Youth Programs on Star Island Focus on Personal Growth and Spirituality

February 27th, 2015

The youth programs on Star Island are not your typical summer camp experience, and that’s just fine with us. Three distinct programs provide youth an opportunity to engage with others of a similar age going through an important, and hopefully memorable stage of life. Star Island offers a safe place to learn about leadership, spirituality, social justice and the power of community. These youth programs provide outlets for creative endeavors, personal growth, and spiritual practice.

Any youth is welcome to these valuable programs which find their basis in one of two religions: the United Church of Christ or Unitarian Universalism. The Star Gathering 1 and 2 Youth Conferences are built upon UCC traditions. The Youth Empowerment and Spirituality Conference is formed around the principles of the UUA. Learn more about these opportunities below:

Youth Empowerment & Spirituality

YES Conference Icon

Saturday, June 27 to Saturday, July 4

for ages 15 – 22

Every summer, this entirely youth-led conference occurs on beautiful Star Island. Escape from everyday life and build an open, spiritual community. YES is a transformative week of adventure, thought-provoking workshops, and self-empowerment. Daily workshops bring youth closer to understanding social justice issues, learning the nuances of softball on Star, and the opportunity to create art. This open, collaborative conference allows any attendee to lead their own workshop.
click here to learn more
click here to check out the YES blog

Star Gathering 1 Youth

Star Gathering 2 Youth Icon

Saturday, August 1 to Saturday, August 8

for youth entering grades 9 to 13 (high school graduates)

What is Holy to you? What is the Sacred? Is it your family? The Earth? God or Spirit of Life? Do you wonder what role you play in our universe? Or with the universe within yourself? These are important and exciting questions, ones that courageous and adventurous people have asked since our minds understood the wonders of our existence. Join SG 1 Youth for a week of enriching community experiences providing a chance to learn and grow.

click here to learn more

Star Gathering 2 Youth

Star Gathering 2 Youth Conference Icon1

Saturday, August 8 to Saturday, August 15

for youth entering grades 9 to 13 (high school graduates)

Spend this week exploring and learning about the major steps Star Island is taking to become a sustainable environment, and you will also see how those steps can apply to your own life as you move from teenagers to adults. Spend the week hiking, swimming, talking, taking once-in-a-lifetime excursions and building new things on the earth to learn more about how to not just survive adult life in our 21st Century world, but how to thrive in it.

click here to learn more

Looking for something else? We have programs focused on a myriad of topics like history, religion, and the arts. Click here to explore our complete 2015 program list.

On Volunteering: Good Work, Good People

February 27th, 2015

VolunteerSeanDElliotBelow is a note from one of our volunteers last year

Greetings Linda and Tim,

I hope this message will get to each of you so that you can have my thanks and my praise. I was part of the team of volunteer “worker bees” at Star Island last weekend. Every part of the experience was positive. It was well organized, from the first call for volunteers, to your prompt responses once I came on board, to clear statement of work expectations, to the work parties, themselves, and all the way to our Sunday departure.

My only earlier part in volunteer experience occurred 10 years ago when Joe Watts was Volunteer Coordinator. That was a positive encounter, too, and I now wonder why it took me so long to volunteer again.

During the weekend I was part of various teams or sub-groups. For the most part, I believe Hannah was our captain. It would be a mistake for me to neglect to comment on her leadership, organization skills and her unflappability. Aside from getting the necessary work done, I am really pleased to note that a volunteer weekend provides a structure and experience for a young person (Hannah and others) to develop leadership skills. Somewhere in Star Island’s structure there are some smart, thoughtful people at work.

I fully expected to share a room once on island and was prepared to do so. I don’t know how it happened, but Plan B was that I lucked into a single room. Thank you; that was a welcome courtesy that I appreciated.

The weekend was good, hard (not too hard) work and I left Star with a feeling of accomplishment. It was a job well done in the company of persons who have great affection for the island, its programs and its traditions.

Thank you, Ed Rubacha

Interested in Volunteering?

If you’re interested in volunteering on Star Island, please click here to sign up.

