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B200pix32The Starfish way is all about making Camp Starfish a safe, supportive place to "learn, grow and have fun."  Everything at Starfish is specifically geared to meet the needs and abilities of each bunk, activity group, and individual child. Staff consistently seek innumerable ways to provide campers with positive reinforcement while helping them to recognize and articulate their strengths. At Starfish, we believe in "catching children being good" and capitalizing on those experiences as teachable moments, in addition to setting up therapeutic supports to help children during times when they are struggling.
The Starfish Way is based, amongst other things, on the ideas that:
  • Children are able to do well when the environment is designed to enable success
  • Regardless of their challenges, all children deserve to see themselves as valuable and valued individuals
  • The role of adults in the camp environment is to help campers find and enjoy success
  • Providing structured, nurturing and fun programs will allow children to grow in positive ways, and
  • Engaging campers in a variety of well-structured traditional summer camp activities in a safe and predictable environment will allow them to build skills, self-confidence, self-esteem and self-direction.

We primarily implement the Starfish Way through the use of our unique Strategies, Tools and Keys.

200pixpic018The Strategies are a guiding group of principles that we use while working with the young people entrusted to our care. These simple, yet powerfully effective concepts form the basis of our behavior management philosophy, our daily structure and schedule, and the reason why we are able to set campers up for such great success. Upon first reading the Strategies, they appear deceptively simple. The key, and what makes Starfish such a unique place, is an entire group of people actively using these skills and ideas in their daily work with children. "Engage campers. Provide time. Allow campers to take space. Catch children being good..." Each of the almost 40 Strategies fall into one of the following categories: Strengthen Children's Self-Esteem, Empower Children, Demonstrate Compassion to Children, Create a Safe Environment, Communicate with Children Deliberately & Proactively, and Create a Positive Learning Environment.


The Tools are the values of Camp Starfish. 200pixpic034They outline coping skills and personal intentions, and by teaching them, staff are able to help campers put behaviors and feelings into context. All camp rules are based on a tool, for example, and you will often hear staff using the tools to help calm escalated campers: "I think your painting looks great! You put so much effort into it and that really shows. Remember here we don't have to be the best...just try our best. Hey, I bet that would look great hanging up in the bunk next to your goals chart." There are both community tools (those values that affect interactions with others) and individual tools (those values which are based on internal coping mechanisms). Tools are integrated all over camp - from the Tool of the Day (which is used at each activity and acted out by the Tools Team at morning Gathering), to the Garden of Tools where campers can relax, smell the flowers, and just think for a while about the small signs around you.

Download the Starfish Tools to hang up at home or bring  to school!


A200pix14The Keys are a set of social skills which we aim for every child to learn and work on during his/her time at camp, and then continue developing after camp. Difficulty relating to peers is one of the top factors that affect a child’s self-esteem and identity. While Starfish campers come to camp from wide variety of backgrounds with many different challenges that they face, one thing that most of them have in common is that they have a hard time making or keeping friends.The Keys include concepts such as using manners and positive interaction with others, approaching others in social acceptable ways, asking for permission rather than acting, sharing toys/materials, maintaining eye contact during introductions, and more. Our daily "Key of the Day" is presented by our camper-led Keys Club, which acts out the Key in a skit and then shows good ways to use the Key at camp. Staff diligently capitalize on teachable moments to show when social skills are "caught" in action.  

In these ways and more, the Starfish Way makes camp a positive, safe place where campers are actively participating in things they enjoy. We help children learn what it means to be accountable for their choices through positive feedback and without embarrassment, enabling them make more productive choices in the future. The Starfish way is all about making Camp Starfish is a place to "learn, grow and have fun."  

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