Archive for March, 2014

5 Things for Camp Staff to Begin Thinking about in the Spring

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Even though June is three months away, snow covers the ground in many locations and you just barely finished making spring break plans, if you’ve committed to working at a summer camp, it’s already time to begin thinking about the summer. Here are five camp things to begin thinking about in the spring:

1.)    Make travel arrangements. How will you be getting to camp? Will you drive, fly, carpool? If you plan to fly, airline tickets are often less expensive in the early spring before the weather warms and people begin making summer vacation plans. Carpooling is a great way to get to know co-workers while splitting the cost of fuel. If you plan to carpool, reach out to other camp staff through your camp’s Facebook page or other resources offered by your camp and begin to get to know others from your area who may be interested in traveling together. If your camp offers travel reimbursement as part of your contract, it’s also very important that you understand the reimbursement process prior to making travel plans.

2.)    Set goals. Camp Starlight is a work experience like no other and it can be a bit overwhelming at first. Setting goals prior to arriving helps minimize culture shock. When setting goals it’s important to keep an open mind. Summers at camp tend to have a lot of twists and turns. Your list will likely evolve as you familiarize yourself with your new environment, and there are some things that will probably not pan out quite the way you initially envision them. That’s okay. The importance of setting goals is that they help you mentally prepare for the camp experience and arrive with some sense of direction.

3.)    Begin stockpiling…but not too much. Packing for camp is an art. Living space is very limited. At the same time, camps are usually in rural places that don’t have a lot of nearby shopping options, and limited access to computers and the internet make online shopping a bit more challenging too. So it’s extremely important to pack the right combination of items that can be easily replaced with those items that are difficult to come by or require a bit of a drive to acquire. Chances are, you will have several opportunities throughout the summer to replenish basic items such as shampoo, deodorant, sunscreen, etc. So if you need to maximize luggage space, pack just enough of these items to get you through the first couple of weeks. It’s a good idea, however, to begin thinking about acquiring certain items, such as bedding, towels and socks, that people tend to overlook until the last minute. By beginning to accumulate those items a few months ahead of time, you’ll avoid that last minute binge shopping trip in which something essential– and perhaps not easily acquirable–is inevitably forgotten.

4.)    Complete forms. In the spring, Camp Starlight  will make available online a series of forms. These forms may include a contract, standard employment forms, forms requesting information about how you intend to travel to camp, and forms that require medical and insurance information. Although completing paperwork is never the most exciting task, it is essential that you complete and submit these forms prior to your arrival at camp. First, the camp must have these completed forms in order to pay you or treat you for any medical emergencies or conditions. Second, many camps will not issue you id badges or uniforms until they have received these completed forms. Orientation is a very busy time and few staff members love the idea of having to take some of their downtime to complete paperwork.

5.)    Learn more about the Camp Starlight. Presumably, you learned at least a little bit about the camp prior to accepting a job there. But now that you’re actually going to be part of it, really get to know it. Watch the camp video if you haven’t already. Re-watch it if you have. The camp video is a great way to get a feel for the camp culture. Also, if your camp participates in any social media outlets (and many do these days), begin following them to get a sense of who your co-workers are as well as your camp’s values and traditions. Also, a lot of camps provide tips and updates for staff through their social media outlets as camp draws near. Of course, it’s impossible to get a full sense of what your camp is all about until you get there, but arriving with some sense of what (and who) to expect is a lot less disorienting than arriving with none.

Yes, You Can

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

“No” is a word that children hear a lot. No talking in the classroom. No running in the hallways. No playing ball in the house. No to anything that gets clothes dirty. No. No. No. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that “yes” is one of the many reasons that children so eagerly anticipate camp each summer. Of course safety is always a factor, and children also have parameters at camp for that reason. However, those parameters extend much further at summer camp than they do at home and school. At summer camp, campers are encouraged to climb walls, zip down ropes, run, get dirty and play ball. Even when they express doubt in themselves, they are encouraged with, “Yes, you can.” There is no pressure to be the best at something or to even be good at it, simply to try it. With such encouragement, many campers venture into previously unexplored territory and discover that they can, in fact, do things they previously thought they couldn’t.

