Archive for February, 2011

A Summer Full of Adventure

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Few people think of finding a summer job while bundled in scarves, coats, and gloves as they attempt to maneuver roadways and college campuses after the latest snowfall.  However, whether 2011 is the first time you’re considering a summer camp position or you’re a seasoned veteran, February is exactly the time to start the process of securing summer employment, if you haven’t already done so.  Many camps attend campus recruiting fairs in order to assemble the perfect staff.  So why should you attend one of these fairs or complete an online application now?  To begin with, a camp job is definitely fun, but also a lot of work…so be prepared! Where else can you get paid to play all day while building valuable job skills? Whether you work in a specific area and focus on a sport, activity or hobby you love or you work as a counselor who travels from activity to activity with campers, your day is full of exciting challenges and a probably even a few surprises, both of which will develop your problem-solving, critical thinking, and negotiation skills.

If you like working with children and aspire to a career in a field such as education, sports training, psychology or sociology, then you already have another reason to work at a camp.  Camp is an excellent place to gain valuable experience and is impressive on a resume.  Although camp seems lighthearted–and it is in many ways–working at camp requires a lot of responsibility, flexibility, and adaptability, all of which are very valuable characteristics sought by employers.   Each day guarantees new challenges, many of them unexpected.  Summer camp is often organized chaos.  Yes, there is always a plan in place, but the unexpected is also inevitable.  While this may seem scary the first couple days, it also brings an excitement and satisfaction that delivering pizzas or serving food (or even working at an investment bank)  never could.  Working at camp also requires a lot of communication and interpersonal interaction, two more transferrable skills that are highly valued by employers.  At camp, you must effectively co-exist with your campers, co-counselors, and other staff members to be successful.   You will also be able to tell future employers that you worked with people from all over the world and from many different socio-economic backgrounds.  That you’ve overcome cultural, language, and social obstacles with others tells recruiters that diversity is not something you fear, but rather embrace.

Working at summer camp can also be very healthy for your bank account.  You won’t become Donald Trump spending your summers at camp. However; camps provide housing and food in addition to a salary. It’s possible to live virtually expense-free for a couple of months.  Many summer camp counselors take home all or most of their salaries at the end of the summer.

Finally, you will form lifelong friendships at camp.  You may arrive alone and nervous in June, but you will leave in August with literally hundreds of friends from all over the world.  Two months may not seem like a long time, but when one lives and works in close proximity with co-workers, it’s more than sufficient to form bonds that ordinarily would take years.  There are always  tears on the last day of camp, not only when saying goodbye to your campers, who will have secured a special place in your heart forever, but to co-workers—the ones you know you will see again as well as the ones you know you will not.  Regardless, the world will seem like a much smaller place to you.

Though it may seem early to begin planning such a special adventure with so many possibilities, building a successful camp staff not only requires individuals who possess all of the qualities previously mentioned, it requires finding the right mix of personalities and talents.  Such an endeavor, of course, takes time.  Camp recruiters review literally thousands of applications each year and speak with hundreds of candidates to find those who are the best fit for their camp’s atmosphere, philosophy and program.  Starting your job search while the ground is still white and the tree branches still bare provides you with the advantage of a larger pool of positions from which to choose.  By April, most camps have nearly completed their hiring and only difficult to fill or highly specialized roles remain.

So, after a winter of wading through piles of snow, are you ready for a summer full of adventure?

Former Campers Turned Counselors Tell What Brought Them Back

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

For many Starlighters, spending numerous summers as a camper instills in them the desire to return to camp and give back. We are lucky to have a large number of former campers who return as counselors year after year. Their knowledge of camp is indispensable, and their desire to make their campers’ time at Starlight as special as theirs is quite evident.

Knowledge of camp and a firm grasp of Starlight traditions aren’t the only tools former campers bring with them when making the transition to staff members.  They also bring a thorough understanding of what campers expect from their counselors and know which characteristics make a mentor in the eyes of a camper.  For Matt Grobman, those qualities were a sense of humor, a laid back demeanor, and the ability to maintain control of campers in almost any situation.  “When I was a camper, my counselor was both funny and relaxed,” he says, “A good counselor also balances the fun with structure, which is essential in any work with children.”

