Learning to Compromise at Camp Starlight

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.

10 Best Camp Counselor Moments

October 4th, 2016

Just like a treasure box full of keepsakes or a drawer full of letters from friends, every second at Camp Starlight has the potential to turn into a lesson you hold on to forever. After all, what is camp but a collection of magical moments?


True, the days can be long — but you can always count on this: just when you think you’re getting “burnt out” from school or work, something will happen to remind you why you decided to  be a camp counselor in the first place!


Remember these 10 classic camp counselor moments to remind yourself why you left civilization behind to be a camp counselor at Camp Starlight all summer!

The first campfire of the summer

Every campfire is special, but the first campfire of the summer holds a special place in the collective lore of camp counselors.


After a long (and cold!) year away from the woods and cabins of summer camp, that classic campfire smell comes like a rush of fresh air. Ushering in the new season — and at the same time, bringing back happy memories from summer seasons past. Sigh… truly, no camp moment is more emotional than that first campfire. (Except perhaps the last one!)


That moment when you realize you don’t miss your phone


Digital detox is a big part of camp life, especially if you’re totally addicted to Instagram and Buzzfeed. Sometimes those first few days can be a shock to the system.


The rewards are big, though, for counselors who learn to “tune in and tune out” — living in the moment is way easier when you aren’t tied to yesterday’s Facebook posts!


That moment when you learn to live without your mobile “leash” is a classic camp moment and a lesson you’ll always carry with you.


Getting up on stage and making a total fool of yourself


You never were into acting. You also couldn’t imagine that you had any creative talents to share. But there you were at camp up there on stage totally making a fool of yourself. Setting a great example to your campers by going out of your own comfort zone and participating in the evening activities at camp is something you will never forget. Yes, the picture of you in the crazy wig and tutu found its way on facebook but now your friends and family back home will see a different side of you.

The glory of shower hour


Showering at home may be kind of “meh.” But showering at camp? Basically the opposite of “meh!” Nobody said camp life had to be muddy, right?

The only real challenge of shower hour at camp is making sure everybody doesn’t take a full hour just to themselves! Trust us when we say you’ll never forget that camp shower feeling — nothing feels better after a long day of running around in the sun!

The last s’more of the summer

The first day of camp and the last day at camp are always the most emotional for summer camp counselors. Making new friends! Going back to school! It can be kind of a crazy roller coaster (but a fun one of course). Camp is all about traditions, so chowing down on that last traditional campfire s’more is bound to be a moment you always remember. Cheesy? So be it!

Sending postcards to your friends at home

Let’s be honest — isn’t it a relief to be working at Camp Starlight this summer instead of painting houses or checking out groceries like most of your friends from school?


Sending postcards home is one of those moments when you stop and realize exactly how awesome it is to be where you are. The question is, how can you fit all that enthusiasm into one five-by-six inch card?

Fourth of July at camp


Fourth of July is always awesome. Fourth of July with all your friends at summer camp? Four times as awesome!


We may raise the flag at camp every day, but it’s extra special on the Fourth of July. Who knows, there might even be a few fireworks…

When you cheer up a discouraged camper

Being there for your campers when they need you is by far the most fulfilling part of the camp counselor experience.


I still remember the counselor who helped me cheer up and get back in the game when I felt homesick at my first sleepaway camp. So getting to do the same for a camper with the blues felt all the better.


The power to turn “having the blues” into “having a blast” is the superpower that separates camp counselors from mere mortals!

Getting mail from home


Yeah, sure, Mom can be annoying sometimes. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say, and getting mail from the folks is a special moment for camp counselors.


Especially when you’re close to the end of the season, those little pieces of home start to feel a little bittersweet. It’s nice to know that you’ll get to see the ol’ homestead again in a few weeks — even if you’d rather stay at camp all year around!

The last campfire of the season


Just like the first campfire of the year sets the tone for the future, the last campfire of the year gives everyone at camp a chance to reflect on a season well-spent.