The benefits of such encouragement extend beyond the development of courage to try new things. Children become more open to possibilities. They develop the skills to venture out of their comfort zone and examine situations from different angles. A refined sense of creativity helps them attack tasks that previously seemed difficult or even impossible. They learn to comprehend the importance of trying, particularly when the time and place is right. With such perspective, “no” and “yes” become words less associated with ability and more associated with restraint. If they’re talking in the classroom, they can’t understand what the teacher is saying. School is not an environment that makes running in the hallways safe. Things tend to break when they play ball in the house. The clothes they wear when they’re not at camp are just a little nicer than the ones they tend to wear at camp. In contrast, camp is a safe environment for them to talk, laugh, run, play, climb and get messy in ways that are productive. In short, it’s an environment with less restraint in mind. Once children are able to understand the symbiotic relationship between “yes” and “no,” they are better able to accept “no” for what it actually means: It’s not in your best interest.

Stack the Caps: Taking on the World One Cap at a Time

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Spring has finally sprung, and as the sun and warm weather moves back into our lives, communities start to become closer again. For some reason, the warmer weather brings everyone together. At Camp Starlight, we are a community made of people from all different walks of life, from all over the world. Recently, a tradition that started at Camp Starlight has made its way across the world into others’ hearts.

Stack the Caps for Kids with Cancer is a non-profit organization that began in 2008 at Camp Starlight, inspired by a wonderful camper, Brielle Namer, who passed away from a very rare form of cancer. Every summer, Camp Starlight puts on a “Stack the Caps” event on the first Friday night of camp. Campers and staff bring baseball caps (that are new and have never been warn) and literally stack them on top of one another. Each year, the “stack” gets bigger and bigger! After the event is completed, Camp Starlight donates the caps to Memorial Sloane Kettering and Boston Children’s Hospital.

This event does not just stop at Camp Starlight. Campers and staff have taken it upon themselves to make this event knownworldwide.  A fun, exciting, and unique event to hold as; bar/bat mitzvah project, school assembly, club/sorority/fraternity philanthropy event, or even just a way to get your community involved with helping others.

Holding your own Stack the Caps event is quite simple.  First you’ll want to contact for more information, and some promotional products for your event! Choose a date, time and location, get the word out to community members and ask for donations! Contacting local sports teams or sporting goods stores is a great way to get caps. You will also need a ladder and a 2×4 piece of wood tall enough to balance the caps. Be sure to measure how high your “stack” is at the end of your event, and–without a doubt–take lots of pictures! And don’t forget to contact a local Children’s hospital to donate your caps.

You can find even more information and stories of people holding Stack the Cap events at Bring a new/unused cap to camp this summer so you can be apart of the fun and donate to a wonderful cause!

5 Things for Camp Parents to begin Thinking about in the Spring

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

March is here, which means spring is just around the corner. More importantly, summer is only a few months away, which means it’s time to begin checking off that annual camp preparation list. No doubt, the idea that it’s time to begin thinking about summer is a welcome respite for many following a winter that regularly included terms such as “polar vortex.” So whether you’re preparing your children for their first summer at camp, or are still thawing out after a frigid winter, here are five things to think about as the snow begins to melt, temperatures begin to rise and vegetation blooms:

1.)    Order camp clothes. Some camps feature catalogues and websites that cater to supply lists and sell logo merchandise. Although most camps do not require parents to order supplies and clothing from these catalogues, a few items are never a bad idea, particularly for children who intend to be part of sports teams. Also, camps sometimes require children to wear a specific colored logo shirt on certain occasions, such as out of camp trips. These clothing catalogs are the best resources for these items.

2.)    Start talking about camp. For returning campers, chances are that they’ve never completely stopped talking about it. It’s good, however, to begin preparing first time campers a few months ahead of camp so that they are not completely overwhelmed when departure time for camp actually arrives. For all campers – returning or not – it’s good to set some goals for the summer. Some parents find that their children are a step ahead of them when it comes to goal setting, while other campers need a bit of assistance with organizing their thoughts and prioritizing. Either way, it’s good to begin a dialogue now so that you and your children have time to think about expectations for the summer.

3.)    Begin stockpiling. Some parents actually pull out camp duffels and begin packing in the early spring while others just clear off a shelf in a closet and begin picking up basic supplies such as sunscreen, shampoo, and socks whenever they are out shopping. Gradually building a stockpile prevents that last minute scramble that inevitably ends in a phone call either from or to the camp about forgotten items.

