How Campers and Staff Become Leaders at Camp Starlight

January 2nd, 2017

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“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others” – John Quincy Adams

 

From the moment you wake up at camp until the moment you fall asleep, you have countless opportunities to inspire, encourage, support, love and empower those around you. There will be many times throughout the day when you see someone struggling, whether it is with homesickness, trying over and over again to get up on their skis, or finding the courage to try the ropes course. At any given moment, you have the chance to be a leader by serving others. They may need some advice, an extra hand or just someone to listen. When you go out of your way to help others, that is a characteristic of a leader.

 

You don’t have to be a camp counselor to be a leader. You can lead by following directions, being honest, showing good sportsmanship, acting with dignity and being kind to others. You never know who is watching and there is usually a good chance that a younger or newer camper is watching you to see how you deal with certain situations. Whether you make the right choices are not, people are watching and will do what you do. It is important to do the right thing, even if nobody is watching. This is another true characteristic of a leader.

 

Although everyone has the opportunity to become a leader every day, some will be trusted with a valuable role to lead others. As a big brother or a big sister, you can help younger and less experienced campers get a feel for what camp is like. It is a very big responsibility to be a mentor to someone else, and campers take it very seriously.   Campers have the responsibility of being a big sister or big brother and lead by serving. They take the younger campers needs and wants into consideration and help make their adjustment to camp easy.  They know that being a leader is not about them, it’s about how they can build up and encourage those that are following them.

 

Camp counselors get a unique opportunity to learn how to lead at camp.  Not only are they responsible for day to day activities, organizing events, and making sure everyone is safe, they are also role models. The way they talk and think and act is being watched by hundreds of little eyes every day. They lead by example, showing kindness and patience to everyone around them.  They empower others by encouraging them to do things they are afraid to do, standing by them when they fall down and offering a hand to help them back up.  Many camper say they look up to their camp counselors, and strive to be a counselor themselves one day.

 

When campers return to their normal life, they put the leadership skills they learned at camp to use.  They have an easier time standing up to peer pressure, they speak up to bullies, and they follow directions in class and show good sportsmanship on the field.  They are leaders in every aspect of their lives, because of what they learned at camp.

 

You don’t have to have a title to be a leader. A leader is someone who simply empowers others, serves others, and works as a team player.  At camp, campers will learn the true traits of a leader, and will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Break Your Usual Routine

December 26th, 2016

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It is pretty hard to step out of your comfort zone when you are literally in your comfort zone. Being in the comfort of your own home makes breaking your normal routine a little difficult.  When you are at home, you find that you are always waking up in your same room, eating breakfast at the same place, going to the same places and hanging out with the same people who are doing the same things.  Many people like routine; they enjoy the security of knowing what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen and not having any surprises. Unfortunately, things can get very boring very quickly this way.

 

So when you make the decision to physically get out of your comfort zone, and head to Camp Starlight for the summer, you have no choice but to do different things, with different people, in a totally different place. Breaking your usual routine is a little bit easier when you’re somewhere else.

 

Breaking up your routine is good for you for many reasons.  First, it helps you to see things differently. It also help you to become more creative, more perceptive, and be OK with not being in control all the time.  When you get out of your comfort zone, you are bound to make mistakes. The good thing about mistakes is that they are a learning opportunity. The more mistakes you make the more you learn.  Doing things that make you nervous, afraid, or uncomfortable can be a great teaching tool.  If you are normally an indoor sort of person, bike riding, rock climbing, or learning to sail may make you kind of nervous. However, trying these things exposes you to experiences that are new and exciting, and can teach you a lot about yourself.

 

When you expose yourself to things that are unfamiliar, it makes your brain work. When your brain is working, you’re constantly learning and growing. It is great brain exercise to step out of your comfort zone and do things that are a little different.

 

Another great benefit of breaking up your every day routine is that it also allows you to break bad habits. If you find that you are constantly biting your nails while you watch TV, you may be able to break that habit at camp since you will be too busy having fun to care about TV.  If you have a bad habit of interrupting people, you will quickly learn to communicate more effectively by being surrounded by new people at camp. Breaking up your routine also causes you to break bad habits.

