Word Around the Campfire #8 - 9th September 2019

The first weekend of September is such an odd time here at MTC.  Camp looks amazing, the weather is ideal, the lake is the perfect temperature.  All that is missing is the campers.  But the calendar doesn’t agree with our assessment that it’s a great time for camp.  The calendar says - summer is ending (and camp along with it) and school is starting.  Our cultural norms say that it’s time to get serious, forget all the summer stuff, focus on school.  But we think that is a mistake, and that by intentionally practicing some of the summer stuff, the benefits of summer can flow all year long.  

During the summer we talk about what it might mean to make the world a little more camp like, what things they can do in their own lives and communities that reflect the values and ideas of camp, how campers can do small things to keep the benefits of camp going just a little while longer.  Because the truth is that the really good camp stuff is actually just really good stuff.  We gain some lived experience in camp, and hopefully we use that experience to inform the decisions we make after the summer.  

So let’s quickly address some of the lessons of camp that may not necessarily make a campers world more camp like, but might help them a) carry some of the good feelings of camp through the school year, and b) have a positive impact on their academic lives (it should be noted that these are not really separate things).

Getting close to nature would be the most obvious and immediately beneficial aspect of camp that we would encourage campers to seek out during the school year.  Exposure to natural spaces has a host of mental, emotional and physical benefits, but the most compelling one might be – kids who spend time around trees do better in school.  The mechanism isn’t well understood yet, but the evidence is pretty clear that exposure to nature helps kids do their best in school.  

A good nights sleep is another aspect of camp that helps campers feel and do their best.  While schedules outside the camp bubble have many more demands, prioritizing sleep as a means to being an effective and happy individual is a skill we hope campers can generalize outside the months of June-August.

Moderating our use of technology.  At camp we have a wonderful time not despite, but because we aren’t surrounded by consistently intrusive technology.  Understanding the role tech plays in their lives, and making intentional choices about their relationship with it, will pay dividends in every aspect of campers lives during the year.  

Making and maintaining connections.  One of the most enduring and gratifying parts of camp is the friendships and connections campers make.  These friendships extend the value of a summer at camp into a lifetime. It is not just the friendships made at camp though.  The skills learned or practiced in making those friendships are essential life skills.Campers who learn how to make the courageous choice to meet a new friend at camp, who make the same choice in school, become better connected, build community, and make their academic year better for themselves and others.

Finally, we hope that our campers take from camp a lesson that is so obvious, and apply it broadly across all aspects of their lives.That it is not a spectator sport.Camp rewards effort directly and in multiples.  Living this experience each day, we hope that every camper who spent time here this summer has an expectation for themselves – to give every opportunity a whole-hearted effort, understanding that the results will then take care of themselves.Don’t worry too much about what’s going to happen, focus on what is happening now, and make the most of it.  

Good luck to all for the start of the school year.  We hope it’s wonderful.

Matt, Monique & Nicky


Word Around the Campfire #7 -11th August 2019

Hurtling towards the real world…

As we do every morning of the summer, we had our head staff morning today.  Unlike every morning of the summer, this one was taken up primarily by discussion and updates on the planning for the last few days of the camp calendar.  As of the time of writing, we have a mere 2 full days of camp remaining.  Three more activity days, plus Festivus, a whole bunch of outstanding evening programs, more special events than you can poke a stick at, and what will be a very emotional end to what has been an incredible summer.  As staff and admin, we are all contemplating how we will re-emerge into the real world - catching up on sleep, reconnecting with non-camp friends (just kidding, there are only camp friends…), re-establishing the habits and routines of the day to day, and saying goodbye for the next ten months to all the random-ness, familiarity, comfort, challenge, bone-tired but not gonna sleep, uplifting, bewildering, happy and heart-warming stuff that we pass our days with here in the woods.  It is the definition of bitter-sweet, the ephemeral nature of the summer is part of what makes camp so magical - it would not be nearly so satisfying if it did not have a hard deadline - but it is so hard to say goodbye nonetheless.  We find it a struggle, even after all these years.

So to for your camper, yet without the emotional coping skills of an adult, or the many summers of experience to know how to adjust to “the real world”.  In just 2 days time, you’ll be receiving a teenager who at the least has had a wonderfully fun, exhausting, challenging summer of learning.  They may have had a life affirming, world changing, summer, or series of summers.  Some of you will be getting such a teen back for the first time from MTC (hopefully first of many).  For others, this may be their last summer as they age out, with all the booming resonance that entails.  For some campers, after a shower, a couple of favorite meals, and a good nights sleep, they will be back to the usual routine.  For others, it may take quite a bit more time to get back in sync with the family, school, outside world. 

