How to survive digital detox at camp

April 18th, 2016

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 10.25.44 AMAh, another summer out at camp. The twinkle of stars on a clear night. The whistle of the wind in the trees. The splashing of campers jumping in the lake.

One thing you won’t be hearing, though: the gentle “plink” of Facebook notifications. Summer camp means digital detox!

Depending on how technology-dependant a camper or counselor is, that’s either great news or cause for concern. Well, don’t worry: even if you miss checking Instagram every five seconds, you’re bound to benefit from a little analog me-time. After all, countless studies have shown that constant social media and internet exposure can have negative effects on things like concentration, memory, and even basic happiness.

So here are a few tips for keeping sane without your phone in your pocket.

Keep a journal

Journaling is your number-one weapon in the fight against digital withdrawal, and people have been using journaling as a way of reflecting on their day long before Facebook’s “what’s on your mind” prompt or Twitter’s “What’s happening?”

Think of it as a Facebook update for your future self.

Write letters or postcards

We often seem to forget that email isn’t the only way to keep in touch. Finding a real-life piece of snail mail in the mailbox brings a smile to anyone’s day, and it doesn’t have to take long to do: just scrawl a quick doodle and a “miss you!” on a postcard and drop it in the camp mail. Done!

Tip: bring a stack of postcards pre-stamped and preaddressed with you to camp and you’re one step ahead of the game. All you have to do is write what’s on your mind and let it go; just like email!

Stay in the moment

Staying in the moment is easier said than done. Being able to “just check up on emails” anytime you don’t have something to do quickly turns phones into social crutches for a lot of people.

11539072_10152902437221960_8957652597744731094_oCamp offers you a chance to let that bad habit go — and when you can’t look at your phone during down time, you will find yourself making real connections with the people around you. Next time you want to share “what’s on your mind,” try sharing your thoughts with a person instead of your Facebook.

There’s a time and place for social media, but trust me; you’ll be surprised at what you find when you connect with the people around you first. All you have to do is say “hi!”

Growing up is fun: transitioning from summer camper to summer camp counselor

April 12th, 2016

54ef49ff-9ab5-41b4-978a-b437ed3421e3Most people will tell you that growing up means having less time to play. Summer vacations for kids? Nothing but fun! Summer vacations for grown ups? “Booooring!”

…Well, here’s a secret: summer doesn’t have to be totally boring when you get too old for summer camp. All you have to do is become a camp counselor — problem solved! (Not to mention your Mom will be happy, since you’re “technically” getting a job!”

If you love camp and you’re worried about getting too old to go, don’t worry. Taking on the responsibility of a summer camp counselor is both rewarding and super fun!

Building experience

Transitioning from summer camper to summer camp counselor is probably easier than you think.

Building dependability and good leadership skills are already a huge part of the activities and games that campers participate in every year. For former summer campers, all the leadership skills that make a good counselor are already there — it’s just a question of stepping up to the plate and trying on a different hat this summer!

Leadership is “hard-wired” into the activities at Camp Starlight; oftentimes, campers don’t even realize they’re building leadership skills. Camping, team sports, and problem-solving games all feels like “fun in the sun.” programs are usually adventure based and allow you to explore your budding leadership style through hands-on activities.

If you’ve ever wondered why the ropes course and team sports get just a little more challenging every year at camp, that’s why. Just like life, camp gets a little more complex every year. Luckily, with harder work comes bigger rewards. Few jobs are quite as fun and satisfying as that of a summer camp counselor!

Responsibility and freedom

For college students, there’s no way around it; summer jobs and internships can be a drag. Camp is different from a regular job; perhaps the only summer job in the world that requires so much time playing games!

While counselors have plenty of responsibilities when it comes to their campers, counselors who have been campers themselves have a special place in their heart for the relaxation that camp offers. Digital detox is worth its weight in gold — I mean, can you imagine if you were in summer classes right now?!

Counselor training

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 2.52.13 PMWhether they’re a veteran camper or excited newcomer, every single counselor at Camp Starlight goes through intensive training and team-building activities before the first group of campers arrives.

Counselor training is where former campers really shine — because they already know what a magical experience they’re in for, and have all the traditional camp songs down by heart!

Most of all, former campers excel as counselors because they remember what it was like to be a camper themselves, helping them understand the value they offer to their own campers as role models. Veteran campers know that fun and games is serious business, and that all the planning and training is worth it to make sure the summer goes off without a hitch!

Campers forever!

Summer camp is an incredible chance to spend time among your peers, gain independence, and learn about yourself.