Take a Photograph on Star Island, Have a Memory Forever

February 26th, 2015

The photographs you take on Star Island will stay with you forever. Star is a true photographer’s dream with abundant sunlight. The historic structures surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean offer unique perspectives to focus your camera on. With little to block the view on Star Island, you will be amazed at the mesmerizing colors that sunrises and sunsets create. The wide open ocean and expansive skies are easy to fit into a shot, just as quiet nooks and table settings will delight your eye. It is no wonder that Star Island, known for its creative inspiration to writers and painters, has been hosting photographers for a number of years. Some come back year after year to our 44 acre island and find new subjects to photograph on each visit.

Taking part in a photography workshop on Star is simple and enjoyable. You’ll gain knowledge from other photographers and best practices for camera use. You’ll learn while doing, and you’ll find that on Star Island there is no shortage of natural beauty.

These programs on Star Island provide the best opportunities for practicing your photography skills whether a beginner or a pro:

Shooting Star Photography Retreat

Photo September Conference Icon

Thursday, September 10 to Sunday, September 13

This annual retreat for the NH Society of Photographic Artists is open to everyone interested in photography. Now in its 18th year, this retreat is great for both film and digital photographers. Participants will gather each day for a series of instruction with time set aside to take photos. This retreat provides an opportunity to learn from each other and to learn from guest photographers.

click here to learn more

Road Scholar Digital Photography Workshops

Road Scholar Conference Icon

Saturday, August 29 to Friday, September 4 or Saturday, September 5 to Friday, September 11

Explore, study and photograph the beautiful Isles of Shoals. Each day includes instruction, critique, historical studies, free time for exploring, composing and taking photographs and the mutual support of other photographers. Emphasis will be on composition, visual language and learning how to see. Beginning and experienced photographers are welcome.

click here to learn more

Star Arts

Arts Conference Icon

Saturday, June 20 to Saturday, June 27

This annual summer program provides a wealth of opportunity for the creative soul through a multitude of workshops. The photography workshop is special this year as it focuses on the spiritual photography. Instruction will be based on connecting your own spiritual aspect to taking pictures. Exercises will demonstrate ways to pick and set-up photo shoots. Photos will be discussed and critiqued throughout the week.

click here to learn more

Open Studio


Saturday, June 20 to Sunday, September 20

Throughout the summer you can come out to Star Island and use the island as the subject for your photography. Your photographs can juxtapose the textures of rocks against the clean lines of clapboard siding, or photograph migrating birds as they travel north or south. If you’re visiting for an overnight, make sure to be on the west end of the front porch come sunset to find one of the most spectacular views you’ll ever see.

click here to see some sunset photos

Looking for something else? We have programs focused on a myriad of topics like history, religion, and the arts. Click here to explore our complete 2015 program list.

For Your Enjoyment: Our Staff Talent Shows

February 26th, 2015


The creative spirit on Star Island, ever present in our summer programs, is equally ingrained in our summer staff. Before work starts, between shifts, or when a day is over our staff can be found painting on the rocks, strumming their guitars, or taking photographs of the beautiful scenery. Even during work you might find our staff — the Pelicans — singing while they fold laundry, or thinking up ideas for a skit in that week’s Pelican Show.

What is the Pelican Show? This is the staff’s weekly talent show for our guests. Usually held in the Oceanic Hotel lobby, the show is our staff displaying their talents generally through music and acting. The Pelicans often sing or play original music, sometimes inspired by their island experiences. Others perform covers of songs that speak to their summer. Their have been flashmobs with Pels jumping out from all over the lobby to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” and barbershop quartets dressed in costume. Original poetry and prose are shared, and skits are often remakes of classic Monty Python skethces.

Scenes from a Pel Show


These Pelican Shows have been occuring for years, and our island museum in Vaughn Cottage has a number of recordings from shows in the 1950′s, 60′s, and 70′s. You can click here to listen to a sampling of that collection. Throughout the years the outfits have changed, but the enthusiasm and talent has remained constant. The Pelicans still gather in front of the gift shop doors to perform and guests are seated in dining hall chairs moved into the lobby.

