Latest ACA Blog Posts

April 26, 2012

Guest post by Audrey Monke

In her best-selling book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Wendy Mogel discusses the importance of letting kids take healthy risks and allowing them to experience failure. Camp offers a great opportunity for kids to do exactly what Mogel recommends.

When a camper says they “can’t” or “don’t want to” do an activity, counselors encourage them to give the activity a try. Following are three of the reasons why we believe campers benefit from trying their least favorite camp activity.

Previous Negative Experience

One reason a camper may not want to try an activity is because they’ve had a previous negative experience with the activity, usually not at camp and not with experienced instructors. Falling off a horse, being dragged behind a ski boat and not getting up, or going on...

April 19, 2012

If you’ve got a multiple-kid household, you have a lot of choices when it comes to summer plans — including camp!

First, assess each individual child’s readiness for camp. Consider each child’s age, past experiences away from home, and expectations about camp. Read specific tips at The Right Time — Gauging Your Child’s Readiness for Camp. Make sure to talk through any decisions with your children as a family.

Camping Together?

If you do decide more than one of your children is ready for camp, consider whether they would thrive at the same camp or separate camps. Siblings who are close in age and interests and consistently get along with each other may find camp even more enjoyable if given the opportunity to experience it together. And when the camp experience is over, the siblings can reminisce and engage jointly in any new hobbies...

April 10, 2012

The teen years see increasing growth in hypothetical reasoning skills, development of values, and future planning - so a positive camp experience is more important than ever! Teens especially will benefit from the positive peer and mentoring relationships developed during the camp experience.

ACA has a wide range of resources for families of teens who are thinking about a camp experience.

April 10, 2012
Prevent Bullying This Summer

You’ve probably heard about the movie Bully, which is now playing in select theaters and opens nationwide this Friday. The movie follows five stories of bullying from across the country, putting the spotlight on this all-too-common problem — according to the movie’s Web site, 13 million kids will be bullied in the US this year.

Unfortunately, bullying can happen anywhere — including camp — so be prepared to help prevent and stop bullying this summer with ACA’s Bullying Prevention resources. Here are some resources designed specifically for you, frontline camp staff:

April 9, 2012
Promoting Self Control

Have any of you read Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky? This is another fascinating read.

Are you not both challenged and validated by any number of frameworks currently being promoted that all resonate with the value of the camp experience? Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner, 21st century skills, Mind in the Making, teen brain research, and others all are converging around similar concepts of innovation, creativity, global respect and understanding, ethical communication, critical thinking and problem solving, synthesizing, assimilating, and adaptation — to name a few.

This same convergence of research and thought leaders took place 20 years ago around the field of early childhood...

April 2, 2012

In this week's blog, Peg shares the "back porch inspiration" that came to her this weekend — children and nature belong together!

March 28, 2012

It is not easy for parents to make the decision to send their child away into the waiting arms of strangers who promise to take care of them — people who promise to show them the wonders of nature, fun, new skills, and friendships. As a parent of two children, even I struggle with the idea, and I have been around summer camps my entire life.

The world needs the next generation to be more tolerant of each other’s views, ideology, and beliefs. Summer camp is an opportunity for children to be exposed to the best of human character. Carefully selected role models are dedicated to showing your child how to have fun, learn from others, and make friends in person rather than online. Camp allows kids to meet people from all over the world, every race, culture, and socioeconomic level. I still remember one of my counselors, Danny, from England, explaining to me, “The world is full of excuses. It doesn’t matter where you came from or...

March 26, 2012

It seems everywhere I go, the camp community is struggling to articulate its value proposition in today’s world. There are so many constructs: recreation related to physical well-being and fighting obesity; youth development and its relationship to what we know about adolescent teen brain development and 21st century skills; and work development and its relationship to 21st century skills and the completion of school.

In many respects, regardless of how you enter the conversation, one can find intersections within and across all three constructs. Perhaps, rather than one construct being “right” or “wrong,” each construct offers an opportunity to legitimately customize your message to your specific marketplace and program.

All of this said, I was recently reading Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner. It gave me yet another way to consider how the...

March 22, 2012

Struggles over what our kids read during the summer are not new. I know this because I remember the summer my mom had to wrestle a battered paperback from my hands, saying, “We did not pay for a family vacation so that you could read Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade over and over again.” Which was news to me.

