Archive for March, 2015

Living with Peers at Camp Starlight

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 2.36.33 PMIt can be emotional to think about, but one day we will have to help our babies pack up their stuff and move them into a dorm, apartment or house of their own. We have to send them off with the hope that all we did to teach them how to be productive, respectful and kind human beings will stick with them as they venture into the real world. Along with being honest and responsible, we cross our fingers that we taught them how to be a good roommate. Did we instill the importance of keeping their stuff picked up, being quiet when other people are sleeping, doing their own dishes? Did we teach them how to take care of their dirty laundry? Did we bluntly teach them to use deodorant so other people near by don’t have to? Our goal is to raise someone who is easy and fun to live with. Nobody wants to have the kid who is known for leaving his or her sweaty socks by the front door, or who never EVER takes initiative and takes out the trash. By sending them to camp, you give them the opportunity to learn what it is like to live with other people other than their immediate family, and prepares them for opportunities in the future (college, marriage, etc) where they will be sharing the same space with other people. Being a good roommate is an important quality to have, and learning how to deal with other people who aren’t the world’s best roommates is also an important life skill.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 2.37.03 PMAt Camp Starlight, each bunk has 8-12 campers and 2-3 counselors. Campers sleep in single beds. There is a bathroom, with two showers, two toilets, and two sinks. They have cubbies for storage and outlets to plug in clocks etc. Campers are expected to respect each other’s space and personal belongings. Everyone is responsible for keeping the cabins picked up and clean. Although uncommon, sometimes campers have a hard time adjusting to sharing a space with others, and this can cause frustration and conflict with other campers. Counselors are trained on how to deal with such conflict, and use it as a learning opportunity for all of the campers. Counselors show campers how to address someone who has invaded their space and how to communicate their feelings about how another’s actions are affecting them. Being able to effectively communicate an issue or problem you have with someone you are living with is a valuable life skill campers will learn by living with their peers.

Part of being a good roommate is respecting the rules of quiet time, and allowing others to sleep in a space that is quiet and peaceful. Nobody likes living with someone who is up half the night talking and making noise, so it is important that campers learn this type of respect at camp. Many campers plan to move away to college, where they will be living in a dorm or apartment with other students. If they have the experience of living with others at camp, it will prepare them for the kind of roommate they want (and don’t want) to be. Having counselors in the cabins also helps to ensure all campers feel safe and respected, and that the rules are followed closely.

Kids who don’t attend sleep away camps may go straight from living in their home, with their siblings and parents, to being thrown into an environment in college where all of the sudden they have to learn a whole new set of rules, expectations and courtesy. Sending your kids to Camp Starlight gives them a big head start in the rule of sharing their space.

And this will make them one heck of a roommate when it’s time for them to be on their own.

Sailing at Camp Starlight

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

When you think about summer, most of the images that race through your mind include two things: sun and water. Whether it’s laying out by the pool, running through the sprinklers, or zipping through the waves on a boat or jet ski, or contemplating life’s mysteries while casting a line out to fish, the summer is meant to be spent heating up in the sun and cooling down in the water. This is why so many campers enjoy learning to sail when they spend the summer at Camp Starlight.

Sailing is an exciting water activity that allows campers to work as a team to reach a common goal. It is a great way to spend the afternoon soaking up the sun, and creates a bond between sailors that can’t be created anywhere else.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 11.18.06 AMCampers who learn to sail aren’t just learning how to maneuver a large vessel through the water (however that is a big accomplishment!) Everything about learning to sail is a learning opportunity. Math and science are weaved into the fun and challenging sport of sailing. Sailors will learn about the importance of aerodynamics when it comes to the position of the sale. They will learn to read a compass and become confident navigating their way to and from a destination without the help of the GPS on their smartphones. They will learn to solve problems quickly, to be observant of their surroundings, and will find a new appreciation for Mother Nature. Campers who try sailing leave with a “boat load” of useful skills and practical information that will help them for the rest of their lives.

Even if they never have to deal with air pressure or thinking about the curvature of a sail, they will learn to work as a team, follow directions and appreciate the quietness. Sometimes young kids and teenagers have a hard time dealing with quiet, or feel anxious when they don’t have something to entertain them at every second. Sailing is good practice for just sitting back and enjoying nature, and is a great way for campers to learn to be comfortable in their own silence. All of the sailing adventures are guided and supervised by certified instructors, so everyone is kept safe while they are having fun.