More than anything, however, former campers love camp and enjoy giving back because they see a glimmer of themselves in their campers.  The opportunity to keep the spirit of their childhood summers at Starlight alive even as they journey through adulthood is,for some, a tradition in its own rite. Former camper and two year veteran counselor Nikki Gelfand says the two counselors she had as a Lower Inter, who had both been former campers, were “like big sisters”.  She credits the influence of those former counselors for her decision to use her camper experiences to help children make the most of their time at Starlight.  Julia Whalen sums up her colleagues’ sentiments, “The most rewarding part of coming back as a counselor is when you see your 10-year old self in one of your campers.”

Thanks Nikki, Matt, and Julia for your time!

Developing “Five Minds” to Successfully Think Outside the Box!

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Our society has long promoted the idea that intelligent people do well on tests and earn good grades.  But Howard Gardner, a Professor of Education at Harvard University, argues that there are multiple intelligences or ways that are necessary for processing and using information.  In his recent research, Five Minds for the Future, Gardner describes “five minds” or ways of thinking and acting that will determine success in the future.  Gardner’s research shows that children need to cultivate both academic skills and character — that developing “the respectful” and “the ethical” minds is essential–this is where summer camp comes into play.

Camp experiences are designed to take things further with the whole child in mind.  It helps children develop respect for others, hone personal character, and learn to negotiate and appreciate diverse people.  Although this learning should take place all year long, most educational systems operate on old models.  Summer camp provides opportunities that are often difficult to find at school.

Gardner believes that since there are multiple ways to approach life and work, to be successful each person must figure out a unique personal combination of intelligences from his list—disciplined, synthesizing, creating, respectful and ethical mind.  Here’s a brief introduction to his categories as well as reasons for why children need to develop these “minds”:

1. A disciplined mind knows a lot about something like history or math and works to learn more.  This way of thinking is challenging and requires practice since, since it’s not intuitive.

2. The synthesizing mind has the ability to deal with information overload by understanding what to pay attention to, what to ignore, and how to put this information together in useful ways to share with others.

3. The creating mind works to generate new ideas using comprehensive knowledge and synthesizing what has been learned.  A creative mind takes chances and uses even negative feedback to be innovative.

4. The respectful mind does more than tolerate differences but goes further to cultivate respect, along with emotional and interpersonal intelligence.  This requires embracing and celebrating diversity on multiple levels—and welcoming difference as a fact of living in our amazing world.

5.  The ethical mind thinks about how individual work and needs are connected to society.  This mind conceptualizes how workers can serve purposes beyond their own self-interests and become citizens who work unselfishly to improve the situations of other people.

Gardner explains that our changing world especially needs new “respectful” and “ethical “minds.  In the future, citizens and workers will rely on “out-of-the-box” and non-linear thinking skills to solve changing and complex challenges. Interdisciplinary expertise and a team approach are the best ways to find solutions. For example, solving real world problems like the complex syndrome of autism involves understanding medicine and education. Students need to not only master “the box” but also need other skills to “think outside” of it!

We know that summer camp gives children the time and space to learn how to contribute as individuals within the group.  Throughout the summer weeks, each unique camper tries out activities and comes to understand their personal strengths.  With the help of staff they learn to negotiate differences and truly learn how to support each other.  While an unaware observer might just see children having fun, camp is actually full of opportunities for showing care, practicing teamwork and developing multiple minds!  It’s a great place for personal growth, acquiring life skills, having fun and making memories all at the same time.

What do you think about Gardner’s theories?  Do you think that interpersonal respect and teamwork are as equally important as academics?


Swirl Some Color into Your Winter by Tie-Dying at Home

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

One of the most popular arts and crafts activities at Camp Starlight is tie-dying. There is no better way to liven-up a t-shirt, tank top, pillow case, or pair of socks than a fun tie- dying activity! Rain or shine Camp Starlight loves to tie- dye!  Even though it may seem better at Starlight… you don’t need to be in the Carriage House, surrounded by Leslie Schwartz and her talented team of Arts and Crafts Specialists to make something fantastic. You can follow these simple steps at home with your parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends to create something awesome to bring to camp in 2011!

#1.) Preparing the Shirt for Tying and Dying

•          First, the shirt must be 100% cotton or it will not hold the dye.

•          Always prewash the shirt.  It contains a fabric finish when it is new and this prevents all the dye from being absorbed into the fibers.  Washing will remove the finish.

