Camp Laurel Blog

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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!

Staff Orientation Begins!

IMG_3130We’ve just completed our Pre-Season Training Programs and are welcoming the full Camp Laurel Staff today!! You can taste the excitement in the air! Our counselors are coming from near and far anticipating another magical summer on Echo Lake. Prior to today’s Staff Orientation kick-off, our Athletic, Inter-Arts, Waterfront, Tennis, Adventure and Equestrian Department Heads have been busy training and preparing their program areas for Camper Arrival Day – June 27!! Our Head Counselor and Campus Leader Team has been going strong since last Monday and we are set!! Now it’s time to welcome the Counselors at our Opening Staff Campfire and spend the next week getting ready for the best campers anywhere!

Food… Glorious Food

ChefCamp2 One of the perks about sending your child to Camp Laurel 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 ChefCamp program at Camp Laurel. ChefCamp is led by our Head Chef and specialists who have a wealth of experience. The incredible, fully-integrated culinary center at Camp Laurel 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.

P14 ChefCamp (7)When 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, ChefCamp is a great way for kids to explore culinary arts.

Camp: A Safe Place to be Silly

P56-57 (2) 2 Campers donning big, silly hats and oversized costumes can be found dancing and singing their hearts out on stage at Camp Laurel. You can see campers giggling in groups, and others transforming into super heroes and villains as their imaginations run wild. Of course, staff members get in on the action too, letting their inner-child emerge by singing, dancing and playing along with the campers. Campers and counselors feel safe at camp; safe to be silly, safe to use their imaginations and safe to just “let go.” They learn right away that camp is a judgment-free space, where they can be themselves and act like a kid. In a world where kids are exposed to adult themes in their TV shows, music and social media, it can be easy for them to lose the silly, magical, goofy part of themselves, in fear of looking “uncool” to their peers. Not at camp, though.

Camp Laurel encourages campers to be silly in a variety of ways. Programmed “free time” allows campers to explore and socialize with their friends in a way that is supervised, but not highly structured. This gives campers time to use their imaginations. Some campers like to put on skits or host a cabin comedy club. They are encouraged to do and say the silly, kid-like things that come so naturally to them.

P60 Quest (7)During structured activities, kids are supported when they speak their minds, share their opinions and engage in discussions. They are taught to listen to and respect each other, which gives children the green light to do and say silly things without fear of embarrassment or ridicule. By exploring this side, kids develop a sense of humor. A good sense of humor helps children be spontaneous, to see different sides of a situation, enjoy the playful parts of life and not take themselves too seriously. These character traits are extremely helpful for kids who have a lot of stress and responsibility in school, sports and life back in the real world. A good sense of humor also increases their self-esteem, which is always a bonus!

P20-21 (58)Counselors are counselors because they like kids, and they enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of children. They are fun, relatable and great at being silly. They know they are role models for the campers, so they make it a point to set a good example. When counselors can sing, dance and act silly, campers catch on quickly and begin to feel safe to do the same. They are also a good example of knowing a “time and place” to be silly. They model how to calm themselves down when it is time to be serious, and teach campers how to differentiate between a place where it’s okay to be silly (free time) and a time when being calm and focused is more productive (quiet time in the cabins).

Children are expected to be focused and serious for a large portion of their day in the “real world,” so it is important to foster their childlike wonder and silliness whenever possible. At Camp Laurel, kids can feel safe to show off their silly side.

Unique Experiences at Camp Laurel

P10-11 (26)When your child heads back to school after a summer at Camp Laurel, 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 crafted my mom a necklace in my metalsmithing class. 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!”

P6-7 (6)The great thing about Camp Laurel 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.

Front Cover (4)Campers can explore their creative side, and try new artistic outlets not found in their typical English class or art elective. Jewelry making, 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.

We at Summer Camp are Thankful for…

Every year around this time we pause to reflect on those aspects of our lives about which we are most thankful.  To celebrate this turkey day, we thought we’d share what makes us most thankful for summer camp:

Our camp families: Without our campers, there would be no summer camp.  We’re thankful you value your summer camp experiences so much that you return every summer, and that you continue to build and carry on the traditions that make America’s Finest Summer Camps so special.

Our camp family: The unique family we are all a part of each summer.  The bonds that campers and staff create truly do last a lifetime.  We love every moment of the summer when we are laughing, playing, singing, and sharing together.

