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Latest ACA Blog Posts
February 24, 2014
By Peg Smith & Andy Pritikin
What an amazing world we live in, with more information and connections at our fingertips than we could ever imagine. This brave new world has come with a price, though, as we’ve gradually replaced human interaction with technological interaction. We have many young people who are not fully equipped for college, the workforce, or adult life. While the US has the highest percentage of graduating seniors choosing to attend colleges or universities, we also have the highest percentage of first-year collegians that drop out. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a nonprofit comprised of the top corporations and forward-thinking educators, has done research showing a big gap in our education system between the “3 Rs” and what employers are truly looking for with their new...
January 29, 2014
Guest post by Diana K. Rice, RD
As a registered dietitian and staff member of The Kids Cook Monday, I’ve seen firsthand how efforts to involve children in food production and preparation can influence them to make healthy choices. Much of my work involves school-based efforts to teach these skills, but with all of the other academic learning objectives students must meet, I know that it can be difficult to find time during the school day to give kids truly enriching food-related experiences.
Camp, on the other hand, provides an ideal setting for the full farm-to-table (or campfire!) experience. I fondly recall cooking “stone soup” over the fire as a young camper and later, as a counselor. These experiences undoubtedly contributed to my current passion for home cooking, so I’ve been thrilled to discover the in-depth cooking and gardening experiences many camps...
January 28, 2014
For today's kids, free, unstructured play is on the decline, and access to the outdoors is dwindling. ACA CEO Peg Smith explains why play is so critical to a child's success. Read Peg's article in USA Today.
January 27, 2014
Guest post by Kevin Austin
As Rex, Stephanie, and I walked we argued over the proper way to sing "Rig of Bamboo.” We were at the Lazy W Ranch for the Student Camp Leadership Academy (SCLA), and took a walk while sharing our camp experiences, games, plans for the future, and favorite debrief tools. I knew I had found a special community of camp professionals.
SCLA is an invaluable program for young camp professionals. Veteran camp leaders gave us personal insight into their knowledge and experience; a crisis management presentation gave us grounding in theory and asked us to develop response plans to various challenging scenarios. We didn’t know that the situations came from the leadership team’s personal experience, and discussions became real as they compared our response plans with what actually happened. I’ll always remember Billy Stempson as he described a...
January 24, 2014
There is no single, all-encompassing background check database available in this country.The purpose of the Child Protection Improvments Act (CPIA) is to "close a gaping hole in the federal law that prevents camps, children's groups, and other organizations that work with children from gaining access to federal criminal background checks on employees and volunteers."
View this video blog from ACA CEO Peg Smith encouraging advocacy for the CPIA and advocate at ACA's CPIA page today.
January 23, 2014
Guest blog by Anne Archer Yetsko
When I Googled the phrase “middle school,” two of the top hits were “Middle school survival” and “Middle school: the worst years of my life.” I found that to be a pretty good depiction of how most people feel about this slightly (or not so slightly) traumatizing and awkward period of life. There are a few key aspects of the camp experience that are really beneficial for this age group.
Camp gives your middle schooler:
1. An Identity: Kids need an identity. Middle schoolers are defined by their looks, material stuff (cool shoes, backpack, gaming devices), parents, grades, and their athleticism. Camp allows kids to be known for being a great archer, team player, cannonball jumper, friend, kayaker, s’more maker, table setter, frog catcher, and much more. This list is endless. When a kid walks onto a camp property they get to...
January 21, 2014
This guest post is by Audrey Monke, owner and director of Gold Arrow Camp.
I love flipping my calendar to January and the promise it offers of a fresh start. There’s something about the clean pages of a whole year stretched out in front of me that makes me believe I can accomplish more this year than I ever have before.
One thing I’ve learned is that just flipping to the fresh page doesn’t actually make anything different. I have to put some effort in. After being a camp director for more than twenty-five years, I’m still trying to get better at my job. I’d like to share three ways I’m going to be a better camp director in 2014, and I hope you get some ideas you can use, as well.
1. Look Back
As you look back on 2013, ask yourself two questions:
- What were my strengths as a camp director?
- What were my biggest failures and what did I learn?
December 19, 2013
Guest blog by Stacey Ebert
For sleep-away campers, the end of June brought endless smiles. School closed for two whole months and our second family greeted us with open arms. Mornings were spent with sleepy-eyed bunkmates and nights came alive with laughter. Days were filled with friends, canteen, and food-fights in the lodge, and countless memories were made.
Ask those of us who went to camp and no matter how long ago it was, we can still sing our favorite song, tell you about our beloved counselors and share our fond camp memories. Those who went to camp were guaranteed to have their life enriched. Maybe you learned to swim or that you loved chicken barbecues. Or maybe that one special staff member helped you see something in yourself you never knew was there. There’s wisdom in summer camp and it seems that it’s not until we leave that we realize the weight of so very many of its gifts.
