Posts Tagged ‘camp values’

Teaching 21st Century Skills in a Camp Setting

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Camp Starlight knows that the weeks we get to spend with campers each summer is precious. It is an opportunity to do character building and confidence boosting. We have the opportunity to be the backdrop for millions of memories and connect people who can grow to be lifelong friends. The work we do here, although disguised as fun, is serious. We use the limited time we have with our campers and use it to instill 21st-century principles that promote strong character, morals, and ideals in every camper.


When campers are guided on how to solve their differences through careful and respectful mediation, they are learning how to disagree with others without being mean or hurtful. When they can identify their feelings and communicate it with others, they are learning conflict management skills and maturing in their emotional development. These tools are vital in navigating the “real world” whether it’s their school campus, their first job or their first relationship. At camp, kids learn to respect each other, listen without interrupting, compromise, communicate, and be patient and considerate and honest. These principles will make it easier for them to maintain healthy relationships as they grow.


Each camper has a responsibility to keep the campus as beautiful as it was when he or she arrived. Our zero tolerance policy for littering and our emphasis on taking care of the environment helps campers realize how they impact the environment and how important it is to keep the world around them clean. Campers spend most of their days outside, connecting with nature and learning to appreciate the beauty around them. Exploring and enjoying Mother Nature doesn’t come naturally to all campers, and spending time at camp helps develop an appreciation for the environment.


At camp, each camper has a story to tell. Each child arrives at camp with a history, a background, baggage (no pun intended) fears, strengths, and perceptions. As campers begin to integrate with each other, they quickly see how different they are all, but how those differences don’t need to divide them. They learn to help each other; to recognize a need in other campers and address it. There is no “us” and “them” at camp. Camp Starlight is intentional about fostering a generation of helpers, includers, and givers. We know that if we want a world full of people who care about each other, who don’t judge each other and who seek out opportunities to make others feel good, we have to start with the kids.


Campers go home with more friends, better skills and a lot to talk about. But our goal is that each camper leaves a bit better than they came. And that we can instill basic morals and ideals into them that will help them become better students, siblings, friends, and eventually, adults. Camp is safe, camp is fun, and camp is designed to better the lives of campers and their families every year.

Camp: Forever Changing, Yet Exactly the Same

Monday, October 24th, 2016


Camp is one of those things that meets campers exactly where they are. It has this unique way of providing campers with exactly what they need, sometimes before the campers even know they need it. Camp has a way of being the perfect combination of excitement and relaxation and has been that way for over 70 years.


In 70 years, a lot has changed at Camp Starlight, but a lot has stayed the same. Over time, camp has transformed to meet the needs of the campers who come each year. The lake has always been central to the camping experience; even before jet boats were invented. The style of bathing suits may have changed, but the memories created in the lakes stay the same. The cabins may have been without porches then, but the stories and late night conversations inside of them were as special then as they are now. The camp has seen many upgrades throughout the years, but the feeling that camp gives campers throughout the summer never changes.


If campers from last summer were to sit down with campers from 50 years ago, they would have a lot in common. They would be able to trade stories about competing in Olympics, and they would be able to bust out the lyrics to some of the camp’s most popular songs, songs that haven’t changed since day one. They would be able to reminisce about the delicious camp lunches, the campfires, and all of the different sports and activities that filled up their days at camp. Even though a lot of time has passed, campers from 50 years ago would recognize camp as a place where they felt cared about, understood and accepted. Campers from last summer would be able to talk about new facilities, updated cabins and high-tech classes and workshops, but would be familiar with the overall feeling of acceptance and encouragement that is the foundation of Camp Starlight.


Camp must change in order to meet the needs of the incoming generations of campers. It must have a sense of flexibility and growth to cater to new campers while holding on to its foundational values and traditions that have made it the camp it is today.  Camp is constantly changing and improving, but as always, is committed to being a place of friendships, fun, and life-long learning.