But what constitutes good summer reading? Some parents worry that their kids are not reading enough books. Others worry that the books their kids are reading aren’t good enough. And many worry about both.

One thing is clear: The summer reading slump definitely exists. “Research shows that struggling readers test higher on a standardized test at the beginning of summer than at the end of the vacation,” says John Martin, writer, teacher and founder of Boys Read, a Seattle-based organization that focuses on getting boys to read. “This is a skill that has atrophy.”

In other words, use...

March 20, 2012

Now is a great time for parents to arrange a tour of a local day camp.  Whether parents are looking for a camp for the first time for their child or thinking about switching camps, going on a tour of a few camps in your area is the best way to make the right decision for their child.

When you are on a tour, the following questions should be explored either with the camp director, to help narrow down your choices.

1.  How will my child be grouped (placed) or “bunked” with other campers? Factors such as grade, age, gender, and parent input all come together to play a role in placement. Generally though, campers are grouped by the same gender and age with approximately 10 to 16 campers per group depending on age.

2.  Who will be taking care of my child and what are their qualifications? Camps should have Counselors and Specialty...

March 19, 2012

This week’s post is contributed by Deb Bialeschki, ACA’s director of research. Peg and Deb have a spirited habit of exchanging meaningful quotes, which sparked this post. Look for more guest contributors in the future, as Peg continues to share her latest thoughts and invite others to join the conversation.

Many people lament the rudeness, bad manners and behaviors, and lack of respect we see around us every day — and it’s not just in kids! We see it in our media “stars,” public officials, coaches, youth leaders — even our own neighbors and families! Many folks believe that bad manners can be attributed to our increasing use of technology, lax standards, and a general lack of respect. But it doesn’t have to be that way, especially in our youth programs! What better place to practice civility (by both staff and campers) than in our camp community?

Civility is more than just being...

March 16, 2012

Camp is fun! As a parent or family member searching for a camp experience, there are a lot of things to consider. The best camp experiences are borne out of a partnership – where parents and camps work together to find the best possible fit for children, and one where parents are armed with information and able to make educated decisions about the camp experience.

If you are new to the camp search, worry not! The American Camp Association has an enormous amount of research and advice to help you — and it is all available online., ACA’s family resource site, includes information on:

Fun and Safety
Questions to Ask a Camp Director

March 16, 2012
Camp Goes Global

This summer, you can give your campers the opportunity to make a meaningful connection with campers at Camp Sizanani — which provides education, HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, crucial life skills, and the fun of a camp experience to children affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa.

It only costs $500 to sponsor a camper in South Africa for a camp session and a year of after-camp follow-up programming. Through the Camp Goes Global campaign, your campers participate in providing funds (raising money) to sponsor one child . . . or more!

How do I participate?

The Camp Goes Global campaign can be easily implemented into any camp environment — programming is flexible and can be carried out in whatever way works best for the camp. ...

March 13, 2012

“Grace?” I knelt in front of her. She looked up at me, immediately sensing what I was going to say. A shadow fell over her eyes. “We’re going to go now.”

“What? Now?” Her face was stricken. We hadn’t talked about when we were going to go.

“Yes. Then you’ll have your swim test and start your afternoon with your friends.”

She threw her arms around me, beginning to cry. I looked up and met my husband’s eyes over her head and he motioned that we should leave. Still kneeling on the pool deck, I kissed her wet cheeks and looked her in the eye. “Grace. You know what?” I strained to keep the tears out of my voice. “I bet you anything that when we come back to get you, you will cry because you don’t want to leave.” She shook her head firmly, eyes closed. “Yes, you will. Now, it’s time for us to go. I love you, I will write to you, and...

March 12, 2012

It seems the more unpredictable the world becomes, the more rampant our fervor to predict. I'm in the process of reading Jim Collins' new book, Great by Choice, and I found this line intriguing: “It is about channeling your ambition into the cause, company, or association and whatever will ultimately make it successful.” 

He speaks of disciplined creativity based on empirical experience and data. It causes me to consider that ACA’s research environment is firmly embedded in "evidence informed" research. It resonates with the parent and is applicable to the professional.

As we all attempt to determine the next trend or predict the future, maybe there is something first to be reminded of in terms of our "cause" — because I am confident that our relevance today and tomorrow can be supported by both disciplined and empirical creativity for our cause and...

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