North Star Camp for Boys

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Villa Values

The Senior Village at camp holds special meaning. Being a camper in the Villa means carrying the responsibility of leadership throughout camp. Our Senior campers have additional opportunities for leadership around camp, and have the weight of knowing that the younger campers are looking up to them.

Early on this summer, we recognized some behaviors among our seniors that were not up to our North Star standard. Regardless of how the boys may interact with one another away from camp, regardless of what they may say to one another on social media, and regardless of the content that they may be digesting on the internet, it is our expectation that at camp the boys comport themselves in a way that represents our North Star values. Last night we hosted a Senior Village campfire to discuss exactly what that means.

Jimmy, one of our CIT directors, gave his perspective as a camp parent and alum, about what makes North Star different from the rest of the world. Robyn led a reflection where the boys identified a behavior from this past week that they weren’t proud of, wrote it on a piece of paper, and threw it into the fire. And Mike Simons, another longtime North Star alumnus and current Executive Director of Camp for All Kids, led an exercise where each senior cabin identified the top 3 values that they think of when they consider what it means to be a North Star leader. Together, they committed to lead with those values that they selected: empathy, community, compassion, integrity, sportsmanship, kindness, respect, loyalty, inclusivity and openness.

And, before we concluded with pizza, together we recited the words of our most cherished poem:
“There is a destiny which makes us brothers;
None goes his way alone.
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own.
I care not what his caste or creed,
One thing holds firm and fast
That into his days and deeds gone by
The Soul of a man is cast”

Throughout the evening our boys demonstrated a commitment to getting this right, for both themselves as individuals and for North Star as whole. We are so proud of our boys and who they are.

Week in Review Video:
We hope you enjoy this awesome highlight video from the past week! You’ll see some great moments from Open Mic Night, Cruiser Day, Campfires, and all of the fun happening around camp.

Today’s Grace:
“There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly behooves any of us,
To talk about the rest of us.”
- Gov. Edward Wallis Hoch (Kansas, 1905-09)

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Our First Cruiser Day!

While it’s often hard to remember what day it is at camp during the summer, you can count on Tuesdays to be different. Tuesdays at camp are called Cruiser Days. We take a break from our typical programming and have cabin based programming throughout the day on a different and more relaxed schedule. In many ways, Cruiser Days are like our weekend at North Star.

Cruiser Days start with a relaxed breakfast of delicious donuts, fruit and cereal. Then campers do a big cabin cleanup where they do a deeper clean and mop up the cabin. Then it’s on to the activities that they laid out for the day.

The boys work with their counselors to select activities for the day that range from the regular array of camp activities to the wacky, special events that bring out the best on Cruiser Day. Some of the things the boys enjoyed today including a slip-and-slide, barge building, spaghetti scavenger hunt, pizza making, treasure hunt around camp, Musky Fun, and tubing.

One Cruiser Day each session is a Cruiser Day with their whole age group. Today J7 - I6 participated in what they called Dynasty Day, which had alternative competitions all around camp with everyone divided into 4 teams. They were primarily silly events that kept the kids engaged all day.

And in the evening, every cabin cooks out dinner over the fire at their own campfire site. Tonight was the North Star classic Tin Foil Surprise, in which you take potatoes, carrots, onions, ground beef and cheese, and cook them altogether in tin foil to get a delicious outcome. And of course s’mores for dessert!

Tomorrow the boys will begin their new sets of 3-day activities, that they elected on Monday evening. Cabins J-6 and S-5 returned from their camping trips today as well.

Yesterday’s Grace:
“Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and the shadows will fall behind you.”
- Walt Whitman

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Sundays Equal Learning

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a popular catchphrase and it has recently come under some political scrutiny, but we wanted to define what social emotional learning means for us at North Star. The idea behind SEL (according to CASEL) is to promote 5 sets of skills:

  1. Self-awareness

  2. Self-Management

  3. Social Awareness

  4. Relationship Skills

  5. Responsible Decision-Making

The nature of the camp experience makes many of these lessons inherently ingrained. The quantity and intensity of the time our campers spend with their peers helps reinforce these skill sets through social feedback, both positive and negative. So while we greatly appreciate the natural growth that happens through life experiences, at North Star we set out to use dialogue and reflection to intentionally promote this growth in alignment with our values. 

