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Dance at Camp

A lot is made of sports at summer camp, but most summer camps also offer many programs in the arts.  Dance is one such program that is becoming increasingly popular among both boys and girls.  Like the many sports available to try, summer camp dance programs give campers the opportunity to experiment with several different dance styles.  Aside from the traditional jazz, instruction is often available in contemporary, modern, hip hop, and ballet.  In addition to offering instruction in multiple styles of dance, many camps also form competitive dance teams that, like sports teams, travel to other camps to compete in dance competitions throughout the summer.  Even if campers aren’t quite ready to audition for So You Think You Can Dance, being a member of a camp dance team is still well within reach.  Typically, because summer camp staff work hard to make their camps a safe environment for children to feel encouraged to step out of their comfort zones and try new things, more emphasis is placed on interest than ability.  Many camps create teams for beginners as well as the more experienced.  Summer camp dance teams are also the reason many campers find their camp dance programs a great way to pursue a non sports related interest yet still be competitive.

Another reason that summer camp dance programs have become so popular is that they provide an outlet to still be physically active in a creative environment. Summer camp is about letting go and not being afraid to act a little bit silly.  Dance provides the same disciplinary and physical training as traditional sports yet also gives campers the opportunity to express themselves and sometimes even be a tad goofy through artistic choreography.  Dance instruction is often provided by trained dance instructors or college students who compete on their university dance team or are pursuing a career in the field of dance.  The availability of instruction in popular forms of dance such as hip hop has also driven the popularity of dance.

Dance is also versatile. Even though not every camper has a desire to be competitive in dance, campers enjoy learning new moves in dance class and then using them to choreograph bunk or cabin dance numbers for camp shows or talent contests.  They also like showing off their moves on the dance floor during camp dances. Having the opportunity to practice new dance moves in an open, accepting environment such as summer camp gives campers the confidence to continue learning, practicing, and trying what they’ve learned at home.

Making Global Connections

One thing that isn’t entirely evident to people who’ve only recently begun to familiarize themselves with the world of summer camp is the level of connection that it provides, not just to a regional network of people, but to those from different states and even countries. The campers and staff members that make up America’s Finest Summer Camps come from all parts of the globe to bring together a multitude of cultures. According to Fransec Pedro, analyst for the Center for Research and Information with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, global awareness and effective communication across cultures are essential in today’s international economy. Exposure to many different cultures provides campers and staff members with experiences throughout the summer that ultimately help them learn and integrate these skills into their lives.

The challenges that are sometimes involved in effective communication across cultures help campers at America’s Finest Summer Camps learn how to express themselves efficiently. When exposed to multiple cultures, it’s not only important to use language resourcefully in order to express oneself but to be a good listener. Understanding that people have various ways of thinking, express themselves differently, and that those differences sometimes affect our world view is no longer a novel skill but a requirement for success in today’s world. “Students need to graduate from high school not only workforce-ready and college-ready, but they also need to be globally competent,” says Alexis Menten, Assistant Director of the Asia Society.

Inevitably, there are sometimes mis-communications but such stumbles are part of a learning process that, like other skills, requires practice. Connecting with people from all over the globe helps children understand that the world reaches beyond their immediate surroundings. In the process, they learn to think internationally when building their social networks. This often leads to opportunities that they may not have otherwise have had. For many a summer camp staff member or camper, the process of learning how to connect begins and grows during their at camp.

Demographics are not the sole aspect of summer camp that makes it the ideal setting for “becoming global”, however. The very structure of camp is surprisingly global. As in the real world, the camp world expands outward from the individual. Campers and counselors must learn to function as a bunk or cabin. Then, as a bunk or cabin, they must figure out how to be part of a larger group of other bunks or cabins of campers the same age. From there, they must all learn how to work with other campers of various ages to become what makes “camp” a unit, rather than hundreds of individuals. Being part of the camp unit is what campers and staff members alike report as the most meaningful part of summer camp.

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.

Summers and Camp Belong in Maine…And So Do You!

Camp Laurel is a proud member of the Maine Camp Experience. We think Summers and Camp Belong in Maine…And So Do You! Enter to win a Maine Vacation by visiting the Maine Camp Experience website…just follow this link: www.mainecampexperience.com/visit.

Why Maine…

Lakes…Pine Forests…Even Moose
There’s a reason people talk about Maine in such reverential tones. The state has 2,200 lakes. Warm, inviting, crystal clear bodies of water that make most other lakes look like swimming holes. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of pine forests.

Temperate days and comfortable nights, where you feel you can touch the sky. And more miles of beautiful coastline than California. Even mountains — Mt. Katahdin is one of the highest peaks in New England. It’s the perfect setting for summer, one that can’t be matched anywhere.

Tradition
As Forbes noted, there’s something unique about summer camps in Maine. From our acres of prime waterfront to our unspoiled wilderness, Maine has been the only destination of choice for thousands of camp families, with friendships that stretch from generation to generation.

Our summer camps feature the finest facilities, the most sought-after staff and the most unique range of off-site trips. And with more than 100 Maine camps, there’s something to suit everyone.

