Archive for December, 2010

Camp Counselor 101

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Recently some camp counselors shared what they’ve learned on the job and I’d like to highlight two important concepts they talked about. Think of this as your basic introduction to camp counselor skills and also how important professional development is to your overall future:

1. Time management

High school students often focus on preparing for college by earning acceptable grades and participating in additional activities. While these strategies are essential to the process, students too often rely on parents/care givers for structure and reminders and fail to understand that managing time is one of the most important skill required for college success. Across the United States, students with ability and good intentions often struggle in college, just because they have not learned to schedule assignments, work, reading and most importantly the time they spend having fun or relaxing.

In contrast, one past camp counselor explains, “time management is crucial at camp,” and even if you are familiar with regimented schedules, “a camp counselor is responsible for keeping others in line with the daily schedule.” So the job requires not only learning to manage time personally, but also for large groups and that becomes a skill counselors develop. Camp counselors also “learn to be disciplinarians in strategic ways.” These skills are essential and applicable to keeping an undergraduate student motivated to complete assignments and participate in college activities. So, since professional experience at camp requires “all counselors to be responsible,” and to “learn to be accountable for personal actions as well as those of others,” camp counselors benefit in multiple ways.

Working as a camp counselor is also the perfect component to rounding out a year of personal and professional growth by managing the time between semesters! As students mature and move into the realm of adulthood, they often have to face the reality that they are not completely self sufficient.

2. Independence and freedom

Once a young adult goes to college, no matter how much they miss home or home cooking, they are changed forever! One past camp counselor puts it this way, “After my first undergraduate winter break back home I decided I didn’t want to return home for three months during summer. College gave me independence/freedom from parental supervision, and I wanted to continue the experience through summer employment.”

So, as you can see, being a camp counselor is a great fit for young adults who expect to do more than the minimum. Since campers often want to prolong their time at summer camp, they can also take it to the next level as counselors. After repeat summers a few even go on to fill additional camp staff positions before making their mark in other careers!

What’s your plan for personal growth next summer? Do you see “camp counselor” in your future?


Thanks for the image Michel Filion.

How to fire up your resume outside of class!

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

According to American Camp Association (ACA) CEO Peg Smith, approximately 1.2 million camp staff make summer camp happen each year. Camp counselors are a large group in that staggering number and many are also college students who not only earn money for school but also professional experience, resume-building skills and learn a lot about themselves! Smith says that summer camp provides a unique learning experience for college students since “a camp job offers real life experiences and a hands-on education that simply cannot be found in a classroom.” If you’re looking for a way to earn money and also develop and grow as a person, summer camp is a place where children and adults come together to form a unique community. It’s a job that you can take seriously and share what you know—but also learn—from staff and campers.

Here are some benefits you can expect from the job:

1. No research then writing arguments here! You’ll have to master real-life, problem-solving skills in the moment, like how to get your campers to clean up and go to activities on time.

2. You’ll be a role model and surrogate parent for children who grow to love and respect you while you have a significant and positive influence in their lives.

3. As you care for and encourage others, you’ll develop greater self-understanding. You’re moving into adulthood and it shows in the way you treat others and make choices for yourself!

4. Professional development and training are required—no taking a back seat here. Hone your leadership and people skills.

5. You’ve heard about “networking,” and this is where it starts—you’ll develop and expand a network of peer relations that can last a lifetime.

Do you want to know more? Find out about camp counselor opportunities here and how you can combine earning money for college, professional and personal development and yes, a little camp fun!


I can do it myself!

Monday, December 27th, 2010

While no actual human being develops in the precise sequence of a child development chart, new parents quickly learn that children do go through dramatic stages. Like other skills, becoming self-reliant takes time and can only develop through real time.

