Teaching 21st Century Skills in a Camp Setting

December 4th, 2017

Camp Starlight knows that the weeks we get to spend with campers each summer is precious. It is an opportunity to do character building and confidence boosting. We have the opportunity to be the backdrop for millions of memories and connect people who can grow to be lifelong friends. The work we do here, although disguised as fun, is serious. We use the limited time we have with our campers and use it to instill 21st-century principles that promote strong character, morals, and ideals in every camper.

 

When campers are guided on how to solve their differences through careful and respectful mediation, they are learning how to disagree with others without being mean or hurtful. When they can identify their feelings and communicate it with others, they are learning conflict management skills and maturing in their emotional development. These tools are vital in navigating the “real world” whether it’s their school campus, their first job or their first relationship. At camp, kids learn to respect each other, listen without interrupting, compromise, communicate, and be patient and considerate and honest. These principles will make it easier for them to maintain healthy relationships as they grow.

 

Each camper has a responsibility to keep the campus as beautiful as it was when he or she arrived. Our zero tolerance policy for littering and our emphasis on taking care of the environment helps campers realize how they impact the environment and how important it is to keep the world around them clean. Campers spend most of their days outside, connecting with nature and learning to appreciate the beauty around them. Exploring and enjoying Mother Nature doesn’t come naturally to all campers, and spending time at camp helps develop an appreciation for the environment.

 

At camp, each camper has a story to tell. Each child arrives at camp with a history, a background, baggage (no pun intended) fears, strengths, and perceptions. As campers begin to integrate with each other, they quickly see how different they are all, but how those differences don’t need to divide them. They learn to help each other; to recognize a need in other campers and address it. There is no “us” and “them” at camp. Camp Starlight is intentional about fostering a generation of helpers, includers, and givers. We know that if we want a world full of people who care about each other, who don’t judge each other and who seek out opportunities to make others feel good, we have to start with the kids.

 

Campers go home with more friends, better skills and a lot to talk about. But our goal is that each camper leaves a bit better than they came. And that we can instill basic morals and ideals into them that will help them become better students, siblings, friends, and eventually, adults. Camp is safe, camp is fun, and camp is designed to better the lives of campers and their families every year.

Limitless Love

November 27th, 2017

 

 

Whether you are a camper, staff member, parent, or alumni, Camp Starlight has an intense impact that can’t be ignored. There is a monumental significance that summer camp provides to a person’s life. An environment is fostered that allows you to become the person you’ve always dreamed of being. Friendships are established, memories are made, and life lessons are learned and carried out for many years to follow. The bottom line is, sleepaway camp provides an overall plethora of love and support for its entire community.

The camp environment facilitates a feeling of love and acceptance that is motivational and highly influential. Once an individual realizes that they are accepted for who they are, his or her potential for growth becomes unlimited. As someone who went to sleepaway camp, I have fortunately experienced this limitless love firsthand. For twelve summers, I have accumulated memories and experiences that are invaluable to me as an individual. The positivity and love that exists around camp is infectious and easily transferrable in all environments.

My summer camp career at Starlight began in June 2006. I was a ten year old girl that was extremely shy and often kept to myself. I played a few sports but I never fully embraced my athletic potential and teamwork capabilities. Despite my many fears, I bravely introduced myself to my fellow bunkmates. Within minutes, I felt accepted and loved in my new bunk of eleven girls knowing that we were going to face this new experience of camping together. Throughout the summer, I learned how to work as a team and handle conflict. My confidence and individuality blossomed as I tried new activities and experienced new adventures with my new bunk family cheering me on. My bunkmates and I overcame obstacles together, recognized each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and supported one another each and every day. While some members of my bunk shined on the soccer field and tennis courts, others lived for the chance to perform in the camp play or be featured in a dance number. Despite our preference of activities and different strengths, living together each and every day enabled our limitless love for one another as we cheered each other on and were there for a helping hand. Before I knew it, my first summer came to an end and I began counting down the days until I could return back to my summer home. Throughout the long ten months spent away from camp, I kept in constant contact with my fellow bunkmates and had several reunions. At each reunion, my bunkmates and I picked up right where we left off and continued to make lifelong memories.