Geographical Diversity
The lure of Maine extends way beyond the Northeast. Our campers come from throughout the U.S., some from all over the world. (More than 20,000 campers live in 30 states, and several countries!)

Your children will learn to stretch their boundaries and experience life through the eyes of someone whose life is not a mirror image of their own.

Easy To Get Here…Hard To Leave
Maine is a lot closer than you think. An easy drive or flight from most places in the Northeast– about the same distance as a winter ski trip. A great vacation for the entire family.

Whether you’re looking for the famed seaside resorts of Bar Harbor and Camden or a lodge on one of our pristine lakes, Maine has something for everyone — especially kids! Come and visit our Maine Camps and you’ll never want to leave.

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

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.

Summer Camp: Curbing Childhood Obesity

With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that nearly 1 in 5 children between the ages of 6 and 19 is obese, it has become imperative that we, as parents, make as much effort to set our children up for success in establishing proper food habits, just as we would in other areas of their lives.  Three primary causes consistently cited for childhood obesity are lack of physical activity, an unbalanced diet and overeating.  An often overlooked benefit to summer camp is the significant impact it has in curbing childhood obesity by promoting an active lifestyle and healthy eating practices.  In this multi-part series, we will examine the efforts being made by summer camps to battle poor diet and exercise.

Part I.  Physical Activity
Beyond traditional summer camp sports such as soccer, basketball, baseball, roller hockey and gymnastics, many camps are increasingly focusing on the development of extensive programs for such popular fitness activities as spin, running, weights, zumba, yoga and the martial arts.  The instant popularity of these programs suggests that children have a natural interest in exercise and will engage in it of their own accord in the absence of many of the daily distractions that promote a more lethargic lifestyle but are not readily available at summer camp, such as computers, video game systems and television.  The ability to participate in fitness programs as a form of fun also encourages campers to approach such activities with an open mind rather than as something forced on them and that is only done out of necessity.  

Some camps are also experimenting with nutrition programs that marry cooking activities with fitness. Such programs teach campers how to plan healthy meals and snacks and then prepare them.  Cooking programs are among the most popular at summer camp.  To merge them with nutrition is a clever way to demonstrate the importance of using discretion in choosing what we eat and consuming it in moderation.  In the past, the idea of “diet,” as in depriving oneself of necessary nutrients, has been cited as a contributing factor in the growth of eating disorders and yo-yo dieting.

For those who question the lasting effects of fitness and nutritional habits adapted at summer camp, statistics indicate that they won’t be going away anytime soon.  According to the American Camp Association, more than half of children who pursue a new interest at camp will continue pursuing that interest once they return home.

Up next, part II.  An Unbalanced Diet

Feeling Groovy at Camp–Now and Then!

When I think about “camp songs,” I immediately think about singing around campfires, but each year at camp also has a distinct popular music soundtrack. Recently, campers weighed in on Twitter about the tunes that remind them of past summers and that got me thinking about what the United States and camp was like in the 1960s and 1970s.

Hadley Hury remembers You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown (1969) and Music Man and the Counselors’ Show from 1970. That’s also when Charlie Ziff was theatre director, Hadley was assistant director and Jay Newman had the job of radio director for The Fantastiks. 1969 was the year that campers watched the moonwalk on television in the theatre and there was lots of talk about some “big thing going on in some little town called Woodstock!”

Bobby Brickman says he has vivid memories that revolve around people who played lead roles in productions of Brigadoon in 1961, Carousel in 1963, and Bye Bye Birdie in 1963. It’s clear that for a very long time, camp has been the place to put creativity and passion into great performances!

Barbara Gough adds that when she hears the captivating bass line of “Reach Out of the Darkness” by Friend and Lover, she’s immediately transported back to 1968. Friend and Lover was a one hit wonder and their song ranked in the Top Ten during 1968 when Barbara says campers “danced to this playing on the jukebox in the Canteen all summer long!” The song embraced social change with lyrics like “I think it’s so groovy now, That people are finally getting together. . .Reach out in the darkness. . .And you may find a friend.”

Back then, while campers made friends and memories, things in the United States as a whole were not so peaceful. When students in California held a Selective Service sit-in, 3,000 of them were arrested and housed in the San Francisco 49ers’ old football stadium. A promo man got a sound truck and started broadcasting “Reach Out of the Darkness” towards the students. That’s what started the song’s rise up the charts—and why campers miles away listened to the hit that summer!

The historical events of those times grounded the more multicultural and open society we have today, but during the 1960s, many people felt uncertain as to what the future held. In 1968, when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, “Reach Out in the Darkness,” rocketed up the charts and like other big hits that year, captured the country’s changing mood. Songs that also ranked in 1968 include the Rascals’, “People Got to Be Free,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” James Brown’s “Say It Loud–I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and versions of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Gladys Knight and the Pips and Marvin Gaye.