Everyone around you has gone from being friendly strangers to life-long friends and chances are you know the camp grounds like the back of your hand.


Cherish those last few group songs, and remember: next summer will be here before you know it!

Natural Rhythms: The Timeless Traditions that make Camp Special!

September 27th, 2016

Camp is super-duper fun… but every summer camper (or camp counselor) knows that with the fun comes a dash of craziness!


The days are packed with activities, and among those activities are tons of quirky camp traditions.


One of the most special things about summer camp is how traditions are passed on through returning campers and counselors.


Here are a few of our favorite classic camp traditions!

Flag Ceremonies


No morning is complete without the traditional Camp Starlight flag ceremony! Like the traditional evening campfire, flag-raising is a time for everyone at camp to gather together and remember that we’re all in it together. (And of course, double-check that no one overslept!)


Like with everything at camp, there is always time to be a little goofy, and flag ceremonies are no exception. From spontaneous camp songs to call-and-response games, you never know what the counselor’s are going to pull out of their sleeves!



Ah, the sweet smell of soot and s’mores…


No camp would be complete without a campfire. Community campfires are a time for the entire group to come together for songs, dance, theater, and of course the infamous talent shows.


Usually the campfire starts with fast, silly songs and a few games to get everyone grounded and relaxed. As the night progresses, slower songs and fun stories are shared around the fire until it’s finally time to say goodnight and return to the cabins. (And brush our teeth! That means you!)

Mealtime songs



Mmm, lunchtime — everyone’s favorite activity of the day!


(Aside from breakfast and dinner, that is.)


Feeding dozens of campers at the same time would be chaotic if there were no traditions to make mealtime run smoothly. Everyone has to “sing for their supper,” so it’s no surprise that so many camp songs center around food. “Heeeey burrito!”


Camp songs may be one of the strangest traditions to those who have never been to camp — but these ridiculous jingles are something that campers everywhere have in common!

Traditions that keep on giving

Summer camp is an integral part of American life, and the rhythm of day-to-day life lets everyone play their part in the story.


From all-camp events like dances, talent shows, and barbecues, to specific hiking songs, camp life has something for everybody. Trust us, you’ll get into the swing of things before you know it.


…And before long, you’ll be ready to participate in the best camp tradition of all — making your own!

How to Make Cool Shadow Animals with Your Flashlight

September 20th, 2016

As night falls over Camp Starlight, the loud and crazy activities of the day give way to the whispered and wonderful activities of the evening.


Bedtime stories, chilled-out card games, and friendly chatter fill the hour between returning inside and falling asleep.


As a camp counselor, you will always need plenty of fun, surprising activities to keep the fun flowing. Learning a few shadow-animals is a sure-fire way to spark campers’ creativity and interest. The best part is, all you need is a flashlight and a wall! (Check and check!)

Level 1: Bear & Alligator

The simplest shadow animals use your thumbs for ears mouths, and can be easily modified to match dozens of recognizable animal faces! Try curling in your fingers to make a snub-nosed pug out of the alligator, or move the bear’s ear over its nose to make a triceratops dinosaur!


Level 2: Dog and Eagle

Woof woof! Wrap your right hand around the left to add two ears and a defined head-shape to your friendly Fido!


Then try using your hands for a flapping bird — one of the oldest tricks in the book. You can spread and curve your fingers to make a creepy spider for some easy heeby-jeebies!


Level 3: Deer and Mountain Goat

Once you’ve mastered the dog, adding curved horns and and a peep-hole for the eyes can turn it into both a deer and a mountain goat. Getting the shape just right for less recognizable critters than dogs and birds can be tricky, but it’s worth the effort once you’ve nailed it!