Learning to Compromise at Camp Starlight

Monday, October 10th, 2016


Growing up as an only child has many perks. I was always the focus on my parents’ attention, I had all of my own stuff, own space, and when a family decision had to be made, I always felt like my opinion was heard and, more often than not, given serious consideration. Sure, there were times when I wished I had a sibling to play with, but for the most part, I’ve enjoyed the solo child life.


As I get older, I’ve started to notice that things that are easy for my friends with siblings, like compromising, taking turns, and being patient, don’t come as naturally to me. Their entire lives are made up of figuring out how to live harmoniously with their siblings. They’ve had to make sacrifices, they’ve had to come second (or third, or fourth) and they’ve had to learn about delayed gratification. They’ve had to think about the well-being of their siblings before themselves, they’ve had to share rooms and clothes and toys, and in turn, these character traits seem to come naturally to them.


It took me about 3 hours at camp to realize that I was going to have plenty of opportunities to strengthen these particular traits. Going to camp is like having 100 siblings, and in order for the “family” to run smoothly, everyone has to be willing to compromise, be patient and think of others first. To be totally honest, it was a hard reality to adjust to at first. I quickly learned that my mess wasn’t appreciated or tolerated in a shared space. I also learned that my opinions, wants and needs weren’t the only ones that mattered, and my hesitation to take anyone else’s opinions or thoughts into consideration came across as rude and selfish. That was a slap in the face, and humbling for sure.


My counselors were amazing, and were patient and calm when I wasn’t. They took the time to talk to me when I was feeling overwhelmed, crowded or impatient. They helped me look at the bigger picture, and reminded me about how good it felt to work as a team, a family, a collective unit, instead of just thinking about myself.


About a week or so into camp, I could already notice the mental shift happening inside of me. I saw the biggest change in my attitude regarding being surrounded by people all of the time. My whole life, I’ve had the luxury of being able to be in my own space and to “get away” whenever I wanted to be alone. I always had my own things and my own space, and getting used to sharing my time and space with others took some getting used to. But as the days turned into weeks, I began looking forward to these group settings and I enjoyed the constant buzz of people around me. I loved our late night chats after lights went out, and I appreciated having people who would share their sunscreen with me when I ran out. Sharing space, time and things with people turned out to not be so bad after all.


At the end of camp, I felt like I had gained 50+ siblings, and a whole new set of character traits that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I am a more patient person because of camp. I am better at sharing, I compromise more, I’m more giving, more aware of my personal space, more accepting of people’s differences, and for that, I am eternally grateful.


I may be the only child at home, but since my summer at camp, I have plenty of camp siblings who are just a text, phone call or email away. Camp gave me much more than just a summer away from home; it has strengthened my character and given me lifelong friends.

Camp Starlight Siblings and “Siblings”

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Family is very important at Camp Starlight. In fact, it’s one of our five tenets (along with fun, adventure, spirit, and tradition). Siblings are an important part of the family unit. For all of the arguing that takes place over silly things, like who is going to hold the remote control or sit in the front seat of the car, siblings are there for each other when all is said and done. Unlike parents, who are authoritative figures, siblings offer an objective ear or a shoulder to lean on from someone who is close in age and socially parallel. This is why Camp Starlight goes to great length to emphasize the importance of siblings.

Of course, there are the dozens of true siblings that come to Camp Starlight each summer. Parents are always somewhat surprised—not to mention hesitant to believe—that siblings actually grow closer during camp. Many of the siblings here at Camp Starlight arrange to meet up with each other throughout the summer to catch up and see how each other is doing. Perhaps there is just something about a summer mountain breeze and amazing surroundings that facilitates bonding moments. Beyond the sibling meet-ups, older siblings look out for younger siblings throughout the summer. They make sure they’re enjoying their summer and making new friends. Younger siblings swell with pride when acknowledged by their big brothers and sisters.

Camp Starlight also has camp siblings. These are pairings of campers that act as “siblings” throughout the summer in much the same way that true siblings do—by being there to celebrate and encourage each other throughout the summer. There are many special camp sibling events held throughout the summer at which “siblings” can spend time together, get to know each other better, and talk about the one thing that binds them all—camp.

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.