To begin with, parents often track all the “firsts” that a child achieves on a daily basis but as the list grows longer we come to expect changes. The way that most young children acquire language and skills is so rapid that later—even when parents are getting a little more sleep—it becomes difficult to remain excited about each previous new word or action! However, there is one stage that most parents don’t forget and that’s when a child starts declaring, “I can do it myself.” All of a sudden, totally dependent infants morph into adamant creatures with distinct needs and wants. This exasperating but essential stage is filled with cute moments when children seem to hover between babyhood and childhood. But it can also be a difficult time for some parents if they fear that their child may not need them any longer.

As children mature, they continue to develop and require more experiences where they can make independent choices without parents. If parents don’t allow children to make decisions and do things on their own, they won’t develop confidence or realize that they are not just extensions of their caregivers. It’s a tricky line that parents walk! Sometimes giving children room to spread their wings seems counter intuitive, but in order to grow into a self-reliant adult, children need to struggle without the offer of a quick fix. Even when parents can take care of things, the better choice is to support a child through the process of working through and solving problems. Long after a problem has been forgotten, a self-reliant child will remember hearing, “Wow! You amaze me! You really worked hard to figure that out.”

A child who is self-reliant can think for themselves, trusts their own judgment and feels in control of their life. This leads to becoming more active, independent and competent adults and citizens. The child also develops skills to draw on inner resources and use coping mechanisms even when they feel things are not easy. Sending a child to camp is a perfect way for a child to further develop self-reliance in a nurturing, safe and supportive environment. The whole camp experience is designed to illustrate to the camper that becoming a successful person takes personal strength as well as playing a role in a larger group–with the emphasis always on FUN. I can’t think of a more wonderful childhood experience for facilitating such important life skills!

Of course, the process of becoming self-reliant is not easy, but that’s where camp staff and counselors are there to help your child adjust and learn. If you wonder how to help your child develop self-reliance, remember that each child comes to conclusions for themselves, so the only way to experience camp is to be a camper. They are building on early determination to “do it themselves,” and those first fierce moments of independence are precious. Camp offers a full range of fun, adventure, and opportunities to experience emotions with different adults and in new, safe situations. By the end of summer camp, campers bring a lot of stuff home. There’ll be great crafts, stories to tell and some inevitable laundry to wash—but every camper in the world—also brings home a new understanding of themselves.

How did you learn self-reliance at summer camp and what strategies helped you support your independence? Which experiences do you think especially helped kids develop inner strengths? We look forward to your stories too!


Thanks for the image AmberStrocel.

Building Community At and Beyond Camp

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

I don’t know about you, but a good number of my current communities are one step away from reality — they only exist online. I have a Facebook community, which includes a good number of friends-of-friends that I’ve never met in person. I visit a set list of blogs every day and have a great time interacting with the authors and the other readers. While our definition of community might be expanding, I don’t think any of us have lost sight of the importance of a good, old-fashioned in-person community though.

According to the American Camp Association, parents have identified the development of social skills/living in community (such as making new friends, getting along with others, becoming more responsible, and learning group-living skills) as one of the main reasons they send their children to camp. The owners, directors and staff at summer camp all understand the power of community and structure these skills into their programs in several areas.

1. Communal Living

I am an only child, and as such, I always had my own room when I was a child, so living in a camp bunk for the first time was a huge learning experience. For the first time, I had to be part of a community of people who were sharing space, delegating work and working, communally, to make things work. It didn’t take long for me to get into the routine of doing my part and see how even the most menial job — mine was taking out the trash – contributed to the health of the community.

Bunkmates must also learn how to navigate the waters of communal decisionmaking. They must work through the inevitable issues and conflicts that come up in bunk living — and they must learn to adapt and get along when things don’t go their way. They learn to live by the will of the majority, while at the same time respecting the needs of others who represent the minority. Again, according to the ACA, “small group living also provides the necessary intimacy for individuals to achieve a sense of belonging, explore a variety of group roles, cooperate and form relationships with others, and have input into the group’s activities”.

