Camp North Star Blog
For many kids, heading off to camp for the summer is a real rite of passage. It’s likely their first time away from their parents and home for more than just a sleepover down the street, and the best sleep-away camps provide a taste of independence while still supporting the social and emotional needs of young campers.
To that end, one of the major goals of Camp North Star is to help campers learn how to make and keep friends during their time in Maine. For many young people, making friends at camp is easier than at school, and research shows a full 96 percent of campers say that camp helped them to make new friends. Camp North Star is dedicated to teaching this life skill in three major ways.
1. Take Away Technology
Camp North Star is a tech-free summer camp for kids, and for good reason. There’s growing evidence that texting and communicating via devices instead of face-to-face communication is hindering kids’ emotional intelligence and ability to connect with others. Camp North Star offers the rare opportunity to disconnect from TV, video games and smartphones. Instead campers spend time having real-world experiences instead. Without the crutch of a device, kids spend their time reading each other’s faces and developing their interpersonal skills the old-fashioned way — a crucial 21st century life skill.
2. Add a Dash of Nature
Taking away the tech is hardly a punishment, because Camp North Star replaces it with unbeatable scenery and a connection to the natural world. Set in a pristine location on 200 acres, Camp North Star offers a wide range of sports, waterfront and outdoor activities that get kids moving and working together to problem solve and play. Psychologists tout the benefits of time in nature as everything from reduced stress to more creative thinking, and structured activities provide kids a framework for interacting with each other and making new friends.
3. Provide Program Support
At Camp North Star, counselors are trained to guide the development of each individual camper. This includes an attention to helping kids develop communication skills. With attention to social, emotional and physical elements of communication brought to every activity, camp staff guide campers to treat each other with respect and provide the tools to build lasting friendships.
Camp North Star’s mission is to help campers become the best versions of themselves. Making friends is built into the philosophy of everything they do. Come to Camp North Star in Maine to see just how easy it is to make new friends that will last a lifetime.
In our last blog post we shared great advice for our new North Star campers from our veteran campers. The suggestions and guidance were extremely helpful because our returning campers can speak from personal experience about what it’s like to spend a summer under the pines for the first time.
We are very fortunate at Camp North Star to not only have a high percentage of running campers but also to watch many of those campers make the transition from being camper into our Leadership Training Program to our Counselor-in-Training Program and then join our staff. It is a rite of passage that brings great joy to our directors.
These staff members enjoy the perspective of being a former camper who vividly remembers their first summer, as well as the perspective of a North Star staff member who goes through ongoing staff training both before and during the camp season. As staff members, they go through a comprehensive training program to learn best practices to care for and give guidance to our campers. Some of them have spent over 10 summers at Camp North Star. They were happy to share and impart their wisdom from their many years at camp.
“My advice for first time campers is to take classes outside of your comfort zone and to pack some clothes for Wacky Wednesday. And don’t stress about making friends, everyone at camp is super welcoming!” Hannah W.
“The friends I have made at North Star keep me coming back year after year! There is something for everyone at camp, and we have built a community where we want to see each other succeed and try new things.” Cailley L.
“When packing, pack a lot of socks! When you are active all day your socks can get muddy or just dirty in general and you might just want to put a clean pair on. When you think you have enough, pack a few more pairs, you definitely can’t have too many socks! And make sure you have both heavy and light pajamas. The weather is very unpredictable in Maine and some nights it gets very cold and other nights you will be sleeping on top of your sheets because it’s warm out, so make sure you are prepared for it all.” Danielle J.
“Come in confident in your own choices! You are going to get the opportunity to pick your own classes and make your own friends, so come into camp confident that you have the capability to make these amazing choices.” Kate A.
“Making friend can be a little scary at first, but at North Star all the campers and staff are so friendly. I remember walking into my cabin as a first time camper and immediately feeling so welcomed. It’s important just to be yourself and you will make friends in no time!” Natalie J.
“We’re all here to help you make the most of your time at Camp North Star. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Before you know it, CNS truly will feel like a second home.” Greg B.
