Camp Laurel Blog

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Teamwork and Independence Go Together at Camp

I fondly remember my summers at camp: living in a cabin with 10 other boys and my counselors, playing sports for sunset to sundown, Intercamp games, College Days, the list goes on. And while I remember those amazing summers like they were yesterday, they were almost 40 years ago! While I enjoyed camp in my time, kids today benefit from the experience more than ever.

Today’s world has become far more competitive when it comes to youth sports. In many cases, the chance to play many sports throughout the year is replaced by the need to focus on one sport. Children no longer play little league baseball until it’s soccer season until it’s basketball season. It seems that, at eight years old, children pick a sport to concentrate on and hope you are good enough to make the neighborhood traveling team. That’s a lot of pressure at a young age.

At Camp Laurel, children play every sport they want. Newcomers to a sport can learn the rules and fundamentals while experienced campers focus on improving skills. Everyone is met at their respective levels by talented coaches who share their passion of the game. Campers can be part of the team, get ample playing time and learn to love the game.

Children today are overly reliant on technology. Time playing outside with friends has been replaced with screen-time. Often times TV, computers and cell phones replace meaningful play time with others. Camp affords children the opportunity to unplug for the summer, enjoying interaction with their peers and counselors.

Campers also gain a new sense of independence and responsibility at camp. They help keep their cabin and area clean during the summer. They learn to make their bed, put away their clothes and work with their friends to keep the whole cabin clean. They learn to communicate with each to problem-solve. Many parents notice their children come home from camp more confident and independent.

All in all, camp allows children to take a deep breath, relax, have fun, grow as a person, foster friendships and create a treasure trove of memories that will last a lifetime!

Camp Brothers and Sisters

…More than tradition…

How do people develop into good role models? Are they easy to pick out? What character traits make them up? Like everything in life, being a good role model takes practice. It’s rarely a responsibility that anyone is initially prepared for, but Laurel provides campers an experience that will help tremendously.

Campers in Bec and Bago (7th to 9th graders) have the opportunity to be Camp Big Brothers and Sisters. Their “little” will be their biggest fan! The relationship between camp brothers or sisters is more than just a tradition. It’s one of the first chances at making a difference in someone’s life.  And to be completely honest, it feels really good to have others look up to you!

Building the relationship is the first step in the process. Something as simple as going out of your way to say hi and ask them how they are doing is a great way to start. You could stop by their table at lunch to check in. Or seek them out during all-camp events. It only takes a few of these interactions before they feel connected and ready to be led in the right direction.

Being a role model at camp is so much more than being a good friend. It’s about following Camp Laurel’s philosophy of being “kinder than necessary”, choosing your attitude even when things may not go your way, and of course, having fun!

Camp Benefits Everyone

Camp is one of the great positive experiences that can truly alter the course of ones’ life.  Campers and counselors are exposed to new ideas, activities and situations that provide eye-opening opportunities. Campers can try a new sport that might become a passion resulting in making a high school sports team. Counselors might realize that working with children is their calling in life.

Campers from different regions are exposed to new programs and activities that may not be widely available in their area… wakeboarding, equestrian, stand-up paddling to name a few. They may discover a passion for cooking in ChefCamp or the wide variety of artistic endeavors beyond painting.

Counselors experience new things as they learn to care for others. They’re afforded the opportunity to instruct and coach in their area of expertise. They meet peers and mentors from all over the world – creating a network of people with shared interests and goals.

Campers and counselors learn about kindness, patience and community as they share time, space and triumphs with their cabinmates and friends. Camp provides a place for all to unplug and mentally recharge. A place where we celebrate achievements and embrace learning opportunities. Everyone plays sports; everyone gets up on waterskis; everyone sings around the campfire. Everyone is challenged at the appropriate level and improves, whether in the arts, athletics, acting or adventure. Everyone has a place at camp.

Now’s the Time…

Our Junior and Senior Bec and Bago campers returned from their Boston and Montreal extended trips and had amazing time. As they came back into camp, Jem hopped on each motorcoach to welcome everyone home and remind the campers they are now back at camp and out of the “real world.” This quick reminder is a good time to re-set the campers as they head back into camp for the next two weeks of activities, program and fun. Super Seniors are, of course, still out on their trip and having a blast. This is their time to unplug together as a group before they come back into camp Sunday and enter their final 12 days as Laurel campers.

