Camp North Star Blog
The health and welfare of our campers are always the number one priority at Camp North Star. Our experienced health center team keeps a watchful eye on our campers and staff. But it’s not just the responsibility of our nurses and doctors to ensure the health of our North Star community. Counselors, directors, support staff and food service staff work together to create a healthy environment every day. Here’s a few simple things we do daily to keep everyone healthy and happy.
Drink lots of water – It’s water that’s the key, not a sugary drink. With ice water stations throughout camp, it’s easy to stay hydrated. Whether it’s a hot day or typical mild Maine weather, we ensure our campers take lots of water breaks at every activity. In the Dining Hall, we offer fruit-infused water during meals and to fill up water bottles during the day.
Sleep – The benefits of sleep for children are well documented. Sleep protects their mental health, helps build up their resistance, gives them energy, and helps them grow. We have curfews that are age appropriate to give all of our campers the right amount of sleep so they are well rested for the next day.
Hand washing – It’s camp. We love it when campers get dirty. But after each activity and before a meal or snack, our campers wash their hands. We prefer our campers to use the old-fashioned technique of soap and water.
Sunscreen – We want our campers to enjoy being outside as much as possible. Whether the sun is shining or it’s a cloudy day, our campers wear and reapply sunscreen throughout the day. We also recommend our campers wear a hat when they participate in activities such as soccer and tennis. Extra sunscreen can always be found at the waterfront and athletic fields.
Healthy Diet – It’s crucial for our campers to refuel their bodies throughout the day. That’s why our food service staff prepares meals that are kid-friendly and healthy. There’s always options for protein at each meal along with fresh fruit. In between meals and snacks, campers can stop by the Dining Hall for a piece of whole fruit.
Proper Clothing – Campers want to dress comfortably. That’s important. It’s also essential they wear clothing that will help them avoid injuries. Sneakers and closed-toe shoes are proper footwear. Sprained or strained ankles are the most common camp injury. Wearing proper footwear can reduce the risk of an injury. Proper clothing is more than just footwear. Being covered from the sun and wearing light-colored t-shirts and shorts are important too.
When we keep our campers healthy, it means they are also happy and able to fully enjoy their activities. The steps we take to promote a healthy lifestyle isn’t just limited to the camp season. We hope our campers continue these habits back home.
Participating in youth sports is an excellent way for children to explore and develop lifelong skills. Youth sports not only play an important role in exercise, but promotes mental and psychological advances as well. Numerous studies have shown that children who participate in sports are less likely to drop out of school, and become involved in drugs and alcohol activity, while they also excel in academic performances and sociability. Camp North Star offers our campers a variety of team and individual sports to choose from within our elective based program.
Builds character – Playing sports at a young age enables children to participate in social interactions and build skills such as teamwork, leadership, and responsibility as they learn to work with others to achieve a common goal.
Develop teamwork skills – Teamwork is a skill children will continue to use for years to come, so it is important to learn the basics early. Youth sports provide important lessons in team dynamics. Everyone must work together to achieve their goals, and sports allow children to sort through each others strengths and weaknesses to decide what strategy works best for the team.
Promotes healthy competition – It’s easy to claim that youth sports are becoming too competitive. But competition is all around us. Children will face competition in school, the workplace and their personal lives, so they must learn how to interact in competitive environments. Participating in sports will teach children how good sportsmanship and that trying your hardest will often produce positive results.
Learning to Lose – Winning is easy. Learning to lose and doing it graciously is not as simple. Bad sportsmanship is an ugly thing. No one likes a sore loser. However, losing with integrity to a better opponent is a skill that should be learned at a young age.
Respect for Authority -Following set rules, taking direction and accepting decisions is a large part of playing sports. Through regular interaction with coaches and referees, children will have an increased sense of respect.
Resilience – In sports, you go through highs and lows as well as wins and losses. Sports can certainly be an emotional rollercoaster. Children who are highly involved in sport are more likely to become ‘psychologically resilient’. This isn’t surprising when sport teaches kids to pick themselves up after a hard tackle, or to hold their head high after losing badly, then get right back out there for the next play or game.
Camp North Star’s athletic program allows our campers to learn new skills and further develop existing ones. Our coaches offer classes for the beginner up to the competitive travel player. There’s also our Coach in Residence Program for campers who want to specialize in one specific sport. We certainly enjoy watching our campers improve their athletic skills. But, it’s most rewarding to see life skills they gain by participating in sports that help them to become well-rounded, mature young adults.
Summer camp professionals are often asked the question, “what do you do all offseason?”. Time is definitely needed to recharge your batteries after a long camp season. However, there’s also significant time spent on professional development. Yes, summer camp directors go to school too for professional development and training.
Later this month, several of Camp North Star’s directors are headed to the ACA Tri-State Camp Conference in New Jersey and the ACA New England Camp Conference in New Hampshire. These are just two of the numerous conferences, workshops and seminars that our leadership team attend during the school year.
