Parents looking for the traditional summer camp experience for their children have an option in Camp Lookout and Crystalaire Adventures. The camp, which is located in Frankfort, as well as a new location in Traverse City, offers a residential summer camp program. They also operate a wilderness trips program, which allows campers to experience the North Country via hiking, sailing, biking and camping through various areas of the Midwest.
“Our approach is built on five pillars,” says Curtis McFall, the owner and director of Camp Lookout. “These are playfulness, intentional collaborative programming, free-time, non-competitive culture and an unplugged environment. This forms the foundation, which is to foster positive connections between people.”
“All of the pillars support the overarching theme of fostering positive connections between people. We look at every activity and think ‘is this providing an opportunity for positive connections between people or is it taking away from it?'” McFall says.
Campers are given a chance to play, explore and personalize their camp program.
“Our campers assist with designing most of the programming at camp. We help them to develop their ideas into activities and games. It gives the kids a ton of agency, independence and confidence,” McFall says.
While there are three daily activity periods at camp, there is also the opportunity for campers to have free-time allowing them to connect and play together on their terms.
“We offer unstructured free time because we want the kids to have a chance to play, read, chat, and connect with each other and the staff. During free-time, campers are supervised, but we let them initiate the structure of the time,” McFall says.
The camp also has a non-competitive culture, which McFall says makes camp feel like more of a community.
“We don’t have color wars or cabin wars. We focus on the community as a whole. It’s much more about creating a micro-society that involves everyone at camp,” McFall says. “We do play games and we want kids to play hard in those games. We just don’t emphasize winners and losers.” Campers also have the opportunity to give back to the community by helping in the dining hall, cleaning areas of camp and working on new camp projects.
Campers are divided by age in the cabins, but for activities, free time and mealtime, the campers are able to interact and play with whoever they would like.
“It’s important for us to have a culture of acceptance, this is the best way help people feel connected and a part of the community.” McFall says.
For the campers who want more of a wilderness experience, Crystalaire Adventures, a sister program of Camp Lookout, offers trips from a 3-day camping trip to South Manitou Island, to a 2-week Isle Royale backpacking trip. For the 2018 season, they are also offering a Lake Michigan sailing trip, a few biking excursions, a teen leadership program and several other backpacking options. Campers do not need to have previous experience for any of their trips. Crystalaire Adventures employs the same core philosophical foundation of Camp Lookout. What Camp Lookout does in a residential setting with cabins and a dining hall, Crystalaire does with tents and cook-sets.
“Some of our campers choose to do a session of camp and then go on a Crystalaire Adventure. But campers have the option to participate in any trip as a stand-alone program,” McFall says.
For over 100 years, Camp Lookout and Crystalaire Adventures have been offering traditional camp and wilderness experiences focused on building confidence, independence and friendship for its campers.