Level 4: Rabbit and Bear Cub

The final step in shadow animal mastery is the jump from faces to full-bodied creatures! The trick here is using one hand for the legs and body while the other takes care of ears and mouth. Getting the angle “just so” is more important here than with easier animals. Once you’ve got it, they can crawl, wave, and give high-fives!



Bedtime is fun time!

Hand shadows can also add some interactive fun to traditional camp stories, or even make an appearance in your group’s skit or talent show performance!


Once you’ve mastered the basics, what other unexpected animals and shapes can you and your campers dream up?


Practice at home and be sure to share your creations with us, whether on Facebook or in person!

In the meantime, keep dreaming that camp dream. 😊


9 Lessons a Counselor Learns from their Campers

September 13th, 2016



Everyone that arrives at summer camp leaves with a profoundly changed outlook on life. Like many camp counselors, I expected to learn a lot from the experience. What I didn’t expect was for so many of the things I learned to come from my campers!


It turns out being a role model can be a two-way street. If you’re looking to become a counselor yourself, here are a few of the things you can expect to learn from your campers:

1. You get what you give

Campers demand a ton of energy, and keeping up with the day’s activities — all while being positive, enthusiastic, and with an eye towards safety — can be totally exhausting. Something new happens every day, and greeting new challenges with a smile makes all the difference.


Show up to an activity expecting to be bored, and you’re sure to be bored. Show up ready to give it your best shot, and the fun is guaranteed!

2. Respect is more important than agreement

I’d be lying if I told you I always agreed with everyone at camp. That would be impossible! However, I soon started to notice that the campers who were having the most fun were the ones who treated their peers with respect — even if they didn’t want to be BFFs with them. Campers who refrained from poking fun at someone, even behind their back, always came to the end of the summer with tons of friends and a big smile on their face.


I resolved to start being more conscious about showing respect to my fellow counselors; and the results were incredible! I never even realized how much negativity you can let go when you simply cut out the gossip and “agree to disagree.” This one lesson was worth the whole summer!

3. You can always do more than you think

Camp teaches you how to manage time better than any class. After all, if you can’t keep track of your own life, how are you going to keep track of all your campers?


Life at camp quickly taught me that I was never as busy as I thought I was; I just needed better organization. It’s easy to say “it’s too much” or “I can’t do that” in regular life, but at camp there’s no option: you simply have to show up, rain or shine, and give it your best shot.


4. Laughing makes everything better

It’s scientific fact that smiling makes your mood better, even if you have to “fake it till you make it” at first.


On the one hand camp is full of variety, but on the other sometimes you have to buckle down and do the same activity week after week and make sure it feels “fun” every time. Seeing the campers’ faces light up when we jumped into a new activity kept it fresh for me. When I started smiling even during the activities I didn’t feel like doing, the activities became fun again!


Now I use this technique every day in my “real life,” and it always helps make tasks like laundry day or preparing reports at work feel “fresh” again!

5. It’s okay to say “I don’t know”

Being a summer camp counselor is often a counselor’s first experience as an authority figure. When you’re barraged with questions all day, it’s frustrating at first when you don’t know the answer.


You’ll quickly learn that campers don’t mind if you don’t know everything; in fact, they don’t expect you to. Saying “I don’t know… but let’s find out” is much more exciting than the alternatives, and it shows them that you’re human too.

6. Including everyone makes life more fun

Sometimes there’s a camper who just doesn’t want to do anything. The food isn’t fried enough, the activities aren’t fun enough, and the campfire isn’t “cool” enough. Including everyone in activities is really challenging at first, especially when it means you have to be extra-committed to keep the energy flowing. But something magic happens when you insist on everyone playing together: that camper’s finally joins in, and before you know it they’re having the time of their life! The first time you make that change in a camper’s attitude will change your outlook forever.

7. You’re remembered for the little things

There’s a saying that we’re remembered for our mistakes, not our successes; but I disagree. At camp, as in life, it’s the little things that make your legacy. That time you brought a sick camper their favorite dessert from the dining hall, even though they didn’t ask? They will never forget. Anyone who’s been to summer camp knows it’s the little kindnesses that make the biggest difference.

