Posts Tagged ‘21st century skills’

What I Learned From a Summer at Camp Starlight

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

My mom has this ritual of asking me, every day, about what I learned that day. Sometimes I shrug and say “I don’t know,” and other times I spit out interesting facts about blue whales or Egyptian pyramids or volcanoes that I learned that day at school. So in the car the day I got home from a summer at Camp Starlight, I wasn’t surprised when she asked me what I had learned while being away. She was surprised, however, at my response.

 

I told her that I learned a lot of new skills that I would never have experienced if I had stayed home. I learned how to play lacrosse and sail. I learned to fish and learned a lot of crazy songs that have been stuck in my head all summer. I learned how to get from one side of camp to the other in the shortest amount of time, I learned how to make the perfect S’more, and even learned how to paint. I was exposed to so many new opportunities and experiences, that I felt like I was learning something new every day!

 

But in the first few days at home, I kept thinking about other things I learned while I was at camp. Things that were more about character than skill. Things that will help me in life more than knowing the perfect ratio of chocolate to marshmallow ratio on a S’more. When Jessi and I had that big disagreement, our counselors walked us through a communication plan that left both of us feeling heard, understood and we walked away with our issue totally resolved. I learned how to recognize when someone was feeling left out or lonely, and quickly invited them to sit, play or hang out with me. I learned a lot about how to interact with different people and learned to appreciate differences in people without judgment. At the end of the summer, I realized that sometimes I was so focused on the quantity of friends that I have, that I wasn’t focused on the quality. After spending a summer at camp, I learned the importance of having a handful of true friends who are there for you no matter what, who accept you for who you are, and who are honest and real with you.

 

I learned quickly that I’m a naturally messy and unorganized person, but that keeping my stuff picked up and clean in areas that I share with others is a sign of respect, and learned quickly to live in close proximity with other people and respecting boundaries and personal space. I learned to compromise, to be flexible, and how to manage my time.

 

I learned that I can, in fact, function without my cell phone and that not everything I do has to be documented through a “selfie.” I learned that without a cell phone glued to my side, I could focus more on the actual experience rather than getting the perfect shot, choosing the best filter, and then waiting impatiently for my friends to “like” and “comment” on the picture through social media.

 

I didn’t overwhelm my dear ‘ol mom with all of these things that I learned, and instead just gave her little stories here and there to demonstrate all of the new things I had learned at camp. Sometimes, she was the one telling me about the difference that she noticed in me, things that I had learned that made an obvious difference in my attitude and character. She noticed I was more patient with my little sister, more helpful to her and my dad, I was a better team player for my soccer team, and as school rolled around, she noticed I was focusing more on my grades.

 

I learned a lot at Camp Starlight. Some of the things are basic skills that are fun to know, while others are foundational qualities that I really feel with set me up for better relationships and experiences for the rest of my life. I’m thankful that going to camp was such a fun and natural way to learn so many new things.

How Campers and Staff Become Leaders at Camp Starlight

Monday, 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

Monday, 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.

 

 

How Camp Starlight Improves Self-Confidence

Monday, 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.

 

 

 

 

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

Monday, 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.

Natural Rhythms: The Timeless Traditions that make Camp Special!

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Camp is super-duper fun… but every summer camper (or camp counselor) knows that with the fun comes a dash of craziness!

 

The days are packed with activities, and among those activities are tons of quirky camp traditions.

 

One of the most special things about summer camp is how traditions are passed on through returning campers and counselors.

 

Here are a few of our favorite classic camp traditions!

Flag Ceremonies

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No morning is complete without the traditional Camp Starlight flag ceremony! Like the traditional evening campfire, flag-raising is a time for everyone at camp to gather together and remember that we’re all in it together. (And of course, double-check that no one overslept!)

 

Like with everything at camp, there is always time to be a little goofy, and flag ceremonies are no exception. From spontaneous camp songs to call-and-response games, you never know what the counselor’s are going to pull out of their sleeves!

Campfires

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Ah, the sweet smell of soot and s’mores…

 

No camp would be complete without a campfire. Community campfires are a time for the entire group to come together for songs, dance, theater, and of course the infamous talent shows.