Whether you decide to become a bunk specialist, or work in a specialty programing at your camp, you will surely develop important life skills that will help you become a responsible adult — not to mention a super fun role model for generations of Camp Starlight campers!

Remember, growing up doesn’t have to mean letting go of that summer camp spirit!

Options Program at Camp Starlight

April 4th, 2016

Written by Jason Silberman

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 10.17.16 PMLet me take you back to when I was a little Junior boy and I started my first week at camp. I was not the most enthusiastic when it came to sports but I gave it my all and, of course, had fun with it. One of my favorite times of the day was Option. This is usually the first period of the day for lower camp and third period for upper camp in their morning activities. Each week, campers can choose out of a dozen program options what they want to have for three days that week.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 8.28.52 PMTypically, the schedule varies day to day but the option period will remain the same for those three days. Program choices range from Archery, Basketball, Eco Science, Improv, Lacrosse and more. Think of it as a three-day, intensive workshop that allows campers to learn additional skills that they might not have the time to learn in regular periods with their division. Going back to little me for a second, this chance to focus on something that I wanted to do was such an incredible experience. For example, one year I chose to go to Magic as an option and in later years, I became the magic specialist! There are so many options to choose from and that’s why it has become a favorite amongst campers every year. I believe that this program is a crucial part of the campers’ day because it allows them to enjoy 55 minutes of an activity that they specifically wanted to have that day. Option is one of the main contributors to the creativity and ability to thrive in camp.

Going on a Hike… More than Just Good Exercise!

March 30th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 3.49.18 PMWhen you hear the words “summer camp,” you probably think of three things right away: campfires, friendship — and nature.

Without any of these essential elements, camp just wouldn’t be the same. Spending much-needed “digital detox” time in the woods is what brings many of us back year after year, so it’s no surprise that hiking in the natural areas around Camp Starlight is one of the most popular activities each summer!

There’s nothing like fresh mountain air to remind us of the things that matter in life.

The healing power of nature

Hiking is a serious workout, but it isn’t just about “building character.” Life on the trail has many proven emotional and health benefits that make it a wonderful way for campers and counselors alike to pass the afternoon.

For example: did you know the average person only walks half as much as doctors recommend for a healthy lifestyle?

This is particularly unfortunate for kids, many of whom aren’t spending nearly enough time outside. Aside from missing out on the emotional benefits of sunshine and endorphins, it’s no mystery to parents that time spent in front of iPads and Playstations is rarely time well-spent.

Needless to say, everyone gets in plenty of exercise out of an afternoon in the woods!

Connecting with the natural world

But it isn’t the health benefits of hiking that get campers excited about getting out on the trail. Quite the opposite: in the high-energy world of camp sports and games, hiking is a perfect slow-down time.

New friends can use the time to talk and get to know one another, and others can use the time to “zen out” with the forest and enjoy the experience of being out in the wild.

With so many campers coming from urban and suburban areas, time spent hiking around Camp Starlight may be a first-time experience with the peace and quiet of the woodlands!

The journey is the destination

Like all the activities at summer camp, hiking contains many lessons that strike to the core of what the camp experience is all about.

Most importantly, campers are reminded that the journey is as important as the destination. The summit may be spectacular, but the best part of hiking come from the camaraderie and togetherness of tackling the trail — and the pure value of experiencing the great outdoors.

Life is like a trail, and every journey begins with a single step. Whatever your dream may be, it’s waiting for you at the top of the mountain. The journey may be long… but there’s no reason to make it alone! Stick with your camp friends and you’ll be there before you know it!

How Camp Teaches You To Always Plan Ahead

March 21st, 2016

Going to summer camp is more than just an unforgettable week away from home with your friends — it’s also an investment in your skills, character, and future. Summer camp teaches every camper a slew of critical life skills including organization, leadership, and time management.

Here are just a few of the ways campers learn to plan ahead while enjoying the fun and games at Camp Starlight!

Navigating camp activities

11411756_10152924528446960_8550865432487014513_oPracticing how to plan time for cleanup, getting around camp between activities, and bringing the things you need to complete each activity doesn’t just prepare campers for sports, crafts, and sailing — it prepares them for the hectic pace of life outside camp, from school all the way to college!

Days at summer camp tend to be packed with activities, from waking up at dawn to falling asleep at dusk, and being on time for each of your activities ensures that you will have enough time to have the maximum fun possible. Learning to balance so many activities in a busy day is certainly one of camp’s biggest challenges, but with a little bit of practice everyone gets the hang of it.

After a full camp schedule, your school schedule will probably feel easy. After all, getting from one class to the next isn’t nearly as difficult as making it all the way from the archery range to the arts and crafts center!