2. Eating and Singing Together

In the past few years there has been a large ad campaign promoting family dinners. Sitting around the dinner table sharing stories, concerns and the high and low points of your day with family members — or fellow campers — creates intimate bonds between all of the participants. Most camps have family-style meals and singing traditional camp songs together is often a ritual. Songs are always a founding piece of any culture and at camp, at the end of session when everyone knows the camp songs, they too become community bonds that live through the years.

3. Connections that Last

Although sometimes I am annoyed with how much of my life occurs online, there’s no arguing that modern social networking has helped nurture the lifelong friendships developed at camp. Now, instead of waiting days or week from a letter from a camp pen pal, you can send a text message, IM, or just nudge them on Facebook. Many camps have Facebook groups, some devoted exclusively to alumni from certain years, so the 50-somethings reminiscing about camp in the 70s can be a subgroup of a larger online camp community.

No matter how much time passes, the camp community lives on. Alumni have frequent get-togethers and are always welcome to spend a day visiting their old camp haunts. Many camps host reunions every year and invite alumni from different generations to come and visit together, creating yet another community, another branch of the family tree.

Want to get and stay connected with Camp Starlight? Check out our Facebook page!

How did you experience community at camp? How have you sustained it since? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!


Building Character at Summer Camp

Monday, December 20th, 2010

As parents, we are always on the lookout for experiences that help our children learn new skills. We enroll them in music lessons, martial arts, sports, theatre, choir and, of course, summer camps. But we all know that the best programs (and the best educational experiences) are ones that go beyond the basics of teaching skills to help develop our children’s character. The basics of character — trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship — are all essential ingredients in summer camp experiences.

“Camp teaches values such as self-esteem, teamwork, and caring — areas where traditional schools sometimes cause more detriment than good. And camp allows everyone, not just the top student and the best athlete, to thrive and enjoy the process of learning,” says Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association (ACA).

Everything we’ve written about on this blog so far — being ready for camp, unplugging from the digital world, traveling to camp, developinginterpersonalcommunication skills, interacting with camp counselors, participating in camp traditions, and learning new sports and skills all contribute to building character.

When mom Martha realized that her son Jaden had come home with crucial life skills — taking care of himself and making good choices — she knew that camp had served a crucial role in his life.

“I felt like they were living a free life,” she says. The rules were there, just not stressful. This kind of independence creates the necessary space for the foundations of character to blossom. “I could not believe the person he had become – just a new person – totally confident in himself,” she says.

It’s no surprise, really. Camp activities, to be successful, require all the participants to have self-discipline and an unselfish sense of camaraderie. “There is just something about living with a group of boys,” mom Wendy says after sending her only son Justin to camp for the first time. Living communally in cabins and bunks requires teamwork, creativity and a willingness to work together.

The camp directors, staff and counselors deserve much of the credit for the character development Martha and Wendy saw in their sons after just a few weeks at camp. They work hard to develop programs that bring a diverse community together around common values and goals, and everyone benefits – campers, parents and staff, and the world they come back to each fall, bringing their good character with them. Camp is about educating the whole child and allowing them to flourish, so that we all as a society may do so.


What’s happening at camp right now?

Friday, December 17th, 2010

How would you describe the essential elements of a summer camp? Do the adventures of spending days with peers, learning new skills, trying new activities, bonfires and skits, great counselors— all the fun of the whole experience— first come to mind? These are definitely important elements of summer camp from a camper’s perspective, but there are a lot of other elements that have to be in place for a camp to be successful year after year. Have you ever wondered what it takes to set the scene and develop communities where good times can take place? I have.

The camp experience is part of the heritage and culture of the United States, and for generations, American families have sent their children to camp—about 10 million children last year alone! As you can guess, each camp has it’s own story and distinct cultural and physical environment, so each camp experience is unique.

The American Camp Association (ACA) is the professional organization that educates camp owners and directors in the administration of key aspects of camp operation, program quality, and the health and safety of campers and staff. The ACA also establishes guidelines for policies, procedures, and practices when running a camp. Of course, Camp Starlight is a fully accredited member of the ACA. Each year, camp professionals gather for a national conference to discuss their work. Last year’s conference title alone, 20/20 Toolbox: Tomorrow’s Camps, Today’s Realities illustrates how camps are focused on creating the very best experiences for today and also into the future.