 

The great thing about stepping out of your comfort zone at camp is that you hardly have to do any work at all. Just by merely being at camp you are already taking the first step in changing your routine.  Every morning when you wake up at camp, there is a new day ahead of you with new experiences to try, new people to meet, and new things to learn.  Unless you sail, dance, create, climb, swim, bike ride, hike, and explore on a daily basis at home, being at camp is definitely going to be a change in your normal every day routine.  It is going to require you to do things that make you a little nervous, but in the end will give you a boost of confidence.

 

Habit and routine can be comforting, and can be a great way to stay organized and on track. However, switching it up a little bit is good for your brain, good for your soul, and good for yourself confidence.

 

 

The Importance of “Rest Hour”

December 19th, 2016

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Fact: At camp, you are “go, go go.” From the moment you wake up, your schedule is packed with things to do. Some days you’re out at the lake all day, other days you are singing, dancing, acting, crafting and creating from the moment you open your eyes until you fall asleep. Your days are filled with fun and adventure, hanging out with new friends, eating delicious foods, trying new things and making life long memories. With days like these, it’s easy to understand why sometimes campers just need to rest. And as seriously as we take fun at camp, we are just as serious about rest. We know the importance of slowing down, taking a break and recharging, and all of our campers take part in “rest hour” each and every day.

 

When campers are constantly on the move, when they fly from activity to activity, they sometimes don’t have time to reflect on things they are seeing, doing and learning. A rest hour gives campers a chance to relax, read, listen to music, and sleep before getting back into the busyness of camp life. During this time, campers may want to write letters home, organize their cabin space, or have a conversation with a counselor that they didn’t have time for during the day. This intentional resting time is beneficial for a number of reasons.

 

Resting during the day is good for your body.  It gives you more energy and lets your body rest from all the activity during the day. Resting has also been shown to improve productivity and focus, which can really help campers who are involved in a wide variety of new tasks and skills.

 

Resting gives your mind time to let go of stress. It helps you with your patience and to reduce feelings of frustration. Campers need some time to just be alone with their thoughts and relax in their own space.

 

Camp counselors know the importance of rest hour, and although campers aren’t required to sleep during this time, counselors encourage campers to use this time to relax and unwind and help them become comfortable with alone time and silence. Campers learn that they don’t need to be entertained every second of every day, and learn to appreciate quiet time.

 

At camp, you’ll spend a lot of your day on the go. But give it two or three days, and you will be looking forward to rest hour as much as you are looking forward to sailing, soccer games, and s’mores around the campfire.

How Camp Starlight Improves Self-Confidence

December 12th, 2016

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There is nothing better than walking into your first day of school with confidence and a positive attitude.  Knowing that you look good, feel good, and have everything you need to make this an awesome school year is a great way to start the year.

 

As kids get older, there are many things that they see and hear that can affect their self-confidence. Their friends, the media, everywhere they look people are telling them what to look like and how to act and who to hang out with.  Kids who have low self-confidence are more likely to be followers rather than leaders, and can struggle with their grades, their friendships, sports, and an overall feeling of happiness.  Teachers have said many times that they can tell the difference between kids who spend their summer at camp, and those who don’t. Kids who come to school from the summer at camp have something different about them. They are eager, they are self-confident, and they are ready to be the best they can be.

 

Spending the summer at camp can really improve a camper’s self-confidence. Every day, they are surrounded by people who love, support, and encourage them.  Every day, they are encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and do things that make them a little nervous. When they succeed, their self-confidence goes through the roof. When they don’t, people who encourage them to try again surround them, and when they finally succeed, they have learned a valuable lesson.

 

Kids who are normally shy come home from camp with a ton of new friends. This teaches them that they are worthy of love, friendship, and companionship. This teaches them that they are worth listening to, that they are funny, that they are good listener, and that they make good friends.  They learn that they have something to offer to others around them, that they are good at certain things, and that they are fun to be around. As a middle or high schooler, this is vital in boosting their self-confidence.