Planning Skits and Talent Shows

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 10.30.52 AMMost campers choose to participate in either a skit or a talent show at some point during their session. Usually, skits and talents are created and practiced during free time and rest periods. Campers have to find a time in their daily schedule to plan their skit, create props, and practice with other campers.

The incremental process of preparing performances helps campers build experience planning group projects and break down large, complex homework assignments into more manageable pieces, so they can complete a little each day.

Counselors love helping campers plan for skits, because it’s a chance to teach important life lessons about approaching a challenge. The secret to camp performances is taking one small step at a time.

Completing a Cookout

Cooking out over a campfire involves quite a bit of planning. Not only do you have to decide on a meal and order your ingredients from the kitchen ahead of time, but you have to divide cooking tasks such as food prep and fire tending between your group and make sure you start early enough for your meal to be served on schedule. Being a cook is hard! (But super rewarding, especially over a traditional open fire.)

Your cookout experience will teach you to value the importance of planning your projects in detail before you start them. While most of your school projects will not end with a tasty, fire-cooked meal, the feeling of accomplishment after detailed planning will no doubt remind you of your camp experiences.

Looking to the future

Camp is filled with experiences that teach campers to plan ahead. From keeping your bunk clean (for the sake of your roomies!) to completing challenges in a ropes course, you will have plenty of opportunities to create plans and see the results of your effort.

While not everything may work out the first time — it’s not a big deal to be late to an activity or burn your dinner once in a while — you will eventually learn what type of planning works for you, and be able to apply your experiences to the rest of your life. Campers love to live in the moment, but they always have one eye on the future. With a little bit of planning, every second of camp is a blast!

How Camp Helped Me Live A Balanced Life

March 14th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 3.22.20 PM 1If you were to ask the adults in my life to describe me in one word, they would probably say “focused” or “disciplined” or “passionate.” This would be their nice way of saying I focus on one thing and one thing only, my grades. Now of course this makes my parents really happy, and they are proud of all of the A’s I bring home on my report card, and are excited about all of the opportunities I’ll have after high school. But they also realized that something was a little off balance. The time and energy and stress that I put on myself and my rising GPA left little room to enjoy other things typical teenagers should be enjoying, like art, sports and friends and a book other than a textbook. But when I leave for camp every summer and say goodbye to my calculators and textbooks I try to some balance.

The second day of camp, I found myself balanced. Balanced atop a shaking rope, a hundred feet off the ground, with sweat running down my face. I had been encouraged to try the ropes course, and one shaky foot in front of the other, and with a crowd of pretty much perfect strangers cheering for me, I faced my fear of heights and made it all the way across the challenge course. I was pretty sure this was not what most people mean by finding balance, but it did give me a rush and helped me face a fear.

As the days flew by, my hours were packed with activities and events that I never would have tried back home. Instead of passing up on social activities to study, I was racing from tennis matches to pottery class and then to the lake for a swim. People were asking ME to be on their team, to hang out with them and to try something new with them. And they were doing it because they liked hanging out with me, not because they wanted to copy my homework or get answers for a test. That was such a great feeling!

At the end of the day, during quiet time in our cabins, I would write down everything I had done that day. I began to see that my likes and interests were broadening, and that each day I was involved in many different areas. I was being creative in the morning, athletic in the mid afternoon, pensive and reflective in the late afternoon (with my quiet time by the lake) as well as social, independent and confident all day long. I began to see how much I was missing at home by focusing all of my time and energy on one thing.

Now, if you ask the adults in my life to describe me, they’ll say “always on the go” or “diverse” or “busy!” And it’s true, camp helped me realize that while grades and education are still at the top of my list, it doesn’t have to be the ONLY thing on my list. I’m thankful for my time at camp, and that it opened up windows for me to live a healthier, more balanced life.


Camp Starlight Year 15

March 4th, 2016

IMG_2983 2Written by Megan Panelas

This summer will be my 15th year working at Camp Starlight and every year people ask why I return summer after summer. I usually give the short answer of “it’s my second home,” but thought I would share the long version this time around.

Camp Starlight is a very Special place. Camp is a place where time slows down. It lets everyone take time out of their busy lives to really just be themselves. Both staff and campers can be who they truly are. It is amazing to watch campers in the camp atmosphere gain confidence in a nurturing environment. Each summer as they come back they truly gain a better sense of themselves. They belong at camp and they are part of the community that we, the staff, strive for. Through the program that has been developed at camp, each age group has their own set of traditions that they contribute to the Starlight community. It is amazing to watch their progression. From the junior enthusiasts who live and breathe camp and have so much fun, to the inters, who embrace the fun they are having and make lifelong friends. Then to the upper camp debs, who really learn more about themselves and bond to create more of a community atmosphere, and the seniors who have become a family. The Upper Seniors take on the role of helping the juniors have fun through a few special events. This cycle continues and is so strong at Starlight that many return as Counselor Assistants (CA’s) and then as counselors.