Fast forward six years to 2012 when I became a staff member at Camp Starlight. Although I had been a camper for six years, the butterflies I had in my stomach putting on that staff shirt for the first time brought me back to the same nervous feeling I had when I started my camp career. However, the moment I stepped into my new bunk and met my campers, I was hit a feeling of gratification and excitement. I recognized that I had the power to be a role model for these campers as my past counselors once were to me. I took pride in helping my campers learn their lines for camp plays, rooting them on in each sport they tried, and being there for any assistance that they needed.

The year is now 2017 and I have had the privilege of being a counselor to six unique bunks of girls. Each group provided me with irreplaceable memories. My first campers back in 2012 are now in high school thinking about which colleges they should apply to and learning how to drive a car. I have had the unique opportunity to watch my campers grow as individuals and accomplish several milestones. I look forward to the day each June when my campers from past summers run off the buses, hug me hello, and tell me what their year had in store for them.

 

Along with the many memories made with campers throughout the past summers at Starlight, I have made new friendships with counselors from around the world. I am in constant contact with counselors from the UK, Australia, and other parts of the United States. These friendships motivated me to travel to Europe this past year where I knew I would have a warm welcome and a place to stay. It’s an indescribable feeling to know that no matter where you go in the world, there will always be someone with an open door waiting to embrace you.

Twelve years have passed since I first began sleepaway camp as an anxious ten-year old girl. Looking back, I have recognized how much my life has been changed from attending summer camp. Thanks to the nurturing and loving environment fostered at Camp Starlight, I have become a more independent and caring adult.

 

 

All photos courtesy of Madison Dratch.

Learning to Look on the Bright Side at Summer Camp

November 20th, 2017

A silver lining can be defined as finding the hopeful side to any situation, no matter how gloomy. Silver linings are small blessings that can lift the spirits of individuals as well as put an instant smile on your face. As someone who went to sleepaway camp, I have an unlimited amount of silver linings that I can recall at any moment of the day to make it better. For twelve summers that I spent at Camp Starlight, I have had the opportunity to make memories, both big and small, that are impossible to forget. With each summer comes new bonds and irreplaceable friendships. After these twelve summers, I have the ability to remain positive and look on the bright side of just about any situation I am faced with. This skill is one that I have incorporated into my daily life in countless environments, both inside and outside of camp.

 

At Camp Starlight, small blessings radiate wherever you look. The support network is unprecedented in the fact that everyone in the camp community looks on the bright side. Whether it be helping to sweep the bunk before inspection, campers cheering a bunkmate on as she climbs the rock wall, or counselors reading a story before bed, the positive feeling of love and support ruminates throughout the camp environment.

 

While camp presents campers and counselors with this magical feeling of happiness, there are obstacles that are faced over the course of the summer. Changes in weather, homesickness, arguments, and disappointment is inevitable. However, camp provides its community with an opportunity to learn how to overcome these challenges by looking on the brightside. For every moment that appears to be gloomy, there is someone there to lend a supportive hug or helping hand to cheer you up. At Camp Starlight, the love between individuals is genuine and powerful. Being able to have real conversations and talk through difficult situations with friends and counselors alike is the silver lining that makes camp so unique.

 

These small blessings and ability to overcome obstacles at camp helps to prepare us for the daily routines we face during the other ten months of the year. Instead of needing help cleaning the bunk or feeling down after losing a sports game, campers and counselors are now faced with the challenges of school work and the professional world.

 

Philosophies learned at camp are ingrained in both campers and counselors as we remember the importance of remaining positive and supportive to those around us. These same campers that once needed help making their beds over the summer, now have the skill set and ability to support those friends in the classroom. This includes helping others with homework assignments, raising money for a school event, or even cheering on the school’s sports teams. For counselors in college and in the workforce, the attitudes and lessons learned at camp are easily transferable to all tasks. These can include pulling an all-nighter before an exam or meeting important deadlines set by your boss. It is the inner drive to look on the bright side that motivates campers and counselors to find a silver lining in all that they do.