When you visit one of our week long summer programs, you’ll be treated to a Pelican Show. And as you stroll around the island during the day you might even come across Pels practicing music while sitting on the lawn. Stop and listen, you’ll be amazed at the beautiful voices and pure talent.

When each Pelican Show concludes the staff finishes by singing the Pelican Encore. Here’s that encore from a show in the 1970′s.

Summer Writing Programs Provide Creative Outlet in Beautiful Setting

February 23rd, 2015

Star Island’s ability to inspire creativity is uncanny. And those seeking to hone their creative writing skills would be hardpressed to find a more picturesque and inviting place for writing workshops than Star Island. About an hour’s boat ride from Portsmouth, NH, Star Island not only plays host to a number of writing programs each summer, it also provides quiet spaces to sit down with your thoughts and bring pen to paper.

Mainly through Celia Thaxter’s Victorian-era salon, the Isles of Shoals have hosted a number of famous American writers. Nathaniel Hawthorne, noted for his novels The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, visited the Shoals in 1852 keeping a journal of his experiences and encounters with island folk. Other famous writers and friends of Thaxter include Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Sarah Orne Jewett, and John Greenleaf Whittier.

Celia Thaxter was also a noted writer in her time becoming famous after a poem was published in the Atlantic Monthly. Further poems and essays added to her portfolio over the years while she lived on the Shoals and later on the mainland. Thaxter’s brother Oscar Laighton was also a poet.

You can use the same natural beauty found at the Isles of Shoals that inspired Thaxter and her friends to imbue your writing. We have ample space for poets, essayists, and songwriters. Your creative fibers will be nurtured on Star. Check out these programs to experience writing on the Isles of Shoals:

Writers in the Round

WITR Conference Icon

Thursday, September 10 to Sunday, September 13

This program offers poets and songwriters a supportive, creative atmosphere to stetch your wings. Writers in the Round hosts classes, small group discussions, a chance to workshop your creations, and time to hone your material. You’ll find inspiration in Star Island’s natural beauty, and through collaboration with other writers.

click here to learn more


Writelines Conference Icon

Monday, September 7 to Friday, September 11

When you finish attending Writelines, you’ll feel uplifted with a desire to continue writing. How do you get to that point? Through constructive workshops and carefully chosen prompts. Writelines is that supportive workshop environment that allows you to experiment with your writing whether you are new to the craft, or an avid writer.

click here to learn more

Star Arts

Arts Conference Icon

Saturday, June 20 to Saturday, June 27

This weeklong program provides a wealth of opportunity for the creative soul with writing workshops serving as one highlight. This summer, the writing workshops at Star Arts will focus on the art and history of the haiku. Participants will read many poems, and try their hand at haiku writing through prompts and free time.

click here to learn more

Free Write

Saturday, June 20 to Sunday, September 20

Whenever you come to Star Island during the summer you can find a quiet place to sit down, relax, and get your thoughts on paper. You don’t even have to be spending the night on Star to enjoy this. Find a spot on the expansive front porch of the Oceanic Hotel to sit and jot down sentences in your notebook. Walk a trail to the back of the island and perch yourself on the rocks to gaze out over the open ocean then funnel your thoughts onto paper. After lunch, retreat to your room and write memorable dialogue you overheard to inspire a scene you’ve been working on.

Beyond the above programs that offer specific writing workshops, you can attend any summer program and find time to write. Star Island is your home to explore your creative spirit.

Looking for something else? We have programs focused on a myriad of topics like history, religion, and the arts. Click here to explore our complete 2015 program list.

Over Thar

February 19th, 2015


Amongst our artifacts we recently found this poem written by Sewell Hayes. The poem captures the community aspect of Star Island, which has been the hallmark of our summer gatherings since the start of conferences in 1897. The poem is undated, but is most likely from the 1920′s or 30′s based on the year of other ephemera it was located with.