 

When campers try new things, like the ropes course or swimming or putting on a play, they step out of their comfort zone.  They do things that they previously thought they could not do, and learn quickly that they are capable of so much more than they initially thought. This is an amazing feeling, one that they hopefully will bring with them into the following school year, and on to the rest of their life.

 

Kids who have never tried out for a sport in school, will come home with the self-confidence from summer camp to try out for the school team.  Kids who were extremely afraid of public speaking, will address their class and on the first day of school with confidence. It all happens slowly, and most of the time kids don’t even realize it’s happening. But at camp, they are constantly being exposed to new things, encouraged and supported.  They take the experiences and lessons that they learned at camp and apply it into their every day life back at school.  They feel capable, empowered, and self-confident. With this attitude, they can conquer the school year, and any other obstacle that is in their way.

 

At camp, there are multiple times a day that kids will learn and hear that they are good, they are smart, they are creative, they are athletic, and so many other positive affirmations.  Camp counselors are great at making sure kids know that they are appreciated and identifying their strengths.   If kids hear enough times that they are good enough, they will eventually begin to believe it.

 

In a world where kids are constantly comparing themselves to their peers, to celebrities, and to the rest of the world around them, it is easy for their confidence to fall through the cracks. However, spending a summer at camp is a great way to instill self-confidence in each and every camper. And provides them with a great foundation to start the new school year.

 

 

 

 

Icebreakers Are Uncomfortable, But…They Also Work Really Well

December 5th, 2016

 

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We all know that feeling you get when you hear someone say “Now we’re all going to stand up and say something about ourselves…” or “find a partner and….” Or “we are all going to stand in a circle and….” We look around, wondering if we are the only ones who feel uncomfortable or want to sink into our chair and pretend to be invisible. These icebreakers are common on the first day of school, a training class, or anywhere where there is a big group of people that need to get comfortable quickly.  Icebreakers can be uncomfortable at first, but they really do work. They help get people talking, which quickly build comfort and trust within the group.

 

Normally, shy people hate icebreakers the most. The thought of walking up to a stranger and asking about their favorite color, or standing up in front of a group and talking about their favorite sport, I won’t give them a heart attack.  But icebreakers are the best for shy people, because it allows other people to approach them and gives them a chance to talk about themselves and connect with others.

 

There are many opportunities to “break the ice “the first few days of camp.  There are a lot of new people, and everyone is a little nervous or a little shy.  Camp counselors know that “get to know you games quote can be a little uncomfortable, but they tried through and get everybody involved. By the end of the game, people who are shy and hesitant are now laughing smiling and making new friends.

 

Icebreakers are good for:

  • Sharing an experience, during, or skill that you’re good at with the rest of the group.
  • Finding other people who have the same things in common as you.
  • Lightening the mood in a typically awkward situation.

 

More often than not, campers credit icebreakers to introducing them to people who become their best friends for the entire summer.  At camp, some common icebreakers include: two truths and a lie, the toilet paper game, hula hoop and volleyball games, and celebrity bingo.

 

It’s very normal to be nervous when you arrive at camp, especially for the first time. It’s also very nervous to be uncomfortable when the counselors set up a game or activity that make you step out of your comfort zone.  However, if you can just trust in the process, you may come out of it with a new best friend, or 10.

Play-Based Learning at Camp Starlight

November 28th, 2016

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With hundreds of different activities, sports, events and things to do at camp, it is no surprise that campers spend a large portion of their day at play. Whether you’re playing on the soccer field, on the lake, on the stage or in the pool, there is never a shortage of playtime at camp. But there is more to play than just having a good time. When kids play, they learn, and when they learn, they grow. For campers, it may feel like a summer free from learning or education, but they are learning a lot while they play.