“Camp is the place where you can be your truest self. It’s a totally judgment-free zone where you can put yourself out there by wearing a swimsuit over your clothes on Wacky Wednesday or by singing for the first time in public at the campfire, and everyone will cheer you on. It’s a truly special place, and I can’t wait for you to experience it this summer!” Emily A.
New campers are welcomed by their fellow campers, counselors, directors, and support staff…everyone at North Star who works together as a team and family. We can’t wait to welcome our first time campers as the newest members of our North Star family.
The directors and staff at Camp North Star are excited to welcome all the new campers that will be joining us this summer in Poland Spring, Maine. Our returning campers enjoy playing the role of “ambassador” to properly welcome and make the new campers feel at home and part of our North Star family. We know some new campers feel anxious and nervous as the prepare for their first summer under the pines. They may be wondering…how will I make new friends?…what is the food like?…will I like my counselors?…what are the best activities to choose?
These are all typical questions that many of our new campers have . The North Star Family Handbook and our Camper to Camper program help answer these questions prior to the camp season. Some of the best guidance comes directly from veteran campers. Here’s their advice for first time campers.
“At North Star, everyone is your friend and everyone is so easy to talk to. My first summer I was nervous I wouldn’t make any friends, but the second I walked into my cabin I was greeted with hugs from people I’ve never met and they have become my best friends.” Hailey J.
“Get excited! Having spirit and loving and enjoying every moment is such a huge part of camp and if you don’t lose your voice at least once while you’re there, you’re not doing it right! Being passionate and excited about camp is something I’m not afraid to show, in fact, I embrace it!” Emma O.
“My first year, I remember being very nervous due to my age (16 years old) and I was nervous that everyone would already have a certain “friend group.” I was definitely wrong. Camp North Star made me feel welcomed right when I got there. To have the best time at camp and for you to be prepared I suggest coming into camp with a positive attitude.” Madison M.
“Be yourself. The community here is very accepting, and I promise that 100%. Just be prepared, the summer of your life is right ahead of you. As the saying ’round here goes – Camp is more than a place, it’s a feeling.” Zach B.
“Don’t be afraid to go to your counselors about any problems or questions, because most likely they’ve been through the same situation.” Sarah N.
“Be sure to follow the packing list. The list is very accurate! You do not need to bring anything extra. Trust me, I over packed my first summer and brought all the extras home untouched.” Jade M.
“Don’t forget to pack bug spray and sunscreen because you’ll need both.” Natalia R.
North Star’s Camper to Camper program connects first time campers with returning campers like these prior to the camp season. They talk on the phone, develop a friendship before the summer starts and the first time camper has all their questions answered. In our next blog, we’ll have advice from current North Star staff who are former campers.
Summer camp is full of traditions. And Camp North Star is no different. From Eco Challenge…to RICHS…to songs at the campfire. Our traditions are woven into the fabric of our culture here in Poland Spring, Maine. Some traditions are more formal and structured, such as announcing the recipients of the RICHS at banquet. Others are more informal. Wacky Wednesdays would definitely be classified as informal, a little silly, and an opportunity for campers to express their creativity.
Breakfast in the dining hall is when Wacky Wednesdays generally occur. Cabin after cabin enters through the doors and the outfits worn by campers, counselors and directors are wacky, silly, crazy and zany. Some outfits will clash – think polka dots and plaids. Others will be more of a costume like animals or fruits. There are usually a few who fashion a sports themed look showing pride for their favorite team or school. Then there are the themed ensembles. Some campers go to great lengths to coordinate a theme with their friends – lumber jacks, cartoon characters, super heroes, onesie pajamas and more.
There are no rules or regulations to Wacky Wednesdays. Some campers and staff get a little wackier than others. To help guide campers to find a wacky look for each week, there is a theme for each Wednesday. The 2017 dress up themes are:
Week 1– Clash
Week 2 – Patriotic
Week 3 – Tie Dye
Week 4 – Sports
Week 5 – Crazy Hair
Week 6 – International
Week 7 – Pajama
The weekly themes aren’t a requirement. We still encourage campers to use their own creativity. The themes are extremely helpful to new campers and their parents when it comes time to shop for camp clothing and pack up their duffle bags.
