Archive for October, 2012

Summer Camp Helps Children Maintain Routine

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Summer camp is a lot of fun.  One need only ask any camper on virtually any summer camp campus to confirm that notion.  Children love the activities and the relatively relaxed environment of sleepaway camp.  However, there is something else that summer camp children crave, although they might not know it:  structure.  Dr. Laura Markham asserts that routine helps children develop self-discipline, cooperation, change tolerance, and responsibility.

To an outsider, summer camps may seem like little more than organized chaos.  However, most summer camps operate around set daily schedules that move children from activity to activity at specific times throughout the day.  Although the daily activities may change, the times and length of the periods do not.  Meals are also held at set times.  The use of bugle calls, bells, music, or announcements assist campers in transitioning from one part of their day to another, which, according to Markham, helps eliminate power struggles by setting parameters and giving children a recognizable sign for knowing when it’s time to bring one activity to a close and move onto another without being told.

A daily routine also helps at night.  Research shows that children who have a structured schedule sleep better at night.  Routine also lessens anxiety and improves behavioral issues.  Children feel less anxiety when they understand what is expected of them and can confidently anticipate what will happen next.  Summer camp is built on traditions that happen from year-to-year.  Many camps are also divided into age groups that serve as steps through the camp experience from the first year of camp to the final.  From their first day at camp, there are certain rites and privileges related to sleepaway camp traditions specific to each age group to which campers can look forward as they get older.  That children can see from the beginning that summer camp is a progressive process also helps them to understand the concept of patience when working toward a goal.

Because of the benefits provided by the structure of summer camp, many parents are increasingly seeing the advantages of time spent at summer camp.  As a result, summer camp is experiencing a revival of sorts as a summer staple.  More than eleven million people attended camp last year, according to the American Camp Association.  If you’re trying to think of a way to add value to your children’s summer, consider sending them to summer camp.

Remembering Opening Day Arrivals

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

One of the coolest camp feelings, whether one is a staff member or a camper, is watching the buses roll up to the Clinic Field on Opening Day and seeing all of our camp friends, many of them for the first time since saying goodbye the previous year.  Campers come to summer camp from all over the world, so seeing each other regularly or even between summers can be challenging.  The anticipation for the staff every year when we hear that the buses have left their pickup points and the campers are on their way is intense.  Ten months of planning are finally about to come together!  We’re so excited we can hardly eat our breakfast…As enthusiastic as those waiting at camp are, we’re perfectly aware that the anticipation on the buses is even higher among campers counting the minutes until they drive up the camp road for the first time of the new summer, past Alumni Field, the Boys basketball courts, tennis courts, around the Dining Hall past the Starlight Playhouse, and just catch a glimpse of the Carriage House before the bus stops, and everyone steps off the buses and into the arms of their camp friends before meeting their counselors.  It’s always an incredibly special day, and recapturing that feeling is always fun.  So this week, we’re dipping into our Camp Starlight vault to remember…Opening Day 2012.  Yes!  The day the buses pulled up and the summer began.  It’s hard to believe that it was already almost five months ago! It’s crazy how time flies over the summer.  We can’t wait for Opening Day 2013!

Learning the Value of Tradition at Camp

Friday, October 12th, 2012

The holidays are around the corner.  During that time of year, the word “tradition” gets thrown around a lot.  But how many people actually understand what tradition is really?  Perhaps it’s the emphasis on forward thinking and constantly in-motion global community that has caused many to confuse “tradition” with “routine.”  They’ve both become something that we do on a regular basis in order to establish or maintain a consistency or pattern in our behavior.  So what really distinguishes “tradition” from “routine”?

First, routine is something that one person does but might not necessarily have in common with others.  Most people brush their teeth at some point in time in the morning.  Few people do it at exactly the same time.  Some shower first.  Others eat breakfast.  Eventually, everyone brushes their teeth but the experience is, for all intents and purposes, individual.  There is no shared significance.

Tradition, on the other hand, is by definition community oriented.  It’s a shared custom, belief, or activity with a common understanding of the reason for its practice.  Many of us eat turkey at Thanksgiving because we symbolically associate it with that first meal between the pilgrims and native Americans.  It’s a tradition.

Second, routine, unlike tradition, is not necessarily multi-generational or even long-term.  It’s something done for a specified length of time.  While we maintain some routines for all or much of our lives, others are short term.  If one gets the flu, for instance, one might temporarily take up a routine of antibiotics.  But once the flu subsides, so does that routine.

On the other hand, tradition is something that is a common bond between multiple generations.  It’s an acknowledgment that an event or action was significant to someone tied to our past, and the observance of traditions our way of paying tribute to that event or action as well demonstrating our understanding of it.