The Importance of Evening Activities at Summer Camp

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

The typical image of evenings at summer camp involves campers sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows and singing songs. While campfires are an essential part of the camp experience and many camps enjoy campfires nightly or weekly —  they’re only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to after dinner activities. While some nights, particularly those following busier than usual days, are “chill” nights at camp during which campers watch a movie, enjoy a camp show or, yes, sit around that infamous campfire, on most nights, the action heats up when the sun goes down and things get crazy—sometimes really crazy—and maybe even a little goofy.

Whether it’s a dance, an evening of games, or a scavenger hunt, it’s important to dress for the occasion and costumes are typically encouraged. Acceptable attire often includes tutus, crazy hats or wigs, temporary tattoos and face or body paint. When competition is involved, dressing in team colors is also a must. Friends or even entire bunks/cabins try to mirror each other with matching outfits, and showing team spirit typically becomes a competition within a competition. Clever cheers (often involving inside camp jokes), singing, and loud encouragement provide the soundtrack to a night of activities designed to help everyone let loose, be themselves, and, most importantly, have fun. So what is the point of so much silliness after a full day of activities? It’s simple. Play. Play has long been touted by child psychologists as crucial to social and cognitive development. At camp, however, the kind of play that happens during evening activities takes on a much bigger role as an avenue for inspiring campers and staff alike to embrace camp values and put them into action.

At least one of these three key words consistently appears in camp mottos: “tradition”, “family”, “friends.” All three are emphasized during evening activities at camp. Whether it’s to win a competition or be the first across the finish line in a race, playful evening activities are a fun way for campers to come together as a family to achieve a common goal. More importantly, individual age divisions often spend time together during evening activities. During the day, campers go in many different directions, depending on their interests and program schedules. In the evenings, however, they come back together as a group. In the midst of lighthearted moments, friendships are born and strengthened.

Sleepaway camp traditions are evident—or sometimes born—in even the wackiest moments of evening activities. Those activities become perennial favorites to which campers look forward all year. They spend time during the winter contemplating ways in which they can enhance tradition and future memories by building upon previous experiences of those activities. They communicate with each other, brainstorm ideas and even make plans. In short, through play, campers take ownership of their camp experiences as well as their camp traditions. In doing so, they embrace camp values.

Kindness: A Summer Theme

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Kindness is a theme at Camp Starlight this summer.  The term is an interesting one.  This blog writer was an English major and a fun hobby is breaking down words and their meanings.  Kindness is often erroneously interpreted as an adjective, a way for people to describe themselves in job interviews or during icebreaker sessions.  Kindness is not an adjective, though.  Adjectives describe a person, place, or thing.  Kindness is a noun.  It is a thing.  A thing that specifically refers to “the act of being kind.” That’s a verb.  An action.  It’s something a person must demonstrate.  One of the definitions of “kind” is “uniting by common traits or interests.”  Although this is not the popular definition for kind, it’s actually the most accurate.  One demonstrates kindness by giving of oneself, without the expectation of something in return, in order to lift or raise another.  In it’s simplest essence, it’s a physical expression of empathy.

There is a famous quote that says ‘no kind deed goes unpunished.’  The quote refers to the notion that the act of being kind is not only often thankless but requires some level of sacrifice in the form of pain, inconvenience, and, yes, glory.  Unfortunately, this is true.  People give up luxuries, time, effort, money, and countless other aspects of comfort in the name of being kind, often not even receiving so much as a ‘thank you’ in return.  But sacrifice and the lack of recognition for it does not deter those who understand that the true reward of a kind deed is in the act.

Expressing kindness is not always easy and the reward seldom comes in the form of reciprocation but rather the self-realization that you have been able to translate your own life experiences in a way that allows you to raise up someone else.  An individual who recently delivered a message about kindness to the entire camp emphasized recognizing the difference between a nice person and a friend.  Similarly, being “nice” is not synonymous with being kind.  Nice is something you choose to be in order to establish yourself as someone who is pleasant.  Your motivation for being pleasant is that others will be pleasant, thus, “nice” in return.  Being nice rather than kind places expectations on others.  But a truly kind deed is an expression of compassion driven by empathy.  It does not expect kindness in return but appreciates the opportunity to show others that you, in some way, understand and identify with a challenge in their lives and, because of that, are not only willing but wanting to alleviate the burden in some way.