The ACA Tri-State Camp Conference is the largest gathering of camp professionals in the world with over 3,000 camp directors and staff spending four days in Atlantic City. The conference is highlighted by over 150 educational sessions, an exhibit hall with 300 vendors and 2 keynote speakers. The ACA New England Conference offers similar sessions and an exhibit hall too. This conference is on a slightly smaller scale with just under 1,000 attendees.
Both exhibit halls are filled with vendors whose merchandise include art supplies, food service, athletic equipment, waterfront products, wearable apparel, outside entertainment, popular trip destinations and more. There’s always a few new things purchased to enhance Camp North Star’s activity program, special events and facility in Poland Spring, Maine.
The keynote speakers this year are Susan Cain and Brandon Stanton at Tri-State and Michael Brandwein at New England. Susan Cain is chief revolutionary and co-founder of Quiet Revolution and the author of the bestselling books, Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts, and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking. Brandon Stanton is the creator of Humans of New York, the photoblog and book that features street portraits and interviews collected on the streets of New York City. Michael Brandwein is one of the top speakers and bestselling authors in the camp industry. Former keynote speakers include Hilary Clinton, Michael Eisner and Henry Winkler.
The most meaningful part of any conference are the educational sessions. At both the Tri-State and New England Conferences, leaders in a variety of relevant fields present workshops. The topics include childhood development, behavior management, emergency preparedness, staff training, healthcare, and leadership training. The knowledge gained at these workshops are shared with our entire Leadership Team. Then, incorporated into our own staff training. Ultimately it is used day-to-day during the camp season by our entire staff so we can provide our campers with the most meaningful and well-rounded experience possible.
Camp North Star’s elective based program allows our campers to create their activity schedule each week from over 100 choices in athletics, outdoors, waterfront, enrichment, performing arts and fine arts. The Arts program…from ceramics to culinary arts, stained glass to sculpture and dance to drumming…gives campers the opportunity to express their creativity. And creativity is just one of the many skills campers learn from studying and participating in the arts. There are several other benefits that campers receive from being involved in an art class at Camp North Star.
Confidence – The skills campers gain through our performing arts classes not only train them how to persuasively deliver a message, but also builds the confidence they need to step on stage and perform. Theater training gives campers practice stepping out of their comfort zone and allows them to make mistakes and learn from them. North Star campers can participate in classes that include dance, improv, drumming, guitar, and the camp musicals. Last summer the musicals were Shrek and Lion King.
Problem Solving – Artistic creations are born through the solving of problems. How do I turn a pile of clay into a vase? How do I depict a specific emotion through a hip hop dance performance? How will my character in the camp musical react in this scene? Without even being aware, campers that participate in the arts are consistently being challenged to solve problems which develops children’s skills in reasoning and understanding.
Receiving Constructive Criticism – Hearing constructive feedback about a performance or piece of artwork is a typical part of any arts instruction. Through this process, our campers learn that feedback is part of learning and it is not meant to be a personal attack. Rather, campers learn that constructive criticism helps them improve and learn.
Dedication – Campers spend 5 hour per week in each of their classes. It is common for campers in art classes to use their free time period for extra practice time in a performing arts class or additional time to fine tune or finish an arts project. This type of time commitment helps campers to develop an association between dedication and accomplishment.
Perseverance – When a camper tries to play the guitar for the first time, they know they are not ready to join a band just yet. The first attempt at the pottery wheel rarely results in a symmetrical vase. However, with the help of our teachers who offers the proper guidance and direction, our campers learn the skills and techniques to play a few chords on the guitar and to create that vase. In an increasingly competitive world, where children are being asked to continually develop new skills, perseverance is essential to achieving success.
These benefits our campers learn through art classes complement the 21st century life skills that we emphasize in an intentional way every day at camp. And focusing on essential life skills a vital part of the overall experience at Camp North Star.
Delicious meals, filling snacks and the overall food service experience is an important part of the camper’s day at Camp North Star. We go to great lengths to provide a healthy menu that is also kid friendly. But what constitutes a healthy menu for 7 – 17 year old boys and girls who are following an active schedule seven days a week?
For guidance we turned to the experts at Team Nutrition, an initiative of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service who define “healthy eating” in terms of five behaviors:
1. Eat a variety of foods.
2. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and grains.
3. Eat lower-fat foods more often.
4. Consume calcium-rich foods.
5. Be physically active.
This definition provided a foundation communicated through the My Plate Program.
