Archive for February, 2014

Media Break

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Do you ever find yourself wishing your children would put their phones away for one day? If so, then consider an opportunity for them to put their phones (and all other forms of media) away several weeks. One of the primary goals of summer camp is to encourage children to be active while interacting with each other and the environment. In order to facilitate this, most camps have strict restrictions regarding the use of technology. Neither campers nor staff are permitted to have phones, laptops, television, video games, or anything capable of accessing the web. If you think you can hear your children groaning already, think again. Most campers actually report that they enjoy the media break camp provides.

With conditions such as social media anxiety and Facebook fatigue on the rise, it’s no wonder that campers value a break. Not only is it a nice reminder that there is more to life than Twitter or Instagram, time spent with friends at camp reiterates the value of interpersonal communication. Body language speaks volumes. LOL is never quite the same as the sound of a friends’ laughter, and ROFL never has quite the same effect as actually seeing someone so doubled over with laughter that they’re rolling on the floor. The formers are strictly exchanges. The latters are experiences, and it’s experience that makes memories. Virtually no one ever mentions that time that “so and so” texted “such and such.” But they do recall that time by the Waterfront…or in the bunk or cabin or…in the Dining Hall, etc. for several years after it happens. Those are the types of memories over which campers exchange fond tears on the last night of their last summer at camp and, in many instances, the many post camp reunions to come.

Seeing and hearing real time reactions also keeps children in touch with acceptable behavior when it comes to communication. By seeing firsthand how people respond to them, children are able to gauge when they’ve gone to extremes that may be hurtful to others. Likewise, they are also able to take note of those conversational approaches that receive positive responses from camp friends as well as those that even help them make new friends. In other words, campers don’t miss their social media because it is replaced with time with each other.  Children are less likely to bully each other or express thoughts or ideas they may later regret. In short, people are a much better deterrent to unacceptable behavior than a monitor or phone screen. There is much more immediacy in accountability.

The media break that camp provides helps children put social media into perspective as well. They come to understand that social media is just an interim form of communication rather than the exclusive form. Yes, it’s a fun way to keep in touch with friends, including those camp friends who live far distances and are rarely seen away from camp, but it’s also not the sum total of life. Rather, it’s a fun tool for engaging with others when it’s not possible to see them in person, and its importance should not be overvalued.

Most importantly, what children learn during their media break at camp is that they can live without it. Not only is it possible to live without it, life can be enjoyable while doing so. Chances are, those who have been to summer camp think twice before declaring that they could never live without their phone or other media devices, because they know otherwise. And they also know that sometimes the fun of communication is the creativity with which they must go about it in interpersonal situations.

There Is No Such Thing as Too Much (or Too Many)…

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Camp is definitely an “all-in” environment. There is very little that is considered too extreme when it comes to demonstrating enthusiasm, wackiness, even fun. No one ever wants to “kind of” do something at camp. Camp is all about going big before you go home. In that vein, it’s time for a list of things of which there is no such thing as too much (or too many) at camp:

There No Such Thing as Too Much (or Too Many)…

Laughing. Seriously, you can’t laugh too much at camp. It’s impossible. Whether it’s over an inside joke with your bunkmates or at one of your favorite counselors doing something goofy on stage in front of the whole camp, laughter is a camp constant.

Cheering. At camp, you do it at sporting events, while watching a fellow camper dive into a whipped cream pie, while watching staff members wrestling each other in Jello, while showing team spirit, as a show of divisional or camp unity, to making meals more fun, even when your favorite dessert is rolled out. Cheering is just something you do at camp…pretty much all of the time.

Singing. Like cheering, singing is okay pretty much everywhere at camp. At some camps, it’s how you say good morning and goodnight. It’s what you do when the whole camp is together. It spices up meals and campfires. Most camps even have their own songs. And there is always that one song every summer that practically every camper and staff member finds themselves humming or singing at least once every day.

Moustaches. No, seriously. Moustaches are totally a camp thing. But they’re a BIG camp thing. Fact: staff and campers alike love moustaches. They demonstrate their love of moustaches via body art, jewelry, face paint…pretty much anything.

Tutus. If you thought tutus were just dance garb, you thought wrong. Tutus are versatile camp wear that comes in handy for pretty much everything. Showing team spirit, cheerleading, costumes, just because…Hey, it’s a tutu. What isn’t it good for at camp?