We’re not sure if Sewell wanted to capture some sort of New England or downeast twang in this poem, or if he simply liked forcing words to rhyme with Star. Either way, this poem provides a youthful voice exclaiming the bright community fostered on Star Island. Below we offer the text of the poem, and if you click on the image, you can view a larger image of the original.

Have you met all the people on Star?
They got singin and frolic over thar.
They got laughter in their eyes,
And they don’t have time for sighs;
That’s the people you find on Star.

If you ever go out to Star
Say “hello” to all the people over thar.
They will shake you by the hand,
And they’ll make you feel so grand,
That’s the people you find on Star.

When you’re packing your trunk for Star,
Carry only happiness for people thar,
They will give it back to you,
With enough to take you through,
Til the next time you come to Star.

When you leave all the people at Star
Give a thought to the friendships over thar.
Keep their memories in your heart,
All the time you are apart,
And for God’s sake, come back next yar.

Some Music, Some Singing, Some Dancing

February 17th, 2015

The creative spirit is alive and well on Star Island every summer with programs specifically devoted to music, singing, and dancing. Join in fun, lively programs like Chamber Music, Star Hampshire Dance, and Star Harmony. These programs offer brilliant demonstrations and avenues for development in a picturesque setting.

Sure you can listen to live music on the mainland, but the Star Island setting is what sets these programs apart. Activities happen in such places as our 200-year-old stone chapel set on the island’s highest point, in the lobby of the historic Oceanic Hotel, or overlooking the waterfront with sailboats passing by. And what can you expect in 2015?

Chamber Music

Chamber Music Conference Icon

Friday, September 11 to Sunday, September 13

Cellist Theodore Mook returns to Star Island with a cast of friends to delight visitors with music from French Impressionists — Debussy, Ravel, Satie. The weekend will feature concerts and talks in the stone chapel, hotel lobby, and pink parlor. You’ll enjoy the exquisite music, and the equally exquisite views.

click here to learn more

Star Hampshire Music and Dance Weekend

Star Hampshire Dance Conference Icon

Friday, September 18 to Sunday, September 20

Professional musicians provide structure to this traditional dance focused weekend where contra-dances are the main feature. English country, square, and couples dances are also held throughout the day. Known mostly for fantastic dances each evening in the Brookfield building overlooking Gosport Harbor, this program starts every day with waltzes before breakfast in the hotel lobby. These morning waltzes are accompanied by the sounds of the lobby’s majestic grand piano.

click here to learn more

Star Island Harmony

Star Island Harmony 2015 Conference Icon

Friday, September 18 to Sunday, September 20

Looking for a chance to sing? This program is for you. Star Harmony is a weekend of a cappella harmony singing led by Mary Cay Brass, Mary Alice Amidon and Peter Amidon. You’ll have the chance to sing so many types of songs: spirituals, hymns, folk, and shape-note, among many others. And all this singing takes place on a beautifully rugged island.

click here to learn more

Writers in the Round

WITR Conference Icon

Thursday, September 10 to Sunday, September 13

If songwriting is more your style, check out Writers in the Round which provides a supportive, creative atmosphere to stretch your songwriting wings. You’ll have classes, small group discussions, a chance to workshop your creations, and time to hone your material. Find inspiration in the sound of waves crashing against the rocky shore, or the smell of salty ocean air.

click here to learn more

Looking for something else? We have programs focused on a myriad of topics like history, religion, and the arts. Click here to explore our complete 2015 program list.

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Star Island is one of the rocky, wind-swept Isles of Shoals, located off the coast of Rye, New Hampshire. For over 100 years, summers here have provided individuals and families with a welcome respite from their busy mainland lives.

Star Island Corporation is a nonprofit organization which maintains the island and its facilities and provides hospitality services for visitors.

Contact Star Island

Phone: (603) 430-6272
Fax: (603) 430-6270
Island Phone: (603) 601-0832
Staff Email Address List

Star Island Corporation
Morton-Benedict House
30 Middle Street
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Get directions to the office

Content © 1999–2015 Star Island Corporation. Clouds photo © Axel Rouvin.
Other photos © their respective owners.