Archive for December, 2013

2013: Record-Breaking Summer

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

It’s almost 2014, but 2013 was record-breaking year of fun, excitement, and all things Starlight! Looking back at this past year, it’shard to capture all of the great moments that 2013 brought to us. Whether it was the moment stepping of the bus back in June or looking back on the final day of camp in August; the memories still flood our heads even as we are about to put a close to 2013.

Reflecting on the great times we had this year, it’s hard to not forget about the great new things we had at camp in 2013. The completely renovated Fieldhouse was an awesome addition to camp where many Wayne County victories, hard fought Olympic basketball games, and many fun activities were held. Within the new Fieldhouse, our new gym and workout facility was an absolute hit for campers and staff. Fieldhouse is one of the most recognized buildings at camp where memories are made and it is sure to make many more in the future.

Along with new additions to camp, we can’t forget about all of the highlights and moments that made 2013 great. The opening night campfires are always a great tradition to start off the summer. We also can’t forget the classic moments of singing in the dining room, screaming “Good Morning” to David EVERY morning, watching Jason Glick dance on Friday nights, and cheering during the Week in Review.

2013 was special for many reasons, not only did our sports have a record breaking summer with the most Wayne County victories recorded to date, but we also had incredible recollection of things like the hilarious Friday Night Live, Heath “Tell Mia Story’s” great performance at Miss Starlight, the Gnome Scavenger Hunt, and who could forget the, the closest Olympics in Starlight History!

All in all, each and every camper and staff member have their monumental moments that stick in their heads to what 2013 was all about. While everyone can think about the personal memories they had, it is inevitable that 2014 is bound to be even better!

Benefits of STEM Related Summer Camp Programs

Monday, December 16th, 2013

STEM is a popular buzzword—or, more appropriately, acronym–circulating among educational circles, but it might not be a term one might expect to hear within summer camp circles. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, four subject areas to which educators are increasingly striving to give students additional exposure, and summer camps are hopping on the bandwagon. According to the American Camp Association, STEM related activities have been among the most popular additions to summer camp programs over the past five years and for good reason. Summer camp provides campers with an alternative venue to learn in ways that are fun. Classrooms are replaced with the outdoors or facilities designed exclusively for individual programs and class size is vastly reduced allowing campers to be able to take a more intricate, hands on approach to exploring STEM areas through related camp activities. According to the New York Daily News, the average class size in New York, an area in which summer camp is particularly popular, is 25 students. In some schools, class sizes exceed 30 students. STEM related camp programs such as Nature, Rocketry and Radio, are often capped at fewer  than a dozen campers per activity period.  STEM related programs increasingly prove to be among the most popular with campers. So why are children flocking to educational niche programs? There are likely several reasons.

First, summer camp provides an informal, laid back setting. There is no homework. There is no syllabus. There are no lectures.There are no deadlines. There are no exams. It’s completely a ‘participate to the level of your comfort’ environment. All campers are encouraged to try camp STEM related programs at least once during the summer, but some find a new interest or passion and return several times. The ‘participate as you wish’ approach also allows campers to choose how to focus their interests. Counselors, often college majors or professionals in the area that they lead, are facilitators. They are there to encourage and assist campers in channeling their efforts into particular aspect of a STEM related activity if they so desire.

Second, the whole point of summer camp is for campers to have fun. So it goes without saying that camp activities are designed to emphasize fun, even those related to subject areas in which students are traditionally less than enthusiastic during the school year. In that regard, educational niche programs at sleepaway camp aren’t intended to compete with or replace the learning that takes place during the school year, but to enhance it.

Third, there is a healthy mixture of activity. Unlike a school setting in which students move through subjects throughout the day typically in a lecture setting, at least half of the day at a traditional summer camp is spent outside where campers take part in sports and water activities. Many camps also incorporate a designated time to rest into their programming day in order to give campers and staff the opportunity to recharge. So those program activities that could be perceived as educational are mixed in with healthy doses of physical activity and relaxation.  This allows campers proper time and space to both process the activities in which they take part throughout the day and to approach future activities with a fresh mind.

Although traditional summer camp STEM related programs are not intended to replace those offered in schools, they may ultimately be equally attributable to inspiring future scientists, technologists, engineers, or mathematicians by encouraging campers to explore these subjects in ways and to a level that they might not get to do during the school year. Some campers may carry a new found interest in these subject areas home and take on a new enthusiasm at school, making summer camp STEM related programs an invaluable addition to their program lineup.

They Just Don’t Get It

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
As the winter season is upon us, for many people, memories of the summer are fading but for a bunch of us, summer is still very much on the forefront of our minds. This is because we are camp counselors. Even though it’s been 4 months since we were at Camp Starlight, we are not quite used to the “real world” yet and long for a time when singing songs about napkins and moustaches is normal. A place where tutus for men, suspenders made of duct tape, and blue and white face pant is just typical everyday attire. A place that you “get” and it “gets” you.

