Camp Laurel Blog

Tag Archives: Life skills

Taking the Camp Spirit Home

detail-58When camp comes to an end, you pack up your duffels and head home to get ready for another busy school year. When you leave, you leave with a lot more than you came with. Your journal’s full of memories, your phone (which stayed at home) is full of new numbers from all of your new friends, and you leave with a new sense of confidence and independence that you only get when you spend a summer at camp.

There are different ways campers bring a little piece of camp spirit home with them. You may find yourself humming one of the whacky camp tunes as you clean your room, which will bring back memories of campfires and canoeing on the lake.

You may find yourself digging through your laundry bag to find your super comfortable camp t-shirt, the one that reminds you of scoring the winning goal or laughing until you cry alongside your best camp friends. You may search your room for your beloved camp hat or sweatshirt, as the perfectly worn-in feeling brings back warm memories of summer adventures.

Your family members may notice that you come back with a new sense of confidence, a new passion for sports or the arts, or a brand new sense of independence. They may notice that you came home with the camp spirit still dancing inside of you. They may notice you are happier, more active, and more willing to try new things. A lot happens at camp that causes changes and shifts within you, and it’s impossible not to take those experiences and lessons back home. Shy campers may find it easier to make new friends, outgoing campers may learn to find comfort in quiet time and connecting with nature. Camp has this special way of exposing campers to a side of themselves that they may not normally see. This is the spirit of camp that comes home with each and every camper.detail-172

And next summer, when you come back, you’ll be amazed at all of the new things you take home. Year after year, even after you think you’ve experienced everything camp has to offer, you still come home with something new each summer. You may learn that you don’t need to be constantly connected to Wifi to feel connected. You may learn that there is something special about spending time on a great lake in Maine. Every summer, campers take a little something extra home with them that stays with them for the rest of their life.

Lucky for you, a lot of the camp spirit that you take home with you, and carry with you for the rest of your life, won’t take up any extra space in that camp duffel.

Competition at Camp

Since before the training wheels were even taken off of my bike, I’ve been playing sports. My older brothers were all exceptional athletes which put a lot of pressure on me; I was constantly being compared to them and thus was always being pushed to run faster, train harder and jump higher. There was a lot of emphasis put on being the best. I won plenty of medals and trophies and was considered an MVP in most sports I played. I loved playing, but more than that, I loved winning. I lived for that feeling. I would do whatever it took to be on top and wouldn’t enjoy myself if I wasn’t the champion. Then I went to camp.

 

When I stepped on the camp fields for the first time I began with my usual intensity. It took a second for me to realize just how different the environment was from what I was used to. Usually I’d look around before a game and see serious, intense faces. At camp, I instead saw smiling, happy ones. I realized that while I played to win, my fellow campers had different motives. They enjoyed winning, but they played to learn something new, push themselves and spend an hour doing something they loved. They helped show me there’s a difference between friendly competition and unhealthy competition.

 

My competitive spirit came solely from winning and being the best. I learned that healthy competitiveness comes from improving and being your best self. Instead of being in competition with others, I began competing with my past self. This allowed me to focus on the skills I needed to improve on while still enjoying the game. When you can walk away from a sport and still have had a great time, win or lose, you’re a winner.

 

When I got home, I took what I learned and applied it to my sports teams. It was difficult for my dad to learn to calm down, stay quiet and stop focusing solely on winning, but when he saw how much happier I was and how much I improved, he started to come around.

 

I’m so thankful for Camp Laurel and how they taught me to be a compassionate, helpful and less stressed athlete and person.

 

Alex, age 14

Going on a Hike… More than Just Good Exercise!

When you hear the word “camp,” you probably think of three things right away: campfires, friendship and the outdoors.

Without any of these essential elements, camp just wouldn’t be the same. Spending much-needed time in nature is what brings many of us back year after year, so it’s no surprise that hiking in the natural areas around Camp Laurel is a very popular activity each summer.

There’s nothing like fresh air to remind us of the things that matter in life.

The Healing Power of Nature

Did you know the average person only walks half as much as doctors recommend for a healthy lifestyle?

In today’s world this is especially true; between smartphones and tablets, time spent outdoors is seriously dwindling. But hiking isn’t just a serious workout. It is a way for campers and counselors to soak in the sun, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy each other’s company. Without realizing it, they are improving their physical, emotional and mental health – all while having fun in the process!