Some of the tools we have codified into our camp routine include Meaningful Check-Ins, SEL Self-Reflection, SEL Counselor Evaluations, Parent Letters, Friday Night Services, mindfulness opportunities and our Sunday night program, which includes Unorganized Free and Sunday Night Campfires. With our first Sunday night this evening, I want to share with you an earlier blog about our weekly Sunday programming:

We begin our Sunday evening program with what we call Unorganized Free. Unstructured free play has tremendous benefits for kids of all ages, and those times have been disappearing for kids with perilous effects (read here, here or here). Unorganized free is meant to combat that. The rules are simple: Go Outside and Play. This is not something kids are used to hearing these days. In a world where their schedules are getting tighter and the stress levels are getting higher, this child-directed free play was an exciting, out of the box experience. There were two rules - 1) Everybody had to be outside, and 2) The counselors are to supervise for safety, not to play or organize. At announcements, one of the Junior Village campers asked, “Does that mean we could play a huge game of hide and seek?” The kids went crazy when we told them that that is exactly what they should be doing.

The second part of our Sunday evening was Cabin Campfires, which are designed to help our boys process their experience, build self awareness, and teach so much more. Much like our opening night candlelight ceremonies, these "cabin meetings" are an opportunity for open, honest communication and sharing. So every cabin took to their campsite, built a campfire, and began this fireside chat. The format was as follows:

1) Accomplishments - everyone should take a moment to recognize the things they have accomplished in this past week.

2) Compliments - a chance for cabinmates to praise the positive things they have seen in each other.

3) Personal Growth - a time for each person to consider a way in which they have grown or a lesson that they have learned in the past week

4) Discussion - an opportunity for the group to discuss issues, problems or challenges and work together to find solutions.

5) Reflection - a few dedicated minutes of time to oneself to think about how to be a better friend, cabinmate and camper in the coming week.

6) Goal Setting - to conclude with a tangible plan for the week ahead with both individual and group goals.

7) S'mores - how else could you end a campfire?

With both the Unorganized Free and the Cabin Campfires, we were upfront with the boys about why we were doing what we were doing. Not only did they understand it, they appreciated it. We heard from many of our campers how nice it was to be able to have time like this, where they could just be kids in the woods. And many of our staff explained that this time has been of tremendous importance to them as campers and counselors alike.


COVID-19 Update

We also wanted to share that, like so many camps and communities at this time, we do have cases of COVID-19 in camp. As of today, we have a couple of campers who presented with symptoms and ultimately tested positive, joining the handful of staff as well. You would have been notified if any of the cases were in your child’s cabin.

We are committed to continuing our camp program while continuing our efforts to mitigate spread among our community. The campers’ daily schedules are not changing. With the guidance of our medical experts, we are modifying our testing strategy to target symptomatic cases while using our testing resources to safely return positive campers and staff to full action as soon as safely possible. Utilizing the latest recommendations from medical professionals and other camps alike, we have adapted some of our earlier plans in order to simultaneously minimize transmission and maximize the camp experience. 

In other news, we had our first Green-White Series last night. Our new campers and staff were given their Green-White teams and competed in all sorts of competitions from soccer to Kan-Jam for the kickoff of our summer long competition. Campers and staff alike traded in their green and white yesterday for their flannel today. It was our coldest day of the session so far, which some of our staff decided to turn into flannel day. Everyone grabbed their flannel pajamas, shirts and jackets to sport their best Northwoods Lumberjack fashion. Tomorrow marks the final day of the first week of projects, and the boys will pick their second round of instructional activities.

Trip Report: Cabin S-5 left this morning for their trip on the Brule River. Cabin J-6 leaves in the morning for the Upper Namekagon. And Cabin S-1 is returning from their hiking trip in the Porcupine Mountains.

Today’s Grace:

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

- John Wooden

Friday, June 24, 2022

The Friendship Fire

North Star began in 1945 and on the first Friday night that summer the campers and staff gathered at the Council Ring for the very first Friendship Fire. 78 summers later, we do do the same thing on the first Friday of each summer. While camp is usually full of energy, cheering and lots of silly fun, Friday nights are a time for a serene and reflective evening. We asked the campers to clean up for the evening, get dressed up (by camp standards) and bring their restaurant manners to dinner. After dinner, we gather around the flagpole for a formal retreat which includes cabin reports, a patriotic song and the lowering of the flag, before we move as a camp out to the Council Ring.