 

Studies show that when young children play, whether it is with blocks, cars, on the playground or in a sport, they are doing a lot more than having fun. Play sparks their imaginations, which helps to improve their problem solving skills and encourages creativity. Being able to play alone helps kids feel independent, while playing in a group helps kids with important values such as sharing, compromise, taking turns, patience and flexibility. More physical play, like running, jumping or dancing helps kids with their balance and coordination, and boosts their confidence. Play is the main way that kids explore the world, and is essential in their social and emotional development.

 

At camp, kids spend all summer playing, and therefore spend all summer learning. They may not realize that participating in crafts is teaching patience, hand-eye coordination and appreciation for the arts, and they may not realize that team sports is teaching them cooperation and communication. It may not be until they get home and others begin to see a change in their personality or character that they realized they learned a lot at camp. They may search their brains trying to pinpoint a moment when they learned a certain thing, and most won’t be able to. Learning through play can be a subtle process, which is also why is it so effective.

 

Play based learning is just as important as academic learning. Kids spend all year behind a desk, looking up at a teacher who is spitting out information. If they are lucky, they will get one or two teachers to use a more hands on approach to learning, but as the students get older, play and exploratory learning becomes less and less common. After spending all year filling their brains with facts and figures, a summer of play is something most kids look forward to. Some will spend their summers in front of a mind numbing computer screen or watching endless hours of TV, which does nothing for their developing minds. Kids who spend their summers running, jumping, trying, failing, laughing, communicating, climbing, making, singing and exploring learn so much more than those in front of a screen. They learn about the world around them, about their peers, and most importantly, about themselves.

 

The importance of play cannot be stressed enough when it comes to the growing minds of kids. Young kids are like sponges, and soak in information from all areas of their lives. Spending the summer at camp gives them a chance to learn differently than they do all year, and studies show that what kids learn during play may stick with them longer than listening to the same information through a lecture. When they do it themselves, when they touch and see and feel and experience something, they will remember it.

Campers play all day, which is why they love being at camp. While they are playing, they are also learning, which is why parents love summer camp. Academic learning is a vital part of childhood development, but play works on a child’s brain like nothing else can, and the best part: they don’t even know it’s happening.

Skills All Children Need for Future Success and How They Learn Them at Camp Starlight

November 21st, 2016

 

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Children are like sponges. They pick up on everything, are very perceptive and hungry for knowledge. They ask “why?” all the time because they are fascinated by how the world works and want to be “in the know” about everything around them. When they reach school age, the spend most of their days in a classroom, learning valuable skills like addition and subtraction and grammar and geography. They learn to write their name and multiply and memorize the periodic table of elements. And while all of these things are important, there are other skills that children need to learn to set them up for future success. Skills that help campers navigate the real world, help them build relationships, solve problems and communicate with others are imperative to their future success. Fortunately, most of these skills are engrained into the fabric of camp life, and campers come home with a new set of skills under their belt.

 