8. It’s okay to be alone sometimes

Camp is all about togetherness, but sometimes a little alone time is just as important. Camp helps everyone grow by making them learn to ask for it when they need it, but sometimes campers don’t know how to do that and get frustrated. As a counselor, your job is to step in and help them get everything they need to have a great experience. Learning to recognize when campers need alone time and when they need team time is a subtle skill that will radically change your life outside camp.

9. Always pack more socks

This last lesson may be the most important of all! No one ever packs enough socks. They get dirty, they get lost, and you always need more than you think. And yes, you definitely need a comfy pair for lounging around the cabin!

Keep an open mind and have a great summer

Summer camp is as much about learning as it is about fun. When your campers speak, keep your ears open; you just might learn something!

How Summer Camp is as Magical as Disney!

September 5th, 2016


They say Disney is the most magical place on Earth, but ask any kid who has spent the summer at Camp Starlight, and they’ll beg to differ. They’ll tell you of a place that feels magical, that sparks their imagination, a place they can’t wait to get to and a place they never want to leave. They will tell you about a place where you can spend the entire day going, playing and doing and STILL not do and see everything there is to see. They’ll tell you that camp is a lot like Disney, but better.


There is something about making the journey to Disney that adds to the magic and excitement of the experience. Even if the drive is long or the flight is exhausting, there is something about the journey that adds to the excitement.  The same goes for camp. The build up, the anticipation, the letters in the mail, the newsletters and all of the things that lead up to the initial trip to camp help build the excitement before they even step foot on the grounds.


Camp is made for kids, much like Disney. It is made with growing imaginations in mind. Camp Starlight takes everything that kids love and roll it into one jam-packed summer. And, like Disney, every kid can find something they love at camp. Camp caters to athletes, thespians, crafters, animal lovers, thrill seekers, writers, outdoor enthusiasts, artists, nature lovers and everything in between, just like Disney caters to pirates, princesses, evil villains, talking mice and ducks that dance. Whatever campers are into, camp has something for them.


It goes without saying that a day at Disney is a day filled with fun, but for most families, it is just a day. Some lucky families can spend a few days exploring Disney, but usually no more than a week. The great thing about camp is that is lasts for the summer, and kids have plenty of opportunities to try everything, and then re-try the things they love the most. Camp is a summer of fun and adventure, giving campers plenty of time to bond with new friends, and allowing them to enjoy everything camp has to offer without feeling rushed.

4 Ways Camp Creates Happy Campers

August 29th, 2016

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Did you know that there are certain things, certain scientifically proven things, that are shown to create and increase the hormones in our brain that make us happy? This isn’t just some fluffy stuff we made up, it’s proven by really smart scientists who know their stuff!

The amazing thing is, that most of the things doctors and scientists recommend people to do to be happy can all be done at camp! No wonder kids who spend their summers at Camp Starlight are some of the happiest kids around!

Stop and Smell The Roses

Well, any flower will do, really. A study done from the Human Emotions Laboratory at Rutgers University found that “flowers in general are a powerful positive emotions inducer.” In the study, people exposed to floral scents were three times more likely to have immediate associations with happy and positive memories. Lavender can decrease anxiety and depression and jasmine can have a calming effect. Lucky for campers, the grounds are a hot spot for beautiful fauna, and sweet smelling flowers can be found just about anywhere. There are many distinct smells at camp, including sunscreen, bug spray and s’mores. But the soft scent of flowers will definitely boost your mood anytime.

Exercise in the Morning

Exercise plays a huge part in your mood. When we are feeling slow and lazy, our mood tends to reflect that. When we are active and moving about, we tend to be happier. Exercise releases endorphins and proteins that make us feel happier. Getting active first thing in the morning is an excellent way to prepare your brain for a great day. At camp, kids have plenty of opportunities to start their day with a run, a swim, yoga class or a game of football. Getting an early start is a great mood changer, and can be the first step in a happier day!