It is OK to Act Your Own Age – How camp allows kids and young adults to enjoy being young

November 13th, 2017

Many first time parents are guilty of rushing their babies from one milestone to the next, pushing them to sit then crawl then walk, while seasoned parents have learned to appreciate each step and understand how fast each stage flies by. As kids grow, they too can find themselves wishing their childhood away, always wishing they were older and on to the next stage of their lives. In this fast-paced world, kids are hurrying through the most joyful times of their lives in pursuit of freedom and independence, and before they know it they’re paying bills and reminiscing about “the good ‘ol days”

 

Camp strives to meet kids right where they are; to embrace their innocence, their goofy-ness, their awkwardness and their curiosity. Camp is a safe place for kids to act like kids without the fear of being judged. Camp Starlight is serious about fun, and has become a place where kids can be fully immersed in childhood play. Instead of taking selfies and worrying about where they fit in with their peers, they are chasing lightning bugs, judging belly flop contests, singing songs around a fire, and putting on shows. They are being kids, which is exactly how they should be spending their summers.

And kids aren’t the only ones acting like kids. Camp counselors come back year after year because of the freedom and joy that comes from being at camp. Camp counselors use their summers at camp as a way to escape the rules and restrictions of adulthood and embrace their inner child. They play games, dress up, sing songs and fully engage with the campers every day. They use this time to free themselves from the ridged expectations of their everyday lives and participate in the activities that make them feel like a kid again.

 

The school year is full of schedules, deadlines, and commitments that can sometimes overshadow the importance of play. With clubs, sports, family obligations and school expectations, kids can bogged down with responsibilities that takes the fun out of being a kid. Although a healthy balance of work and play is vital for growing minds, the summer should be a time where kids can relax a little and enjoy this fleeting time of their lives. As adults, we know how fast this time goes, and we should encourage the children in our lives to spend as much time as they can playing, laughing, getting dirty, trying new things and being silly. And that is exactly what Camp Starlight aims to offer each and every camper.

 

How Summer Camp Cultivates A Growth Mindset

November 6th, 2017

Camp Starlight is focused on developing the whole child in a way that is healthy and fun. And although all of the running, jumping, swimming, climbing, dancing, and playing is great for their physical health, working on their emotional well-being, their character, and their self-confidence is just as necessary. This is why we put so much emphasis on having a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset.

 

By definition, people with a growth mindset “believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. On the other hand, people with a fixed mindset “believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”

 

Campers come to camp with the labels and expectations that the world has put on them, and many have come to believe that these traits, both good and bad, are just an integral part of who they are. Some have been told they are smart their entire lives, and their fixed mindset makes them believe that their intelligence is something that comes naturally to them and doesn’t require effort to improve upon. The same goes for athletic performance, relational ability, and their character. Campers who have been told they have anger issues will begin to believe that they are incapable of handling their anger; it is a fixed part of them that can’t be changed or improved upon.

 

At Camp Starlight, we focus on fostering a growth mindset in each camper. When they succeed, we praise their efforts by saying things like “you worked so hard at that” instead of “you are awesome!” Although the latter can be helpful to hear, hearing specific praise acknowledging the effort that the camper put into a specific task is more rewarding and builds their self-esteem. Camp staff and counselors work hard to praise the process instead of just the person. Campers will hear us say things like:

  • Tell me more about what you did
  • How did you figure that out?
  • Are you pleased with how it came out?
  • You must be so proud of yourself

 

We try to avoid labeling campers or putting too much emphasis on the labels they put on themselves. We want to encourage them to see themselves as capable and worthy of improvement in all areas of their lives. We want them to strive to be the best versions of themselves instead of being complacent with the label they’ve grown so comfortable with.

 

As campers step out of their comfort zones and try new things, they realize that they are capable of so much more than they thought and that their qualities, strengths, and abilities are not fixed. We want campers to be intrinsically motivated; to try new thing and preserve through hard things to feel good about themselves, not because they are seeking the approval of anyone else.