  1. Problem Solving– In the “real world,” there won’t always be an older sibling, parent, or camp counselor to help children with their problems. They will need to learn how to assess the situation and think of a solution. They will need to know how to use their resources to help them, and how to think outside of the box to find an answer. At Camp Starlight, children are exposed to many challenges that help them practice their problem solving skills. They are taught to observe and analyze their situation to find a solution, and encouraged not to give up when things get tough. Camp counselors are great about taking a step back and letting campers figure things out, while still being close enough to provide support and feedback when they need it.
  2. Playing well with others– This skill is a big one at camp, because when you spend 24/7 with a bunch of other people, children must learn how to work and play together. Success in the world, and in the workplace, is commonly attributed to the ability to work as a team towards a common goal. Working with coworkers to meet a deadline, even if the coworkers aren’t your favorite people in the world, is an important skill to have. If you cannot compromise, listen and communicate, it will be difficult to be successful in the future. Campers learn from the very beginning of camp how to be inclusive, good sports, and team players.
  3. Communicating clearly-When children learn to express themselves in a way that is diplomatic, honest, and sincere, they set themselves up for success. They could have the best ideas in the world, but if they are loud, always interrupt people, or are rude and condescending, their message will not be delivered properly. The same goes for campers who are naturally quiet, reserved and shy. If they never learn to speak up, the world misses out on all of their great ideas and opinions. Camp is a safe place for children to voice their concerns, ideas and beliefs, and are encouraged to speak up for what they need and want. They are also taught to listen to others respectfully, and agree to disagree when necessary. Communication is the key to success, and campers learn quickly the value of hearing others and being heard.
  4. Being openminded– Campers learn to appreciate the differences in their fellow campers, and learn to embrace everybody for who they are. Open-mindedness sets children up for success because it allows them to see things from multiple angles, which is an excellent problem solving technique. It also makes them more worldly and knowledgeable. Open minded people are successful because they see the big picture, they are less resistant to change, and are flexible in their ideas.
  5. Goal Setting– Successful people set realistic, attainable goals and work towards them. They make a plan, and work towards their goal until their plan doesn’t work anymore, which is when they make a new plan. They aren’t afraid to ask for help meeting their goals, and know that making mistakes is part of the process. At camp, campers are encouraged to set goals and work towards them all summer. Some set a goal to try something they’ve never done before, others want to learn to swim, or go a whole summer without taking a single selfie. Camp counselors encourage campers to focus on their goals and help them take the necessary steps to reach them. Children need to know how to set realistic and attainable goals now, so that when they enter the workforce, they can get things done without feeling overwhelmed or lost
  6. Time Management– Camp does a great job of keeping campers busy throughout the day. There are certain times for eating, resting, structured activities, evening activities, and free time. Although campers don’t have to worry too much about creating a schedule at camp, they are responsible for being on time to events and activities, and knowing where they need to be and when. Being late, or managing time ineffectively, is not something successful people do. Children who want to be successful need to understand the importance of time, and how to get the most done in the shortest amount of time.

 

These six skills are vital for children to grow up to be successful adults. They need to know how to interact with others as well as be responsible for their own actions, thoughts and feelings. Children learn a lot of these things by watching those around them, which is why camp counselors take all of these skills so seriously and model them as best as they can. Children leave Camp Starlight with the tools they need to become productive and successful citizens in the real world.

The Beauty of Camp Starlight

November 14th, 2016

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Chelsea takes the subway to school every morning.  Justin spends his weekends hanging out downtown with his buddies. Evan can walk to movie theaters, restaurants, and museums from the apartment where he lives. These city kids spend most of their year surrounded by concrete, honking horns and tall buildings. And that is why they, like so many other kids from big cities, really look forward to coming to camp for a change in their environment.

 

Camp Starlight is located in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. Tucked away amongst tall trees, gorgeous lakes and on acres and acres of sprawling green fields, this camp is the definition of natural beauty. When you’re here, you can really connect with nature and breathe in the fresh mountain air.

 

The lakes are a cool and refreshing place to spend the summer, whether is it fishing, swimming, stand up paddleboarding, water skiing or sailing. The view of the lake changes throughout the day and gives off a different feeling depending on when you are there. In the morning, the lake is a quiet and peaceful place to wake up to. In the afternoons, it is an exciting, water playground where campers jump, splash and play all day. And then in the evenings, the lake is a quiet and peaceful place to reflect and unwind. City kids may not get to experience such natural beauty in their everyday lives, making the beauty of camp even more special for kids who don’t get to see it very often.

 

Waking up to a view of tall forest trees and the mountains is a nice change for kids who are used to the hustle and bustle of a big city.  The natural beauty of camp makes for the perfect backdrop to pictures that campers are sure to treasure forever. Waking up each morning and breathing in the crisp mountain air is good for the heart, mind, and soul!

 

Being immersed in the beauty of the mountains is a welcome and unique experience for many campers.  Spending the summer learning to appreciate the outdoors helps campers do the same when they return home. Instead of coming home from school and sitting in front of a computer screen or TV, campers head outside to enjoy nature just like they did at camp.  They learn that they don’t need to be attached to phone, TV or computer to have a good time and that real relationships trump online relationships every time.

