North Star Camp for Boys

Monday, August 10, 2020

Laundry Day and Guten Gallop!

You’ll be happy to know that we shipped off laundry today for one final round before packing day this Thursday. Counselors helped their campers check under their beds, in their cubby areas, and on their clotheslines for any dirty or wet belongings that need to be washed before returning home. We sent in staff from the Leadership Team to each cabin to give their final stamp of approval before the bags could be sent off to the laundromat. If there were unchanged sheets on the bed or even loose socks in the middle of the cabin, all the boys had to wait to take out their bags. We’re hoping this will make packing day a little easier (and cleaner) for campers and counselors alike! 


Today we had one of the final Organized Free periods of the summer, and the boys enjoyed activities such as climbing, archery, riflery, swimming, and disc golf. The J-Village boys really love fishing, so they got fishing as an activity for two days in a row! The I-Village got their turn in the Arm & Hammer to make their cabin plaques, and on Wednesday, the S-Village will have time to finish theirs up during the final Organized Free period. There won’t be Organized Free tomorrow, as tomorrow is Camper Counselor Day! 


Tonight’s Evening Program was the Guten Gallop. This is a race against oneself - each camper predicted the time it would take for them to get from the Council Ring to the middle of Boys Camp Road and back. Counselors time each camper, and whichever camper predicted their time most accurately wins. Boys dressed up in goofy outfits for this program, and while most boys chose to walk at their own pace, some did jog at times throughout the path! The campers are really glad we could still put on this event this year. We’re ready for the amazing Camper Counselor Day that’s headed our way!

Today’s Grace:

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

-Thomas Jefferson


 Be seated.

North Star Games and Sunday Smiles

As crazy as it sounds, today was the last Sunday of camp for the summer! After a very busy day of North Star Games yesterday, the boys had the chance to sleep in for an extra 30 minutes today and went back to a normal camp schedule. The campers got extremely into North Star Games, especially since activities for the competition started back on Thursday and scores remained close between teams. We tried to switch up a few activities from UN Days - canoeing without oars was definitely a fun one to watch during North Star Games, as well as leg wrestling on the ball field. We have some incredibly strong guys here! The evening ended with ice cream for dessert and cheers from all four teams, and then final scores were announced. Orion came in first place, followed by Pegasus, Lynx, and Taurus. Although the competition is fun, the boys know that at camp, win or lose, It Just Doesn’t Matter. 

Every year, cabins have the opportunity to create cabin plaques with everyone’s names on them. Nearly every cabin wanted to make their own plaque in the Arm & Hammer, so each village has a day this week to go in during Organized Free and put the plaque together. Today the J-Village got their turn!


Although we’re heading into the last week of camp, there’s still so much fun to be had. Tuesday is camper counselor day with round two of Espionage in the evening and Wednesday is Lazy Day. Today, Pine Manor boys had their own schedule to replace the trip to Duluth that happens every summer. The boys had a cook-out breakfast (omelets, those lucky guys!) and got to do activities as a big group, such as waterskiing and a movie night. They have day two of their private schedule tomorrow, and they will finish by Tuesday morning so they can participate in camper counselor day. We’re looking forward to another great, warm day at camp tomorrow! 


Today’s Grace:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “what are you doing for others?”

-Martin Luther King Jr. 


Be seated.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Final Friday Night Service

 It’s hard to believe that tonight was the last Friday Night Service of the summer. The theme for this evening was “Character,” led by Wyatt Zirlin, who read the call-and-response statements, quotes, and passages related to building character. To give you a glimpse, the Service started out with the following reading: 

Have you ever watched a tree swaying in a storm? A tree that stands rigidly will never win a battle against the wind. Trees that bend with the wind are those that survive. Like a tree, you can bend and sway as life batters and blasts you, then bounce back again, supported by your strong, deep roots. When you’re resilient and you have grit, you can survive almost anything: being hurt, frustrated, let down, losing friends, making mistakes, and much more. Remember the image of a tree in the storm. You can learn a lot from nature. Let’s let nature’s simple wisdom help us live our true nature. 


