Camp North Star Blog
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.
By Niamh Whelan
I was excited when I found out I’d be working for the Sea Dogs’ trip. As an international counselor, I have never even been to a baseball let alone do I understand any of the rules. I was lucky though, not only did I get to go to my first baseball game, I got to go as a counselor.
At breakfast on Sunday morning, they played ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’, and from that moment on I, along with all the campers, were giddy with excitement. As we piled onto the line of yellow school buses, the atmosphere was electric and the short drive to Portland felt like a year. When we arrived in Portland we took a pit stop lunch in the park by Hadlock Field before finally making the long awaited walk to the game.
Once we were in our seats, we looked around at the seas of other camps which surrounded us. Campers from all over Maine had taken a trip to support the popular Boston Red Sox affiliate. We met people from other camps, and it was so interesting to watch the campers interact with each other. The inter-camp competitiveness soon began to creep out. Despite all camps cheering for the same team, there was clear competition between them, who could cheer the loudest, who could support the Sea Dogs the best. When one camp would finish their cheer, another would start the next but the volume would be doubled. When cheering for Sea Dogs finished, the camp songs began and so on. One of the highlights of this camp competition was when on the big screen, all of the special groups or birthday parties got a shout out. Of course all of the camps present got a mention and the enormous cheer that erupted from the Camp North Star campers was deafening.
The whole day was a resounding success, from the sun splitting the stones, to the token fried dough that was enjoyed by everyone, to the group of campers I had on either side trying to explain the rules throughout all the innings. Unfortunately the Sea Dogs weren’t as successful, however Camp North Star had a truly awesome day!
By Noa Billick
The Queen of Hearts told Alice that she once believed six impossible things before breakfast: Camp North Star’s Alice in Wonderland theme day would not have been an impossible thing to believe in.
I watched Alice in Wonderland when I was a little girl – since the age of about six years old, this classic Disney film has stuck with me. Little details like singing flowers, letters made of smoke, mushrooms that look like cheese, eating a plate like a cookie, and exactly half a cup of tea have stayed with me.
Our morning was spent watching the 1951 Disney version of Alice in Wonderland while enjoying breakfast. This put us into a thoroughly dream-like mindset, ready for a whimsical day filled with Alice’s adventures in wonderland. After some camp cleanup, we returned to the main field and ate lunch on an incredibly long picnic table similar to the tea party table in the animated film. Our lunch was followed by a very merry un-birthday celebration, where each cabin had their own un-birthday cake to share.
We returned from our cabins to the main field for some mystical activities, such as knocking the teeth out of a giant Cheshire Cat, taking photos with props in front of a giant mushroom, decorating top hats, and playing croquet, amongst many other things.
Counselors and campers alike dressed in Wonderland-esque outfits and celebrated the beauty of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. I felt like channeling my inner Queen of Hearts, so I decided to paint the middle of my lips like a red heart, along with a few other counselors.
I was stationed at the photo booth, armed with a digital camera, a box of props, and some incredible Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum cardboard cutouts. The kids I took pictures of had particularly big smiles! The campers really enjoyed this theme day, as they got to dress up and spent the day as though they were in the classic Disney film. As someone who has attended Camp North Star for six years, this is one of the absolute best weekend activities I have ever experienced. There was so much thought, effort and consideration put into making this theme day the best it could be. Specifically, as a counselor, Camp North Star’s Alice in Wonderland day was one of the most incredible and fun activity days to have been apart of.
Eco Captain Summery
My time as captain of Earth Team for CNS Eco Challenge 2015 was incredible. Never have I been pushed to my limit like that. Being kidnapped at 6am, asked to write a song, a chant and design costumes was challenging enough. The fact that I was required to build a 5ft fire from scratch was a whole other story. Eco challenge began a week ahead for all captains, most morning involved waking up at 6 to practice fires, compose lyrics and talk strategy. While the two days were exhausting and involved a very swollen sprained ankle, they were without a doubt my highlight of the summer so far. To see every single camper rally together, cheering each other on – despite being on opposite teams – to ensure that all competitors felt supported and loved was, for me, the reason this camp is so special.
Four burnt ropes, eight outstanding performances and 100+ lost voices. How does one even begin to describe Eco Challenge 2015?
Although the games began on the 16th and 17th of July , for the eight captains it was a rude awakening almost a week before hand.
6 AM, I wake to a noise in my cabin. I roll over, still half asleep to see the smiling face of Jewels O’Brien holding a pillow case. Groggily I try to ask what’s going on but she interrupts me with three words, ‘I’m kidnapping you’. Only at camp does this thought not terrify me, probably just another crazy evening program or wacky Wednesday I thought to myself. I had no idea what was actually in store for me. After being led through camp with a pillowcase on my head I was finally brought to a stop on the dining hall porch and asked to sit down. I could hear other voices but was still unclear as to what was going on.
A few moments of intense silence, our blindfolds were whipped off to reveal a sheet of paper with the name of an element on the table and a fellow counselor sitting opposite us. In my case EARTH was written in front of me, and Barry McDaid was facing me. Things began to take shape. Looking around at the other pairings, the level of excitement exploded. The teams were clear; Amos Armoni and Izzy Garcia for Fire, Bea Durston and Gonzalo Chacon for Air, Jesse Litvin and Maria Hall for Water and finally Niamh Whelan and Barry McDaid for Earth. The challenge was explained to us and we were sent back to our cabins to pretend nothing had happened. How could we conceal what had just happened, our camp lives had been changed forever.
