Camp North Star Blog
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.
There is a growing trend amongst schools in the United States to reduce or eliminate physical education classes and recess. School administrators, teachers unions, and policymakers have taken the position that there simply isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish what needs to be done for students in the classroom.
In Florida, a coalition of parents known as “the recess moms” have been fighting to pass legislation guaranteeing the state’s elementary school students at least 20 minutes of daily free play. Similar legislation recently passed in New Jersey, only to be vetoed by the governor, who deemed it “stupid.”
The benefits of recess seem obvious—time to run around helps kids stay fit. Perhaps most important, recess allows children to design their own games, to test their abilities, to role-play, and to mediate their own conflicts—activities that are key to developing social skills and navigating complicated situations. At Camp North Star, our campers use and develop these skills every day during the activity period known as Supervised Free Play.
Thankfully, our campers don’t have to worry about studying for classes or taking exams during the camp season. They can enjoy their time with camp friends while participating in our elective based program. North Star campers choose 5 activities per week and attend those activities for an hour each day, Monday through Friday. We offer a variety of choices in Fine Arts, Performing Arts, Athletics, Enrichments, Waterfront and Outdoor.
North Star’s activities are fun, engaging and focus on skill development. They are very different from a formal school classroom. Yet our campers still need a break from the structured environment of our activities. That’s why each day there is a period of Supervised Free Play. Similar to recess, our campers choose what they want to do and with whom. Campers play GaGa, Tetherball, Basketball, Frisbee, jam on their guitars, and make friendship bracelets. Our counselors are overseeing the activities while the campers organize the games and activities on their own. It’s an important part of the day and something our campers look forward to.
Schools may take away recess and gym class but the concepts of free play for kids and the importance of physical fitness will never be lost at Camp North Star.
We want our campers to make strong connections with their camp friends and counselors not to a Wi-Fi network or the internet. The rest of the year, our campers are most likely part of an alarming set of statistics that has been on the rise recently. Teens are spending nine hours a day using digital media, with tweens falling not that far behind dedicating six hours a day to their smartphones or tablets. It is clearly a struggle for youth to manage their digital footprint.
Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and the author of the parenting book “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee,” tells the story of a college student at a salad bar who texted her mother to ask if she liked ranch dressing, rather than testing it herself. Such dependent relationships can rob children of the chance to trust and believe in someone else besides their parents. Creating bonds with campers and staff is one of the most important benefits of the North Star experience, and it happens more naturally without the use of technology.
It is refreshing for our North Star community to unplug from technology during the camp season. It’s a much needed detox from cell phones, gaming systems, tablets, and laptops for a few weeks. Instead of using technology we see campers interacting more often with their camp friends by playing cards, a board game, a sports activity, or just having a face-to-face conversation.
One of the goals of our technology-free policy is to give our campers the ability to develop deep relationships and strong interpersonal communication skills without the distractions of their cell phones and social media. Parents often tell us that their child’s time at Camp North Star provides a much needed break and a chance for kids to just be kids. And that’s one of the most important facets of the North Star experience for our campers.
What are your New Year’s resolutions for 2017? Maybe it’s to learn a new skill…or accomplish a specific goal. We hope all of our North Star campers include continuing to follow the RICHS as part of their resolutions for this year.
The RICHS is our core value system at Camp North Star that stands for Respect, Independence, Caring, Honor, and Spirit. We incorporate these values into our daily life at Camp North Star in Poland Spring, Maine. Our directors and counselors teach our campers to use these values every day at camp, to continue using them back home, and by doing so, it will help them to lead a richer life.
Camp North Star formally celebrates these values twice a summer at the RICHS ceremony that his held at our banquet at the end of Session 2 and 3. One camper is recognized for best exemplifying each value. A separate camper is named the recipient of the overall RICHS for the being the best role model and example who consistently uses all five values during the summer.
It is extremely gratifying to watch the ceremony and the reaction of the campers as the names of the recipients are announced. There is no jealousy or animosity amongst the campers that some may expect to see when campers don’t hear their own name. Rather the emotions displayed are the complete opposite, sheer happiness and excitement from seeing their friends and fellow campers being recognized. And usually it is accompanied by tears of joy.
One of our directors, Todd Mitchell, recently wrote an article for Maine Camp Experience about how the RICHS help shape our campers and the overall community at Camp North Star. You can read it by clicking here.
So be sure to add to your 2017 New Year’s resolutions to be more respectful, independent, caring, honorable and spirited, and you too will be richer for it.
By Todd Mitchell
There’s a place among the pines, a place where something amazing happens that cannot be explained.
One of the many mantras at Camp North Star is that “it’s more than just a place, it’s a feeling.” It’s even on the sign entering camp. At first glance, it may seem like a poignant advertisement for those arriving, but it means so much more.
This is my second summer at Camp North Star. Last year, I tried as hard as I could to fully embrace the thought of camp. It’s all about letting camp take hold of you and making it part of who you are. This year, I again am fully inviting camp into who I am, but I am also looking at how the campers embrace this as well. It’s more subtle of a transition, but it’s still very visible. I am realizing now that what was once originally a place to work, is something much more. When you first get here, camp is just a place but by the end of the summer it means everything.
Camp is summer. There is no way around it. From the waterfront, to the dining hall, The Village to The Bunkhouse, camp is the essence of summer. Though, it is not the place as much as it is the people, camp is nothing without the campers. It’s this little oasis in a world that is volatile. Somehow through the experiences of the campers and the counselors alike, something profoundly magical happens. It can’t really be explained but a visible change occurs. The weight of the world leaves everyone’s shoulders and smiles spread across faces. Camp becomes more welcoming than a home and more tight-knit than a family. It’s a place where playing in the mud is a completely acceptable thing for a 22 year-old to do as much as it is for a 10 year-old to do an interpretive dance to Single Ladies. It a place where individuality it exulted and happiness is the way of life.
Camp for me has become this beautiful place full of beautiful people and experiences. The feeling can’t really be described but the best way I can explain it is through example. On a sunny day, you step out of the main office, you look across to the main field which is full of campers. The feeling of camp is in each joyful smile that spreads across a campers faces. It’s that moment where you completely lose yourself and all troubles melt away and pure, unfathomable bliss runs through you with each excited heartbeat. As the summer comes to a close, there are points of sadness but the feeling is still there and will stay with you until next summer when it bubbles back to the surface and grows stronger with every passing year.