It has been almost two weeks since Mark Lipof, founder, co-owner and director of Camp Micah, said good-bye to 296 youngsters on the last day of camp. Lipof founded Camp Micah, a co-ed Jewish camp located in Bridgton, in 2001. Since then, hundreds of campers have descended on the shores of Peabody Pond each summer. When the season is over, Lipof says, “I don’t get an after-summer lull.”
Every camper has a first-time camp experience and preparing for camp can include questions and anxieties along with excitement. At Camp Bishopswood, in Hope, Director Mike Douglass says that about 35 percent of the campers he greets each summer are there for the first time. Bishopswood sessions are as brief as a week long, and Douglass says he is committed to making that experience as positive as possible. That includes offering an “Open House Weekend,” where families can come for a night or two, and youngsters can try out camp activities. In addition, kids aged six to eight can participate in “Mini Camp,” a three-day, two-night immersion in an overnight camp experience.
Who said camp is just for kids? Across Maine, most youngsters have packed their trunks, said good-bye to their fellow campers, and returned home to family and friends and preparations for school. Counselors, too, are getting ready for their fall activities – school or college or jobs. But the pleasure and enjoyment of camp activities endure at many camps, specifically at family camp programs. These programs host children, to be sure, but they also make camp fun available to adults. Touting rustic accommodations, three meals a day, and an array of camp activities – ranging from weaving to paddle boarding to archery – Maine camps for decades have shared the fun of a camp experience with kids of all ages.
Across the state, summer camps are nearing the end of their seasons. For many directors and leadership staff that means looking ahead to closing up buildings, storing equipment, thinking about maintenance needs. But season’s end also means campers are going home, leaving the constant connection to friends, the immersion in new and favorite activities, and the hiatus from the use of technology and social media. For some campers, returning home means saying good-bye to best friends and acclimating to the relationships and realities of home and school. Kids face transitions when they come to camp, to be sure, but the transition home can be tough, too.
Half a dozen teenagers are gathered on the shore of the Kennebago River. They are buckling and adjusting the straps of their lifejackets, examining a selection of paddles spread out on the ground, and pacing a little nervously as they look out on the water. Among them is 14-year-old Noah from Maryland, a camper at Birch Rock Camp in Waterford.
Summer camp staff members assume enormous responsibility when they take on their jobs. They teach a variety of activities, oversee cabins full of youngsters, engage in conflict resolution, homesickness management, and other relationship challenges, and work with other staff members to ensure that campers stay healthy and happy. It’s a tall order – and a complicated one. And key to every camp’s success is thorough staff training. Particularly relevant are issues related to diversity, bias and acceptance. Christopher Thurber, Ph.D., and Doug Sutherland recently shared their decades of expertise with 44 Maine camp staff from five different camps. Entitled “Courageous Ignorance,” the workshop gave participants the opportunity through activities and conversation to examine how they approach diversity and differences, bias...
In the coming days, camp programs across the state will be in full swing. From robotics to music to sports – plus traditional residential camps nestled among woods and water – offerings in the state’s camping community are vast. And come July, a few dozen youngsters will have the chance to attend a camp like none other in Maine. Aurora Vaulters, a non-profit organization formed less than a decade ago, will bring together children to learn the equestrian skill of vaulting – defined as gymnastic dance in harmony with a moving horse.
For many, summer camp in Maine brings to mind outdoor adventure in the state’s natural beauty. But for two decades, youngsters have had an entirely different camp opportunity, one that opens the vast world of aviation careers. Maine ACE (Aviation Career Education) Camps offer its participants an inside look at the military and commercial aviation systems, including the chance to go up in a variety of aircraft. It is an exhilarating and unique chance to see aviation first hand, says Camp Director Pete Marucci, and there are still openings for youngsters who would like to register.
Living in cabins and tents. No electronics. Exploring mountains and waterways. Taking risks, learning new skills, fostering lifelong friendships. Maine’s youth camp season will be in full swing in a matter of weeks. Tens of thousands of youngsters from around the country and all over the world will soon arrive for a summer of living and learning in the state’s vast natural beauty. At some Maine camps, these activities have taken place for more than a century. Camp personnel who have devoted decades to these institutions say that in some respects camps have certainly changed over the years. But they agree that in a number of ways – many key elements to a beneficial camp experience – camp is much...
Above all, camps directors want kids to have positive experiences: friendships, abundant activities, and – in the case of residential camps – cabin life, all factor into how much campers enjoy themselves. But an additional and crucial element of the camp experience is the food. And for a subset of campers, those with food allergies, intolerances, or other dietary restrictions, eating at camp can be more complicated. Fortunately, camps across Maine are welcoming the opportunity to meet those campers’ dietary needs – and in some cases changing a summer camp experience from a wish to a reality.