Our task was simple; write a team song, create and choreograph a team chant, design costumes, a banner and learn how to build a fire from scratch. Not to mention keep it a secret from every camper and counselor for seven days, before finally leading a quarter of the camp through an ambitious series of relays, games and challenges.
Barry and I woke up at 6 am most mornings to prep for the challenge. We researched a dozen fire techniques and listened to countless pop songs. We spent free times, off periods and flex times discussing tactics. We were going to be ready for ECO 2015, or so we thought, until we found out the games had to be pushed forward 2 days because of inclement weather. Tension levels reached an all time high and after a late night of finishing details to costumes and props we were all set for the next two days of madness.
Thursday 16th of July we had another early start as we donned our earthen costumes, painted ourselves with green body paint, gathered all necessary props and took to The Line for the ECO Wake up. Singing, chanting and beating drums, the eight captains were reunited again to wake up campers and raise the energy levels to the height they would be kept at for the next 48 hours.
The first contest began at 10am on Thursday morning and it was nonstop from there. Obstacle courses, GAGA and Kickball tournaments, Water relays and Natural Disaster had all four teams worn out by the end of the day. A good night’s rest meant the camp was ready to take on the final day of the challenge before the infamous Apache Relay at 3:15.
As earth captain, heading into apache I couldn’t have been prouder of our team. They had rallied together, keeping spirits high all day whether winning or losing. The final stages of ECO are a blur to me. Lighting a fire at the end of the apache relay was one of the craziest things I have ever experienced. And even though ours was the last to burn through the rope, the spirit and love shown by all campers and staff cheering everyone on in the final moments made the blood, sweat and tears entirely worth it.
Huge congratulations to Bea Durston and Gonzalo Chacon and all on Air Team on being crowned champions of ECO 2015.
By Noa Billick
Camp North Star is the most wonderful place on Earth. With welcoming, caring, and fun people at every corner, it is nearly impossible to walk onto the camp grounds and not feel right at home.
As someone who is attending Camp North Star for her sixth summer in a row, it is quite common to hear stories of the difficulties when changing camp roles. There are often some difficulties adjusting to walking into North Star with new responsibilities and not knowing what to expect as a result. With that in mind, it is very important to know that it is all worth it.
Last year, I was fortunate enough to come back to camp as a junior counselor, or JC. I helped out in classes and cabins and had a total blast learning my new role. Within that role, however, I struggled a little bit to figure out whether I fit in with the campers or counselors. Since our JC group was so small, we were able to be a counselor and always have someone to turn to for questions, comments, and concerns. Throughout the summer, I bonded with campers and counselors alike. I learned about the importance of always being available to campers, preparing for classes ahead of time, and learning to be ready for anything and everything at all. As a counselor, I have reflected on these experiences whenever I am questioning a situation or whenever I am looking for the right thing to do.
This year, I was hired as a counselor. With last year’s group of JC’s being so small, we were able to step into counselors’ shoes for a short while which has been extremely beneficial, as we have essentially had a summer camp counselor experience under our belts. I would strongly suggest being a JC before a counselor: it is such an incredible and useful experience. Based on my experience this summer, I have put together a short list of necessary to-do’s to make the shift a little easier:
- Put on a smile as soon as you wake up in the morning, and greet your campers with excitement;
- Be ready to rock & roll by 7:00-7:15;
- Do what you need to do to wake up as quickly as possible – take an early shower, go for a swim in the lake, etc;
- Eat lots of fruit (they are energizing and total pick-me-up’s!)
- Take all sort of criticism as a way to improve. Ask how you can improve!
- Make sure that you have some way to get rid of all the negative energy that may accumulate over the summer – you don’t want to have that in the way of taking care of kids;
- Be sure that the classes you teach are classes that you are passionate about – kids will pick up on your enthusiasm and mimic it;
- Make the most out of any situation, and most importantly:
- HAVE FUN!
By Niamh Whelan
The list of activities offered at Camp North Star stretches from art classes to zipline, with anything and everything in between. We all love to cook with Frankie in the Cantina, learn guitar with Brooke in the Jam Factory, or chill out and paint with Nora in the Bunk House. But what we love even more here at CNS is learning new, sometimes unusual skills. Under the creative juices of the counselors, the vast array of classes becomes even more endless . Every year we add a few new classes to the list and soon they become an old camp classic, like quidditch brought by David Fox in 2012. This year we see even more new and exciting classes trickle into our schedules, Bollywood Dance and Sketch Comedy to name a few. These new classes add a certain vibrancy to camp that lends to the sensational atmosphere we experience on Verrill Road.
This week, Cailley Lapara, Amos Armony and Jesse Litvin bring some excitement to the week with an exhilarating new sketch comedy class, casually known as Saturday Night Camp. The three counselors have long recognised the hilarity and creativity that we see everyday in all of our campers here at CNS and came up with this class to channel that talent!
Based on the long running sketch show Saturday Night Live, the aim of this class is to teach campers the basics of comedy writing. They are given the opportunity to get a few sketches written, recorded and then uploaded to youtube channel every week. In this class, campers learn the different types of comedy sketches, from escalation comedy to insane versus sane man.
This week I had the pleasure of sitting in on one of these classes, led by Amos and Cailley. The group, whose ages ranged from 8 to 13, were challenged by the adrenaline-racing, high-pace nature of improvisation. Starting with basic improv games and working up to full scale sketch creation was entertaining, all the campers got super creative and it was an awful lot of fun to watch unfold!