Spirit. Speaking of spirit, it goes way beyond showing support for a team at summer camp. Camp spirit is all about demonstrating why your camp is the best camp—all day, every day. Every camper and staff member comes to camp prepared with sufficient clothing in camp colors. It is perfectly acceptable to paint your entire body camp colors in a show of spirit, and temporary tattoos with the camp logo or colors are pretty much standard at every camp activity.

Sun. Sure, rain happens sometimes and, when it does, campers and staff alike deal with it. But sun is the ideal setting for fun at camp, and you can never get too much of it. Sure, indulging involves lots of sunscreen, but anyone who has ever spent a lazy afternoon lying in the grass while chatting with camp friends knows that life doesn’t get much better.

Camp. That’s right. It’s pretty much a unanimous consensus at camp that there is no such thing as too much camp. That’s why most campers and staff members drive those around them nuts with camp stories during the 10 months when we can’t be there. Most campers and staff agree that life would be so much cooler if “10 for 2” was actually “2 for 10.”

A College Case for Camp

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

One of the most understated advantages of summer camps is how much they do to help prepare older campers for life after the summer.  Increasingly, sleepaway camps are taking an interest in providing older campers with valuable experiences that will help through the college application process and later in life. Leadership programs, college visits, and community service are just a few of the offerings of summer camps for older campers, and statistics show that there is a college case for them.

There is a rising trend of college admissions foregoing standardized test scores in favor of applicants with diverse backgrounds and experiences. An article on revealed that colleges are realizing that high standardized test scores are not necessarily indicative of good students. Rather, those students who demonstrate well-rounded backgrounds with involvement in a variety of activities, such as summer camp, generally make good students because they learn valuable skills through these activities. Beyond the activities themselves, however, colleges are considering the value of them by examining how applicants engaged in them. In other words, colleges considering activities in lieu of test scores aren’t just placing heavy weight on applicant involvement in activities such as summer camp, they’re placing considerable weight on what applicants did while involved. This creates prime opportunity for summer camps to step up and showcase just how much campers benefit from returning each summer, and many camps are answering the challenge.

Campers attend summer camp for several years—sometimes as many as eight. The summer camp environment is the perfect place for them to engage in fun activities with friends that teach skills that college admissions teams find valuable. Through special activities and opportunities to take charge of younger campers, teenage campers learn to be effective leaders. Some camps also offer extended counselor training programs that provide high school campers with the opportunity to take on staff roles at camp. Often, these types of programs are the first work experience for campers eager to take on leadership roles at the beloved summer home where they grew up.

Beyond counselor training programs, or sometimes in place of them, a handful of camps also offer exclusive, highly customized programs in which campers learn how to communicate effectively and support each other. Such programs teach inclusion and help older campers develop a resistance to falling prey to common teenage stumbling blocks such as gossip, bullying, or negative peer pressure. Camps often work with professional psychologists, counselors, life coaches, and even nutritionists to maximize the benefits of these programs. These professionals are frequently featured guests who engage campers in special activities that demonstrate life lessons in fun and engaging ways.

There is also a trend in camps taking on the task of taking campers on tours of a variety of college campuses. Many camps in the New England area are within proximity to some of the most esteemed institutions of higher learning in the nation, and they arrange formal tours so that their older campers can actually get a glimpse of college life. Moreover, college tours prompt students to begin considering the qualities for which they are looking in a college, such as size, geographic location, and extra-curricular offerings by seeing firsthand how these factors affect the college experience.

Community service programs are also a rising trend in camping, surprisingly, often by camper request. Campers grow up in camp learning to be a member of acommunity. They develop such a respect for that community and everything it has contributed to their lives that they actually want to give back. They see the value in passing on the rites and traditions with which they grew up to others. While some community service programs stay within the camp campuses, others reach well beyond camp and extend into the local or even national community. Camps openly support charities and plan special events dedicated to those causes, which means that campers are learning from an early age the value of community involvement.

Parents wondering if summer camp is still as beneficial to their children as teenagers as when they were younger need only look at college admission trends. Chances are that camp could be that all important deciding application factor and the skills teenage campers bring away from their final few summers at camp may well be much more valuable than you thought.