You can never truly explain to people who have not spent a summer at Camp Starlight what the experience is like and trying to get them to understand a story or sing along with hand motions to a song is lost on them. Why don’t they understand how eating a piece of cantaloupe is important, or why this square dancing bracelet is a bragging rite? Why don’t they get it?

Only the lucky ones that have worked at camp can empathize with what we go through; trying to explain how hard but crazy good our kids were, why you can’t stop singing those songs, or why if you see a child you immediately turn back into a counselor.

I guess you have to realize that the summer of your life was unique and special and something most people will never “get”.  But that won’t stop you from trying to get others to come with you next summer to Camp Starlight!

It’s Summer Camp Recruiting Season

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Attention college and university students:  Have you started to think about how you’re going to spend next summer? Sure, it’s almost  winter. It’s cold outside, and the thing you’re most worried about  now are your upcoming finals. Perhaps in the back of your mind you’ve toyed with the idea of applying for an internship or two. But have you considered working at sleepaway camp? Right now, in the late fall and dead of winter, many summer camps are on tour, making stops at schools throughout the country and recruiting events around the world in search of the most caring, dedicated, enthusiastic and fun students who are interested in working with children. If you’re taking courses to become a professional in any field that pertains to the education, coaching or care of children, a summer spent working at camp is more valuable than any internship. Imagine how much you can dress up your resume after a summer living and working with children. Your understanding of diversity and your communication skills will also get a big boost because you’ll be working alongside people from all over the world, all walks of life, and from a variety of professions. Best of all, you literally get paid to spend most of your days outdoors having fun while participating in activities with your campers!

If you think working at camp sounds great but you’re not a person currently majoring in an area related to children, don’t be discouraged. Although students are typically placed in camp counselor positions, there are many different types of roles at summer camp, and summer camp recruiters are always excited to meet and chat with candidates of any college major who may fill a special niche position. So even if you aren’t an athlete or education major, if you think you have a special talent or quality that you can bring as a camp staff member, don’t hesitate to pay summer camp recruiters a visit when they’re at your campus. You might just be that special candidate who is difficult to find but for whom a camp has definitely been searching.

There are a few things prospective staff members should be aware of, though, and recruiters like to be up front with candidates. Working at summer camp is fun, and you’re certainly not going to be fetching coffee (except for yourself at meal times) or be lost in Excel spreadsheets cursing the invention of pivot tables. But you will work harder at summer camp than you probably ever have or maybe even ever will again. In fact, we in the summer camp industry have a motto that working at summer camp is the “hardest job you’ll ever love.” The hours are long. You can expect to be on duty from breakfast to bedtime, typically, six days a week. Summer camp is extremely fast paced and the environment is best described as “organized chaos,” so you have to be able to keep up with the pace and make split second decisions. Being able to stay optimistic and provide encouragement, even when it’s storming outside, you’re stuck in the bunk, and the soccer team (of which most of your campers are a part) just lost a big game, is critical. You have to be able to put on a smile and choose a positive attitude even on days when you wake up not quite feeling the summer camp vibe. You must also be able to care about and for someone else’s children as if they are your own for several weeks. It’s important to remember that those campers assigned to you are your campers for the entire duration of camp, and you are expected to do your best to make sure that ALL of them have equal opportunity to have an amazing summer. If you’re dependent on your tech gadgets, you’ll likely experience a bit of culture shock. Summer camps encourage campers to enjoy their natural surroundings and restrict the use of most electronic equipment such as cell phones, laptops, iPads, and Kindles. Staff members may keep them in camp lockers or safes for use in their off time, but they may not be kept in bunks or used while on duty.

If you’re still reading after the “hard parts” of the job, you must really be interested in working at camp. So now that we have most of the difficult aspects out of the way, here are some fun and rewarding parts of the job. Your summer will be rent free. You’ll likely live in a bunk with another counselor or two and 8-12 campers. You’ll eat free, too, as your meals are provided. What that translates to is that you can save most or even all of your salary if you have no other financial obligations. The ability to be completely silly on the job when the situation merits is actually commendable. You’ll also get paid to play sports, swim, sail, make clay pots, build woodworking projects, make arts and crafts, do fun science and nature experiments, play crazy games, be in camp shows, go on trips with your campers, etc. You’ll likely make more friends in one summer than you have in the past several combined…real friends. Not just Twitter or Instagram followers. You’ll get to know some children who will remain in your heart long after camp has ended. You’ll also get to meet some staff members who choose to return to camp summer after summer. You may even decide that one summer working at camp is just not enough for you either. Regardless, a summer as a camp staff member just may be the summer that changes your life. Summer camps often get emails or phone calls from former staff members explaining how their time at camp clarified an education or career path. Sometimes it’s the collective of everything that happens over the summer that so profoundly affects staff members. Sometimes it’s a single moment.

So if you want that summer that’s different, that will set your experiences apart from those of many of your friends, then be on the lookout over the next few months for a visiting camp recruiter and go into spring break free of worries about how you’re going to spend your summer. If you happen to miss the campus tour, don’t be discouraged. You can also apply to work at summer camp through the Camp Starlight website.