurel experience. Be kinder than necessary. It may seem overly simplistic, but when put into action, is one of the cornerstones for the family vibe at Camp Laurel. It reminds everyone that we’re on the same team and have the same goal. At camp, acts of kindness are routinely celebrated. Small acts of goodwill toward others build up, creating the foundation for our culture.
There are so many opportunities to be kinder than necessary every day at camp. At activities, it’s seen through the praise and support we have for one another. Campers and counselors remain competitive and sportsmanlike in athletics. Positive feedback pushes campers toward new literal heights on the climbing wall. Artists find new ways to refine their creative work in InterArts. This attitude is entrenched in our Camp Brother, Camp Sister programs. Prospective families touring Camp Laurel always mention the welcoming smiles and friendly demeanor of everyone around camp.
The message may sound simple: Be kinder than necessary. But it’s a key building block for a successful summer. Campers and counselors go out of their way to look out for each other. It creates a ripple effect, allowing for a perpetually upbeat atmosphere. And that’s what the Laurel Spirit is all about!
You may have begun to notice that, ever so slowly, the nights are beginning to turn a bit cooler and the sun is rising a bit later. This could only mean that Fall is upon us, and school is right around the corner. Of course, school will look different for everyone this year.
Whether it’s online, in-person or a hybrid, students and teachers will be together again. Conversations will be had about what we did during our extended break and how different 2020 has been than any year in memory. We’ve heard over and over how much our campers and counselors missed being at Camp Laurel: missing the routines, missing learning new skills, missing the outdoors, and, mostly, missing camp friends and the chance to be mentored by our amazing staff. We all are yearning for the community and unconditional acceptance we feel at camp.
As our campers head back to school, please know that we missed sharing everything with you, but we’re one step closer to being together on the shores of Echo Lake in 2021!
It was certainly a quieter July 4th on Echo Lake over the weekend. Looking back at photos from previous summers, though, reminds us how lucky we are to have celebrated Independence Day together in Maine. We’re grateful for the fun programs our Department Heads plan like Red, White and Boogie at Dance, Ring the Liberty Bell at Climbing, US Open Tournament at Tennis and countless others. Of course, the special July 4th Cookout and the best fireworks show in Maine cap off an amazing day.
We missed seeing your patriotic face paint and hearing Happy Birthday (Laurel-style, of course!) for the USA. Most of all, we wanted to share smiles and laughs with all of you – our campers and counselors.
We’re beyond thankful for the energetic and caring community we have. And we appreciate the Laurel family so much for carrying that spirit forward. We hope you had an enjoyable and safe weekend. We’re already looking forward to celebrating America’s Independence Day on the shores of Echo Lake in 2021!
We hope everyone is staying healthy and safe. We came up with a list of fun Camp Laurel activities that can be done to keep things interesting. We’d also love to hear the at-home ideas our Camp Laurel family is up to in the comments below!
Scavenger hunts are one of the many team-building activities we utilize when camp opens to create a great community with awesome communication. Want to make it fun while also being productive? Get your camp duffels out and set up clues for items your campers will bring to camp. The duffel can be home for the clues and items they find around the house. This is a great way to generate excitement for camp.
Backyard or Indoor Camping
Nothing beats being with friends in the great outdoors. And now is a great time to ease into the world of outdoor camping by setting up a tent in the yard or living room. Don’t have a tent? Make a fort with blankets and pillows. A fun activity for parents and children, this can easily be modified by setting up a digital camp hangout with your friends. It’s also the perfect excuse for some Indoor S’mores!
Change the Channel
Change the Channel is a theatre game that’s stood the test of time because it relies on imagination and improvisation. Setup is simple: start with two or more actors and one director. The director gives the actors a scene (like waterskiing on Echo Lake with a boat driver and skier). At any time, the Director yells ‘Freeze!’ and trades places with one of the actors who then becomes the director and sets up a new scene with the frozen actors before calling out ‘Action!’
Camp is the best place for pen pals. And now is the perfect time to reach out to your camp friends, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles as an old school (or digital) pen pal. As a (massive) bonus, this will help your campers get into the habit of writing before camp starts, netting parents some extra letters when the temperature heats up!
People always ask me about my favorite aspects of summer camp. That list could go on forever: community, independence, friendship, activities, teamwork, facilities, personal growth. Staying unplugged and tuned into the world is a key ingredient for all those benefits. Children (and counselors) spend so much of their year in classrooms and their free time plugged in. One of the things camp people look forward to so much is a change in their environment. And there’s no better place for this switch than Maine.
Camp Laurel is in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. Tucked among tall pine trees nestled on gorgeous Echo Lake: Maine is the definition of natural beauty. The views of the surrounding forest are a welcome change to the skyscraper backdrop of the big cities from where our campers come. Breathing in the crisp Maine each summer is an amazing experience. The acres and acres of lush green fields give our campers a connection to the nature around them. Campers are also able to take advantage of day-hikes and camping excursions to state parks, Acadia National Park and local spots we’ve been frequenting to for decades.
When campers reminisce about their time at Camp Laurel they always talk about their “experience” rather than specific activities. They mention that distinct mix of friendship, community and nature. It’s a life-changing experience and one that Maine provides in the best way.
Everyone knows it’s coming, we just don’t know when. The chants of “Ketchup…Mustard…Mayonnaise, We Want College Days” can be heard everywhere. First, Saturday night’s dinner, “Pizza in the Pavilion” threw everyone for a loop. Then the Super Seniors not attending the Bec and Bago movie trip was another mis-clue. And now, tonight after the Dance Show, everyone is sure it’s happening. Only time will tell!
As regular program comes to a close, we slip into Sports Night Championships tomorrow morning and, sometime after that, the beginning of our five-day culminating event: College Days 2019. We’ll have regular updates on social media and daily on “Laurel Today.” For now, stay tuned and enjoy!!
It’s very, very hard to believe there are only four days left of Program (actually, somewhere between 3 and 5 days, but we won’t say exactly lest you figure out when College Days will “break.” It’s incredibly rewarding to see campers taking incredible advantage of their last regular program days of the summer. Mastering skills; finishing arts projects; dropping a ski for the first time; challenging a group-mate on the Tennis Ladder; challenging themselves in Dance or Fitness; scaling the Climbing Tower; running the Fit Trail; learning a new recipe in ChefCamp. The list goes on and on.
It was an action-packed week highlighted by the Triathlon and Lake Swim.
This weekend will feature great weather, and we’ll continue to play through until our Super Seniors tell us otherwise; after all, it’s they who help mastermind the start of our summer culminating activity. We’ll keep you up-to-date on all the goings-on in Readfield, and hope your weekend at home is going to be as special as ours, here on the eastern shore of our favorite lake!
During the summer season, many people visit camp while it’s in session. Some are alumni, some are colleagues, but most are families who are looking at which camp to send their children to the following year.
We show them around camp; introduce them to lots of campers and counselors; show them the facilities, cabins, and Lodge; give them a ride in one of our five Mastercrafts ski boats; and give them a snack.
Many of the camps these families are touring have really nice Tennis Courts, Fitness Centers, Culinary Centers, Ropes Courses and Lakes. (We’re biased, of course, and think ours are truly special). But the overwhelming comment we receive from these visitors is not at all about the facilities. It’s about the people. Their mood. Their sense of comfort. Their smiles. And the spirit and happiness they exude.
We couldn’t agree more when these visitors tell us they select Laurel for the environment and the community we’ve built here in Readfield. That makes us happy and makes us smile more than anything else!