The Other Camp Staff

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Summer camp employment is synonymous with “camp counselor” in most people’s minds. But there are a lot of non-counselor” positions at camp. If you’re interested in working at summer camp but don’t really think the role of camp counselor would be best for you, consider one of these alternatives:

Program/Activity Head: Are you or have you ever been a professional or college level athlete or coach? If so, and you’re interested in working at summer camp, then the Program/Activity Head role might be a perfect fit for you. Program/Activity Heads oversee a sport or activity at camp. They typically have a staff of counselor specialists who are also active in the sport or activity to assist with instruction and coaching. Program/Activity Heads plan daily activities, oversee instruction and assign campers to teams for intra and inter camp league play. There are also a handful of Program/Activity Head roles at camp for those who are not athletic but have some sort of niche expertise in areas like arts & crafts, music, dance, theater, cooking, science and communications.

Programming Staff: If you have a knack for scheduling, consider applying to work as part of a camp programming team. The camp programming staff is responsible for the daily camper and staff schedules. When creating schedules, they must keep in mind things like facility availability, staffing ratios and camper frequencies.

Special Events Staff: The special events staff at summer camp are responsible for all events that take place outside of the regular daily special. This is typically all evening activities and special days as well as (on that rare occasion) a rainy day. It helps if you have some sort of technical knowledge, such as connecting laptops to video screens, rigging microphones and operating (sometimes complicated) sound systems. But not everything you do as a special events staff member is hi-tech. You can also be charged with setting up a scavenger hunt, gathering and placing materials for game night or baking night, or a host of other things. The imagination is the limit. If you love fun and event planning and are detail oriented, special events might be the area of camp for you.

Photography/Videography: Camp photographer and videographer roles are highly specialized and extremely critical roles at camp. Every day, camp photographers take hundreds of photographs of daily activities and film many of the activities as well. If you’re a professional in either of these areas and are interested in working at summer camp, chances are there is a camp looking for you.

Camp Nurse: Summer camps maintain health centers and employ licensed nurses to dispense medication, clean up those inevitable scratches and cuts, and treat campers and staff who become ill during the summer. For those rare more severe injuries that sometimes occur, nurses also may be asked to accompany campers or staff to local hospitals or doctors’ offices.

Office Staff: If you prefer behind the scenes desk work and answering phone calls, then consider applying for a camp office staff job. Typically, office staff answer phone calls, sort mail, greet visitors, manage camper phone calls, prepare documents or mailings, and complete other administrative tasks.
Maintenance Staff: If you’re a handyman (or woman) who’s good with a hammer, loves landscaping and cleaning, and prefers being outdoors to inside, consider applying to work as a member of the maintenance team. Camp maintenance staff stay busy all summer long maintaining summer camp campuses, and no two days as a camp maintenance staff member are alike.

Kitchen Staff: Working in the camp kitchen is perfect for those who thrive in restaurant environments. If you’re a chef,caterer or member of a restaurant staff–or aspire to be one–then working in a summer camp kitchen is a fun alternative to restaurant work.

If any of these camp roles interest you, camps are hiring now. Many of the people who work in these role return year after year because they are a great way to integrate personal interests and specialized expertise with the fun and adventure of working at summer camp. Apply now and you just may find yourself returning year after year too.

Siblings at Camp

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Chances are, they spend the majority of their time bickering over who gets to be in control of the remote, or, while traveling on your family vacation, you constantly hear the infamous “Mom, he/she won’t stop staring at me!” It’s no secret that siblings can get on each other’s nerves while spending 24/7 living under the same roof, but while at camp something about their attitudes changes.

Siblings take a few minutes out of their day, whether it is at the flagpole during line up or after dinner at free play, just to chat and catch each other up.  At first it’s about new friends, counselors, and which Wayne County teams they have made. As the summer progresses, conversations get a little more personal as they fill each other in on how well they did at their favorite activity or share new jokes and stories they’ve heard.  These interactions between siblings almost always end with a hug until they see each other at the next all camp activity.

Summer camp is a place that siblings transform rivalry into a different kind of relationship. They cheer each other on and proudly exclaim, “That’s my brother/sister!” Camp has a distinct set of memories different from those they share with their parents. At camp, there are traditions and values which children learn to appreciate at a young age. Having a sibling to share traditions and values makes them even more special. The thrill of seeing each other experience camp firsts and pass camp milestones also helps siblings learn to appreciate each other as individuals.

Summer camp is special to each child and being able to give your children that special bond that summer camp gives them is a great feeling for you too.

