If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.

Rachel Carson

Camp Carvela is an organization that empowers young people through experiential learning. We strive to make a positive impact on each member of our community by building connections to self, others and the natural world. The following are the central ideals that help us achieve our mission:

  • Our collaborative programming model fosters strong leadership skills and independence while giving participants the opportunity to create their own experience.
  • The non-competitive culture creates a safe space for participants to try new things and take healthy social and physical risks.
  • We are an unplugged community. Taking a break from the electronic world helps us reconnect with others in an authentic way and develop strong communication skills.
  • Free time is incorporated multiple times throughout each day to give participants a chance to relax, explore new interests, and connect with others.
  • A sense of playfulness is ever-present in our programs. By having a fun and playful environment, we create a space to discover oneself and explore with others.

Throughout all that we do, we work to create positive connections between campers and staff alike and meaningful experiences for all. When a participant finishes their time with us, we hope they will have a stronger sense of self and independence, a better understanding of how to relate to and communicate with others, and will have tried something new!

Programming and Activities

What we do at Camp Carvela changes every day, there is a fluidity to what we do, and days at camp vary as widely as the creativity and imagination of campers and staff allow. Here is the general idea: Each day we run six to eight activities during both morning and afternoon program-periods and activities are offered to every camper regardless of age, gender or cabin group.  Activities are co-created by the campers and staff, and range from playing Capture the Flag or Assassins, to watercolor painting by the lake, to writing and directing a camp play.

Some activities are weird and creative, like turning the Cottage into a haunted house. Others, like Listening Point (personal meditation in nature) are on the quieter side. We offer special programs and day trips: paddle boarding around the islands of Bass Lake; day hikes through our 500-acres of “The Outback” to see The Giants or Pyramid X; baking cookies for everyone at camp, and more.

After dinner, we gather as a camp and participate in evening program. This special time is used for all-camp games, skit nights, carnivals, trips, the Sing Down, variety shows, plus the yet-to-be-invented. Before bed, camp winds down with Mellow Time, an open-mic campfire where campers and staff share stories, poems, songs, and moments of silence.

Carvela’s programming isn’t just about the what, it’s about the how. Our staff practice co-created programming. This means we take campers’ perspectives into consideration and work with them to turn their own ideas into activities. Casino nights with camp-currency acorns, scavenger hunts, dance-tivities, deep conversations in the woods, nighttime stargazing, sunrise pancake-making—campers have invented some of our best and most memorable programs. Campers plan and lead over 60% of our activities, and their voices are heard in 100% of what we do.

Camp activities are non-competitive. There are no color wars or intra-camp / inter-cabin competitions. Although we have many team sports, team composition changes frequently so that everyone who wishes to play will have an opportunity. Scores are kept haphazardly. 

We have no camp movie/video nights, electronic games, computer labs or all camp social dances. Instead, we do many games and sports, special events, skits, dramatic, talent and music activities which foster active, involved, and individual participation.

Overnight camping is, historically, one of the more popular activities at camp. Campers may have an overnight sleep out under the stars or in the open air Lounge, or set up a more involved camp at a primitive campsite in The Outback.


At Lookout, Carvela and Crystalaire, we are dedicated to creating a place of comfort where campers can discover themselves and connect with others. This applies to everyone who comes to camp, and we are always updating policies with this in mind. That is why we have updated our gender policy to explicitly include non-binary and gender non-conforming campers.

Policy 1: Campers and their parents may choose for a camper to stay in whatever cabin/tent will make them feel most comfortable, no questions asked.

Policy 2: When registering, all campers will opt in or out of an “ally cabin.”

If a camper “opts in,”  that means that camper and their parents are comfortable having a gender non-binary or non-conforming participant in their cabin/tent.

If a camper “opts out,” that means they and/or their parents would prefer to be in a cabin only with others who were assigned their same gender at birth.

As a program built on inclusion, we expect that the vast majority of our participants will opt into an ally cabin.