 

A summer at camp is about growing, maturing, and improving in all areas of life. Our goal is that campers leave with new friends, new experiences, and a stronger sense of who they are and what a valuable asset they are to the world. And it all starts with how they think about themselves.

 

The Joy of Unplugging for the Summer

October 30th, 2017

 

Today’s world has become inundated with technology. Whether it be checking the amount of likes you received on your latest Instagram, scrolling through Facebook, or trying to take the perfect selfie, our focus on technology has overpowered our daily lives. Without the ability to live in the moment and appreciate our surroundings, technology continues to have the upperhand on blocking face to face communication between individuals. This is why getting the chance to unplug for seven weeks at camp is the perfect opportunity to take a step back from the outside pressures of life and enjoy the people that surround you.

 

For seven of the fifty-two weeks of the year, you can explore everything the world around you has to offer. Once reveille blows in the morning, your day starts by enjoying the view of the morning mist coming off the lake and the sounds of birds chirping. Meals are filled with lively conversations with your bunkmates, spirited cheers, and songs. As the day progresses, opportunities to grow your creativity and skills continue. From learning how to dive at the lake to conquering your fear of climbing the rock wall to then fly down the zipline, unplugging allows us to experience new adventures each day of the summer.

 

It may sound far-fetched, but the friendships I have established at camp have surpassed all other relationships I have ever made. Camp friends see the real you, not the version of yourself that you post for the world to see on social media. Without the barrier of a screen between individuals, concrete bonds can form and lifelong memories are made. Interactions at camp are both real and authentic. I still talk to my bunkmates from my first summer in 2006, and when I see them, it is as if we have never been apart.

 

The unplugged atmosphere at camp allows you to be yourself at all hours of the day. Whether it be coming up with a dance for MTV night, going to different activities with your bunk, or dressing up for a wacky event, your spirit and confidence shines. Everywhere you look, people are smiling, cheering, singing, and dancing. At camp, you can be yourself and achieve all your expectations, with the acceptance and support of everyone around you.

 

The act of unplugging is so much more than being without technology for seven weeks. It’s a chance to explore, create, and experience new adventures. Unplugging has allowed friendships to be established and lifelong memories to be made. Most importantly, unplugging at camp allows us all to embrace our individuality and learn to be our true selves.

5 Things Campers Look Forward to the Most for the Summer

October 25th, 2017

For almost the entirety of the year, campers sit at home waiting for the summer to start. Drumming their fingers and looking back at all the fun they’ve had so far, campers dream about all the things they can look forward to once camp finally arrives. When campers are at home with wandering minds, here are the things they look forward to the most when they get to come back to Camp Starlight.

  1. Sleeping Bunks: Experiencing every night at Camp Starlight as a giant sleepover with your best friends is why campers daydream about being back in their bunk beds. Even when the day is over, campers are still able to have fun.
  2. The Lake: The sunsets, sailing, paddle boarding and water toys allow campers to splash around and have as much fun as possible in the water. The Lake is an iconic point of Camp Starlight for good reason.
  3. Unique Activities: Campers are able to learn many unique skills at camp from magic tricks and circus activities to cooking and waterskiing. Opportunities at Camp Starlight are not always available for kids outside the ten other months of the year.
  4. Their Friends: The Friendships formed at Camp Starlight are very special and unlike any other friendships you will encounter. The summer bonds campers together in a very unique that makes these friendships last way past the summer.
  5. Traditions: All the fun traditions Camp Starlight possesses is what makes a summer at Starlight full of excitement and adventure. Becoming a part of Starlight history and carrying on these traditions is what keeps the magic of camp alive.

Why Working at a Camp Starlight Makes You a Better Leader

October 9th, 2017

A lot of people wonder how so many counselors return to Camp Starlight and tell all their friends about working at this summer camp. The answer lies in how Camp Starlight helps counselors, whether it’s their first summer of their fifth, become better leaders when they work here. Working all summer long with campers is a challenge, but Camp Starlight really provides the guidance and support to its counselors to help them be the best at their job and help them be leaders. To have a successful summer you need to be a leader to the campers and here is how Camp Starlight ensures every counselor a successful summer.