One of the traditions of the Friendship Fire is to have a representative of each city throw a keylog into the fire to represent the bonds of friendship between their hometown and North Star. After a few years with a limited number of international staff able to participate, it was so wonderful to have not only so many states represented, but also a wide variety of nationalities as well. This year we have staff from Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, South Africa, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Philippines and Spain. We have campers at camp from 24 different states, and staff from even more. It is so incredible to be able to have this type of cultural exchange happening within our camp community.

Mason Yonover gave an incredible sermonette as he talked about the ways in which his camp friendships have shaped his life. He touched on being yourself, not hiding your emotions, and finding strength from your friends who truly care about one another. We hear often about what makes camp friendships so special, but at its simplest it is about allowing yourself to be yourself, to be vulnerable, and to be loved and appreciated for who you truly are. That is the recipe.

We had some great music and nice readings, all with the backdrop of a perfect Clear Lake sunset. And every Friday Night concludes with singing Forest Green, Taps and reciting our Camper Benediction.

Our Pine Manor campers are spending their first night in Quetico Provincial Park this evening. We look forward to sharing their tales after their adventure concludes.

If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to check out our videographer Finlay’s recap of the first few days down below.

Today’s Grace:
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
- Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Pine Manor to Canada & Our 1st Regular Day

The Pine Manor group departed this morning for their Canadian camping trip, a 10-day adventure of lake paddling and portaging through Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario. This trip has been a tradition at North Star for many decades, and has come to be known as our capstone experience in a camper’s final year. The boys are spending tonight at Canoe Canada Outfitters sleeping in their legendary 4-level bunk beds before heading out into backcountry in the morning. After not being able to have our campers cross the border, our Pine Manor group was ecstatic to be able to restart this important North Star tradition.

Back at camp, today was our first day of regular programming. One of the things that makes the North Star program unique is that we offer our boys a great deal of choice. We have five periods between breakfast and dinner on a standard day at camp. The first three periods are our instructional periods, which the boys sign up for on a weekly basis. They choose six electives for the week and take each of them for three consecutive days, for one hour and fifteen minutes each day. The fifth period most days is our Organized Free period, which is an opportunity for the boys to choose an activity that they want to do just for that day. They can also use that time to rest, read, shower, or just hang with friends. The 4th period is the one period that the boys don’t have individual choice, as that typically rotates between Challenge Games, Village Activities, and Green-White competitions. This all puts together a schedule for each child that has a great deal of structure, but also a great deal of choice within that structure.

We take great pride in being a community that supports campers with different interests, personalities and backgrounds. And we take great pride in being a place where the boys can explore their interests as their interests grow and change through the years.

Today’s Grace:
“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
- Desmond Tutu

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Defining Cool on a Hot Day

The first full day of camp was a beautiful, busy day. A hot first night gave way to a day filled with warm sun and a strong breeze that set the stage for us to introduce people and systems alike around camp. 

We had pancakes and bacon for breakfast while (re)teaching our KP procedures. The counselors led their first cabin cleanup of the summer while (re)teaching how to make their beds, organize their shelves, and share the responsibilities of communal living.  And in the name of reteaching,  we met with the Senior Village tonight to discuss how our expectations of camp relationships and behavior differ from those expectations that they face elsewhere in the world. 

At its simplest, we have an opportunity to define “cool” at camp. If it looks the same as it does in their middle school or high school, we’ve likely failed. At camp, cool should describe kindness, empathy, a strong moral compass and the courage to act in defense of those values. I believe that our oldest campers and staff share a vision of creating that culture, and I look forward to seeing them actualize that vision.

Some of the simple ways we teach that with our younger campers is in our first Village Activity for the Juniors and Intermediates. For their village activity, they played games of continuous dodgeball. Continuous dodgeball is an every man for himself dodgeball game played on a big field. We play with the traditional dodgeball rules, so if you get hit, you are out, and if you catch a ball, the person who threw it at you is out. If the person who threw you out gets out themselves, you are back in. We play with large
groups, so there is never a winner. The twist is that if you get somebody out, you have to introduce yourself. (You are in a "safety zone" while you are in the process of the introduction.) With the help of the candlelight ceremony and some other games yesterday, the campers learned the names of everybody in their cabin. Today, with the help of this village activity, they start to learn the names of all the campers and staff in their village. Additionally, continuous dodgeball is a great introduction to our competitive philosophy. While no one wins continuous dodgeball, it is still important to give a full effort and have a great time while playing.