The beauty of the lakes surrounding Camp Starlight is a reason all on their own to take up sailing. The view from the sailboat can’t be put into words, and campers write home how much they loved spending their afternoons out on the lake.

Campers have hundreds of opportunities to try new things while they spend their summers at camp, and learning to sail is another great way to expose them to things they may never have a chance to try at home. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment that they can succeed at anything they put their mind to.

Tennis at Camp Starlight

Monday, March 16th, 2015

10526136_10152177443296960_5570309213981646310_nWhat do seeds, chips and double bagels have in common? No, they aren’t things you’ll find at the summer camp buffet. They are terms commonly used in one of the world’s most popular sport, and a sport enjoyed by hundreds of campers every year: Tennis.

Tennis is fast paced, competitive and fun. It is a great workout, as it keeps players constantly moving, running and swinging. For campers who prefer individual sports, tennis is one of the best options. It improves speed, agility and hand-eye coordination, skills that are great for kids in all kinds of different sports. Playing tennis helps with both physical and developmental growth, and kids who try tennis at camp can do so in a safe and encouraging environment where they feel safe to try something new without judgment or fear of embarrassment.

Tennis is a very physical sport. It improves leg strength, gross and fine motor skills, agility and flexibility, all while incorporating cardiovascular exercise. Because physical fitness is such an important part of tennis, campers are taught about general nutrition and the best ways to fuel their bodies in order to preform at their best on the court each day.

Tennis is also a great way to strengthen the character and physiological development of campers. Tennis requires practice and commitment, and helps campers develop a strong work ethic and discipline. When new tennis players stick with the sport, even when it’s tough, they gain valuable life lessons about never quitting and persistence. Tennis is a great way to strengthen social skills, and helps campers learn to be good sports.

The thirteen tennis courts at Camp Starlight are surrounded by natural beauty, and serve as a safe, clean and professional style court for tennis lovers and rookies alike. Tennis is taught by certified and experience trainers, who will encourage the campers to do their best and make them feel confident and excited about picking up a racquet. Most importantly, they make sure tennis stays fun for the campers, and that everyone feels included and is having a good time.

Tennis is a large part of camp culture, and many first time tennis players go home asking their parents to continue playing when they get home. The benefits of tennis are endless, and campers who participate in the various tennis activities will walk off of the court with a sense of confidence and will understand why millions of people around the world love the game of tennis.

Campers being silly at Camp Starlight

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.34.00 AMCampers donning big, silly hats and oversized costumes can be found dancing and singing their hearts on stage at Camp Starlight. You can see campers giggling in groups until they cry, and others transforming into super heroes and villains as their imaginations run wild. Even staff members get in on the action, letting their inner child emerge by singing, dancing and playing with the campers. Campers and counselors feel safe here, safe to be silly, to use their imaginations and to just “let go.” They learn right away that camp is a judgment free space, where they can be themselves and act like a kid. In a world where kids are exposed to adult themes in their TV shows, music and social media, it can be easy for them to lose the silly, magical, goofy part of themselves, in fear of looking “uncool” to their peers.

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.35.27 AMCounselors are counselors because they like kids, and they enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of children. They are fun and relatable, and are great at being silly. They know they are role models for the campers, so they make it a point to set a good example. When counselors can sing, dance, goof off and act silly, campers catch on quickly and begin to feel safe to do the same. They are also a good example of knowing a “time and place” to be silly. They model how to calm themselves down when it is time to be serious, and teach campers how to differentiate between a place where it’s okay to be silly (free time) and a time when being calm and focused is more productive (quiet time in the cabins.)

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

Confessions of a Camp Counselor

Friday, March 6th, 2015

Jackie-300x199As parents, you entrust counselors with your children, well, I guess you mostly entrust the directors or owners of the summer camp, but in reality, counselors are the ones who are with your children most of the time. According to the American Camp Association there are over 12,000 summer camps in the United States, and they employ over 1.5 million people each year, most of whom are counselors. Are these people trustworthy?