•          Pre-soak the shirt in 1 cup of soda ash to 1 gallon of water. If you mix this with your hands, wear rubber gloves. Soak for 15 minutes to 1 hour.  The soda ash solution losses its effectiveness after 1 hour. You can no longer use it.  Dispose of the soda ash solution.

•          Squeeze out the soaked shirt. Wear rubber gloves when doing this. You are now ready to tie your shirt.


These are the directions for creating a swirl design. Make sure to place a large sheet of plastic down to protect the table.

•          Place the shirt out flat with the front side down. The side that is down always has the better appearance.

•          Place a clothes pin where you wish the center of the swirl to be.  Remember, that the center of the shirt may come down low on the person wearing it.  You may want to have the center of the swirl off center, near the top, or near the bottom.

•          Holding the clothes pin, swirl the shirt.  Gather up loose edges as you go.  The shirt should not go up in a point, but rather gather up only a few inches above the work surface.  When you are finished, it will be similar in size and shape to a round layer of cake.

•          Gently lift the twisted shirt and place a rubber band across the shirt, crossing the center point.  Add two more rubber bands, creating six “pie” sections.  These do not have to be equal in size.

•          Turn the shirt over and make sure that the rubber bands cross or X across the center of the swirl.

•          You are now ready to dye.

#3.) Dying the Tied Shirt

•          Cover the tables with plastic sheeting to prevent the dye from staining the surface.

•          If you are dying outside, you can work on the grass.

•          Place an entire newspaper under the tied t-shirt.  Have the newspaper in 2 large sections. The newspaper will absorb the dyes that overflow the shirt.

•          Remember the color scheme that you will be using.

•          Put on the rubber gloves.

•          Using the squirt bottles containing the mixed dye, start with your first color. Carefully tip the bottle over and point it at the triangular “pie section” of the tied shirt.  Start near the edge and squeeze the dye out gently.  Move toward the center as you dye that section.

•          Change colors as you go around the shirt.  For three colors you will repeat the colors twice on each side.

•           When you turn over the shirt, flip the newspaper to a clean section.

•          You will be able to see the colors used on the sections of the dyed side.  Repeat the same colors on the second side.

•          When the shirt is dyed on both sides, place the shirt inside a plastic bag.  Twist tie this closed. You will leave the shirt inside the bag for 24

#4.) Washing and Drying the Tie-Dyed Shirt

•          Again, leave the dyed shirt inside a sealed plastic bag for at least 24 hours.

•          There are two ways to rinse and wash a dyed shirt (multiple or single shirts).

•          The first way is to rinse the shirt out in a sink or with a hose until most of the dye is gone and the water runs clear. Remove the rubber bands and continue to rinse, if necessary.

•          Place rinsed shirt in a washer and wash with detergent.  ((Warm water is okay.)

•          You may place the shirt in the dryer or line dry, if you choose.

•          The 2nd way works well with a single dyed shirt. You may skip the rinsing and instead place the shirt in the washer and wash it alone in a complete load of water.  No pre-rinsing is necessary. Dry.

•          Now wear your shirt!

Just in case you need a few helpful tips… here are Leslie Schwartz’s Top Tips for creating an awesome masterpiece.

  1. Mix the soda ash and dye solutions ahead of time. Store mixed dyes in the refrigerator so they don’t lose strength.
  2. Make sure the rubber bands are on super tight; the tighter they are the better the shirt will come out.
  3. Make sure to wear rubber gloves.
  4. Pick colors that will look good together – like turquoise, navy blue, crimson, etc. If you want high contrast like yellow and purple, be sure to do the colors at separate times so the purple and yellow cannot mix! Maybe you can do the first (lighter) color one day and the second color the following morning.
  5. Rinse project after dyeing with warm water, followed by a cool water rinse.
  6. Have Fun!
  7. Have Fun!
  8. Have Fun!

Feeling Groovy at Camp—Now and Then!

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

When I think about “camp songs,” I immediately think about singing around campfires, but each year at camp also has a distinct popular music soundtrack. Recently, campers weighed in on Twitter about the tunes that remind them of past summers and that got me thinking about what the United States and camp was like in the 1960s and 1970s.

Hadley Hury remembers You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown (1969) and Music Man and the Counselors’ Show from 1970. That’s also when Charlie Ziff was theater director, Hadley was assistant director and Jay Newman had the job of radio director for The Fantastiks. 1969 was the year that campers watched the moonwalk on television in the theater and there was lots of talk about some “big thing going on in some little town called Woodstock!”