4.)    Schedule pre-camp checkups. This is particularly crucial if your child’s pediatrician tends to be one that is perpetually booked and scheduling appointments a month or two into the future. Camps are safety focused, and it’s is very important that they understand each and every camper’s medical needs and limitations. For liability reasons, they also need medical and insurance information prior to being able to permit campers to participate in certain activities, such as out of camp trips. Also, be sure to talk to your child’s doctor about any medications that will be necessary for the summer.

5.)    Complete paperwork. Camps mail or make necessary forms available online to parents around this time of year. The forms may include information about trips, interests, goals, children’s personalities, etc. Although the purpose of the paperwork may not always be clear, camps put a lot of thought and consideration into the information they request parents to provide, and that information is crucial to facilitating a successful summer for campers. Since this task can seem daunting in the midst of those last minute preparations just before camp, it’s a good idea to set aside a block of time early in the spring to complete forms.

Be Better

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

The Sochi Olympics took place last month, and even though the athletes competed on snow and ice, the games were surprisingly reminiscent of summer camp, particularly from a staff perspective. Many athletes were there for the first time. Some, however, were competing in their second, third, or even fifth Olympic games. Each summer at camp, likewise, attracts many fresh staff faces – eager but not quite sure what to expect – and returning staff who are back to lead the way and improve upon their past performances, even if those performances were already gold medal caliber. Oddly, a lot of camp blogs and articles address the qualities and expectations of new camp staff, but few address those of returners. How do staff approach camp if it is their second, third, fifth, or even tenth summer? The answer most veteran camp staff provide is that they intend to be better. Even great summers, in retrospect, have room for improvement. Like campers, returning staff always arrive with an agenda and, like athletes, always strive for that perfect 10 summer. Every summer is an Olympic year for camp staff.

Many returners actually begin goal setting for the following summer before the current summer ends. Some simply visualize areas in which they could be better while others actually comprise a physical list. Veteran staff members learn, over the course of several summers, that there is a maturation process to working at camp. Because camp tends to be such a microcosmic environment in which staff wear many hats, it’s almost impossible not to develop multiple perspectives of camp and how it can be made even better. Like athletes, veteran camp staff know that there is always room for improvement. Even the smallest of adjustments can elevate a summer from excellent to outstanding. In part, that is what draws returning staff members back year after year.

Regardless of whether each summer begins with a written or mental list of goals, it ends the same for all returning staff – with careful evaluation of their own performance. The desire to be better is a unique quality of returning camp staff, and a quality that makes them very appealing as job candidates. The enthusiasm of happy campers is infectious. Mediocrity is simply not an option when making campers happy. Returning camp staff are so willing to dedicate themselves to the task of creating gold medal summers that they come back year after year, physically and mentally ready to take on old challenges as well as new ones. At camp,  they eat, breathe, sleep and live what they’ve been envisioning since the end of the previous summer in their quest to simply be better at something they love.

Camp Brothers & Camp Sisters

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

There is no doubt about it; we all have someone we look up to in life. And as we grow older, whether we know it or not, someone looks up to us.  In the Camp Starlight world, this idea goes hand in hand with Camp Brothers/Sisters.

During the first few days of camp, everyone gets a Camp sibling, in regard to their respective campuses. Camp sibling activities are popular throughout the summer, and range from Brother/sister lunches, campfires, afternoons at the waterfront, and even a few evening activities.

Younger, first time campers are given a “Big Brother/Sister”, some are even lucky enough to have two! The excitement amongst the youngest campers is buzzing from the moment they find out they are about to receive their Camp Brothers or Sisters.

They know they will have an older, experienced camper to look up to and go to for advice. They feel comfort in having someone from upper camp that has been in their shoes, cheering them on and supporting them during their “Camp Firsts.”

Once children get a little older, some will be middle brother/sisters, meaning they have a younger and an older sibling. This is a time when they get the joy of having an older sibling to look up to, but also get to be a role model for their younger sibling. They get the best of both worlds, supporting younger campers, and getting support from their older sibling.

Finally, the oldest campers at Starlight are given younger siblings. After years of looking up to their “Big brother/sister” they are finally the ones who everyone else looks up to. It’s time for these campers to mature, and become role models for the younger campers. They also feel a bit of responsibility and knowledge on how to comfort their younger brother/sister when they are trying something new at camp, because they have been there themselves.

Camp Brothers and Sisters relationships last much longer than just one summer. Every summer you’ll hear campers talking about their previous camp siblings, still exchanging hugs and smiles as they pass one another.  The relationships these children make with one another is unlike any other role model, and have the ability to last a lifetime.