Spend Time With Happy People

Everyone has had that one friend or acquaintance who is negative all of the time and who complains a lot. It can be mentally exhausting to be surrounded by all of that negativity, and it’ll eventually take a toll on your personal happiness. Scientists say surrounding yourself with happy, positive people will make you a more positive and happy person. It’s hard to be down and depressed when you’re around people who are hungry for life, laughter and adventure. And, what do you know, camp is chock full of happy people. Both the campers and the staff are having the time of their lives, and their mood, vibes and happiness are totally contagious.

Go Outside

Being outside and connecting with nature can do wonders on your mood. Getting out and about has been proven to increase concentration, reduces stress, and (surprise!) can boost your mood and overall happiness. The fresh air is good for you, the Vitamin D you get from the sun is beneficial, and the ever-changing scenery of the outdoors is an excellent way to get your brain working and help you to focus better. A large portion of a camper’s day is spent outside, enjoying the sunshine and exploring nature, and this helps them to feel energized and excited.

Teachers and parents have said time and time again that they can just tell the difference between kids who go to camp and kids who stay home. “There’s just something different about kids who go to camp. It’s their confidence, their mood, their overall happiness” is something heard quite often about campers. And it makes sense! Spending the summer at Camp Starlight is the perfect formula for happiness, and gives a whole new meaning to the term “happy campers”

Why Outdoor Adventure is Important

August 22nd, 2016


As a camp counselor, I’ve always been surprised by the wide range of lessons that campers take away from the outdoor adventure activities at camp.


Some campers benefit most from building a sense of self-reliance and resourcefulness. Others particularly enjoy the non-competitive aspects of the activities, which combine the adrenaline of sports with the positivity of teamwork. And of course, some campers just like having fun in the sun.


Regardless of interests, everybody at Camp Starlight gets to benefit from outdoor education. Nature, like adventure, is universally meaningful — and universally fun.

Personal development

A camper must learn to trust themselves before they learn to trust others, and outdoor skill-building is one of the greatest ways to build self-confidence.


The world is a scary place, and survival skills like fire-starting and shelter-building teach campers that strength comes from within; all it takes to survive and thrive in the world is a little know-how and ingenuity.


…Not to mention that knowing a thing or two about how to pitch a tent and read a map opens up a whole new world of outdoor recreation activities for life outside camp!

Teamwork vs. competition

Teamwork is one of the core values at camp, and nothing builds trust and communication between teammates quite like working together to solve the fundamental human needs that outdoor exploration puts us in touch with. That being said, outdoor adventure still requires a high level of teamwork, even though the objective isn’t “beating” another team.


There are no winners and losers when the goal is to make a campfire or build a cool shelter; it’s campers against the wilderness, rather than campers against campers. Students learn to work together to conquer a challenge, without worrying about accomplishing anything more or less than their absolute best.

Finding our place in the world

When it comes to outdoor adventure at camp, the “outdoor” side is at least as important as the “adventure” side.


Adventure is all well and good, but the raw experience of being in nature is what makes seemingly simple activities like hiking and camping so memorable. Particularly for campers coming from the city, a reminder of how small we all are in the grand scheme of things can be immeasurably valuable. The great outdoors are important for everyone. After all, it’s wild woods, crisp air and clean water that makes Camp Starlight such a special place to “get away from it all!”

Can-do attitude

Whatever particular aspect of outdoor adventure captures a camper’s imagination, they are guaranteed to walk away with a new sense of empowerment. We live in a fast-paced and quickly changing world, and the outdoor experiences at camp leave campers ready to tackle the world with creativity, determination, and humility. Just get outside and try it!

Photo of the Day

August 10th, 2016


Greetings from Camp Starlight

August 9th, 2016