Finally, routine is task oriented.  We take up routine in order to accomplish a goal.  There is an intended result in routine.  Tradition, however, is an observance.  Routine is a way of moving forward, whereas tradition pays tribute to the importance of the past.

By now, you’re surely asking yourself what any of this has to do with summer camp. Simply this: in a culture that places a significant amount of importance on the establishment of routine, the value of tradition is increasingly less understood and appreciated.  Summer camps, however, are grounded in tradition.  They’re  a place where campers and staff members alike get refresher courses in the power of tradition.  Whether it’s at a campfire, a sing along, or an activity specific to the camp, there are literally hundreds of opportunities every summer for those at a summer camp to bond through tradition.  Many former summer campers and staff members actually name “tradition” as one of their highlights of summer camp.  So if tradition has become an element of holidays past, consider giving your children a future opportunity to enjoy tradition at summer camp in 2013.

A Starlight Halloween!

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Can you believe it is already October!? We bet, just like us at the winter office, you are still thinking about camp! Well, we have been stirring up some tricky ideas on how to make this Halloween a Starlight Spooktacular Event!

How about draping your camp sheets over your homemade haunted house to give it a Starlight style? Or hanging them up with a soccer ball head to be funky ghosts? Bring the carriage house to your Halloween party by having friends and family tie dye t-shirts in orange and black! Have your snack be a fruit call of….caramel apples! Are you missing S-day cookouts? Well, how about carving a watermelon instead of a pumpkin? When someone asks you, “Trick or Treat?” wow them with a trick you learned this summer at Super Sixth Magic! You could even bring the spirit of Camp Starlight into your costume!

Deck out in your Starlight best, topping it with a Starlight visor, and clapping your hands together with a tambourine as Jason Glick! Or even better go as one of the Three Short Neck Buzzards! Take your trick or treating on the road by turning a box into a moon buggy and go as Alyson Lee giving a tour. Stand tall and carry a flag and tell everyone to “Have a great day!” Be victorious this Halloween by suiting up as the next SWF champion! Or even dress as your favorite counselor, maybe they were on the waterfront, ropes, or cooking?

No matter what, we know if you do this, you are sure to have a very Spooktacular Starlight Halloween!

Camp: A Different Set of Expectations

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Okay, admit it.  You’ve found yourself spending a considerable amount of time admiring that candle your daughter gave you on her camp’s Visiting Day or those wooden bookends your son brought home.  Part of you wonders how come you never got to make stuff that cool when you were a kid while another part of you is mystified by how the arts and crafts staff of your child’s summer camp was able to draw out the Picasso in your little ones.    After all, you can barely get them to focus long enough to make a poster for their science projects.  What is it about camp that seems to facilitate children’s creativity?

Sure it’s woodsy and remote, even quaint–the perfect place for children to feel free to be themselves.  They certainly do a lot of things at camp that they don’t get to do at home.  And you did spend the entire summer looking at photos of your daughter posing in a rainbow colored tutu—Did she ever take that thing off?—and of your son covered in face paint knowing full well that neither of them would EVER dress like that at home.  And was that your son dressed as a dog singing on stage?  Singing?  Him?  Really?  And last night he just told you, by the way, that he is trying out for the school play this year because the camp play was really fun.  He would never ever—even if someone had double dog dared him—have auditioned for a play before camp.  What changed?  The Expectations.

There are a lot of reasons children find themselves exploring more creative avenues at summer camp, but one really big one is that the expectations are different.  Children learn to respond to expectations.  Moreover, they learn to respond to the expectations of individuals.  They understand that their parents have expectations as do their teachers, siblings, friends, coaches, so on and so forth.  Whether  we’re comfortable admitting it or not, a lot of the expectations in that ten month world campers know as “winter” in some way promote conformity.  Expectations placed on children at home, in school, etc. emphasize the importance of following rules and established guidelines.  Of course, camp expectations do this, too, but the emphasis at camp is not to find one’s place in that larger whole by blending in but by standing out.  Camp is a place in which children are encouraged to try new things in a quest to find their passion.

Sure you’re thinking of those photos of your daughter holding up her latest tie-dye creation for the camp photographer’s camera—those ones in which she was covered to her elbows in dye—and you’re thinking that’s you wouldn’t really classify tie-dye as a “passion.”  Maybe not.  But it could be the beginning of one, the spark that leads to an interest in art or the arts, or even just the memory of trying something new that turned out to be fun that lends courage to trying other new things.  The expectations in the “world” of camp is that campers will explore it.  Perhaps this is why it’s no surprise that many well known figures attended summer camp and attribute it to being the place where they found long-term direction.  Sure, learning how to plunk out folk songs on a guitar is a long way from the philharmonic and being part of the chorus in the camp play is certainly not Broadway, but the idea is the same and, for many campers, it’s the start of building enough self confidence to stand out.