Our incredible I-Village Director, Micah Jona, gave the sermonette for the evening, and talked about how camp has helped him build character through the connections he’s made and the responsibility he’s earned. He discussed the sacrifices we’ve all had to make this summer to keep North Star Covid-free, and how hard some days were when he felt like he was constantly reminding his friends to wear their masks. Even through these difficulties, he understood that holding his peers accountable for the benefit of the community is where his true character formed and shined through. We know our boys each grew in their own ways this summer, and thanks to the incredible leadership of our staff, the campers were able to learn how to help their peers in times of need, take educated risks, take ownership over their mistakes, and take time to reflect. 


After Services, campers enjoyed the formal Opening Ceremony to North Star Games on the ball field, where each team gathered before fireworks shot off on the opposite end. Earlier today, teams competed against one another in specific water games during fourth period. First, there was the innertube race, where the campers had to sit in a tube and use their hands and feet to paddle themselves to the other end of the dock. Next, the senior campers competed against one another in a very intense game of water polo, where the first goal scored of each game was crowned the winner. Tomorrow is the official day for North Star Games, which we will all wake up 30 minutes earlier for to get the activities rolling for the day. 


Today’s Grace:

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

-Joseph Campbell


Be seated.

Work Worth Doing

Tonight kicked off North Star Games with cheers from all four teams: Pegasus, Lynx, Orion and Taurus. Each team is named after a different constellation, and just like UN Days, the teams compete against one another in unique activities and games. Although the main competitions don’t start until Saturday, the energy is already in the air. 

When cabin J-1 returns tomorrow from their camping trip on the Mighty Namekagon River, we will have concluded all of our cabin camping trips from this summer. Each cabin has gone on a cabin camping trip, from our youngest boys doing their overnight river trip to our oldest boys spending 9-days in the Boundary Waters. Many of the boys love the trips, and some of the boys are nervous and scared, but all of the boys grow a great deal from them. The trips are opportunities to not only teach environmental and adventure education, but they also serve as a tremendous bonding opportunity for the cabins. The trip program is set up to push the boys outside of their comfort zone. Each trip is designed to be something that the campers doubt that they can handle, but we know that they can, and we support them in doing so. And in doing so, we are working to raise resilient young men who have the confidence to take on new challenges. 

And we continue to talk openly and honestly with the boys about the new challenges that life will bring as they leave our bubble at the end of the summer. Last night we spent some time as a camp talking about the things that will be different when they get home. We talked about our responsibilities, having been lucky enough to have this camp experience, to go out into our communities and be leaders in setting up new routines. We talked about remembering to “mask up” wherever you go and reminding others to do the same, even when it’s uncomfortable. The boys asked amazing questions about trends, testing, medical treatments, vaccines, school plans, and what the future brings. From the Junior Village campers to our college aged staff, they asked detailed, thoughtful questions to make sure that they feel equipped to make good decisions and take action as they return to the world outside. It has been an important motivation for us all along to get this right so that every kid has a chance at a camp experience next summer. And we remain motivated to give our kids the skills and experience to go back to their own communities and lead them through whatever may come their way. 

Yesterday’s Grace:

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

  • Theodore Roosevelt

Today’s Grace:

“Good morning, Mister Zip-Zip-Zip,

With your hair cut just as short as mine,

Good morning, Mister Zip-Zip-Zip,

You're surely looking fine!

Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust,

If the Bell doesn’t wake us,

Then the Counselors must,

Good morning, Mister Zip-Zip-Zip,

With your hair cut just as short as,

your hair cut just as short as,

your hair cut just as short as mine.”

Be Seated.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020


Check out this awesome sermonette on environmentalism from counselor Reese Borlin:

After Andy asked me to do this sermonette on environmentalism last afternoon, I spent the rest of the day thinking about the direction I wanted to take it. I had several ideas, and as I wrote down some notes, I remembered something I learned in a community sustainability class I took this past spring. 