The staff at Camp Starlight works all year to make sure that facilities are maintained and prepared for when camp is in session. There are so many details to take care of— from making sure that buildings are cared for, to improving camp facilities, adding or updating equipment and ensuring that health and safety codes are met. Camp owners and managers also have to keep up with changing demographics and expectations from their clientele. So long before campers arrive, camp staff are learning about new practices, meeting up to date regulations, putting current ideas into practice and working towards providing the best of the best. There are activities and events to plan, qualified counselors to recruit, ideas for even more fun than last year to implement and new campers to meet around the country. As camper’s needs and tastes change over the years, camp staff are dedicated to making each year as special as the last–and while traditions are an important part of camp life there is lots of room for fresh programs too.

Camp Starlight’s newest addition is The Carriage House. This 12,000 square foot indoor/outdoor facility features a Gymnastics Center with a full-sized springboard floor, and 30′ Tumble Trak; Dance and Aerobics Center with two Dance Studios, an Aerobics and Spin Bike Studio, a fully equipped Fitness Center and Arts and Crafts Center with Craft Studios, Ceramics Studio, Woodworking Shop, and outdoor deck. For the summer of 2011, Starlight’s private lake will feature new swimming and boating docks where our campers will enjoy swimming, playing on the water toys, boating and water skiing. These are just a few of the many new improvements to our facility and program!


Thank you for the images Horia Varlan.

Summer Camp and Child Development

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

“The organized summer camp is the most important step in education that America has given the world.”
Charles W. Eliot, former president of Harvard University, 1922

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that we’ve focused a lot on how much fun kids have at camp — learning new sports; spending time with friends old and new; going on amazing trips; connecting with friends and counselors. But camp is also an educational experience for the children. We’re so used to education being “school” that it’s a real shift in perception to see lacrosse, tennis, living in a bunk, and other camp activities as education; but educational activities they are, as many parents can attest now their kids are back in school!

Summer camps make a huge difference in the year-round education of our children, but it may require a shift in our thinking about what education is and can be. The American Academy of Pediatrics, alongside many other scholars of child development, explains why, as “Play is essential to development as it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.” Our kids learn while playing and they are learning important things about themselves as independent social beings, collaboratively working with others and consequential behaviors such as self reliance, responsibility and accountability.

So what kind of difference can summer camp make to your child’s development? As the Executive Director of the American Camp Association, Peg Smith has been telling the world for years, opportunities for growth and development exist in natural settings that promote experiential learning, improve social skills and physical fitness, teach children to take calculated risks in a safe environment, and expand the creative mind. The environment our kids learn in is important, and nothing beats Nature.

As you can see, summer camp is one of the most precious educational gifts you can give your children. If you would like to read more, check out The Experiential Classroom: Camp (3/10) by Marla Coleman in The American Camping Association’s Camping magazine. We’d also like to hear what you believe summer camp has taught you and your children! Please feel free to share in the comments section below.


Whatley Weighs In

Friday, December 10th, 2010

One of the most popular members of the Starlight Athletics Staff stopped by to give us an update on his team’s recent fall season and to give a couple of tips to all of our Starlight Soccer players as they try to stay in peak shape for the Wayne County season.

“The 2010 Rockford Soccer season continued to be a building process, as we did not have near the success we had hoped for in terms of wins and losses. However, there was continued development of key positions, and we saw three players garner All Conference honors. Former Starlight Staff Members Nate Sweet, Bronson Garcia, and Matt Saelens all played key roles on the Regents this past season, and they hope to see you all again next season on Alumni Field.”

Some skills Matt Whatley recommends working on over the winter in order to keep your soccer game in peak shape:

  • Juggling. It will help your touches.
  • Passing against a wall. This will help with your passing and trapping. A
  • A bell on the ball will help you with your dribble and touches. Place the ball between your feet and tap it from one foot to the other. To make this exercise even more difficult, try to do so without looking at the ball. You can also do stationary moves, such as overs, unders, sole behind drags, etc.