 

Usually the campfire starts with fast, silly songs and a few games to get everyone grounded and relaxed. As the night progresses, slower songs and fun stories are shared around the fire until it’s finally time to say goodnight and return to the cabins. (And brush our teeth! That means you!)

Mealtime songs

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Mmm, lunchtime — everyone’s favorite activity of the day!

 

(Aside from breakfast and dinner, that is.)

 

Feeding dozens of campers at the same time would be chaotic if there were no traditions to make mealtime run smoothly. Everyone has to “sing for their supper,” so it’s no surprise that so many camp songs center around food. “Heeeey burrito!”

 

Camp songs may be one of the strangest traditions to those who have never been to camp — but these ridiculous jingles are something that campers everywhere have in common!

Traditions that keep on giving

Summer camp is an integral part of American life, and the rhythm of day-to-day life lets everyone play their part in the story.

 

From all-camp events like dances, talent shows, and barbecues, to specific hiking songs, camp life has something for everybody. Trust us, you’ll get into the swing of things before you know it.

 

…And before long, you’ll be ready to participate in the best camp tradition of all — making your own!

9 Lessons a Counselor Learns from their Campers

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

 

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Everyone that arrives at summer camp leaves with a profoundly changed outlook on life. Like many camp counselors, I expected to learn a lot from the experience. What I didn’t expect was for so many of the things I learned to come from my campers!

 

It turns out being a role model can be a two-way street. If you’re looking to become a counselor yourself, here are a few of the things you can expect to learn from your campers:

1. You get what you give

Campers demand a ton of energy, and keeping up with the day’s activities — all while being positive, enthusiastic, and with an eye towards safety — can be totally exhausting. Something new happens every day, and greeting new challenges with a smile makes all the difference.

 

Show up to an activity expecting to be bored, and you’re sure to be bored. Show up ready to give it your best shot, and the fun is guaranteed!

2. Respect is more important than agreement

I’d be lying if I told you I always agreed with everyone at camp. That would be impossible! However, I soon started to notice that the campers who were having the most fun were the ones who treated their peers with respect — even if they didn’t want to be BFFs with them. Campers who refrained from poking fun at someone, even behind their back, always came to the end of the summer with tons of friends and a big smile on their face.

 

I resolved to start being more conscious about showing respect to my fellow counselors; and the results were incredible! I never even realized how much negativity you can let go when you simply cut out the gossip and “agree to disagree.” This one lesson was worth the whole summer!

3. You can always do more than you think

Camp teaches you how to manage time better than any class. After all, if you can’t keep track of your own life, how are you going to keep track of all your campers?

 

Life at camp quickly taught me that I was never as busy as I thought I was; I just needed better organization. It’s easy to say “it’s too much” or “I can’t do that” in regular life, but at camp there’s no option: you simply have to show up, rain or shine, and give it your best shot.

 

4. Laughing makes everything better

It’s scientific fact that smiling makes your mood better, even if you have to “fake it till you make it” at first.

 

On the one hand camp is full of variety, but on the other sometimes you have to buckle down and do the same activity week after week and make sure it feels “fun” every time. Seeing the campers’ faces light up when we jumped into a new activity kept it fresh for me. When I started smiling even during the activities I didn’t feel like doing, the activities became fun again!

 

Now I use this technique every day in my “real life,” and it always helps make tasks like laundry day or preparing reports at work feel “fresh” again!

5. It’s okay to say “I don’t know”

Being a summer camp counselor is often a counselor’s first experience as an authority figure. When you’re barraged with questions all day, it’s frustrating at first when you don’t know the answer.

 

You’ll quickly learn that campers don’t mind if you don’t know everything; in fact, they don’t expect you to. Saying “I don’t know… but let’s find out” is much more exciting than the alternatives, and it shows them that you’re human too.

6. Including everyone makes life more fun

Sometimes there’s a camper who just doesn’t want to do anything. The food isn’t fried enough, the activities aren’t fun enough, and the campfire isn’t “cool” enough. Including everyone in activities is really challenging at first, especially when it means you have to be extra-committed to keep the energy flowing. But something magic happens when you insist on everyone playing together: that camper’s finally joins in, and before you know it they’re having the time of their life! The first time you make that change in a camper’s attitude will change your outlook forever.

