Posts Tagged ‘lessons from camp’

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.

Learning to Be Resilient at Summer Camp

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Resilience is the ability to adapt quickly to change or bounce back from setbacks.  In addition to the many benefits available to a child who attends summer camp, one that proves invaluable for many years afterward is gaining resilience as a life skill. In the everyday happenings of summer camp, a camper is given many opportunities to exercise their independent thinking skills on many levels. They find themselves in an environment that not only provides the situations to obtain these skills but also fosters growth within the individual. Perhaps the most effective part of this development, as with many of the lessons learned in camp, is that in the moment it hardly feels like a “lesson.”

During a summer at camp, the scenarios that improve a camper’s resilience are all around them. Everyday, campers excitedly head to the Outdoor Adventure area where they take to the climbing walls, ropes course, and zip line. The Ropes staff, with their extensive training and certifications, provide the arena for adventurous acts of bravery, even when first attempts aren’t exactly successful.  Down at the waterfront, swimmers of all skill levels are diving in and learning new things too. At each and every program area, you find campers trying an activity for the first time as well as campers enjoying participating in an activity in which they are very experienced. Both of these scenarios prove beneficial to the camper; when children try new things and their peers are there to cheer them on and encourage their efforts, the campers gain a sense of camaraderie and inclusion. Because of this boost to their self, they’re more likely to want to continue improving.  On the other end, when a camper is given the opportunity to display excellence in a field in front of his or her peers, there is a power in the identity found when the child feels confidence in this environment.

Situations like these mentioned, and hundreds more that present themselves, throughout a summer, create situations for campers to think situations through and move beyond the moment with resiliency in the camp setting and, furthermore, to return home with a new or better set of life skills. They have spent a summer away from mom and dad, and they have been exercising the act of identifying what they need and either obtaining it or asking our experienced counselors and staff to help them obtain it.  They create friendships amongst kids like and unlike themselves from various parts of the country and even globe. They leave with a better sense of their own culture, having encountered cultures outside of their own. As they take part in the culture at camp, they are given a great sense of being a member of a team and the chance to belong.

Summer Camp: Improving Your Child’s School Performance

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Sure parents send their children to summer camp to have fun.  And letters home detailing exciting moments during the summer usually more than assure them that they’re getting their money’s worth.  But did you know that summer camp also may improve a child’s performance in school?

For one, there is routine.  Yes, it’s summer camp.  Yes, your children are letting loose and having some serious fun.  But they’re also maintaining a routine.   Studies have shown that children who maintain regular routines get better grades than those who don’t.  Many camp programs follow a schedule.  Although the individual activities vary from day to day, campers know when they will eat meals, have day and evening activities, shower, and go to bed from day-to-day.  Child-experts  have noted that maintaining a routine helps children stay focused because it keeps their lives calm and predictable.   When children feel calm and safe, they accept change more easily.  By maintaining a schedule at camp, children are able to transition more easily from the previous school year into the new one.  “Children handle change best if it’s expected and it’s handled in the context of a regular routine,” says Dr. Laura Markham, behavioral specialist.   Dr. Markham also notes that routine helps children understand expectations.  The faster children are able to transition into their new school year, get settled and understand expectations, the more likely they are to be successful.

Camp also provides social structure.  Social structure helps children learn how to interact with other people.  Ultimately, they become better communicators.  The benefit of being able to learn this process at camp is the camp social structure has a ready made support system.  Summer camp promotes a strong sense of family and tradition.  Emphasis is placed on the idea of each person being a valuable member of the camp family and the importance of individual contributions to the continuance of camp traditions.   Camps tend to place emphasis on fun rather than appearance. Children are also encouraged to be curious.  The atmosphere is very fun, playful, and nonjudgmental.  In his 2006 article Why play, Toys, and Games are Important, author Dr. Toy (yes, that’s his real name) says that children feel free to be themselves when they are relaxed and having fun, which makes them better listeners and communicators.  Students who are good communicators are less likely to feel frustrated in school.

As children mature at camp, they’re taught and given more responsibility.  From the first day they arrive at camp, campers obeserve that there are certain rites reserved for specific age groups.  They see that even they, as early campers, are not without their own special traditions.  But they also learn that there are things to look forward to in getting older and becoming more experienced campers.  Older campers take longer trips outside of camp and sometimes journey further away.  They stay up later.  They have more freedom of choice in their daily activities.  There are also have rituals exclusive to mature campers, something that younger campers learn to look forward to when they were young campers and of which they anticipate being a part.

Finally, there is the element of family in summer camp.  Not only do children learn to collaborate and be flexible by co-existing with others and participating regularly  in team sports and challenges, they are given additional tools by Camp Directors and Staff who care very much about them and their development.  Many camps utilize the services of professionals, such as MA Jeff Leiken, to implement special programs that help older campers prepare for high school and beyond by understanding how to maximize their potential for success.

Sure children have fun at summer camp!  But they also learn and maintain healthy habits that help them transition into the role of good student between summers.

*For more information or to contact Jeff Leiken, please visit his website