By Todd Mitchell, full-time staff member at a Maine Camp Experience camp
Camps oftentimes emphasize “camp values” . . . but what does this really mean? Think about the classic camp movie. Camper arrives at camp for the first time; camper has trouble making friends; counselor imparts wisdom on camper; camper takes wisdom to heart and makes friends; camper ends up having a life-changing summer. All camps offer the opportunity for counselors to play their part to give campers a life-changing summer.
Camp values are the wisdom imparted by the counselor in the movie. Whether presented as a saying or motto, or the guiding actions of role models, these values are the foundation of the way of life at a summer camp. Even a simple phrase, something for the campers to think about as they go on with the normal camp routines, can become so much more.
At the Maine camp where I work, we have the RICHS – Respect (yourself, others, and the community), Independence (discovering who you are and trying new things), Caring (being thoughtful and kind), Honor (doing the right thing), and Spirit (embracing the values and the community). Similarly, other Maine Camps promote principles including Integrity, Sportsmanship, Loyalty, and Cooperation. Regardless of how these values are specifically phrased, they always speak to being the best version of yourself you can be. Camp values are about becoming leaders and setting a better example for younger campers. They are about going out of your comfort zone and growing because of it. They are about doing the right thing not because it’s a rule, but because it’s the right thing to do. They are about marching to the beat of your own drum regardless of who’s around you. Camp values are the embodiment of the way camp should be for all to experience.
A camp’s values seep into the culture of the camp as the summer progresses. They influence campers and help guide the choices they make and the activities they do. They push campers to go out of their comfort zone and allow them to grow, like on a ropes course. Campers go out of their way to practice these ideals that they have experienced first-hand. They realize they are having a better experience living by those ideals, even if it means being okay with being silly at a dance. They involve and include other campers and soon the principles of camp spread. By the time that camp is over, a community has been created based upon the camp’s core values. You can see the change in campers. Campers start supporting each other, they sing the camp songs louder and with more pride, leaders are found in unlikely places, smiles are almost a constant. When an ideal takes hold, everyone benefits from it.
In all camp movies, you reach the point where the main character is impacted by the values of camp and it normally happens in two parts. In the first part, the camper who at first isn’t making friends listens to that vital piece of advice from a counselor and suddenly the whole camp is friends with that camper. The second part usually takes place during some sort of Apache Relay event. The camp comes together as a strong community to face the rival camp and the main character is faced with some sort of against-all-odds challenge. In the middle of the relay, you see determination flash across the main character’s face. Some sort of flashback happens going back the advice the camper receives and suddenly the camper is able to beat the rival camp. That determination and advice gives the movie a happy ending. In real life, it is the values and principles of the camp that makes a summer life-changing.
Once a camper embraces these values, they, like the main character in a camp movie, are able to overcome challenges at camp. The true beauty comes when the campers apply the lessons learned at camp to life outside of camp. The values learned at camp go far beyond the confines of camp.
Some campers buy into this value more than others, going above and beyond to exemplify the best part of that ideal, and oftentimes they are recognized for this. Some camps give out awards at the end of each session to celebrate the campers who have embodied camp’s values, and this is always an amazing event. Nearly all of these awards are received with tears of pride and tumultuous applause. This is the best part of camp because it is an opportunity to recognize the best parts of camp – the values and the campers who they spoke most to. Without that value or principle or ideal, camp would just be an ordinary place. Instead, camp is an incredible journey, and one that allows campers to thrive as they learn what camp values mean to themselves and the camp community.
Maine Camp Experience Resources & Tools
Looking for the perfect Maine camp for your child? Try out our helpful tool where you can select a camp by choosing: type of camp (girls, boys or coed) and session length (1-8 weeks). It helps to narrow down a few camps to a manageable list that includes rates. Then you can research these camps in more depth.
Next, be sure to contact our Maine Camp Guide, Laurie to discuss these camps as well as for free, year-round advice and assistance on choosing a great Maine summer camp for your child.
Talk to Laurie, our Maine Campcierge™, about choosing the right camp for your child and what to do in Maine.