This is the part that I am now enjoying the most. Campers that I met when they were 7 and 8 are now counselors in the lower deb division with me. This truly is a full circle community. These campers turned counselors are the essence of camp and often make campers summers even more spectacular. I have had the joy to watch so many campers grow on a summerly basis, becoming exemplary staff and mentors over time.

Every camper is unique and may enjoy a variety of different things and camp has the opportunities to flourish in a million different ways. From being center stage, to being on a Wayne county team, from winning a race for the swim team to finally mustering up the courage to do the zip line, from launching rockets to scoring a goal in a league game and from dance parties to divisional campfires, there is something for everyone. It is finding that passion in each camper and helping them excel to have the best summer, every summer, as they grow and are true citizens of the Starlight community.

Being a part of this Community, and watching it grow is astounding and I just can’t stay away. I have become a part of it. Wabam.

Kayaking: the best way to explore the camp lake!

February 24th, 2016

UntitledIt’s hard to imagine Camp Starlight without the waterfront. Nothing embodies the camp experience quite like a crystal-clear day out on the water, paddling with your friends and exploring the open water.

There are plenty of watersports to choose from at camp: wakeboarding, swimming, and canoeing, just to name a few. But when it comes to “getting your zen on” in nature, kayaking is by far the best choice!

Riding low to the water makes the lake feel as wild and exciting as the open ocean, and the aerodynamic shape gives kayakers full control of their craft. Just be sure to bring sunglasses and bandana!

Building skills on the open water

Like all camp activities, kayaking gets a little more exciting every year. While younger campers get to goof around practicing paddling in straight lines and bumping into one another, older campers get to build practical skills like rolls and signal communication that allow more adventurous outings like kayaking down the Delaware River.

The “art and craft” aspect of kayaking makes it a camp favorite among counselors in particular, many of whom go on to lead kayaking trips and nature tours elsewhere when they aren’t at camp.

Safety skills and fun times go hand in hand!

Safety training is also a big part of kayak training, and every camper has to pass basic safety tests before they get to go goof around on the lake. In fact, mastering the “wet exit” — the trick of pushing out of your kayak if you flip over is easily one of our campers favorite skills to learn. “Once you’ve mastered the wet exit, the camp lake is your oyster!”

Safety doesn’t have to be boring, and truth be told almost everyone is sopping wet by the end of the kayaking activity period. (I mean, how could you resist when it’s hot out?)

Quiet life on the lake

With all the excitement to be had kayaking on the camp lake, the best part may be when it’s time to lay back and relax.

One of my favorite camp memories is of a quiet moment lounging on sit-on-top kayaks and watching the clouds while enjoying the gentle rocking of the lake. With all the high-paced sports and games going on around camp, kayaking is one of those activities that lets you get close to the “great outdoors” part of the camp experience.

Kayaking is not to be missed during your time at camp. Don’t forget to slow down and enjoy the moment — and bring plenty of sunblock!

9 Things I bet you didn’t know about being a Junior Camper

February 16th, 2016

unnamedAs told through the eyes of someone who is glad to know…

By Dena Weiner Junior Girls Division Leader

As you prepare to send your son or daughter off to camp for his or her first summer, you must have so many things rolling around in your head. What will camp be like? How will they thrive without me? Will they make new friends? So many of the things you may be concerned about, turn into the triumphs of a new camper. What you will learn after a few phone calls, vague letters and tight “No, I won’t let go” hugs on Visiting Day, is that the independence they gain will be the most important thing they bring home.

So what are nine things they will learn at Camp Starlight this summer? Let’s start with the first day they get off the bus.

I bet you didn’t know that….

…as soon as their feet touch the grass, they are immediately welcomed by hugs, cheers and circles of new friends. This teaches children that camp is fun and friends are all around us. They also learn that the adults at camp are always their biggest cheerleaders away from home.

…camp is not only a place for kids, but there are others that live on the beautiful hills and lake of camp and they are happy to share their habitat with a zip code worth of people. Camp’s canopy is nothing short of amazing. Every child will take at least one nature hike. On this hike they learn about the flora and fauna of this incredible scenery. They will learn to appreciate what they see and they might even learn to hug a tree, save a spider or listen to the sounds that surround us.