Hope these couple of drills help, and I look forward to seeing you all back on Alumni Field in June.


This isn’t just your typical summer job!

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Are you ready for the best summer of your life?! Get out from behind the desk, stop flipping burgers, and leave the cash register behind! Go to Camp! Work at Starlight!

They say it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love, and if you have spent a summer working at camp, you know that those words are true. But a lifetime of fun, spirit, laughter, new adventures, challenges, friendships and activities awaits you…and you can get all this… in just 8 weeks!

Yes, the role of a Starlight counselor is demanding and exhausting, but it is also more rewarding than you can ever imagine. Being part of a strong camp community such as Starlight gives you an opportunity to really be yourself. It allows you to teach, learn, grow, and even realize some undiscovered talents! Coming into the job, I don’t think anyone can understand the impact the campers and other staff members will have on you, but no one walks away without feeling like they were a part of something very special. A feeling you can’t describe; you just have to “know it”. A sense of team truly exists at our camp, and you will return from a summer at Starlight with a greater sense of self confidence, strong friendships, new skills, and even some great dining hall cheers! Learn more about this amazing opportunity in the Staff Section of our site and apply today!

Alyson Lee

Camp Mom — Woman of Wonder and Grace

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

The official end of summer has passed and kids all over the nation are back at school and I can easily imagine the hallways are still bursting over with stories of summer camp and all of its amazing experiences.  Let me tell you about College Days! The fireworks over the lake on the last night! I so miss my camp friends…

Someone else campers might be missing as they return to school is their Camp Mom. Usually assigned to the youngest campers, the Camp Mom serves as the the wonder woman of camp life. Ever wonder who keeps nails clipped, or makes sure kids eat a balanced meal? Camp Mom.

“I work really closely with them,” says Amy Blum, who served as Camp Mom for the youngest girls (7-11 year olds) at Camp Starlight this summer. Blum lived at camp the entire summer and saw her role as being an “extra set of eyes and ears to make sure the younger kids were having a great time.” Counselors are in their early twenties, Blum points out, and they haven’t had or raised children, so having a mom on hand was a source of comfort for everyone.

“The counselors would come to me for advice,” Blum says, and she would often think of things that young college students just wouldn’t. “We would always be there at lunch time, taking a look at everyone’s plate as they walked by. When kids came by just filled up with French fries, I’d send them back to get something else. That’s not something the counselors may notice,” she says, admitting that sometimes it’s the counselors themselves who may need a nudge toward the healthier lunch options.

Camp Moms are also just what their name implies, a mom away from home. If a camper is missing home, Amy is ready with a hug and a listening ear. When campers in the nurses office or the health center need a cold glass of ice water, Blum is there to deliver it and check in on them. Blum was always there to help apply sunscreen and Chapstick in the morning, help the girls get their bunks ready for inspection and check in after phone calls home or visiting day.

“I was very impressed with how independent the girls were,” Blum says. “I expected more adjustment issues but the girls were very well prepared for camp. The knew what was expected of them and they did it very well.”

There’s always the need for a helping hand, though. Blum was there to lead a circle game while girls waited their turn on the archery field- don’t like the idea of waiting maybe sing with them as they go to activities or something, for example, encourage the girls as they tackle the climbing wall, and make emergency bathroom runs. She would also hand out the “secret snacks” and be their constant cheerleader.

Blum herself has been involved with summer camp continuously since she was a camper herself in the late 70s. “I’ve missed only three summers since then, and I met my husband at summer camp.” The Blum family tradition is continuing; Amy’s daughter was a counselor in the youngest girls’ bunk at Starlight this summer. She hopes to continue the tradition next summer and would love to return to be Camp Mom again. “I loved what I did and we all enjoyed it and had a good time. It was a wonderful experience.”


Thanks for the image OiMax