Camp Laurel Blog

Tag Archives: life at summer camp

Being Nice

One of the things we talk about in the cabins, at program areas, in the Lodge at meals, at evening activities, and even on trips is: being nice. Sometimes, campers need to be reminded about this, and it’s our job, as caring and responsible adults, to do this in a loving and constructive way.

At the first campfire of the summer, Jem and Debbie talk about being kind and respectful to each other. It’s not only the right thing to do – it’s expected here. This is a value we reinforce throughout the summer. Before we leave on our first S-Day trip, Jem reminds everyone they are leaving Camp Laurel and heading into the outside world, and we want our campers to be great citizens so they feel terrific about themselves and they represent Camp Laurel well.

Kindness and respect are key ingredients to a happy cabin life, and therefore a happy summer. It’s a value we speak about regularly, and reinforce when necessary.  Fortunately, we have an environment at Camp Laurel that fosters respect and kindness, and we watch random acts of kindness and respect occur all day long. These values are important at camp. They’re important at school. They’re important at home. And, of course, they’re important in life!

Taking a Breath

As we wind down week #3 and head into Week #4, the program continues to hum at a rapid pace. To be sure we stay on course, we intentionally work hard to ensure campers and counselors are well-rested and energetic. While waterskiing, playing basketball, soccer and tennis, doing gymnastics and scaling the Aerial Park are part of what camp is all about, when we’re at it five or six hours a day, four or five days in a row, its necessary to take a breath and re-charge.

Our weekly schedule automatically alters between A and B program days, with an S-Day (or Special Days) built in every fourth or fifth day. On S-Days, we sleep in bit, have a more relaxed breakfast, and enjoy in-camp events (Carnival, Traditions Day, Gold Rush, Triathlon to name a few).  Every other S-Day, depending on each campers age group, we also leave camp for an out-of-camp S-Day and take in sights along the Maine coast, visit a seacoast town, or hit a waterpark. 

Each night at camp there is a planned and well-executed evening program that is more recreational in nature and less instructional. Other than our weekly Sports Nite where all age groups play in a league under-the-lights, (football, soccer or hockey), we try and take it down a notch before bed. Favorite evening activities are campfires, hypnotist show, egg drop, talent nights, and, of course, weekly socials for our older campers. While every day at camp is programmed and scheduled, some are more relaxed. In today’s fast-paced world – even at camp where we are unplugged – this is an important facet of everyone’s good health.

The Quest

After a full week of non-stop program (hard to believe we’ve been together for almost a week!), we had a rain day yesterday. So we slept in an extra hour and moved our activities to our many indoor locations: Fieldhouse, Playhouse, Arts Centers, Fitness and Dance Studios, Tanager, Lodge and more. After five straight days of great weather, non-stop action on the lake, on the ballfields and on the courts, it was a welcome break! This morning, we awoke to one of Camp Laurel favorite traditions: The Quest!

During Quest, we break into 16 teams split across age groups and have an amazing day of friendly competition. It’s a great way to break up our busy schedule and allows campers from different age groups to get to know each other and bond. Our Super Seniors lead the effort and do a spectacular job running this amazing all-camp event.

With the first week nearly behind us, we look forward to ramping up our summer calendar as camping trips, inter-camps, tournaments, golf trips and special events crank up. We look forward to the weekend ahead with program days and lots of time swimming, waterskiing, sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking and even snorkeling!

And We’re Off

And We’re Off…

It was a magical start to camp. After a flawless arrival day Saturday, our camp family was reunited and the action hasn’t stopped since. Following our traditional Opening Campfire, we leapt right into program on Sunday and haven’t stopped since. We met our Camp Sisters and Brothers, hosted open calls for High School Musical, ran through the Bec and Bago Sports Combines, and were everywhere in 72 hours:  from the Lake to the Ballfields, Tennis Courts to the Hockey Arena, Equestrian Center to the Aerial Park.

While the activities and program are running full bore, the part about camp everyone loves best is being with each other. Friends have been reunited. And in short order, the “newcomers” quickly became part of the extended Laurel family. 

Welcome home everyone!  The best lies ahead…

What I Learned at Camp

Summer is winding down. Wait – we just got here!

That’s how fast camp goes. One day a kid boards the bus with nervous anticipation. The next, he heads home on the same bus with a smile and a lifetime of memories.

They don’t even realize that – in addition to having tons of fun – they’ve grown a lot.

The other day, we asked a few of our campers what they learned this summer. Here’s what they shouted – er, said:

  • Counselors are cool. We talked about everything.
  • Before I went to camp, people said the food stinks. It didn’t.
  • I learned I could swim a lot farther than I thought. But the waterfront guys told me I could do it all along.
  • It’s impossible for my counselor to pack everything back up the way my mom did before camp.
  • It’s okay to wake up early if you don’t know what time it is.
  • I’m not sure, but I may ask my parents if I can do yoga when I get home.
  • Sometimes when people say “hurry up, you’ll be late,” they really mean it. Sometimes they don’t.
  • I always thought I liked lacrosse better than soccer. Now I’m not sure.
  • I saw my sister less this summer than I do at home. But it was still nice having her here.
  • No one will clean up your cabin for you, except you.
  • It’s really nice if your parents write a lot, even if they don’t say much in their letters.
  • It’s hard to canoe when your paddle falls in the water.
  • I have eight new best friends.
  • When they tell you to bring a sweatshirt and a blanket, they know what they are talking about.
  • I was positive I couldn’t live without my cell phone. Now I forget where I put it in my room before I left.
  • How come no one ever told me that waterskiing was so much fun?
  • It’s good to go on trips away from camp. And it’s good to come back.
  • I like my new nickname a lot.
  • When I came to camp I missed my dog. When I go home I’m going to miss my horse.
  • Maine is an awesome state!
  • It feels like I grew five inches, but the nurse says only one.
  • I still can’t sing, but our play was amazing anyway.
  • My goal in life is to come back as a counselor.