December 17, 2013
Guest blog by Ann Sheets
The time between Thanksgiving and the New Year always seems to go by in a hurry for me. It seems like it was just yesterday that we were ringing in this year — and already it’s time to celebrate the holidays and start another year. Holidays always make me slow down a little and think about how lucky I am, especially to be involved with the camp community. At the risk of being a little sentimental, here are some things that I am particularly thankful for, now and throughout the year:
I’m thankful . . .
- that my parents let me go to camp when I was a child. Those first experiences in an organized outdoor program, out in nature and with my friends, set the stage for a lifelong love of the outdoors and the camp experience. Neither of my parents had been campers as children, but they both recognized the importance of camp, from learning independence, to sharpening skills, to spending...
December 5, 2013
Guest post by Scott Brody
American fifteen year olds are lagging behind students from other nations in math and science, according to the results of an international assessment exam called PISA. Though we'd like to think of ourselves as an educated nation, these results point to some glaring deficiencies in the way that we educate our children. For the record, our shortcomings are not limited to children from lower income families; students from wealthy American families fared no better in the results when compared to similarly well-off peers in other countries.
What is hidden behind these results, however, is an even more unsettling insight. The PISA test, unlike the standardized tests that are administered in most American schools, assesses older students in mathematics literacy...
November 27, 2013
Guest post by Anne Archer Yetsko
When I speak with friends who work in other industries, I always tell them that if you have an applicant who has been a camp counselor and has a positive reference from that camp, they should move to the top of that pile of applications that are overflowing on their desk. A camp counselor is one of the hardest jobs out there. It is not all fun and games. Here is my list of the top 10 qualities you get when you hire someone who has been a camp counselor.
- A good communicator: Camp counselors have to be able to communicate well with children, parents, coworkers, and superiors. This is different from any other job because parents leave the most valuable thing in their lives with us, their child. At our camp they have about 10 minutes to speak to the counselors and feel confident in them before they leave their perfect child with them for two weeks. That 10-minute conversation is one...
November 18, 2013
Guest post by Lydia Pettis
When I was eight years old I spent four weeks at a summer camp for girls in West Virginia. My mother grew up in this camp, and I imagine she hoped I would grow to love it as she did. Nestled in a corner of the Shenandoah valley, surrounded by mountains, the camp provided wide-ranging activities. Best of all, it had horses, and we rode several times a week. Four weeks, however, was a very long time for a little girl's first adventure away from home. Every day I received a warm, newsy letter from mom or dad, and every day I wrote the same thing... "I miss you. I am homesick. I want to come home." This was followed by a list of all of the activities and adventures that had taken place in the last day or two. Looking back on this time it is clear that I was generally recognized by camp staff as the most homesick camper that season. Special attention was given to me in many ways, such as being chosen to be...
November 13, 2013
ACA has teamed up with Teach For America to present two webinars for young professionals. Learn tools that can help you land your dream job and master it once you’ve got it!
The Art of Public Speaking and Networking
November 19, 6:30–7:30 p.m. ET
- Learn the importance of effective public speaking and networking
- Tips for successful public speaking and networking practices
- How to draft and deliver an effective elevator pitch
REGISTER (Free for ACA members!)
Operate and Manage Like a...
November 11, 2013
Guest post by Jean G. McMullan
The season of thankfulness and of giving is upon us. Summer gifts of leadership from our staff to campers produce ongoing positive effects that last all through the year. We savor the memories of difficult times during camp season as well as small triumphs when campers feel the warmth and support of their counselors. Ideally, camp is a year-round gift.
The powerful effect of the camp experience is working as campers in their winter venues tackle more difficult school projects or make friends with someone whom they never before cared to know. And some campers may find that they now have the guts to stick up for a person being bullied or who needs some extra help.
We revel in gifts of e-mails and calls that trickle in to camp leaders during the off-season. These earnest notes from campers, staff, and parents give momentum to keep going — to plan for yet another effective and exciting...
November 5, 2013
Guest blog by Tish Bolger, ACA President
As advocates for children and youth, it is our job to make sure they are provided with the very best learning opportunities during their developing years. Some of the most important opportunities we offer the children and youth in our charge are nature experiences.
Camps and youth programs are continually striving to create “Carbon Footprint Champions” who have vast experience with nature, conservation, and stewardship. That is why a recent commercial from Toys “R” Us — which seems to place an emphasis on a trip to a toy store to the detriment of the outdoors — is so disheartening.
In response to the commercial, the American Camp Association (ACA)® has created a way for members and other youth advocates to reach out to Toys “R” Us CEO Antonio Urcelay to share...