So far, while talking to you all, I have used the word I or me 8 times in just two sentences. And I used it again just there. And there. In the English language, we use the words I and me constantly. When we express ideas, we express them in relation to ourselves. “I am excited for today,” rather than “today is exciting.” “I think that is a good idea,” rather than “that is a good idea.” It permeates our language, and therefore, permeates our culture. Western society is incredibly self-centered. We think of the individual first, then the individual’s role in the group. Yes, it has given us a great deal of individual freedom – however, the consequence is that we think of ourselves first and all of humanity second. I think of my own wants over the needs of the planet. That, right there, is why a climate crisis is upon us.

I read a book recently on the lore and history of the Lakota – a tribe of native Americans who live primarily in the state of Washington. One incredibly small yet impossibly big difference between the English language and the Lakota dialect is that there is no word in Lakota for “I.” To me and you, that seems impossible. How do they not have a word for I? How do they express their own ideas, thoughts, wants? The answer is that language and culture are so intertwined that the Lakota do not need to use the word I. They view the universe through a lens of “we.” “We are,” not “I am.” “We” includes the land, the brother tree, the sister lake, the brother eagle, the sister sky. A great Chief of the Lakota Tribe, Chief Seattle, wrote, “Man does not weave the web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

It is no question that we need to get away from the me, me, me of our world and move towards the global view of “we” to sustain our planet for future generations. Stating this is easy, but how do we move towards this goal? There are two answers. One is easy, one is not.

I will start with the hard one. We need to change how we live. If you do not see why, let me explain.
There are websites you can visit that will calculate the number of earths it would require if everyone alive lived like you do. It asks questions like; how much do you fly? What kind of place do you live? How much do you drive? How much meat do you eat? How much do you use heat or AC? All these questions determine how much energy and resources it takes to sustain your lifestyle.

In the United States, the average is about 4 earths. This means that if everyone on the planet lived like the average American, it would take 4 earths to sustain all of us. You may wonder how the planet still exists, and the answer is that we are using more than our fair share while others use less. I have met people whose number is 6 earths if all lived like they do. I have never met someone in the United States whose number is less than 1 earth. The way we live here is neither sustainable nor fair. Those who live in third world countries use as little as 1/100 of an earth.

How do WE fix this inequality? How do WE live a more sustainable lifestyle?

A Norwegian philosopher by the name of Arne Naess created an idea called “deep ecology.” In this deep ecology, we adapt our lifestyle to the needs of the planet, rather than adapting the planet to fit our lifestyle. There is a Norwegian word he uses often, the word is “Noysomhet.” In English, this word means, “to be content with frugal yet adequate situations.” We must change our culture of “want” to a culture of “contentedness.” 

Some, as in all of us sitting here, will have to use less so that others can use more. To be satisfied with using less, we must change our values. To modify our values, we need education. And this is the second answer to sustainability. Yes, school. Education is the helm of the climate movement. Education destroys ignorance. Education destroys hate. It is each of our most valuable tool to helping change the course of our planet.

As I wrap up this sermonette, I have a few challenges for each of you. One – try to go as long as you can without saying the word I. As you go through this, think of life in terms of “we.” Second, apply noysomhet to your life. See where you can be content with less. Third, educate yourself. Read books, watch reliable news, and listen to your teachers.

In their legends, the Lakota describe the white man as “witches.” They believe that the planet will go through a period of drought, famine, and suffering caused by the greed of these witches as they cut down the forest, overfish the rivers, and use up the land. Are they correct? Maybe. However, after the difficult times, the Lakota say that a group will come together to save the world. They call this group the “rainbow warriors.” Today, I interpret this legend of the rainbow warriors as a group of environmentalists from all backgrounds, all cultures, all colors, all languages, all ages, and all coming together with the goal of making the world livable once again. This task falls on all of us here. I consider myself a rainbow warrior. I look before me here at North Star, and I see a group of people who could join the rainbow warriors, and my final challenge is that each and every one of you make a commitment to do so. 

Thank you, and noysomhet. 

Monday, August 3, 2020

The Great & Glorious North Star Party!

Happy Sunday! And it always is a happy day - because as always, Sundays come with a Half Hour Later (capital letters well deserved in the campers’ eyes) start to the days. We’ve had so many wonderfully hot days up here this summer, it was actually nice to break out the sweatpants and sweatshirts for a cooler morning today. Finally had a chance to try out the new flannel gear we ordered this year!