The Journey is the Destination

In the high-energy world of camp activities, hiking is the perfect opportunity to slow down. While the summit may be spectacular, the best part of hiking is the camaraderie and togetherness of tackling the trail. Campers have the chance to get to know one another and to experience the outdoors with people they enjoy.

Life is like a trail, and every journey begins with a single step. Whatever your dream may be, it’s waiting for you at the top of the mountain. The journey may be long… but there’s no reason to make it alone. Stick with your camp friends and you’ll be there before you know it!

What I Learned about Friendship from Camp

You know that “first day of school” feeling? I’m sure you do. Some people love it while others find it quite scary. The chance to explore a new place, try new things, and make new friends can be simultaneously exhilarating and t

errifying.

How about that “first day of camp” feeling? I’m going to be honest with you, I was a shy kid, and the first day of camp I was worried. So many new faces! So many new activities! You mean we’re staying here for seven weeks?!

CL (6)Making Friends at Camp is Easy

Well, it turned out my fears were completely unfounded; I quickly learned that it’s practically impossible not to make new friends at camp. From the team games to the intimate campfire circles, sticking to yourself isn’t really an option. There are no TV shows or computer games to distract or isolate you!

But camp doesn’t just teach you how to make friends; it teaches you how to keep them.

Learning to Be a Good Friend

Summer camp is a crash course in socializing. Spending weeks together with the same group teaches campers how to interact with each other in ways that you can’t really learn at school. You aren’t just playing games at camp; you’re learning how to live communally. That means sharing, communicating, and understanding different perspectives. In a sense, camp helps teach kids to be a good friend to their peers.

Learning to be a good friend means learning to give as much as you take. Everyone has rough days, and camp is no exception. Cheering up a friend who doesn’t feel like playing games or joining in the campfire can be tough, but every camper does it. Why? Because they know that their camp friends would gladly lend them the same support.

Friends that Last ForeverCL (4)

The camp experience is as intense as it is fleeting. Similar experiences don’t come around often, so it’s no surprise that campers often become life-long friends. When you find yourself missing summer, your camp friends are always there to remind you that you aren’t alone. Only someone who was there with you can truly understand what the nostalgia is all about — it’s an experience that links you forever.

The one sad part about camp friendships is that when camp is over, you have to say goodbye. While goodbyes may be tough, next summer is always right around the corner!

Great Outdoors…Great Skills

I’ve always been surprised by the wide range of lessons that campers take away from the outdoor adventure activities at camp. Some campers benefit most from building a sense of self-reliance and resourcefulness. Others particularly enjoy the non-competitive aspects of the activities, which combine the adrenaline of sports with the positivity of teamwork. Regardless of interests, all campers benefit from outdoor education. Nature, like adventure, is universally meaningful — and universally fun.

Personal DevelopmentCL2

A camper must learn to trust themselves before they learn to trust others, and outdoor skill-building is one of the greatest ways to build self-confidence. Survival skills like fire-starting and shelter-building teach campers that strength comes from within. Not to mention, knowing how to pitch a tent and read a map teaches campers how to problem solve and advocate for themselves.

Teamwork vs. Competition

Teamwork is one of the core values at camp, and adventures in the great outdoors provide challenges that build trust and communication skills. Outdoor adventure requires a high level of teamwork, even though the objective isn’t “beating” another team. There are no winners and losers when the goal is to make a campfire or build a cool shelter, instead campers work together for the benefit of all. Campers learn to work together to conquer a challenge.

CL1Finding our Place in the World

When it comes to outdoor adventure at camp, the “outdoor” side is equally as important as the “adventure” side. Adventure is an important component, but the raw experience of being in nature is what makes seemingly simple activities like hiking and camping so memorable. Particularly for campers coming from the city, a reminder of how small we are in the grand scheme of things can be immeasurably valuable. The great outdoors are important for everyone. After all, the beautiful Maine wilderness and crisp air are a huge part of what makes Camp Laurel such a special place.

Can-do Attitude

Regardless of the aspect of outdoor adventure that captures a camper’s imagination most, they are guaranteed to walk away with a new sense of empowerment. We live in a fast-paced world and the outdoor experiences at camp prepare campers to tackle the world with creativity, determination and humility. Just get outside and try it!

Camp Changed My Kid

P19I 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.P43

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

Scott-201-2When 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.Scott-20

Teachers 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!”

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