Summer camp is always a microcosm of our world-at-large where campers practice and learn skills for negotiating the world, where assumptions can be challenged, and where diverse people find ways to celebrate community and appreciate each other. One great thing about camp is that for a few weeks, the world grows a little smaller and everyone listens to the same soundtrack. In a fast-paced and interconnected world, camp “sounds” like the perfect place for connecting with others and as Hadley says, every summer adds up to “good times for campers and staff.” It’s often only later that campers realize how much the experience has shaped them and the way they see the world–much like how hit songs can illuminate the past in retrospect. The music (and fashions) may change through the years, but the core camp experience is never goes out of date.

We’d love to hear about how your time at camp contributed to your understanding about others as well as what you’re looking forward to most this summer!

Thanks for the image Cre8iveDoodles ~*~ New Beginnings!

I can do it myself!

While no actual human being develops in the precise sequence of a child development chart, new parents quickly learn that children do go through dramatic stages. Like other skills, becoming self-reliant takes time and can only develop through real time.

To begin with, parents often track all the “firsts” that a child achieves on a daily basis but as the list grows longer we come to expect changes. The way that most young children acquire language and skills is so rapid that later—even when parents are getting a little more sleep—it becomes difficult to remain excited about each previous new word or action! However, there is one stage that most parents don’t forget and that’s when a child starts declaring, “I can do it myself.” All of a sudden, totally dependent infants morph into adamant creatures with distinct needs and wants. This exasperating but essential stage is filled with cute moments when children seem to hover between babyhood and childhood. But it can also be a difficult time for some parents if they fear that their child may not need them any longer.

As children mature, they continue to develop and require more experiences where they can make independent choices without parents. If parents don’t allow children to make decisions and do things on their own, they won’t develop confidence or realize that they are not just extensions of their caregivers. It’s a tricky line that parents walk! Sometimes giving children room to spread their wings seems counter intuitive, but in order to grow into a self-reliant adult, children need to struggle without the offer of a quick fix. Even when parents can take care of things, the better choice is to support a child through the process of working through and solving problems. Long after a problem has been forgotten, a self-reliant child will remember hearing, “Wow! You amaze me! You really worked hard to figure that out.”

A child who is self-reliant can think for themselves, trusts their own judgment and feels in control of their life. This leads to becoming more active, independent and competent adults and citizens. The child also develops skills to draw on inner resources and use coping mechanisms even when they feel things are not easy. Sending a child to camp is a perfect way for a child to further develop self-reliance in a nurturing, safe and supportive environment. The whole camp experience is designed to illustrate to the camper that becoming a successful person takes personal strength as well as playing a role in a larger group–with the emphasis always on FUN. I can’t think of a more wonderful childhood experience for facilitating such important life skills!

Of course, the process of becoming self-reliant is not easy, but that’s where camp staff and counselors are there to help your child adjust and learn. If you wonder how to help your child develop self-reliance, remember that each child comes to conclusions for themselves, so the only way to experience camp is to be a camper. They are building on early determination to “do it themselves,” and those first fierce moments of independence are precious. Camp offers a full range of fun, adventure, and opportunities to experience emotions with different adults and in new, safe situations. By the end of summer camp, campers bring a lot of stuff home. There’ll be great crafts, stories to tell and some inevitable laundry to wash—but every camper in the world—also brings home a new understanding of themselves.

How did you learn self-reliance at summer camp and what strategies helped you support your independence? Which experiences do you think especially helped kids develop inner strengths? We look forward to your stories too!

Emma

Thanks for the image AmberStrocel.

Kid Tales — Stories of Camp

Summer Camp is a time of firsts. The first time you try to catch a ball with a lacrosse stick (and realize you can!). The first time you get on on water-skis. The first time you serve an ace in tennis. The first time you get up on stage in front of hundreds of kids your age. The first time you scale the climbing tower…trot with your very own horse…..Now that camp has ended for the summer, we thought we’d share some tales from camp. What have the kids taken home with them to last the next 9 months, until camp starts again?

Many families are surprised at the sheer amount of first-time experiences their kids have at summer camp. When Justin, a 12 year old who attended camp this year, was asked to list things he did for the first time at camp, he had quite the list. “I learned how to play guitar, archery, and golf,” he said. During our conversation, it also came out that he also learned new baseball skills and got to play tennis. He also experienced the camp evening programs for the first time, which he raved about as being “fun and creative.” Justin’s going to be talking to a lot of people about camp when he goes back to school. And what is he going to tell them? “I made a lot of new friends and tried a lot of new things. I had the best time!”

My own summer camp experiences – way back in the 80s – were largely defined by a feeling of the summer camp community diffusing at the end of the summer. Of course, we would often promise to write letters we never sent or make long distance calls our parents wouldn’t pay for, but when summer was over, camp was tucked firmly behind us for another year.

With today’s technology, however, the summer camp community can stay together all year, even when they return to the home cities, states and countries. We have an active Facebook community where current campers, families and alumni can connect, share stories and keep up to date with the staff and the current session. Much of the chatter is about how much everyone misses camp and wishes they were back on the lake, riding the horses, singing in the dining hall, etc. For those who’ve connected to Camp Laurel through Facebook and other new social networks (Twitter anyone?), the camp experience doesn’t end with teary good-byes in August. So when will we meet again?

Olivia

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