Today, as you most likely know, we wrapped up our last round of parent phone calls for the summer. Thank you so much for your flexibility and patience as we planned out the call schedule. A real tip of the hat to our office staff for managing all the logistics of getting hundreds of calls out like that when so many are time dependent. As I’m sure you’ve realized, I was pretty nervous about these phone calls, but it was so great to see the smiling faces on the way in and out.

And as far as calls go, if you would like to talk with your son about Fall Camp, please let us know so we can get that call set up in the next few days as well. Our office staff certainly are already warmed up for it I would say! For as much as the campers are having a blast at North Star, we also recognize that the thought of giving you a hug in less than two weeks is extremely exciting too. And with the schooling situations so in flux right now, we realize so very much is in the air for what might be the right decisions for you and your kids - so by all means let us know if another call to hash out those kinds of choices makes sense for you.

But while the outside world might be in flux, here in the Northwoods it is full steam ahead, as tonight was our annual North Star Elections for camper president and vice president of the Great and Glorious North Star Party. (Think like a class president, but you know, instead of lobbying for more recess at school, it’s lobbying for more cabin pizza parties.) Eight separate President-Vice President pairs spanning all our villages ran for the nomination, complete with the goofy spectacle of a debate last night and the hard hitting punditry the people deserve: live reaction “tweets,” a real time “press box”, questions from the audience, and a Wolf Blitzer impersonation, naturally. And I’m happy to announce that with all precincts reporting, no hanging chads or recounts, we have a new administration for the 2020 summer! Ollie Katz and Cameron Beltzman of our eldest cabin, Pine Manor are the new camper President and Vice President of the Great and Glorious North Star Party! As is custom, winners were inaugurated by being tossed in the lake in celebration.

I for one look forward to hearing their proposals on candy selection. Democracy in action!

Today’s Grace:
“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”
                         -Franklin D. Roosevelt

Be seated.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Rainbow Warriors

At our Friday Night service tonight, our ecology project head Reese gave the sermonette and spoke of the Lakota tribe. In the Lakota tradition, they speak of a period of darkness for the environment. But that ultimately, a coalition of people will save our planet, and be stewards of the environment - in their legends, they are called the “Rainbow Warriors.”

For all the talk of bear protocols, sometimes we need to take a step back and appreciate just what a natural paradise we live in up here in the Northwoods. To have these kinds of flora and fauna is such a treat for a bunch of campers, staff members predominantly hailing from urban and suburban home environments. It’s a big part of why we have campfires every week, why we send cabins off on canoe trips, and why we spend as much time outdoors as possible. And this week, it was the theme of our Friday Night Service: The Environment.

In a given summer, we only have so many weeks for Friday Night Service, and there are just such a huge amount of worthy themes out there, that of course we can only get to so many of them each year. But one that has a permanent spot every year, is our Environment service.

The land that North Star is built on, and all of the region actually, was home to the American Indian tribe of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe. And many still live on reservations and in the surrounding towns up here. As such, our Environment service in many ways is also intended to pay homage to the American Indian stewards of this land; those who’ve traditionally had a much more symbiotic relationship with the land than our own Western cultures.

It’s important for us at North Star to instill in our campers not just a sense of fellowship, of fun, and of community, but also a sense of respect and responsibility for the care of our environment. Because as we run around in the ball fields, or play disc golf, or compete in College Days (which, by the way, the College of Staten Island Dolphins team officially was announced as the winners today!), it’s all only made possible by this pristine slice nature up here in the Northwoods. And what better place for kids to be appreciating that than in a beautiful place like the Council Ring. As Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods wrote, “Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.” May we all help raise a few more Rainbow Warriors.

Today’s Grace:
“He who knows not, and knows not he knows not, he is a fool - shun him;
He who knows not, and knows he knows not, he is simple - teach him;
He who knows, and knows not he knows, he is asleep - wake him
He who knows, and knows he knows, he is wise - follow him.”
- Anonymous

Be seated.