The annual fall meeting and educational workshop brought together almost 100 members of Maine Summer Camps, the nonprofit organization supporting youth camps across the state. Hosted by Migis Lodge in Casco on Wednesday, Sept. 18, the group enjoyed a morning of information and conversation, followed by another legendary Migis cookout on the sunny shores of Sebago Lake. Greeted by incoming Board President Beigette Gill, the group was introduced to six discussion topics by Education Committee Chair Anna Hopkins. The topics were intended to give participants the chance to talk to each other and learn from each other, Anna said. “This is the beginning of conversations, not the end.”
Camp directors have bid good-bye to their campers. Staff numbers have shrunk from robust teams to skeleton crews charged with hosting post-season events and closing up facilities. And regardless of the camp, year-round personnel are already looking to 2020. Post-season camp scrutiny leads to planning and possibilities for change, a process demanding time and energy. But camp directors, regardless of their camps’ size and location and mission, agree that evaluating their facilities and programs – and making decisions about improvements – benefits enormously from collaboration.
As the summer youth camp season came to a close, energy was high last week at Camp Susan Curtis in Stoneham. The camp, which serves economically disadvantaged Maine youth, has now ended its eight weeks of annual summer programming. But as the season concluded, campers’ enjoyment last Wednesday – from rocket launching by a STEM group to splashing in Trout Lake – was just a snapshot of 2019’s summer of fun and learning for a total of 465 Maine youngsters.
Isaac, a 14-year old camper at Birch Rock Camp in Waterford, was hot. Clad in long pants, a Birch Rock t-shirt, and hiking boots, he was tackling the Junior Maine Guide wet-day fire test. A billet of wood had soaked in a dishpan of water for five minutes. Now Isaac faced the challenge of using an axe and knife to cut that wood, then burn it under a small can of soapy water that hung above the fire pit. The goal? Burn the wood and boil the water to overflowing in 20 minutes.
The camp experience offers youngsters a broad range of benefits. Campers make friends, live in Maine’s natural beauty, and both learn new skills and advance the abilities they bring to camp. Teambuilding, collaboration, and developing independence are all part of the equation. But as camp leaders, counselors, and campers all know, camp can also involve conflict. Whether it’s sharing living space, feeling bullied or teased, or dealing with hurt feelings, campers don’t always get along.
Teens throughout Maine are spending their summer in a variety of ways – including work and relaxation. But dozens of teens currently enrolled at Maine youth camps are investing hours of study and practice in their quest to achieve certification as Junior Maine Guides (JMGs).
Kevin Prevost makes his living helping Mainers enjoy the outdoors – by helping reduce unwanted guests like mosquitoes and ticks. Among the clients served by his business, Top Leaf Tree, LLC, are more than half a dozen youth camps across the state. And those camps, says Prevost, are dealing with the consequences of a very wet spring, along with an early snowpack last winter. The result: abundant insects. Camps, however, are rising to the challenge, through a variety of strategies to beat the bugs and keep kids healthy. According to Prevost, camps’ focus on parents’ “peace of mind” often leads them to choose organic over synthetic pesticide application. In addition, he says, camp leadership is also sensitive to the...
Across the state, young adults and their mentors are gathering at scores of youth camps for annual staff training. As they anticipate the arrival of campers in the coming days, these staff members are building community and learning skills for engaging with, supporting, and teaching the campers who will travel from near and far for their summer camp experiences.
As Maine youth camp directors head into June, their preparations to welcome campers move into high gear. That includes getting ready for staff members — some new, some veteran — to arrive for pre-camp training. Whether it is a few days or more than a week, staff training sessions help equip camp employees with the skills, insight, and confidence to provide a positive experience for the youngsters they serve.
When representatives of the Maine youth camping industry make the trip to the State House, it is often with a particular issue in mind, an item of business for which they are advocating or to which they are opposed. But on May 1, more than 20 Maine youth camp directors, plus a handful of business members of the non-profit membership organization Maine Youth Camp Association (MYCA) set up tables and displays in the State House’s Hall of Flags. Their goal: to simply meet legislators, answer questions, and offer a look into the vast benefits of youth camping in Maine.