Camp Pets

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Experts unanimously agree that there are benefits to pet ownership for children. In addition to teaching them responsibility, pets also entertain children, keep them active, alleviate stress and teach them about life. For some families, however, busy lifestyles make pet ownership impractical and even unrealistic. Enter another little known benefit of summer camp: summer pets. Many camp nature, exploration, and eco-science programs include an animal or two. Because of allergies, camps tend to shy away from common household pets such as cats and dogs. Rather, animals with naturally reserved demeanors that are easy to handle like reptiles, rabbits, turtles and guinea pigs are preferable when it comes to camp pets. As a result, even campers who have pets at home get the opportunity to handle, care for and observe – to their comfort level – animals they may not frequently encounter. Those campers who do not have pets at home get to experience the joy of pet ownership and all of the benefits of it while those campers who do have pets at home tend to miss them less when their camp has animals. Camp pets sometimes double as mascots and campers come to view them as part of their camp. Best of all, everyone at summer camp, regardless of whether they have pets at home or not, has the opportunity to have a pet for at least a few weeks each year.

Waterfront Memories

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Close your eyes and try to imagine your favorite spot on campus. Most campers are probably visualizing the Starlight waterfront. Someone who is not so familiar with camp may ask, “What’s so special about the waterfront?” Well, with so many fun, different activities to cool you off, how could you not imagine such a magical spot on campus?

The lake at camp isn’t just a place to play in the sand, water toys such as trampolines, rock-its,and swings are extremely popular during “Free-swim” periods.  Waterskiing and wakeboarding are other waterfront favorites. There is something about being on the boat with your bunkmates and cheering each other on that makes everyone smile. Kayaking and Canoeing aren’t just about paddling around, they’re about going on adventures to places on the lake you can’t reach by just swimming.

The waterfront doesn’t shut down after activity periods are over; plenty of evening activities take place here too, with events like themed pool parties and synchronized swimming. As soon as counselors mention tubing as an evening activity, almost every child goes crazy with excitement.

Many memories are made on the waterfront at camp. Traditional campfires take place next to the waterfront, which makes for a peaceful and beautiful time with campers.  Friday Night Services, weather permitting, sometimes take place overlooking the lake. This is a time for the entire camp to come together, appreciate and reflect on the week in the midst of the background of the beautiful sunset on the lake.

The Starlight waterfront is a place where you can be sure to see children having a great time, laughing and enjoying their time with friends. Whether it’s an all-camp swim, or a divisional activity, there is always fun to be had, and memories to be made!

Camp Food

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

If you’ve ever been to camp, then you know what wacky mac is and, chances are, you get a bit of a nostalgic feeling when you pass it in supermarket aisles. You also know that bug juice is not made from bugs, s’mores are best made over a campfire, and that knish is the perfect side dish for a cookout. Campers who jumps out of bed every morning and race to breakfast, hoping that it’s chocolate chip pancakes as well as those who can’t get enough of the pizza, know that camp food is as much a part of the camp experience as the activities. Like many other camp traditions, the menus constantly evolve to meet the current demands of campers.

One major concern that is heavily influencing camp menus is the growing awareness of the importance of developing healthy eating habits early in life. Camps are introducing new menu items as well as opting for healthier versions of current ones. Items such as Greek yogurt, hummus, guacamole, and wraps are finding their way onto camp menus to combine with salad bars, which are longtime camp dining staples, to give campers and staff more nutritional options at meal times. Lite dressings are also appearing alongside regular ones and more fruit and vegetable choices are being offered. But the camp food revolution doesn’t begin and end at the camp salad bar.

Bug juice is now a lot less sugary at many camps, and some have even done away with it altogether. Camps are increasingly using olive oil
instead of vegetable oil and are playing around with herb and spice combinations to enhance the taste of the food. This isn’t to say that some traditional camp favorites are disappearing off of menus. Grilled cheese, pasta, and chicken fingers are all still very much camp fare. Camps are just trying to make healthier versions of them by using fresher ingredients and fewer pre-packaged ones.

Campers are very enthusiastic about the recent trends in camp food. Today’s campers have savvy palates, and they like that favorite foods and ingredients that have traditionally not been available at camp are finding their way onto menus and that some of their favorites are getting nutritional makeovers. Meal times are important parts of camp each day. They are times for the camp to come together and dine as a family. They are times for singing, cheering, and catching up.  Perhaps that why camp food is such a key part of camp.