Popular Sports at Camp

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

There is a decided difference between popular school sports and popular camp sports. Most schools throughout the nation focus on key sports like football, baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball, and soccer. At summer camps, campers have much more exposure to non-traditional sports that receive decidedly less promotion through school but prove rather popular at camp, in spite of—or perhaps because of —the fact that they are not widely promoted in school environments.

Tennis is a sport to which most children are exposed for only a few weeks of physical education class each year. At camp, however, it’s one of the most popular and beloved activities. Campers have the opportunity to play several hours of tennis each week on quality courts and even participate in intra and inter camp league play. Furthermore, the instruction is excellent. Many summer camp tennis directors are former tennis pros who have played at the elite level in premiere tennis competitions.

Lacrosse, although popular in New England and other pockets of the Eastern United States, is not widely played in many regions of the country. Yet, it’s one of the most popular camp sports. Many summer camps offer extensive and ever growing (by popular demand) lacrosse programs. Most camp lacrosse specialists play at the college level and many lacrosse heads coach at the college level.  Campers who hail from geographic regions in which lacrosse is still an underdog sport have the opportunity to receive valuable, quality instruction that surpasses anything available where they live. In fact, many of these campers play lacrosse for the first time while at summer camp and discover a new favorite sport.

For children who love water, boating is another popular camp activity to which most campers receive little to no exposure during the school year. Camp waterfronts are a crucial part of camps, and campers spend a lot of time in or on the water at camp. To sweeten the pot, summer camps make various types of boats available so that campers can try their hand at canoeing, kayaking, sailing, and even stand-up paddle boarding. Waterskiing is another popular water sport on which many camps place a particular focus. Campers have the opportunity to waterski throughout the summer, and some of the most enthusiastic camper responses every summer are those of campers who get up on water skis for the first time.

Campers race to suit up for roller hockey. It’s an action packed and fast paced sport that is fun to play and a key activity in many camp programs. Not only do a lot of campers embrace an otherwise unfamiliar sport in roller hockey, they learn how to skate as well!

Archery. Most schools don’t offer archery, even as part of a physical education program. But it’s a regular part of camp, and pretty much every camper who takes aim at the bulls-eye throughout the summer will tell you that it’s a fun one.

Golf. Yep, many camps offer golf instruction as well. Campers love to relax while driving balls and working on their strokes. They also like that golf is a sport in which it is relatively easy to measure one’s level of improvement throughout the summer.

Gaga is practically synonymous with camp. It’s serious business there, and it can get intense. Gaga is  practically unheard of outside of the camp realm. Still, ask virtually any summer camper to list their top five favorite activities at camp, and chances are that gaga will appear somewhere on that list.

Many a camper engages in what will become a favorite sport at camp for the first time. Perhaps it’s because some sports are a rare treat that, if it wasn’t for sleepaway camp, campers know they would never get to experience and, therefore, are eager to embrace. It can also be that campers find the newness of such sports refreshing in respect to the typical repertoire of school sports. Either way, summer camp is an excellent way for campers to receive exposure to and quality instruction in sports that may not be so popular at school but prove very popular at camp.

Coming Back Home

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

As counselors at Starlight we keep our camp memories alive by reliving the stories, the inside jokes, and the people we’ve met. We call each other weekly and send countless texts in an attempt to keep up with each others lives and remain as close as we were at our summer home. We spend hours “liking” and commenting on anything camp related in the hopes that it keeps the bond with both camp and the phenomenal friends we’ve made in the hills of Pennsylvania.

Being that we are for the majority at the mercy of opportunities at our age, we try to gain as much experience to move forward and be in a good position professionally after school; deciding to come back to camp can be hard. Internships, summer classes, and job opportunities can flip the script on returning for another fantastic summer. Fortunately, Starlight is not just for the counselors that are able to return EVERY summer, but it’s also for the people that have the ability to return ANY summer.

The beautiful thing about Camp Starlight is that it’s still home to many who haven’t been there for months, years, and in some cases decades, but it’s home nonetheless. Many of our staff have taken a year (in many cases more) away to pursue other goals or opportunities and then rejoined us feeling as if they hadn’t skipped a beat. It’s a truly special feeling to know that although the world is constantly changing around us, Starlight will always be welcoming us.

To those that have spent time away and rejoined us: we thank you. To those that are away currently: we will always welcome you. To those that were unable to come back: we miss you. To those that get to join us every summer: we cherish you. So if you’ve been away from our summer home for too long but find your summer calendar open…..give us a call and come back home!