Our silliness showed as our banquet dinner saw the staff dress up in costume and dance to welcome the campers to dinner, and our amazing kitchen staff showed up in their onesies as well. And evening program, to cap off the beautiful day, was our first game of capture the flag.

To see pictures of all of the action, you can login to CampInTouch and click "Photos."

Today’s Grace:

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

- Nelson Mandela

Monday, June 20, 2022

A Hot Star to the Summer of 2022

The Summer of 2022 is off to a hot start at camp! The buses filed in together from Minneapolis and Chicago together to a welcome of very enthusiastic counselors and temperatures in the mid-90s and a perfect breeze. New and returning campers alike gawked at the new outdoor tennis and basketball courts, as well as the courts for North Star’s newest activity - pickleball!  We gathered around the flagpole to announce the cabins, and the campers and staff jumped for joy and even debuted some new dance moves, acrobatics and skits. The boys headed to their cabins to get unpacked and move in, and our amazing staff have started to get to know their campers as they help them settle in. The cabin list is attached

I know that today was not the easiest travel day for many, and some are still working their way to camp. Between flight issues and COVID testing, there were a lot of inconveniences. I promise that if you could have seen the joy on the campers’ faces when they arrived at camp, hugged their friends and the staff, and looked longingly at the fields and the lake, you would have seen that it was all immediately worthwhile. I am very grateful for what you have done to help get camp off to the smoothest start possible. 

As we’ve worked our way through pre-camp training, we’ve talked at length about two of our core tenets: culture and community. Among the staff, we have already built an incredibly strong community over the past few weeks, as folks have worked hard to get camp and themselves ready to be the best role models and counselors that they can be this summer. It has been clear that this group of 115 staff has embraced the North Star culture. The warmth, empathy, respect for each others’ differences and the importance of being true to one’s self have all shown through in the way this group works together, laughs together, sings and dances together, shares with one another, and takes care of each other. We have been so excited to welcome the campers into this community and culture.

And now it’s on to the fun and excitement of camp! The boys are now unpacking and new campers are receiving a tour of camp. By the time they go to sleep tonight, they'll have played games with their cabins and met some of the other guys in their age group age as well.

Dinner this evening will be burgers, fries and jello, plus the ever present salad bar and Sun Butter and jelly. There will be vegetarian burgers available for those that prefer, and Gluten free options for those that need it. And of course brownies for dessert. Immediately following dinner, the campers will choose their first week's activities. Wednesday activities will be by cabin, we’ll do our next round of COVID-19 testing Wednesday evening, and we plan to being elective instructional offerings on Thursday.

Tonight’s evening activities will be followed by the candlelight ceremonies, where each cabin will have a meeting led by their counselors. They will share their goals and expectations for the summer, while continuing to get to know one another. This will be the first of many cabin discussions that are an important part of the team-building goals that we have for each cabin group, and helps develop the strong sense of community that we strive for at camp. Our expectation is that every boy goes to bed tonight knowing that they have at least one counselor that they are already comfortable enough with to wake him up if they need something in the middle of the night and that they have made one new friend that they can play with in the morning. 

Tomorrow the kids will have a busy day as our amazing medical team checks in the boys. The campers will take a swim test, and we’ll find time to play several games of dodgeball. Evening program tomorrow will be our first game of All-Camp Capture the Flag, with a new twist there as well. Trips will begin on Thursday and we are excited for our oldest boys to return to Canada this year where they will spend 10 days in the Ontario wilderness in Quetico Provincial Park. Wednesday evening will be the staff show, where our very talented group will be on display.

From here on out, you can follow along with the summer of 2022 on our website at We will also be posting updates on Facebook at, on Twitter at , and on Instagram @northstarcamp.
We post pictures online on a regular basis, and you can access those directly from your CampInTouch page. To access your CampInTouch page, go to and click "login" in the upper right hand corner. From there you can click on "Photos" to see those smiling faces. If you'd like to set up guest accounts for friends or family you can do that from your landing page by clicking on "Guest Accounts."

Thank you for trusting us with your boys!