 

  1. Team Work of Co-Counselors: When you’re a counselor at Starlight, you always work in a team with your co-counselors in your bunk. As a team you figure out how to work with the campers and help them have a fun summer, the constant teamwork molds how you become a leader.
  2. Find Your Voice: Communicating with campers every day and night, Starlight helps you find a positive voice for the campers to follow. This voice contributes to how effective you communicate with the campers and have a successful summer when conflicts arise, and as a leader, communication is the most important aspect of a productive team.
  3. Understand Your Skills: Starlight helps you figure out what your strong skills are when working with campers and what skills need improvement. They are always there to give you tips in how to have a better summer with your campers and want you to be a successful leader so the campers have fun.
  4. Keep the Motivation Going: Working day and night with the campers is a challenge, so motivational steam can run out quickly, but Starlight helps counselors push through the rough times and maintain focus. Giving the counselors a hand or helping them stay positive is how counselors learn to keep going, this skill is what helps counselors become better leaders because they are ready to face any challenges.
  5. The Importance of Smiling: Stress and worry is a daily part of the job, but Starlight reminds counselors to always keep smiling and this little habit goes a long way. Remembering to smile maintains a positive focus and makes you approachable, an important characteristic for the leader of a group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Cant Wait to Come Back to Camp Starlight

October 3rd, 2017

For those who have never worked at a summer camp before, there are many questions to ask and ideas to consider about life at a summer camp, but at Camp Starlight, returning staff can put all worries to rest about what it is like to work at the most special summer camp this world has to offer.

For starters, working at a summer camp is all about helping kids grow and become better individuals and one of the most rewarding aspects of working at Camp Starlight is the ability to watch all sorts of talented kids grow and master what they love. More often than not, the staff returns to see the campers they have helped, anticipating all the potential within them for another summer at Starlight. Along with the campers, all the staff members look forward to spending another summer with friends they have met from all over the world. Camp Starlight nurtures friendships not just for campers, but for staff as well, and Camp Starlight is a place that allows people to strengthen friendships with people from Australia, South Africa, England and any place imaginable.

Because of all the people staff members at Camp Starlight are able to work with, Camp Starlight is the most positive working environment, everyone is happy to see and spend another day of the summer with their co-counselors and campers. It never really feels like work because you always have that much fun wherever and whatever you’re doing at Camp Starlight. With all these positive elements of working at Camp Starlight, it’s no wonder so many staff members return each summer to once again feel the magic of Camp Starlight, a place that is truly worth the ten for two.

What I Never Dreamt I Would Get Out of Summer Camp

September 25th, 2017

When working at a summer camp for the first time, there are many typical things that you would expect to happen like making friendship bracelets, sitting around a campfire or chanting traditional camp cheers. While all of these things do happen at Camp Starlight, there are many experiences that occur that take first time staff members for a surprise. The one thing that really surprises staff members working at Camp Starlight for the first time are all the positive life lessons they get out of their summer.

Working with kids of all different ages and coworkers from all different cultures truly provides first time staff members with a life perspective they’ve never experienced before. They learn so much about campers and other cultures and in turn learn so much about themselves. Camp Starlight is a place that helps first time staff members discover new skills, talents and passions about themselves just like the campers do. Before Camp Starlight, you might not have ever known that you have the best time working with younger kids or have a knack for coaching campers to the championship. You learn what skills you really have when working with kids and in what ways you can improve their lives for the better.

Not only do you learn new things about yourself, but you gain so many new memories and friendships unlike any other. Camp Starlight is a camp that gives you the opportunity to make a new best friend from Ireland and experience special events with your campers that create unique memories. You will never forget the thrill of Olympics, all the laughs from Friday Night Show or how sad you were to say goodbye to all your campers and friends on the last day of camp.

There are many things you will never dream you would get out of summer camp, but once you experience a summer at Camp Starlight you realize anything is really possible.