Being wacky, a little silly, and stepping outside of your comfort zone is all part of the sleep away camp experience at Camp North Star. Summer camp is a place that campers should feel safe and secure to be silly and let their imagination go wild at times. Our campers have the confidence to know that there’s nothing wrong with being wacky on Wednesdays or any other day of the week because Camp North Star is a judgment-free community. Campers can be themselves , which means acting like a kid and enjoying doing that.
Camp North Star campers often tell us that they get more camp sick during the offseason than homesick during the camp season. It’s because they are missing summer camp so much during the school year. With Spring fever in the air, we know many of our campers are counting down the days until they are in Poland Spring, Maine, and driving down Verrill Road for the start of another memorable camp season. Here are a few things you can do at home to get you into the camp mood.
Send a Letter to a camp friend. And we mean actual handwritten letter. No texts. No snap chats. Grab a pen and paper and tell them what’s new with you and all the fun things you are looking forward to doing together this summer at Camp North Star. Think of the smile on your friend’s face when they receiver your letter in the mail.
Enjoy your favorite camp meal. If it’s Tuesday, ask your parents to have your own Taco Tuesday dinner. See if you can have grilled cheese and tomato soup on Friday’s menu. And the meal that can really put you into the camp spirit is a barbecue. Just like the ones we have on Monday nights for dinner when we eat outside in the picnic area.
Enjoy the great outdoors. We know you probably don’t have a private lake or a picturesque 200 acre property with tall pine trees nearby. But find a local park or nature area and go for a walk with family or friends. Imagine yourself being back under the pines at North Star. Remember the sunscreen, bug spray and a water bottle!
Make s’mores. What’s more synonymous with camp than s’mores? If you don’t have access to an outdoor fire pit or a fireplace, try this recipe for indoor s’mores. And before long, you’ll be back at one of our campfires, surrounded by camp friends, singing your favorite camp songs, and roasting two marshmallows to perfection.
Nature-Deficit Disorder isn’t a medical condition. It’s a term that describes the trend that many children today have become detached from the natural world. The term was coined by author Richard Louv, in his book Last Child in the Woods – Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. According to Louv, kids who don’t spend enough time playing and exploring the outdoors can be more likely to experience attention difficulties, and have higher rates of physical and emotional illness.
So what’s the cure? Summer camp is a great antidote to fight Nature-Deficit Disorder. In 2017, camp plays a more important role than in the past in fostering children’s connection to nature. Kids have fewer opportunities than ever to organically be outdoors. Attending a summer camp advances the outdoor learning environment, especially a sleepaway camp like Camp North Star.
We are fortunate to sit on 200 picturesque acres in Poland Spring, Maine. Campers wake up every morning to the crisp Maine air and beautiful views of our 55 acre private lake. The North Star program places a strong emphasis on your typical outdoors activities. There are options in ropes course, rock climbing, outdoor living skills, campfire cooking and sailing. North Star’s staff also take advantage of bringing arts and enrichment classes outside. It’s typical to see a creative writing class meeting in our picnic area. Guitar classes are frequently held outside the jam factory, overlooking the lake. Art teachers enjoy using a shaded patch of grass as their classroom.
In his book, Louv sites an amazing array of studies linking nature experience and healthy child development, and concludes “I believe that offering children direct contact with nature— getting their feet wet and hands muddy— should be at the top of the list of vital camp experiences.” We couldn’t agree more at Camp North Star.
North Star campers are given countless opportunity to see what they’re missing during the school year and form connections with the natural world they may have never experienced before. We are proud to be a technology free camp. There’s rarely a complaint from campers about being “unplugged” from technology. The opposite is frequently true. Campers tell us they often enjoy their time at camp more because they are no electronic distractions, and that allows them more time to be outside.
Nature-Deficit Disorder can be fought during the school year too. Head outside as a family for a walk instead of turning on the TV. Go to a local park and play your favorite game. Find something outdoors that interests you and spend some intentional time with nature.
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.