With the help of a certified health coach, Camp North Star strives to provide meals and snacks that meet the USDA’s criteria. We did this by lowering or eliminating foods and drinks with high amounts of sugar, trans fats, food dyes and high fructose corn syrup. Instead, our camper and staff enjoy a salad bar featuring a wide variety of fresh vegetables and lean protein choices (low-fat cheese, legumes, eggs, and chicken) at every lunch and dinner. Chicken and other meats are grilled or baked instead of fried. Fruit infused water and 100% fruit juice are served instead of sugary punch drinks. Fresh fruit is available at every meal and throughout the day as a snack on the go.
It’s important for us to allow campers to create or continue to develop healthy eating habits while they are at Camp North Star. By offering so many nutritious choices, it’s common for even the pickiest of eaters to expand their palates during the summer with items such as Greek yogurt, hummus, guacamole, and falafel. And the benefits of healthy eating habits are well documented – mental well-being, ability to learn and concentrate, strong bones and muscles, good energy level, and the ability to fight off sickness and drive. Our number one responsibility at camp is the health and well being of our campers and being healthy includes a proper diet.
In 2016, Camp North Star became a nut-free camp. We do offer Sun Butter and Wow Butter which are allergy-friendly alternatives to peanut butter. There is one chef dedicated to campers and staff who have food allergies or intolerances. We are now able to accommodate those who need nut-free, gluten-free, and lactose-free food. There are also vegetarian options at every meal and snack.
Food service at Camp North Star is more than just about the menu, it’s about the whole experience around the meal. That means music, dancing, singing North Star songs and chants, and traditional hand clapping. Every meal is a chance for our community to come together as one and to spend quality time with fellow campers and staff while enjoying nutritious meals.
Spending your first summer at sleepaway camp can make new campers and their families feel anxious. At Camp North Star, we go to great lengths to ensure that campers feel comfortable before they even leave home.
New families meet with Steven and Brooke, our owners/directors, during a home visit or talk with them during a video call. This starts the process of Camp North Star partnering with parents so we can provide the best possible experience for their children. Parents feel comfortable that there is always an open line of communication with our directors during the summer and offseason. The home visit is the perfect opportunity to share any personal information about your child as well as discuss the goals and expectations you and your child have while they are spending their summer with us in Poland Spring, Maine.
A typical concern of new campers is wondering how easy it will be fitting in and becoming friends with their fellow campers. One of most important life skills our campers learn is how to make and keep friends. We help our new campers develop a friendship before they even arrive on our 200 acre property. We connect each new camper with a returning camper through our Camper-to-Camper program . A returning veteran camper will call a first time camper by phone in late May or early June. This gives new campers the chance to understand more about our camp on a peer-to-peer level and allows them to connect a face with a name on arrival day.
Camp North Star also makes the transition easy for families as well. We realize that parents are anxious to know how their child is enjoying camp. That’s why we have our Boys and Girls Directors call every new family during the first two days. The director updates the families on their child’s schedule and answers any questions. We also frequently post updates on our social media channels as well as post photos our password protected photo gallery on a daily basis.
And, if you need to contact any of our directors at any point during your child’s stay with us, we are just a phone call or email away. We are always happy to take your phone call or respond to your email. Every family receives a Parent Handbook each summer. There’s a wealthy of valuable information inside including Steven and Brooke’s cell phone numbers which you can call 24/7.
These steps help both the new camper and their family feel comfortable about the Camp North Star experience.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”, John Quincy Adams.
There are endless opportunities for our campers to be leaders at Camp North Star. Caring about your fellow campers and staff, being a positive role model, supporting a friend, following the rules, and being an environmental steward, are all examples of being a leader. You won’t find the word “leader” or “leadership” in the RICHS, which is the value system we follow at camp. But by being Respectful, Independent, Caring, Honorable, and Spirited, our campers and staff are leading by example every day.
As our campers get older, there are more instances for them to lead and learn about leadership. When North Star campers finish 10th grade, they have the option of participating in our Leadership Training program. There are three main components to the program.
First, campers attend daily classes led by our Directors on topics including public speaking, resume writing, interviewing techniques, internet safety, organization and interpersonal communication skills.
Second, there is a weekly hands-on workshop to learn real life skills. We teach our campers how to complete every day tasks such as writing a check, balancing a check book, doing a load of laundry and changing a flat tire.
The last part of the program is a community service component. Each session, the campers volunteer in the local community to give back to the residents and non-profit organizations. Last summer, our campers volunteered at Poland Township Day Camp, Good Shepherd Food Bank and Partners in World Health.
The participants of our leadership training program become more productive campers as well as members of their home community. It’s also the first step to become a successful North Star staff member. The following summer these campers are now ready to be a Counselor in Training (CIT) and are two years away from being a North Star counselor.
There’s unlimited options for North Star campers to choose from within our elective based program. We offer activities in athletics, waterfront, performing arts, fine arts, outdoors and enrichment. Our campers are very fortunate that North Star’s 200-acre property and 55-acre private lake provides unique opportunities to learn rock climbing, high ropes course, water skiing, wind surfing, outdoor living skills and more.
