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

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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!

Campfires

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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

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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

 

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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

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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

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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

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Greetings from Camp Starlight

August 9th, 2016

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Photo of the Day

August 9th, 2016

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Humans of Camp Starlight

August 9th, 2016

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Kaylene, lifeguard. “It’s [the lake] so beautiful, calming and relaxing. It’s really picture perfect.”