We have a few hints and tips for how to help your camper get past their post-camp blues in a way that is positive and productive

  • Give them a little space at first. They’ll tell you all about it (for the next several years for the real hard cases), but this has been their experience, and they may be a little jealous about sharing at first.  They will though, and we apologize for the endless stories involving people you don’t know… 
  • Speaking of people you don’t know. Have your camper reach out to camp friends.  We can help facilitate.  Let us know if your camper doesn’t have someone’s full name, or means to contact them.  If you are amenable to it, grant permission to staff who contact you to ask if they can keep in contact with your camper.
  • if you do ask questions, ask open ended questions – what was the biggest challenge? What was your favorite aspect?  What did you learn about yourself? 
  • Show them the camp website and photo gallery, photos are free to download.
  • Help them make a plan to meet up with a camp friend in the not too distant future. This is a big one.
  • Ask your camper to help you fill out the post-camp survey.
  • Register early for next summer – you’ll save money and give them peace of mind knowing that the session they want won’t be filled before they get a chance to sign up.



Word Around the Campfire #6 - 2nd August 2019

With the end of the summer barreling down on us (2 weeks left?  How does this happen!!??), it was wonderful today to have a reminder of one of the most astonishing aspects of the camp experience, something to savor while we have the chance.

I had a post dinner conversation with one of the music instructors at camp.  He was talking about how cool, and confusing, it is to see how quickly the campers in his class are learning what he is teaching. About how he’s had to adapt and move forward at a much more rapid pace than he had anticipated.  What is going on?  Is it really talented, smart campers?  Well, sure, but the same could be said for his students outside of camp.

What is going on is something more fundamental, and worth acknowledging, because it holds lessons for us for the whole year.  Campers learn quickly here at camp because all the things we know about optimizing learning line up here.
Campers sleep well.  9 hours a night.  We know our brains need 9 hours (or more) to learn efficiently.  No stress.  Stress is like kryptonite to learning.  The two things are mutually exclusive, but at camp, campers are relaxed, having fun, and free of the pressure imposed by the academic year.  Speaking of pressure – there is no pressure to perform, no worries about grades at camp.  Campers will try new things because they aren't worried about the consequences of failing, or feeling like anything less than perfect will count against them.They will try things they may be primed to learn, given the chance.  And finally there is just so much support.  Campers get so much encouragement, a ton of external belief that transforms into self-belief in a pretty short span.
We know how lucky we are here at MTC.  We get to see our campers grow and thrive, and this remarkable learning curve is but one aspect.  It is worth acknowledging at this point though, as the lesson is a valuable one.  If we can learn it…



Word Around the Campfire #5 - 24th July 2019

It takes a lot of guts to go away to summer camp. We were reminded of this multiple times this past weekend, when we started our Second Session Summer 2019 under hot and humid Maine skies. The heat broke the next day, but the admiration we gained for so many of our incoming campers has not fallen. We forget, as adults, how awkward and hard it is for a teenager to go to a brand-new place, where they don’t know anyone, or even know a whole lot about their home for the next 2 – 4 weeks. Many of our campers arrived with a look on their face that said “huh, I wonder if I am doing the right thing”. Some even say so out loud. They were greeted by enthusiastic staff, and senior campers, who were acting like this was the best day of the year. Because to them it is. To the new camper – it looks a bit like walking into someone else’s class reunion. But there is promise there. The new camper knows – these other campers were new campers once. Maybe a month ago, a year ago. For some of our LT’s (Leadership Trainees, more below), it was several years ago. But no matter who and when, they were all new campers at one point. Full of doubt. Questioning themselves and their parents, wondering whatever possessed them to think this was a good idea. And here those returning campers are now, on a hot and bright opening day, crying tears of joy at seeing old friends, and requiring ice packs to soothe hands sore from high fiving so many new friends. A new camper sees this, sees someone who looks kind of a lot like them, and (ideally) asks themselves – “how do I get to that place?”. The fact that they are here shows a level of courage that many kids and teens entirely lack, those who simply will not push their comfort zone at all. They are then asked to do something else that we feel is incredibly brave…say hi to a total stranger, a peer their age, but who they don’t know from a bar of soap. It takes a huge leap of faith, not unlike jumping into a pool of water of unknown temperature without first dipping a toe. But, and this is the wonderful part, they find that once they take that big, bold, scary step, the water is fine. The person they are greeting wants to make friends too. So do all the other campers. Staff too. Activities are not just engaging, but fun multipliers. The more you put into them, the more you get out of them. It all reinforces. And it all starts with that big, brave step. Our session is off to a great start, and we’re looking forward to every minute of it.



