Latest ACA Blog Posts

March 9, 2012

It's amazing how quickly children grow! One minute they are tiny and totally dependent on families for every need, and the next they are gaining independence by leaps and bounds. Each stage of a child's life is unique - bringing new milestones, relationship developments, and yes, even new ways to maximize the camp experience.

ACA offers a helpful guide of these stages to help families not only choose the best camp experience, but also to help them better understand what is happening developmentally as their tiny tot turns into a big kid, or even into a young adult.

Choose an Age Group today and start learning how to help your child make the most of this critical development and growth.

March 8, 2012

Guest post contributed by Gary Woodhurst.

I vividly remember my very first day at Camp Kanuga.

I remember riding up US 25 with my mom and brother past Jones Gap State Park in awe at the vastness of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I remember the smell of the crisp mountain air (you know, how camp is supposed to smell?) as my mom’s truck winded its way down Little River Road. I also remember driving through the gates to camp for the very first time and seeing the first person I met at Camp Kanuga, Ellen. She was the head female counselor and I was bouncing with excitement as she told me that I would be in cabin 7 and my brother in cabin 8.

In the lobby of the Hyatt Regency at the 2012 ACA National Conference in Atlanta, I saw Ellen again for the first time in 16 years.

Now I’m not here to tell you...

March 6, 2012

Choosing a camp, especially for first-timers, is a serious undertaking. Questions about camp programs and philosophies are important and help families determine which camp experience is right for their child. At local camp fairs, families are given the opportunity to get answers to these critical questions.

Camp fairs are held nationwide and are open to the public. Typically, camp fairs are scheduled on weekends allowing families to attend together. Each camp fair is made up of a variety of camps that provide literature and information on their programming and activities. In addition, participating camps bring knowledgeable staff who can answer questions and provide additional information specific to that camp., the ACA family resource site, offers the ultimate camp planner, complete with questions to...

March 6, 2012

It was nearing the close of my day and I leaned back to reflect. I suddenly found myself focused on several sayings that I had posted on the wall in front of my desk. I started rereading them and found myself asking why these statements had resonated with me. Why had I saved them? I began to chuckle to myself because they were all related to change and the human condition.

  • “People exposed to the same information can often interpret it differently.”
  • “Integrative thinking can resolve tension between opposing ideas and generate new alternative solutions.”
  • “The edge is not the abyss. It’s the sweet spot for productive change.”
  • “Explore the possibilities of opposition — the tension between the two can create superior ideas.”
  • “Collaboration is an unnatural act committed by non-consenting adults.”
  • And finally, “Humility makes it...
March 2, 2012

The camp experience can be life-changing - developing independence, self-esteem, problem-solving skills, and a whole host of life skills needed to be successful in today's (and tomorrow's) world. For first time camp families, one very common question is how to determine when a child is ready for camp. Ultimately, families know their child best, and are best able to determine when and if they are ready, however ACA suggests that families also ask the following questions when considering if this is the summer for camp:

  • What is your child's age? Children under age 7 may not adjust easily to being away from home. Consider the day camp experience to prepare them for future overnight camp.
  • How did your child become interested in camp? Does your child talk about camp and camp activities on a sustained basis? How much persuasion is necessary from you?
  • Has your child had...
March 1, 2012

Would you buy an online course without seeing what it takes to complete it, or if you’re really that interested in the course matter? Maybe you would, but you don’t have to!

Get a free preview of any Certificate of Added Qualification (CAQ) course now!

Just follow these steps:

  1. Go to
  2. Scroll down to “Certificates of Added Qualification” and select the course that best suits you.
  3. You’ll be prompted with a login screen. Click the button: Login as a guest (at the bottom left).
  4. Enter the password ACA2012 (password is case sensitive).
  5. Start exploring! Check out the articles and videos you would be using to learn, click on a random lesson to see what it’s all about, or take a look...
February 27, 2012

Camp has become a staple of the summer season. Each year, millions of children, youth, and adults head to the hills, lakes, valleys, and parks to participate in the time-honored tradition of camp. And, while most people easily conjure up images of campfires and canoes, there is a lot more to the camp experience. Here are ten of the things you may not have known about the camp experience.

10. Camp is older than dirt, almost literally. Started in 1861, the camp experience turned an impressive 150 years young in 2011. The secret behind the longevity? “Camps are constantly adapting to meet the changing needs of today’s families,” said Peg Smith, chief executive officer for the American Camp Association® (ACA). “And yet, in essentials, camp is very much the same as it was 150 years ago – kids still have authentic, life-changing experiences.”

9. Camp is worth its weight in gold, and...

February 23, 2012

“To be playful and serious at the same time is possible, and it defines the ideal mental condition.”