Camp Memories: Every year we bring home new memories that motivate us to make the next summer even more special than the previous.  Talking with our families and camp friends about our summers and sharing in each others’ unique experiences while at summer camp are some of our favorite times during the winter months.  They help us get over our “camp sickness” and carry us through those months between summers.  Speaking of camp friends…

Camp Friends: Every camper knows that camp friends are friends for life. Our camp friends share some very special memories that one can only get at summer camp.  Our camp friends are also great at helping us get through those ten months that we’re not at camp by reminding us of just how special summer camp is, whether it’s through the distance that makes seeing each other at camp every summer so special or the closeness of having a camp pal who  “gets it”.

Amazing Staff Members from all over the Globe: Summer Camps are only as good as their staff, and we’re thankful that we have some of the most amazing staff anywhere in the world.  Each summer, you come from all over the world and commit yourselves 24/7 to insuring our campers have a safe, amazing summer.  We know it’s hard work, and we are grateful that so many of you find the experience so gratifying that you return year after year.

The Breathtaking Scenery of Maine and Northeast Pennsylvania: We love where our camps are located almost as much as we love our camps.  The beautiful woodlands of Maine, the mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania, hiking paths, the lakes that are such a big part of our camp experiences and traditions, and the wildlife all make the perfect backdrops for our amazing campuses.

The Beautiful Campuses that are our Summer Homes: Just like the houses we live in the other ten months of the year, each of our summer homes has its own energy, homey feeling, and special places for gathering, playing or contemplating. We’re proud that ours are some of the most awesome facilities in camping and look forward to continuing to build and improve them each summer.  We know our campers eagerly await opening day when they finally get to see how camp has changed since the previous summer and what new additions might be waiting for them.

Our Year-Round Staff: Yes, even summer camp requires a staff to work year-round.  After each summer, they go back to their offices and immediately begin planning the next, thinking about what new programs we might add or how we might make existing ones better.  They begin traveling, recruiting new staff members.  They create newsletters, Tweets, and blogs.  They answer the phones when you call.  They plan the menus.  In short, they tirelessly build each amazing summer day by day.

Being a Part of Such an Iconic American Tradition:  All over the world, American summer camps are an icon of Americana.  They’re unique to America and so many have found them inspirational that there have been movies and television shows that feature them, as well as books and songs written about them.  We are also grateful that many of our international friends are beginning to see the value in the American summer camp experience and, increasingly, are joining us from all corners of the globe.

We hope this holiday season that we’ve inspired you to contemplate what it is about camp that you’re most thankful for and how it has enriched your life.  We encourage you to share those thoughts with us.  We’d love to hear them!

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Now is the Time to Start Choosing a Summer Camp

The leaves are falling off the trees and the weather is starting to cool down, but it’s not too early to start thinking about sending your children to summer camp next summer.  There is certainly no shortage of American summer camps and finding the right one for your children is essential to their success there.  There’s a lot to think about, which makes now a great time to start thinking about what you want in a camp.

Traditional summer camps are a great way to introduce children to summer camp because they offer a broad and well-rounded experience.  Children still trying to find their niche in a sport or hobby find great success at these camps because they’re given opportunities throughout the summer to take part in many different types of activities.

The length of the summer camp you choose is also important.  Most overnight camps accept campers from the age of seven.  When considering camps, it’s key to consider your family’s lifestyle, your children’s other activities and commitments, and even your children themselves. Many embrace the traditional seven week experience because it removes the stress of trying to figure out how to keep children active and entertained during summer vacation.

Consider how far away from home you want your child to travel as well.  Some parents prefer to send their children to a summer camp within a few hours of home while others view summer camp as a way to introduce a global perspective to their children and send them abroad to attend summer camp.  This is particularly becoming a trend in Europe, where European parents are deciding that they’d like their children to experience traditional American summer camps.  However, increasingly, parents from all over the world are making this decision as well.  Many American parents find the amazing reputations, beautiful campuses, and the breathtaking scenery of Maine idyllic and send their children from as far away as California, Florida, and many other states.

The structure of a camp’s program should be given careful consideration as well.  As they grow older, most campers like to make decisions about their daily activities at camp, and Camp Laurel gives them the opportunity to do so.  However, we find that younger campers, especially those new to summer camp, prefer a structured program with all or most of the decisions about their daily activities made for them.

Once you have decided what type of camp, length, location, and program are right for your child, you will likely find your search narrowed to a manageable number of camps.  At that point, it’s important to start learning about the camps that fit your criteria.  If you’re reading this blog, you’ve already found Camp Laurel’s website and are on the right track.  We also invite you to check out our Facebook page, and sign up to follow our Twitter feed.  By doing this now, you will give yourself plenty of time to watch, read, and listen.  If you are unfamiliar with camp, you will be pleasantly surprised at how active our summer camp community remains throughout the winter.  In fact, many of our families will tell you that camp never really ends for them—and that’s a good thing.

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