…teeth will get brushed. It might seem like an impossible task to get 10 eight year olds to brush their teeth twice each day, but somehow this mission of importance commences each morning and night. Somehow counselors find time to brush hair, wash faces and hands. Eventually these “chores” become badges of personal growth.

…everyone finds something to eat at camp. Even the pickiest of eaters finds something to enjoy. Sitting down to a meal with a family of friends is a valuable experience that creates something magical. Children learn that talking about your day, setting table routines and having a place to just come together creates an environment that is hard to replicate. It is this feeling of give and take that helps children calmly break bread.

…they will make a new friend at camp. It will probably not be the person you expected. As parents we spend so much time planning their social calendars that we structure their friendships. At camp they get to choose who makes them smile and laugh. It is such a valuable component to being a new camper in a safe and supported place. It teaches them how to seek out the qualities in another person that are important to them. It is these friendships that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.

…new interests will be developed. You might hear your son or daughter tell you that they like playing guitar, doing magic, hurling a lacrosse ball or sewing. They spend 10 months dabbling in extra-curricular activities and 2 months choosing other ones. Where else are you going to learn how to water ski? Every day’s excursions are priceless events. Trying new things teaches children to expect the unexpected and thrive outside out of their comfort zones.

…sunscreen gets applied, nails get clipped, knots get untangled scrapes get cleaned up. Even the Tooth Fairy comes to camp. Children learn that other people besides their moms and dads care for them too. Camp Starlight has lots of “mom & dads.” They are the people who make sure that no stone is left unturned and every need is met.

… sleep happens. Reluctant sleepers who crawl into your beds at night learn how to be self-soothers. Call it exhaustion from a long fun day or excitement for tomorrow’s surprises, but when the head OD checks in to make sure that bunks are quiet and asleep, they really are. Not a peep is heard except the sweet snores of mouth breathers. Children learn that they can put themselves to bed and this precious lesson is worth more than gold.

…talking face-to-face instead of through snaps, texts and instas is possible and fun. Face time will have a whole new meaning. Jacks and knock hockey will be played, songs will be sung and your child will learn to exist without an electronic device. They will even learn to remember fun times without a selfie.

What do these 9 lessons add up to? The self-sufficiency they learn becomes their self-esteem. How long can we cut their steak for them, scrub the shampoo out of their hair or buckle their seatbelts? They have to learn how to do these things by themselves. Remember how much we clapped and cheered when they took their first steps? Remember how much they clapped for themselves? We celebrated their independence. Camp parallels this experience. So as you unpack a summer’s worth of dirty socks in August, think about the steps those socks took. After the laundry is washed, the towels put away and the woodworking projects displayed on the mantel, the one thing that you won’t see in their trunks is their personal growth. You will notice it over time. Your eight year old will ask you for stuffed shells for dinner, they might call a friend in another state, they will brush their teeth without being nagged, and they might even clear their own plates. Consider these priceless gifts as you get them ready for the best summer of their lives!

From Camper To Counselor

February 8th, 2016

image1The first moment that I stepped off the bus in Starlight, Pennsylvania I got a feeling that I never would have had anywhere else. That feeling is now something that makes up a piece of my heart.

Starlight has given me opportunities that I otherwise would’ve never had. As a child, some of the most valuable lessons I learned were the ones I learned at camp. The most important lesson I learned was the value of true friends.

The girls in your bunk just become the people you spend summer after summer with and winter after winter missing. But as the years dwindled down and your time as a camper grew shorter, you realize that in life it is important to treasure the moments with the people who started out as strangers and eventually became family.

As I carry these friendships into my time as a counselor I embrace new friendships with those who are taking on camp for the first time. I have met people from all around the world with such interesting life experiences that I would never been exposed to had it not been for camp. This is something special that camp has to offer.

The relationships with your campers that you make throughout the summer as their counselor are unforgettable. The campers have the ability to push you to your limits and teach you things about yourself that you might have otherwise never known. Over the seven weeks of the summer you become their role model, a feeling that is indescribable.

As an former camper, I am given the opportunity to give back to Starlight and create lifelong memories for the campers like my counselors had once done for me. My favorite part of being a counselor is seeing the campers’ smiles throughout the summer and tears as they leave, because I know that I have made an impact on their lives forever.

Starlight is such a special place that will remain in my life forever. Every day at school I think about how each day that passes brings me one day closer to being at my happy place. Not every person gets the opportunity to have a home away from home like I do, so every second that I spent at Camp Starlight is a second that I cherish for the rest of my life.

Written by former camper Allix.