“So what does this have to do with camp?” you might be asking yourself by now.  Quite simply, that the concept of kindness, like camp, though it may on the surface seem complicated and, at times, chaotic, is really quite simple at its core.  It’s saying ‘hi’ to an individual every day, regardless of whether they ever say ‘hi,’ in return.  It’s paying a compliment to a fellow staff member or camper without expecting one in return.  It’s helping a friend, bunkmate, or maybe someone you don’t even know when they seem discouraged or down, without judgment and without the expectation of a favor in return.  Kindness is not a loan.  It’s a gift…a gift of yourself.  And perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Camp Starlight is how well so many people here seem to understand that.  You hear campers encouraging each other as you stroll by fields and courts.  Campers and staff support each other in overcoming fears and challenges.  Maybe the camp environment promotes the development of “kind” skills, just as it promotes the development of the ability to kick a soccer ball, serve a tennis ball, or dribble a basketball.  Or maybe it’s telling of the values of Camp Starlight as a whole that kindness is so precious it has been made a theme for an entire summer so that it’s population and extended family may contemplate it’s worth in our lives as well as the lives of others.


Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Okay, parents, by show of hands:  In the week since your children have been home, have you found them dressed in their bathing suits in the morning and babbling something about “polar bears” that you’re fairly sure is camp lingo for something that involves water although you haven’t figured out exactly what or its relation to early a.m. hours?  Have they wandered out of their rooms asking if recall has blown yet?  Stood in the middle of the kitchen staring blankly at the stove and refrigerator before asking if there was going to be a salad bar with the meal?  Asked if waterskiing was being offered during rest hour and could they make smoothies in cooking?  Attempted to employ some sort of self-invented complex formula to determine whether they’re more likely to be on the blue or white team for Olympics next year?  Come home from school and asked if they can go back to camp?  If so, there is no need to panic.  They just have a case of campsickness.  All campers—and many staff members—get it around this time of year.  Even us!

We have to admit that on the last day of camp, we’re all gunning to see home—the one at which we spend the ten months we’re not at camp.  Of course, we love camp.  We’ve aptly covered that in previously blogs.  But there is just something about the sight of home and family after being away for a bit that is irresistibly tempting.  Then we get home.  We say hello, we catch up on our television shows, we have a nice meal at our favorite restaurant, we take a long soak in a tub full of bubbles, we talk non-stop about camp for several days, we even style our hair the way it was meant to be, and then…we eye that big pile of laundry we just pulled out of our camp trunks and realize no one is coming to pick it up if we stuff it into a laundry bag and set it outside.  We look in the refrigerator and realize the kitchen staff went home, too.  We look at our messy rooms and realize no one is going to treat us to Alyce’s if we clean them.  We look outside, see no waterfront, and are forced to face the reality that paddle boarding is not on our schedule for today.  Neither is ceramics or gymnastics.  In fact, there is no schedule for the day.  Camp is over.  For ten more months, there is no more coming together at lineup and hearing ‘Have a great day!’ before we all rush to our circles. There are no more Jason Glick Pull Bys.  No more sibling sundaes, hikes to Oz, evening activities, Olympics, or Wayne County games either.  That’s campsickness.

Unfortunately, coming back to our “other” home involves revisiting everything we miss about our camp home.  It’s an adjustment to be sure.  School has either begun or is about to begin for most and everyone, including us, will settle back into their winter routines.  The children will begin to wake to the sound of their alarm clocks, they’ll stop putting on their bathing suits as soon as they wake up, they’ll open the refrigerator to look for food, and they may even continue to clean their rooms.  They probably won’t stop talking about camp, though.  To those of us who live 10 for 2, the leaves changing color, the weather cooling, the skies getting a little grayer, snow falling, and spring bulbs blooming are more than a change of seasons.  They’re all signs that we’re that much closer to the summer of 2013, and talking about the summer of 2012 makes it seem a little less far away.