— John Dewey, How We Think

It seems that everywhere I turn I find someone discussing 21st Century skills.  The discussions sound important and serious, and the skills they describe are often mysterious and misunderstood. For instance, I worry that for some parents, if you were to say that the camp experience provides 21st Century skills, it would sound like an oxymoron. These two concepts sharing the same space may, for some, defy traditional logic and be reduced to the simplicity of an either/or choice.

Decades ago many parents viewed childcare as a basic function - having no educational or developmental value. When research surfaced...

February 22, 2012

According to Jeffrey Leiken, MA, after the first day at camp, you'll be able to tell which campers will be your challenging ones and which campers will be everyone's favorites.

The key to being a truly great counselor, though, is to be able to recognize "the masses in the middle."

Leiken writes:

"[Truly great counselors] are careful to ensure that they focus their attention, time, and energy on these kids too. They do this even though these kids are not necessarily as easy to connect with (you'll often have to do more work to engage them) and even though it is easy to justify not putting the extra 'over and above' time in with them because they seem to be doing fine."

Make sure ALL your campers feel special this summer, and you will be that special counselor for them!

Learn about other smart techniques you can use from day one in Jeffrey's article...

February 16, 2012

Hanging out with kids all day as a camp counselor can be pretty amazing. But doing your job well means you need to be prepared!

In ACA's Entry-Level Program Staff Certificate of Added Qualification (CAQ) course, you will learn the foundation of being a great counselor. Topics covered include:

  • What is youth development?
  • How do you develop a program plan?
  • Why is evaluation important?
  • How do you prevent bullying?
  • How can you best handle emergencies?
  • What can you do to form strong bonds with coworkers and participants?
  • And more

If you have more experience in a camp setting, check out the Experienced Program Staff or...

February 14, 2012

Recently I picked up the book True North, written by Bill George with Doug Baker. Released in September 2011, the book centers around leadership development. I found these words inspiring for camp counselors: “The missing link in leadership development is having a safe place where people can share their experiences, challenges, and frustrations, and receive honest feedback.”

A young adult wanting to develop real-world experiences, receive immediate and relevant reflection and feedback designed to ensure success (not punitive), and learn to work in groups sharing interactions and problem solving should seriously consider becoming a camp counselor. A camp counselor receives personal value while offering social and educational value to others. Such a deal!

February 10, 2012

Lots of us have a great time working at camp as a summer job, and then we go on to become teachers, journalists, nurses . . . you name it!

But what if you realized that you wanted to have camp as a career?

Cass Morgan, an ACA research assistant and current PhD candidate at the University of Utah, explains the path she has taken to get a career in camp. Cass’ early experience was probably a lot like yours — she started out as a camper and then became a counselor.

Watch this video to learn what inspired Cass to pursue a career in camp, what you should expect if you’re interested in being a camp professional, and the opportunities you can take advantage of to help you get there.

Top 5 Tips from Cass

  1. Stay current on necessary certifications, and take...
February 7, 2012

Guest post contributed by Karen Parson

It may be the middle of winter, but it’s not too early to begin thinking about which summer camp is best for you. There are a lot of camps out there and each has different goals and activities. Choosing which summer camp is right for you is more than a matter of selecting the summer camp closest to you.

Here are ten steps to follow to make sure that you find the right summer camp:

  1. Decide what your expectations are. You likely have some expectations for what you expect the camp experience to be like. Does the camp focus on outdoor skills? Making friends? Having fun? Consider if you’d like to work at a camp with a certain philosophy or world view. If you are a past summer camper yourself, think about the aspects of camp that you enjoyed and what you didn’t like.
  2. Talk with your family and friends about what they want. While...
February 6, 2012

I was rereading “That’s the Way We (Used to) Do things Around Here,” by Jeffrey Schwartz, Pablo Gaito, and Doug Lennick, a article published in February 2011. Because ACA’s Director of Research, Deb Bialeschki, and I often talk about mindfulness, self-regulation, and reflection, a couple of sentences in the article caught my eye:

“The kind of mindfulness that accomplishes this [change] combines metacognition (thinking about what you are thinking) and meta-awareness (moment-by-moment awareness of where your attention is focused). Adam Smith, the 18th-century philosopher, understood this. He described self-directed reflections as an ‘impartial spectator’ . . . .”

We train counselors each year to do what neuroscience has described as “attention...

February 3, 2012

Here are the top 5 reasons why you should attend the *free* webinar, “Developing Your Personal Brand,” next Wednesday, 2/8 at 7:30 p.m. EST:

5. You will learn the secrets behind what makes companies like Google and Apple so strong.
4. You will learn how to inspire potential employers by crafting a compelling story of your past experiences and interests.
3. You will create a unique brand identity that sets you apart from other job candidates.
2. You will understand how to be your authentic self while tailoring your personal “pitch” and brand to specific career opportunities.
1. You could be the next Oprah or Bill Gates!

Register Now!

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