Bobby Brickman says he has vivid memories that revolve around people who played lead roles in productions of Brigadoon in 1961, Carousel in 1963, and Bye Bye Birdie in 1963. It’s clear that for a very long time, camp has been the place to put creativity and passion into great performances!

Barbara Gough adds that when she hears the captivating bass line of “Reach Out of the Darkness” by Friend and Lover, she’s immediately transported back to 1968. Friend and Lover was a one hit wonder and their song ranked in the Top Ten during 1968 when Barbara says campers “danced to this playing on the jukebox in the Canteen all summer long!” The song embraced social change with lyrics like “I think it’s so groovy now, That people are finally getting together. . .Reach out in the darkness. . .And you may find a friend.”

Back then, while campers made friends and memories, things in the United States as a whole were not so peaceful. When students in California held a Selective Service sit-in, 3,000 of them were arrested and housed in the San Francisco 49ers’ old football stadium. A promo man got a sound truck and started broadcasting “Reach Out of the Darkness” towards the students. That’s what started the song’s rise up the charts—and why campers miles away listened to the hit that summer!

The historical events of those times grounded the more multicultural and open society we have today, but during the 1960s, many people felt uncertain as to what the future held. In 1968, when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, “Reach Out in the Darkness,” rocketed up the charts and like other big hits that year, captured the country’s changing mood. Songs that also ranked in 1968 include the Rascals’, “People Got to Be Free,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” James Brown’s “Say It Loud–I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and versions of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Gladys Knight and the Pips and Marvin Gaye.
Summer camp is always a microcosm of our world-at-large where campers practice and learn skills for negotiating the world, where assumptions can be challenged, and where diverse people find ways to celebrate community and appreciate each other. One great thing about camp is that for a few weeks, the world grows a little smaller and everyone listens to the same soundtrack. In a fast-paced and interconnected world, camp “sounds” like the perfect place for connecting with others and as Hadley says, every summer adds up to “good times for campers and staff.” It’s often only later that campers realize how much the experience has shaped them and the way they see the world–much like how hit songs can illuminate the past in retrospect. The music (and fashions) may change through the years, but the core camp experience never goes out of date.

We’d love to hear about how your time at camp contributed to your understanding about others as well as what you’re looking forward to most this summer!

Thanks for the image Cre8iveDoodles ~*~ New Beginnings!

Pining for a Good Ol’ Starlight Cookout

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Let’s be honest… who does not find themselves on a random Wednesday evening pining for a good ol’ Camp Starlight cookout? Is there any better way to enjoy a nice, juicy burger or hot dog with a side of delicious knishes and a fresh slice of watermelon? Top it off with your favorite soda, lemonade, or refreshing iced tea and what more could you ask for? You find yourself drifting off to an evening of great Pennsylvania summer weather, shooting the breeze with your camp friends on the plush lawn of the golf course hill. It’s a fond memory for some and a daydream of cookouts to come for many of us.

During the summer, we enjoy those S days with a late reveille and fun filled days spending time together with our divisions. Once the bugle call resounds through camp, you know the meal we all look forward to from week to week has finally come! You make your way across camp with a little more pep in your step than usual. When you are greeted with the smiles and expert spatula skills of Scotty B. and his crew of male division leaders, you can almost taste the delicious meal. You line up and tap your foot or maybe sing along to the latest tunes Jason has pumping through the speakers, then take your spot across from the Upper Seniors, who are no doubt having a blast piling food on plates with a smile and a joke for everyone.

Once you have your plate’s fill of whatever combination meets your fancy, you direct your attention to the spread of campers and counselors relaxing on the grass. Making your way through the groups, big and small, of Starlighters congregating together while they enjoy their dinner, you finally find your spot of perfect grass with your friends. And the rest is history! Cookouts on the hill are always an evening of laughter, music, and quality hang out time with your friends, camp family, and staff. It has become a very special time of the week for everyone to get together and talk about the wonderful memories and adventures they’ve experienced as well as the adventures still to come. So the next time you find yourself lost in the memory or anticipation of a Camp Starlight cookout, close your eyes.  We just bet you’ll be greeted with the gorgeous panorama of the mountains and the mouth watering aroma of a burger flipped by Scott and company, prepared just for you!