7. You’re remembered for the little things

There’s a saying that we’re remembered for our mistakes, not our successes; but I disagree. At camp, as in life, it’s the little things that make your legacy. That time you brought a sick camper their favorite dessert from the dining hall, even though they didn’t ask? They will never forget. Anyone who’s been to summer camp knows it’s the little kindnesses that make the biggest difference.

8. It’s okay to be alone sometimes

Camp is all about togetherness, but sometimes a little alone time is just as important. Camp helps everyone grow by making them learn to ask for it when they need it, but sometimes campers don’t know how to do that and get frustrated. As a counselor, your job is to step in and help them get everything they need to have a great experience. Learning to recognize when campers need alone time and when they need team time is a subtle skill that will radically change your life outside camp.

9. Always pack more socks

This last lesson may be the most important of all! No one ever packs enough socks. They get dirty, they get lost, and you always need more than you think. And yes, you definitely need a comfy pair for lounging around the cabin!

Keep an open mind and have a great summer

Summer camp is as much about learning as it is about fun. When your campers speak, keep your ears open; you just might learn something!

4 Ways Camp Creates Happy Campers

Monday, August 29th, 2016

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Did you know that there are certain things, certain scientifically proven things, that are shown to create and increase the hormones in our brain that make us happy? This isn’t just some fluffy stuff we made up, it’s proven by really smart scientists who know their stuff!

The amazing thing is, that most of the things doctors and scientists recommend people to do to be happy can all be done at camp! No wonder kids who spend their summers at Camp Starlight are some of the happiest kids around!

Stop and Smell The Roses

Well, any flower will do, really. A study done from the Human Emotions Laboratory at Rutgers University found that “flowers in general are a powerful positive emotions inducer.” In the study, people exposed to floral scents were three times more likely to have immediate associations with happy and positive memories. Lavender can decrease anxiety and depression and jasmine can have a calming effect. Lucky for campers, the grounds are a hot spot for beautiful fauna, and sweet smelling flowers can be found just about anywhere. There are many distinct smells at camp, including sunscreen, bug spray and s’mores. But the soft scent of flowers will definitely boost your mood anytime.

Exercise in the Morning

Exercise plays a huge part in your mood. When we are feeling slow and lazy, our mood tends to reflect that. When we are active and moving about, we tend to be happier. Exercise releases endorphins and proteins that make us feel happier. Getting active first thing in the morning is an excellent way to prepare your brain for a great day. At camp, kids have plenty of opportunities to start their day with a run, a swim, yoga class or a game of football. Getting an early start is a great mood changer, and can be the first step in a happier day!

Spend Time With Happy People

Everyone has had that one friend or acquaintance who is negative all of the time and who complains a lot. It can be mentally exhausting to be surrounded by all of that negativity, and it’ll eventually take a toll on your personal happiness. Scientists say surrounding yourself with happy, positive people will make you a more positive and happy person. It’s hard to be down and depressed when you’re around people who are hungry for life, laughter and adventure. And, what do you know, camp is chock full of happy people. Both the campers and the staff are having the time of their lives, and their mood, vibes and happiness are totally contagious.

Go Outside

Being outside and connecting with nature can do wonders on your mood. Getting out and about has been proven to increase concentration, reduces stress, and (surprise!) can boost your mood and overall happiness. The fresh air is good for you, the Vitamin D you get from the sun is beneficial, and the ever-changing scenery of the outdoors is an excellent way to get your brain working and help you to focus better. A large portion of a camper’s day is spent outside, enjoying the sunshine and exploring nature, and this helps them to feel energized and excited.

Teachers and parents have said time and time again that they can just tell the difference between kids who go to camp and kids who stay home. “There’s just something different about kids who go to camp. It’s their confidence, their mood, their overall happiness” is something heard quite often about campers. And it makes sense! Spending the summer at Camp Starlight is the perfect formula for happiness, and gives a whole new meaning to the term “happy campers”