But sometimes it’s nice to leave our home in Poland Spring and visit some of the most popular destinations in Maine and throughout New England. And that’s the main objective of our trips and weekend excursions…to see and experience the beauty of New England with fellow campers and our North Star staff.
Last summer’s most popular trip was a new addition, whitewater rafting on the Kennebec River. We will be heading back to Northern Maine in 2017 to enjoy another full day on Class III and IV rapids. This summer we are adding an option to explore Moxie Falls through a combined hike and canoe trip. Moxie Falls drops 90 feet into a series of large pools on it’s way to the Kennebec River. There are several scenic overlooks that provide a great view of the falls. The hike is moderate and fun for all ages. The afternoon is spent paddling down the historic Kennebec River in 10 person Voyageur Canoes.
Other popular annual trips include Portland Sea Dogs baseball games and 4th of July Fireworks at Poland Spring Resort. North Star takes over the right field stands at Hadlock Field to root on the Sea Dogs and we enjoy an all-you-can-eat barbeque buffet for dinner. We are lucky to be the only camp invited by historic Poland Spring Resort to celebrate Independence Day and watch their awesome fireworks display.
In 2017, we are offering a new trip to explore the White Mountains of New Hampshire. If it’s a clear day, campers will have magnificent views of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range and mountains in Vermont, New York, and even Canada.
Our trips and weekend excursions are a small part of the overall experience for our campers. All trips are included in the cost of tuition.
The Counselor in Training (CIT) program at Camp North Star offers our oldest campers with a meaningful transitional summer from camper to staff member. Our CITs have just completed 11th grade and will become seniors in high school in the fall. The main objective of the program is to prepare our CITs to apply and be offered a position to join our staff the following summer.
Each CIT lives in a cabin with younger campers of the same gender so they learn how to be a successful cabin counselor and positive role model for their campers.. One of the counselors in that cabin becomes the “mentor” to the CIT and offers guidance throughout the summer. During the program day, our CITs spend half of their day attending classes as a camper in activities that they choose within our elective program. The other half of the day is an opportunity to receive hands-on training as an instructor or coach in areas they hope to teach as a staff member.
The most valuable part of the program are the workshops led by our CIT Director. They give our CITs essential guidance in areas that include safety and supervision, youth development, behavior management, conflict resolution and homesickness. These are all necessary skills to be an outstanding and effective staff member at Camp North Star.
There’s also plenty of fun weaved into the summer for our CITs. They work as a team to plan and implement several evening activities and special events. They have an important role in Eco Challenge and World Games. Weekly trips are planned exclusively for our CITs. Last summer two of their favorites were a drive-in movie and going to The Escape Room in Portland.
The combination of guidance, training, mentoring and fun, gives our CITs an experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. They walk away from the summer with valuable skill development and growth as a leader having experienced responsibility in a new way.
We are fortunate at Camp North Star that so many of our campers return year after year to their summer home in Poland Spring, Maine. Many of our campers look forward to becoming CITs and eventually joining our staff when they are college students. For the 2017 camp season, we are excited that 5 CITs from last summer are joining our staff this year. It’s very rewarding for the directors to watch our campers go through the rite of passage from camper to CIT to staff member.
Families already love Camp North Star’s flexible elective program with 100+ activities in fine arts, performing arts, enrichment, athletics, waterfront and outdoors. Campers select five activities each week from those choices, then create a new schedule the following week. Our campers enjoy the freedom of choice to participate only in the classes they enjoy the most.
Our Coach and Artist in Residence program gives our campers an additional opportunity to customize their schedule even more with daily specialized classes from our visiting coaches and artists who excel at teaching youth. During the select weeks when our artists and coaches are “in residence,” campers may build these activities into their schedule. These visiting staff are all skilled and highly experienced instructors, chosen for their proven ability to work well with children of all ages.
Last summer, we had an exciting line-up of artists and coaches that visited Camp North Star throughout the summer.
Coach Chadwin Basketball Academy – Jamie Chadwin and his staff of basketball coaches gave our campers outstanding lessons and clinics for the beginner to the advanced basketball player.
The Handwork Studio – Classes included fashion design, fabric arts, machine sewing and hand sewing. Campers created handbags, pillows, pajamas and more.
Chef Steve Calise – For two weeks, Chef Steve offered classes in a variety of cuisines and taught our campers how to take a recipe and turn it into a gourmet dish.
Julian Krinsky School of Tennis – Krinsky is a leader in youth tennis programs. Their coaches helped our campers improve their tennis game.
New for 2017
Half-day workshops for campers who want even more instruction than a one-hour class allows. We will purposely limit the number of campers in each workshop to maximize the teaching and coaching.
In February, we will be announcing the 2017 Artists and Coaches in Residence for the upcoming camp season along with registration information for our half-day workshops.