As Your Camper Grows

As young people grow, Surprise Lake Camp grows with them. Our program—and our physical campus, with its two sides: Mainside (ages 7–12) and Teenside (ages 13–15)—are designed to help young people take the lead in their own growth. We cultivate children’s skills and confidence so that they can gain increasing independence, safely.

Our whole staff is dedicated to excellent camper care, supporting campers’ physical and mental well-being. Our leadership team, our well-trained counselors, and our on-site Health Center social workers and staff partner with families to ensure that each camper has a successful summer, making a positive transition at each stage of growth.

Here are some of the kinds of transitions we see every summer, and how we approach them:

From Sibling to Camper

Younger siblings may already feel that camp is a familiar place, but they make the transition to camper even more easily when they get an introduction to camp like every new camper. Consider registering this child for one of our two Rookie Days, where future campers can try camp for a day. The five-day Get Your Feet Wet program is another easy introduction to get comfortable for the following summer.

From Get Your Feet Wet to a Mini-Camp Session

Get Your Feet Wet campers have Surprise Lake Camp to themselves after the regular season campers have gone home. In a subsequent summer, these campers can register for a short Mini-Camp session or for a 4-week session, both of which happen during our regular summer season. Either one can, at first, feel like a leap, with so many more options and people around. Because our Mini-Campers unit contains all first-timers, though, SLC makes it easier for these new campers to experience SLC together.

From a First-Timer Program to a Regular 4-Week Session

The transition from one of our introductory programs—Get Your Feet Wet or Mini-Camp—into the regular pace of Mainside is one that we carefully manage. Having a session of nearly four weeks allows a camper enough time to get fully past any initial homesickness. If you receive a letter from your camper about homesickness, please don’t panic! Often, by the time that letter reaches your home, your child feels entirely differently.

From Mainside to Teenside

Mainside (ages 7-12) starts off with more structure, some choice, and lots of close supervision. Teenside (ages 13-15) has a vibe all its own. Our aim is for the campers to experience a greater sense of independence and responsibility. The teenagers have more choice and more free time, with supervision that encourages autonomy and leadership. To bridge the transition, Mainside campers gain more choice and independence as they grow into being the “Seniors” on their side of camp. They also get to know the Lower Teens by sharing some special activities, like an amusement park trip.

Into SLC’s Leadership Development Experience

Our oldest teens have an opportunity to apply for SLC’s leadership development experience, after they finish 10th grade. SLC’s Leadership Development Program combines the best parts of being a camper with some of the team-building, responsibilities, and benefits of being staff. Campers have weekly planning and daily coaching sessions, and  work for part of each day with younger campers and on community service projects. For the rest, they enjoy  all the fun of camp, with a special bonding focus.

Applicants must have finished 10th grade before the start of camp next summer. Admission is selective, requiring an interview in person or by video chat.