 

Being in the middle of the woods exposes campers, especially those who have grown up in big cities, to things they normally wouldn’t see and experience back home. They learn to find excitement and joy in nature, and it awakens something in them that the city just can’t.

 

Kids like Chelsea, Justin and Evan benefit greatly from a change of scenery and the chance to connect with nature. Spending time outside has been proven to improve vision, encourages social skills, reduce stress and give kids the vitamin D that they need. Who knew spending all day outside at camp is actually good for kids?!

 

Whether they grew up in the suburbs or in the middle of Times Square, kids love escaping to the mountains, and spending their summers on the lake, in the mountains and surrounded by nature.

 

Let’s Talk About Traditions

November 7th, 2016

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-3-01-02-pmCamp traditions are kind of like an inside joke between friends; you really have to be there and be part of it to understand and appreciate the power and the feeling that is associated with them. Camp traditions are things that happen at camp that every camper and staff member can relate to, whether they went to camp 70 years ago or are experiencing it now for the first time. They are a way for campers to connect with their fellow campers, their counselors, and the camp itself. Some “traditional” traditions at camp like singing Friends and the Camp Starlight Alma Mater, All Camp Show, Opening Campfires, skipping around the flagpole, divisional cheers, and singing in the dining room create a sense of connection and belonging to the Starlight family. Many traditions at Camp Starlight are held sacred to campers and counselors alike, and they’re just one of those things you have to experience to truly understand.

Keeping Active After Camp

November 1st, 2016

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-2-41-41-pmUnless you live on 100+ acres of grassy fields, on a lake, complete with swimming pools and tennis courts, an equestrian center and hundreds of your closest friends (and if that is the case, lucky you!) then it may be hard to stay as busy and active at home as you do when you are at camp. When you spend your summer at camp, you are surrounded by nature, you have access to almost every sport and activity you could imagine, and it is easy to spend your days literally running from one adventure to another. Campers can’t help but feel exhausted at the end of the day; thanks to all of the activity they do on a daily basis.

When it’s time to come home, some campers find it easy to fall back into their more laid back routines, consisting of a lot of computer time, TV time and video games. Some campers start to spend more time sitting down inside than enjoying the outdoors, and this can lead to unhealthy snacking, weight gain and an overall feeling of sluggishness.

However, it is easy to take some of the things you learned at camp and apply them to your normal routine when you are back at home. You may not live on a lake, but you can still get outside and enjoy the sunshine. You may not have access to a soccer field, but you can still get outside with a few friends and kick a ball around. You may not have a swimming pool in your backyard (or live in a place where swimming is realistic during the fall and winter) but you can still go for a run, start a pick up game of baseball with other kids in the neighborhood, or put together a dance routine to impress your family after dinner. There are many ways to stay active while you are at home, and you don’t need a huge campus or counselors to help you do it.

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-2-42-56-pmStaying active during the fall and winter months is very important to your overall health. When you feel good physically, other aspects of your life seem to follow. Your confidence begins to improve, which helps you build healthy and strong relationships. Exercise has been scientifically proven to release hormones that help you focus in school, help you get a good nights sleep, and help to promote strong bones and muscles. It is great for your heart, and the endorphins released when you exercise gives you an overall great sense of happiness.

Many campers are introduced to a sport while at camp, and then choose to continue pursuing that sport throughout the school year. If you loved soccer at camp, why not try out for the school team? If you really loved gymnastics at camp, why not look into joining competitive after school team? By staying active during the school year, you give yourself months of practice before returning to the sport at camp over the summer. You will be amazed at the progress you can make from one summer to the next, simply by sticking to it throughout the fall and winter.

Staying active at camp is easy, it just comes with the territory. Staying active at home doesn’t have to be hard, and can help improve all areas of your life when you are home. Being active makes you happier and healthier, and is something all campers can do to boost their confidence in the months when they aren’t at camp.