Back in Readfield, our program continues to hum along as we head into Week #6 with the Lion King Musical, Sports Night Championships, Dance Showcase, Camper Talent Night, and final rounds of intercamps and tournaments. As with most camps, early in Week #7, we slide into culminating special events and programs. While the calendar turns soon to August, and it’s starting to feel like College Days may be upon us…there’s still so much more to do! And as we tell everyone – campers and staff – take advantage of your time now!

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…

Yes, You Can

“No” is a word that children hear a lot. No talking in the classroom. No running in the hallways. No playing ball in the house. No to anything that gets clothes dirty. No. No. No. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that “yes” is one of the many reasons that children so eagerly anticipate camp each summer. Of course safety is always a factor, and children also have parameters at camp for that reason. However, those parameters extend much further at summer camp than they do at home and school. At summer camp, campers are encouraged to climb walls, zip down ropes, run, get dirty and play ball. Even when they express doubt in themselves, they are encouraged with, “Yes, you can.” There is no pressure to be the best at something or to even be good at it, simply to try it. With such encouragement, many campers venture into previously unexplored territory and discover that they can, in fact, do things they previously thought they couldn’t.

The benefits of such encouragement extend beyond the development of courage to try new things. Children become more open to possibilities. They develop the skills to venture out of their comfort zone and examine situations from different angles. A refined sense of creativity helps them attack tasks that previously seemed difficult or even impossible. They learn to comprehend the importance of trying, particularly when the time and place is right. With such perspective, “no” and “yes” become words less associated with ability and more associated with restraint. If they’re talking in the classroom, they can’t understand what the teacher is saying. School is not an environment that makes running in the hallways safe. Things tend to break when they play ball in the house. The clothes they wear when they’re not at camp are just a little nicer than the ones they tend to wear at camp. In contrast, camp is a safe environment for them to talk, laugh, run, play, climb and get messy in ways that are productive. In short, it’s an environment with less restraint in mind. Once children are able to understand the symbiotic relationship between “yes” and “no,” they are better able to accept “no” for what it actually means: It’s not in your best interest.

Media Break

Do you ever find yourself wishing your children would put their phones away for one day? If so, then consider an opportunity for them to put their phones (and all other forms of media) away for several weeks. One of the primary goals of summer camp is to encourage children to be active while interacting with each other and the environment. In order to facilitate this, most camps have strict restrictions regarding the use of technology. Neither campers nor staff are permitted to have phones, laptops, television, video games, or anything capable of accessing the web. If you think you can hear your children groaning already, think again. Most campers actually report that they enjoy the media break camp provides.

With conditions such as social media anxiety and Facebook fatigue on the rise, it’s no wonder that campers value a break. Not only is it a nice reminder that there is more to life than Twitter or Instagram, time spent with friends at camp reiterates the value of interpersonal communication. Body language speaks volumes. LOL is never quite the same as the sound of a friend’s laughter, and ROFL never has quite the same effect as actually seeing someone so doubled over with laughter that they’re rolling on the floor. The former are strictly exchanges. The latter are experiences, and it’s experience that makes memories. Virtually no one ever mentions that time that “so and so” texted “such and such.” But they do recall that time by the Waterfront…or in the bunk or cabin or…in the Dining Hall, for several years after it happens. Those are the types of memories over which campers exchange fond tears on the last night of their last summer at camp and, in many instances, the post camp reunions to come.

Seeing and hearing real time reactions also keeps children in touch with acceptable behavior when it comes to communication. By seeing firsthand how people respond to them, children are able to gauge when they’ve gone to extremes that may be hurtful to others. Likewise, they are also able to take note of those conversational approaches that receive positive responses from camp friends as well as those that even help them make new friends. In other words, campers don’t miss their social media because it is replaced with time with each other. Children are less likely to bully each other or express thoughts or ideas they may later regret. In short, people are a much better deterrent to unacceptable behavior than a monitor or phone screen. There is much more immediacy and accountability.

The media break that camp provides helps children put social media into perspective as well. They come to understand that social media is just an interim form of communication rather than the exclusive form. Yes, it’s a fun way to keep in touch with friends, including those camp friends who live far distances and are rarely seen away from camp, but it’s also not the sum total of life. Rather, it’s a fun tool for engaging with others when it’s not possible to see them in person, and its importance should not be overvalued.

Most importantly, what children learn during their media break at camp is that they can live without it. Not only is it possible to live without it, life can be enjoyable while doing so. Chances are, those who have been to summer camp think twice before declaring that they could never live without their phone or other media devices, because they know otherwise. And they also know that sometimes the fun of communication is the creativity with which they must go about it in interpersonal situations.

 

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