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!!!

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

Put on Your Swimsuits, Goggles, and Sunblock–It’s Time for a Swim!

Almost every camper will name the Camp Laurel Waterfront as one of the best parts of camp. Camp Laurel is situated on a crystal-clear, spring-fed lake…measuring 9 miles around. Yes – 9 miles!!

The Camp Laurel waterfront plays a crucial role during the summer, not only as a place for swimming, sailing, kayaking, waterskiing, crew, fishing, bumper-tubing, and snorkeling, but as a gathering place and perfect backdrop for special event and outdoor evening activities. Learning to swim at camp is a rite of passage. Perfecting swim skills provides a great foundation for building camp memories of sunny days spent at the waterfront.

Of course, there are the much acclaimed physical and mental benefits of learning to swim that we all know. It’s a great low impact exercise suitable for almost everyone, which makes it an ideal part of a regular fitness regime. It’s also not age-restrictive. Rather, it’s an activity that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. The fact that muscle strength is also greatly improved as a result of pushing oneself through the water goes without saying.

Swimming also improves coordination and emotional well being. The relaxing atmosphere of a hard-bottom lake provides the perfect setting for children to let down their guard and enjoy the type of casual conversation that builds and strengthens friendships. When combined with the sheer fun of the activity, it’s the perfect setting for building memories.

Camp waterfront locations are extremely active and full of almost endless possibilities for camper experiences. Camp Laurel has more than 60 boats: Mastercrafts Pro Start 197 Championship Ski Boats, Hobie Cats, Sunfish, Lasers, Fishing Pontoon Boats, Canoes, Kayaks, and more! The waterfront staff is well-trained with certified lifeguards who complete an extensive and rigorous training program prior to the start of camp.

Camps also incorporate their waterfront areas into their special event planning. Water games and pirate-themed treasure hunts are just a couple of ways that water play is used creatively in camp programs.

Swimming at camp takes on a new level of excitement when included in camp activities such as decathlons, apache relays and Spirit Days or College Days –that give campers the opportunity to use their swimming skills to rise to a challenge. Camp Laurel swimmers also compete in swim meets through inter-camp leagues. Whether racing against other campers or a time clock, being able to apply their swimming instruction in an engaging way and seeing firsthand how they’ve improved has been a moment of pride for many a camper.

And don’t forget about the famous Maine Lakes Cup – a 14 camp sailing regatta which started at Camp Laurel and is hosted by the winning camp each summer.

So the next time your child regales you with tales of the waterfront at his or her summer camp, remember that it’s not just summer memories that they’re gaining from their swimming experiences, but lifelong skills.

Building Creativity Through Campfire

One of the most endearing and sacred parts of summer camp is the campfire. More than just wood lit with a match, it’s an intimate part of the camping experience that goes far beyond simply sitting around a fire. Each camp has a set of traditions uniquely connected to the campfire experience and, to campers, each tradition is significant, demanding reverence. The campfire is the very place where many children recall the moment when their camp transformed from “a camp” to “their camp”, where fellow campers and counselors become family while singing songs, roasting s’mores, and engaging in campfire activities. So intricate is the campfire to the summer camp experience that even former Disney CEO Michael Eisner has reflected on its importance in making him who he is:

“Simply consider the lessons I was taught by the campfire…every time the rich reward was the same as we simply sat and enjoyed our consuming creation. And, there was one aspect in particular that never failed to intrigue me, and that was the process of seeing the single small flame of the match spread to the kindling and then the twigs and then the smaller branches and finally the larger logs. It didn’t dawn on me until years later, but this was the perfect metaphor for the creative process…Years later, I found myself running a network television division and then a movie studio and now an entire entertainment company. But, much of the success I’ve achieved can be traced to the direct and metaphorical lessons I learned in building those campfires.”

To some, to assign such significance to fire may seem a bit of a stretch. But to anyone who has attended camp, it’s not only believable but apt. Beyond Eisner’s metaphor, the campfire is symbolic of camp, and represents the bonding between campers and nature. Campfires instantly evoke feelings of togetherness and promote an atmosphere of being together in an intimate setting that is unique to the people who are present. Many camps hold opening and closing campfires to welcome campers and immerse them in the camping experience and to help them say goodbye at the end of the summer. At the beginning of the summer, the flames represent the birth of a new summer. Opening campfires often include some sort of ritual that introduces an idea or process that can be re-visited throughout the summer, such as setting goals for the summer or some sort of introduction and bonding activity with camp “siblings”. The meaning of the flames, however, transforms at the end of the summer. The burning of a closing campfire represents the end of the season. It’s a way to give the summer a proper and respectful send off. Campfires held throughout the summer supplement overnight camping trips and special events.

To say that the campfire breeds creativity is not only accurate, but understated. The various representations and meanings that the actual fire itself takes on helps campers learn to look at the same thing from different angles, a crucial aspect of honing creative thought and learning to think “outside the box”, which is essential to developing good problem solving skills. When considered from this perspective, it’s not at all difficult to imagine a CEO of one of the world’s largest companies crediting much of his success to his camp experiences, specifically to the campfire. In fact, it provides insight about the significance of camp and how the lessons learned there can be carried throughout life.

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

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