Summer camp counselors are notoriously underpaid and overworked, at least that is what we will tell you if you ask, and there is some truth to it. It is true in the same way that parenting is often referred to as the hardest job in the world. I know this because it has been nearly twenty years since I last taught water-skiing, mountain biking, or canoeing as a camp counselor and I am now a parent.Popular culture would have you believe that camp counselors spend the vast majority of their time focused on partying with other counselors (think Meatballs part 1 through 4) and put very little energy into the job of protecting, nurturing, and teaching your kids. Well, I cannot speak for all of us, but this is the perspective of one former summer camp counselor.

So as I contemplate sending my own daughter off to summer camp for the first time, I have a much different perspective on summer camps the role of the camp counselor. As I think back on my summers as a counselor in Pennsylvania and in California in the mid-1990’s, I am easily transported to a time when my life’s priorities were much different than they are today. Yes, of course, the social aspect of living and working alongside a group of fun and energetic people my age was a significant part of the experience, but in hindsight it was not the most meaningful aspect of my time as a counselor. The lasting impression those summers had on my life came largely from the emotional imprint of guiding and mentoring the campers who were in our care. I don’t think I am alone in this feeling, I believe that while counselors often form lifelong friendships with each other (and sometimes even get into some shenanigans on their evenings off), it is the experience of working both individually and as a team to mentor young people that defines those summers for camp counselors.

Now, as I consider entrusting my own child to the care of a camp director, I know that it is those camp counselors who will interact most often with my daughter. And I trust that just like I did so many years ago, they may let loose from time to time in their off hours, but when they are “on-duty” (which is most of the time) they will have their campers best interest at heart and in doing so enrich their own lives for many years to come. Because while popular culture suggests that the life of a camp counselor is focused on partying, the truth is much more rewarding for the counselors and reassuring for parents like me.

This post was written by Gabe Millar.


Camp Leaders at Camp Starlight

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.18.34 AMConfident leaders aren’t born, they’re made. And great leaders come from spending time at America’s Finest Summer Camps. Campers and counselors alike leave camp with a better understanding of how to serve others and act as positive role models for those around them.

From the first day they arrive, campers are thrown in a group setting that, for most of them, is very different from what they are used to. They eat with their peers, spend the entire day doing activities with their peers, and share their mornings and nights side by side with them as well. This is the perfect situation for campers to build upon their leadership skills, as it encourages them to quickly determine whether they’re going to follow the crowd or stand out on their own. Campers have countless opportunities on a daily basis to make good decisions to positively affect their stay, as well as the experiences of those around them.

Their involvement in sports helps to foster strong leadership traits, such as being a team player, being fair and winning (and losing) with grace. Team sports like soccer lacrosse, and baseball encourage campers to step up and be leaders of their team, and to be a positive example for their teammates. Campers who participate in other activities like archery, gymnastics and dance have the chance to be leaders when they choose to make responsible choices regarding their involvement and commitment to the activity that they chose. Arriving on time, respecting their competition and their counselors, and doing their best every day are all great ways campers can act as leaders at camp.

A good leader is someone who can serve others well. Campers have plenty of opportunities each and every day to be helpful and kind to their peers. They are encouraged to stand up for each other, support each other, communicate with each other and be an honest and loyal friend. Even if they aren’t aware of it, the building of these characteristics is also building a leader in every camper.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.19.58 AMCampers aren’t the only ones who leave camp as stronger and more confident leaders. Camp counselors who spend the summer at Camp Starlight also learn valuable leadership skills in a much more obvious and intentional way. They are trained thoroughly on what it means to be a leader and positive role model for the younger campers. They are very aware that there are always young and impressionable eyes watching everything they say and do. Counselors learn very quickly that being a counselor doesn’t just mean making sure all of the kids follow the rules. They become teachers, big brothers/sisters, role models and friends. Camp counselors also get an opportunity to improve their time management, problem solving, and multitasking skills. The training and education required to be a camp counselor prepares them for managing groups of children in a confident, patient and trusted way.

Whether they come to camp as a camper or a counselor, everyone leaves camp as a more confident leader. This confidence transfers over to their attitudes towards their siblings, friends, coworkers and teammates in the real world. The world is a better place with leaders like the ones developed at Camp Starlight in it.