Word Around the Campfire #4 - 19th July 2019

It is with somewhat of a sense of disbelief that I write this on the night of First Session Departure Day. The calendar says Thursday has just become Friday. Where did the time go? Well… The last 4 or 5 days have been a happy, intense, tiring, relentless series of wonderful camp events, the culmination of a month of hard work, top notch instruction, wonderful weather and community support. The camper bands playing at Live Dance on Sunday; the Camp Show, Video Show & Dance Shows on Monday; Festivus (Harry Potter themed), Art Show, Banquet & Last Chance Dance Tuesday; Packing Day Wednesday saw Tennis Finals, Rock Climbing competition, Ski Show, Session Video, Closing Campfire and Midnight Blues. It has been, in the most literal sense, awesome. There is among the staff a genuine sense of awe at the amount of courage, talent, hard work, and loving support on display. Campers performing/playing/showing their work in front of a large group for the first time have all of us asking the question “would I have had the guts to do that as a teenager?” I’m not sure I would. Yet there they were – singing, playing (everything from drums to tennis), acting, sharing, supporting and being supported.
All of this reminds us as to how lucky we are, and what a huge responsibility we have. We get to see our campers for some of (if not the) the best weeks of their year. They are relaxed, unstressed, safe and happy. We have an obligation to them to provide a place that gives them the opportunities to learn, to take risks, and to trust themselves.
It has been an incredible summer so far, we can’t wait for the rest.



Word Around the Campfire #3 - 11th July 2019

Greetings on another beautiful day in the state of Maine. We’ve been graced with a tremendous spell or perfect Maine weather, warm but not too hot, with a few stunningly clear nights. Perfect camp weather, and a quick glance at the national weather map with it’s heat and humidity reminds us of why Maine makes most sense for summer camp.
This is also the sort of weather that I most associate with my favorite part of the summer, when everyone is just in the rhythm of camp. No one is really sure of what day it is in the outside world, or really even what time of day it is. We go by the bell, and that is enough. We play when it’s time to play, rest when it’s time to rest, eat when it’s time to eat. The campers and staff become fully present, entirely immersed in what is happening here, now. We see campers learning new skills at an unbelievable rate, friendships forming and deepening, stressors melting away. The mood in camp is often described as chill, but I believe that during these timeless days, it’s something more than that. It is not the absence of stress that defines the camp experience, it is the presence of a positive focus on the present.
These days fly by all too quickly, summer will be over before we know it. But, these timeless days will not be easily forgotten. Campers will have vivid memories of their experiences in camp on these days. They won’t really know what day it was, and it won’t matter. We’re in the rhythm and flow of the summer, and there is no where else we would want to be.



Word Around the Campfire #2 - 4th July 2019

Happy 4th of July from beautiful, warm, sunny and happy Maine.


Word Around the Campfire #1 - 27th June 2019

When the days are being filled with the sounds of nature, and especially in our case, the sounds of the campers arriving, you know summer has arrived! And what better time to send out a newsletter than when you're filled with that summer spirit?!


Word Around the Campfire #8 - 16th August 2018

Thoughts from a closing campfire... 

Tonight was the closing campfire for summer 2018.  The last, until next June, in a chain of campfires in that same space that stretches back almost 100 years.  It is an event that is joyful, emotional, often hilarious and always poignant.  Campers and staff quietly contemplating, and sharing, a part of their summer experience.  It’s an event that is never recorded, a moment in time that is known and shared only by those who were there.

But there is some ideas and thoughts that came up and resonated very strongly with what we all experienced this summer, and those themes seem appropriate to share.


Word Around the Campfire #7 - 8th August 2018

 A great dose of nature.

Two nights ago I had one of those amazing camp director moments.  It was after evening program, and as I left the office, I couldn’t help but notice Mars shining brightly in the South Eastern sky, and casting a wonderful, weird orange glow onto the lake.  Gathering a group of campers from one of the boys cabins, I pointed out Mars, and left the rest to them.

The sense of wonder expressed by the kids (and staff) was immediately obvious.  Questions were asked about why Mars was so bright, how we knew that was Mars, was that the Milky Way, where is the Big Dipper.  Random thoughts and observations followed, including chatting about the future of a Mars colony.

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Maine Teen Camp

481 Brownfield Rd,
Porter, Maine

Maine Teen Camp is the only accredited summer camp created exclusively for teenagers. Enjoy a summer of meaning, fun, friendships and memories to last a lifetime.